Much ado about Stratford…
Ann Hathaway married William Shakespeare when she was 26 and he was 18…seems she was with child. They had a daughter and later fraternal twins but his son died at an early age. The cottage is thatched of course and they have recreated the gardens much like it might have been in Ann’s time period. It is very much a working garden and orchard with vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Amazingly enough a member of her family still lived in the house well into the 1800’s and finally the National Trust was given the property for posterity.
I learned how we came to call the threshold by that name. Seems in the winter because to stone floors were too cold they would bring in the “threshings”, stems from the grains, and place them on the floor. Several layers would build up as it got smashed down and/or too soiled. There was a piece of timber put down in the doorway to keep the threshings in the room.
Mary Arden’s house is also a Tudor Farm Park for teaching us what life was like for people during the time of William Shakespeare. It was great fun to see the animals, different demonstrations by costumed guides, and the displays especially because there were school groups with the children dressed in Tudor style clothing. The children were learning to dip candles, thresh wheat, and knead bread and became part of the demonstrations. Too cute…
Shakespeare’s birthplace has been turned into an “experience”. You go through a presentation area where much of what is known about Shakespeare and how he has influenced the world is explained in a creative set of rooms that have displays and videos. You move through each of these rooms then you go through the house where helpful guides explain what you are seeing and answer questions to the best of their ability.
John Shakespeare ran a glove business out of a room in the house that had a shop window facing the street. John was respected in the society of the city as a business man and civic leader. William was given a quality education, however John’s fortunes declined and there was a lot of struggles that followed. It seems though that William, besides being a great writer, was a very astute business man as well. He was able to provide very handsomely for his family. When other writers sold their plays outright William wanted a portion of the sales and stock options in the theatres themselves which brought him in and annual income whether they were using his plays or someone else’s.
Out in the garden two Shakespearean actors perform several random scenes from various plays. They wear period costumes but use no props or stage. They are very good and a great way to finish the “experience”.
No visit to Stratford is complete without a canal boat cruise on the Avon River. No guided explanations simply a quiet cooling drift along the waterway seeing canal boats and homes while chatting with other visitors. We visited with a retired couple from Derbyshire.
Antique shopping, cozy dinner in a thatched pub, then swan/goose feeding fills our day until it is time to go to a play, King John. As we are in our seats looking at the extra large party balloons on the back wall of the stage and the strange light fixture centered over the thrust stage thinking it didn’t look very Shakespeare-y. We know that his plays are often done in different genres and begin teasingly to laugh that we had come to King John Disco Night envisioning a white suited Travolta and a disco ball. We weren’t that far off, it was closer to Dirty Dancing. All-in-all it was a very fun and well done experience for a historical tragedy.
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