Yesterday I went to Shottery and Stratford-upon-Avon which are lovely little towns in Warwickshire, England. I have been studying Anglo-Saxon history for the last year and Stratford-upon-Avon has deep Anglo-Saxon origins. It is a famous tourist attraction because it houses Shakespeare’s birthplace. Shottery houses Anne Hathway’s (Shakespeare’s wife’s) childhood home. Afterwards, we saw a unique production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
First off we took a bus from Oxford to Shottery to see Anne Hathaway’s cottage. It was a beautiful day with the sunshine streaming down and the flowers in bloom. The cottage was pretty small and most of it was actually added on later by members of the Hathaway family. Originally there was only one large room with a fireplace where everyone slept, cooked, and lived their daily lives in. The roof was thatched and when we went upstairs we could see fingerprints in the mud from the original Hathaways who created the house. There was a bench and a chair where supposedly Shakespeare used to sit in while he was courting Hathway. There was also a bed that was originally in Shakespeare and Hathaway’s house but later moved to the Hathaway cottage for tourism purposes. The bed was the “second best bed” or what is know as the marriage bed. So yes I indeed touched the bed that Shakespeare and Hathaway slept in. Although it was really neat to see these artifacts from Shakespeare’s life and walk where he had walked I thought going to the Globe Theater was a better representation of what it felt like to walk in his shoes.
Sure, the Globe has certainly changed quite a bit and that entire East Side of London is much more civilized than it once was, but that was Shakespeare’s stomping grounds. I don’t believe that he loved Anne as much as he loved theater. He had bigger dreams than staying in the country and raising a family. He was going places.
After seeing the cottage we drove about a mile up the road to the town of Stratford-upon-Avon. We walked around the town where we were able to go into Church of the Holy Trinity- where Anne and Shakespeare are buried. It was weird to know we were standing right above Shakespeare’s bones. It made me feel very appreciative of life because there beneath me was the body of someone who’s legacy lived hundreds of years into the future. He may be dead but he will never really die. On the stone was inscribed,
“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare To dig the dust enclosed heare: Bleste be the man that spares thes stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.”
We also were able to see the house he was born in. After we had a couple free hours before seeing Hamlet so we walked around and finally decided to eat dinner at a pub. After dinner we went to a famous pub called The Black Swan otherwise known as The Dirty Duck to get a brewski. It was a lovely day and the company was splendid.
The production of Hamlet we saw was absolutely fascinating. It was my first Shakespeare play I had every gone to so I was ecstatic. It was unique because the cast was all African American besides Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and one other cast member. Also, Guildenstern was a woman! It had a really neat post-colonial spin on Hamlet but the lines were all the same as the original Shakespeare version. The costumes were a mix of post-colonial African heritage and modern culture. The acting was phenomenal. My favorite character was Ophelia who really did a wonderful job as she half sang half screamed her raving mad speech after she finds out her father is dead. After the play we all got back on a bus and headed home to Oxford where we promptly went to sleep.