Authors,England,Literary Legends,London,Museums,Shakespeare,Sights,Travel

Literary Legends – William Shakespeare!

This is my last post written in London, so it seems appropriate to write about one of England’s greatest writers, William Shakespeare!

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Where to begin when writing about ‘The Bard’?!  I have spent so much time reading, studying and teaching his works that one of the biggest draw cards for coming to the United Kingdom was to visit places such as The Globe Theatre in London and his birthplace Stratford-on-Avon.

“Shakespeare’s Globe” on the south bank of the Thames is a replica of the original built very close to where it once stood.  Today there are fascinating displays inside about Shakespeare’s works and his plays are still performed in the traditional theatre setting including standing room on the floor where you will get rained on if the weather isn’t great!

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It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in London, and even in the off-season you can go on guided tours of the theatre for around 13 pounds.  If you’re lucky, you might even see the bear from The Winter’s Tale!
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For more information on the exhibition, tours and performances the website can be found here.

I also went on a pilgrimage to the town of Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace and where he is now buried.  A little way outside the town is Anne Hathaway’s cottage, the house where Shakespeare’s wife grew up which has been lovingly restored as a museum to show how it might have looked when it was originally Newlands Farm.

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Unfortunately since it was winter when I visited the gardens look a bit bare, but I am sure they would be delightful in spring and summer!

The kitchen.

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An old photograph of Anne and her sisters outside the farmhouse when it was surrounded by 90 acres of farmland.

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The laundry room.

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A bedroom.

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The ‘Hathaway Bed’.

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Funny little stairs and low doorways!

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Lovely little wooden crib.

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The town centre is filled with attractions related to Shakespeare; you can visit a replica of the house he was born in, the Shakespeare bookshop and of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company.
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There is also a beautiful statue built to commemorate his life and works, featuring smaller statues of some of his most famous characters; Lady Macbeth, Hamlet, Prince Hal and Falstaff.  The statue was given to the town of Stratford by Lord Ronald Gower in 1888 and he had spent more than ten years working on it!
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The town is of course littered with references and memorials to Shakespeare, from this ice-cream punt to the statue of the fool on the main road. If you can’t quite read it, the punt features a quote from Henry VIII; “Do you look for ICE CREAMS and TREATS here you RUDE RASCALS?”

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There are lampposts throughout the town that have been donated by cities throughout the world, my favourite was definitely this one from Israel.
Of course my visit could not be complete until I had ventured to the Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptised, married and buried.
In Shakespeare’s time it was customary for well-to-do people to be buried within the church for a time and later exhumed and buried somewhere else to make room for new bodies.  However, he didn’t want to ever be removed from his final resting place and so he left a poem or curse, to discourage anyone from ever removing his remains!
It reads;
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dust enclosed heare.
Blese be (ey) man (ty) spares thes stones,
And curst be he (ty) moves my bones.
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There is also a bust of him overlooking his and Anne Hathaway’s graves.

I felt very lucky that I managed to see his home-town and grave, it is a place I have wanted to visit for many years.  I was also very lucky that I was in London this year, as it is 450 years since his birth and I was also able to see a special exhibition in honour of him at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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A costume design for Othello.
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The boots worn by Henry Irving in the 1877 production of Richard III.  Notice the raised right heel which helped Irving perform Richard’s distinct limp.

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Photographs of Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet taken in 1899, with the skull of Yorick used for the performance.  This skull had been inscribed and given to her by Victor Hugo (French poet and author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
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I particularly liked this print “Greater Shakespeare; A Shakespearean Tube Map” inspired by the iconic London underground map by Harry Beck.  Created by the Royal Shakespeare Company 2008.

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The exhibition runs until 28th September 2014 and more information can be found on the Victoria and Albert Museum website.  If you are interested in visiting Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-on-Avon the website can be found here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Shakespeare ‘pilgrimage’ as much as I did, I will leave you with some of the Shakespeare inspired gifts I restrained myself from buying!

And this lovely view inside the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
– The Tempest
Literary Legends William Shakespeare

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