Return to Stratford upon Avon – Shakespeare’s Birthplace

It’s been years since I went to Stratford upon Avon to see everything Shakespearian and I’ve forgotten almost everything about it. So as I live so near now, I’ve been back to look around and top up my knowledge. It’s a beautiful town with loads of original Elizabethan buildings still standing along with buildings from almost every era since then. Unlike many towns you visit, it has not been badly ruined by war destruction, high rise buildings or road widening. There are still nice pedestrianised areas which reduce the impact of the traffic on the old houses. Of course there have been many recent changes, but compared to other towns, the historical atmosphere of the town has survived admirably.

For £12.50 you can get a ticket which gets you entry into Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft and Nash’s House & New Place. Other houses and gardens are only open in the summer and you can get tickets that include those too. I started with Shakespeare’s Birthplace where you get a little audiovisual tour through Shakespeare’s life, which includes clips of performances of his plays as well as a good list of common English phrases invented by Shakespeare. After this you are let into the house to walk around where he grew up with his parents John and Mary and siblings Gilbert, Joan, Anne and Richard. Using documentary evidence the house has been furnished as it would have been in 1574 when William was ten.

Examples of Shakespeare’s phrases:

  • dog will have his day
  • fancy-free
  • heart of gold
  • naked truth
  • one fell swoop
  • the milk of human kindness
  • too much of a good thing
  • wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve

William was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford on 26th April 1564 and his birthday is usually celebrated as 23rd April. He was lucky to have lived as infant mortality was high and bubonic plague struck the town soon after his birth, killing 15 percent of the population.

In the tour you learn a little about his father’s business as a glove maker and also his financial issues, having illegally dealt in the wool trade and in money lending. There are also displays about how the house was saved after falling into disrepair in the 19th century. You can see Victorian visitors’ graffiti as well as interesting photographs of the house before it was rescued and restored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. On entering the gardens you can see actors performing scenes and monologues from his plays and I would certainly recommend visiting in the summer as the gardens of all of the properties will be much more beautiful than they do now in March. I’ll write more about those other properties soon.

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