Thursday, August 30, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") My English Adventures, Part 3: Quality Time with Shakespeare

 On June 21, 2012, our third day in England, we traveled about twenty minutes from our hotel to the adorable town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Our first stop was none other than Shakespeare's birthplace! We took a tour of the very home in which Shakespeare was born and grew up, learning about the poet's childhood and family throughout. The house has, of course, been renovated since the 1500s, but most of the rooms look exactly like they would have looked when Shakespeare lived there. Unfortunately no photography was permitted inside, so my only pictures are of the exterior. But the inside was super cool, take my word for it!

Shakespeare's birthplace
Me in front of the birthplace
The actor and actress doing the balcony scene
In the garden outside the house was a man who evidently was an actor from an acting group that performs impromptu speeches or scenes from Shakespeare plays. We discovered this after he suddenly began acting out a scene from "Julius Caesar." He was even dressed in a Shakespearean costume, and he was quite good! He proceeded to recite the "all the world's a stage..." speech from "As You Like It," as well as two monologues from "Hamlet." Then he was joined by an actress from the same troupe, and together they performed the balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet," as well as a scene from "Macbeth," at my request. We thoroughly enjoyed these Shakespearean performances in the garden of the author's birthplace!

After a bit more time of exploring and souvenir shopping, we went to our next stop - Holy Trinity Church, the church where Shakespeare was married, and the final resting place of he and his family. As we wandered through the beautiful church, soon enough we found ourselves standing before Shakespeare's grave. The poet is buried in the sanctuary, directly in front of the altar, which apparently was a very high honor. His grave was outlined and was adorned with flowers, so you couldn't miss it. Beside him lay his wife, as well as his children and their spouses.

Shakespeare's grave
His grave in relation to the altar
Standing in front of the final resting place of Shakespeare was quite something for me. I could not believe I was actually standing at the foot of his grave. As a lover of Shakespeare and a Shakespearean actress (I have performed in four, soon to be five Shakespeare plays, my most recent role being the First Witch in "Macbeth"), this was an amazing and unforgettable moment for me.

After bidding goodbye to Shakespeare, we had free time to explore downtown (did I mention how adorable this town is?) and eat and shop. I ate fish and chips for the third meal in a row, not counting breakfast that morning, and bought many great souvenirs, including a Shakespeare mug for my mom and a Shakespeare t-shirt for my dad. My friends and I were also ecstatic to happen upon a Harry Potter store - yes, a Harry Potter store! There I purchased a poster that says, "Keep calm and blame Muggles." For my sister, I bought one that reads, "Keep calm and say 'Mischief managed.'" These signs, and the store as a whole, made us very happy people.

Next, our entire group visited the cottage of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife (not to be confused with the actress from "Princess Diaries"). It was a cute, quaint house with lovely gardens surrounding it, and it was, of course, very old. There was an actress from the same Shakespearean acting group there, and she enacted one or two speeches for us outside. Then we entered the cottage and received a tour. Like at Shakespeare's birthplace, no photography was allowed inside. But the inside was very cool, since it was so old - certain spots on the floor or walls were even original. It was awesome to walk in yet another place where Shakespeare too walked!

Anne Hathaway's cottage
The actress outside the cottage
Horse races at the Warwick Racecourse
We left Anne Hathaway's cottage and went home in the pouring rain, which was, surprisingly, the first rain we'd experienced in England so far. That evening we had the opportunity to go watch some horse races at the Warwick Racecourse, which was a fun activity at the end of the day. Then some friends and I went out to Bar 7, a cute little bar/cafe which our group frequented during our stay in Warwick, and we drank their delicious tea and hot cocoa which we came to love. Finally we went home and hit the hay, and thus ended Day 3, our day in Stratford.

Next, I'll write about our two days in Oxford! And I'll try to write again sooner next time. Stay tuned!

~Stephanie
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