Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Day in Stratford

"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players..."
              -William Shakespeare, As You Like It

I realize the picture does not fit the quote above, but I couldn't leave out my main man Hamlet! On Thursday, we were once again not allowed a single minute to rest as we headed off at 10:00 for Stratford, aka Shakespeare's home. One of my favorite parts about the trip was not actually Stratford itself, but the amazing English countryside we drove through on the bus ride over. We passed through several small country villages that had such a quaint and simplistic spirit, complete with grazing sheep and rolling meadows. I'm hopeful and excited to be able to visit some of these villages, because apparently that's where the real heart of England lies. 
As for Stratford, we found out that it is a HUGE tourist hub, what with it being the home of Shakespeare's birthplace and resting grounds, as well as my personal favorite part of the excursion, the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre. First, we went on a walking tour of the city. The first main attraction we visited was probably the most significant, the Holy Trinity Church where, you guessed it, Shakespeare himself is buried alongside his wife, Anne Hathaway. A couple of interesting facts about Shakespeare:  he is thought to have been born on April 23,  1564 and died on April 23, 1616. Bummer. I would hate to die on my birthday. Our guide told us about the courting method that was used during 16th century times in which all of the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes would meet in a designated area and mingle amongst each other. The fathers of the women would give all of the interested men a block of wood and knife to wittle on and would take it back at the end of the night. This was to ensure that the men had been wittling on their block of wood and that their hands weren't in any spot they shoudn't have been. Not a bad tip for dads today! Shakespeare and Anne were married on November 27th, 1852 and their daughter Susannah was born in May 1583. You do the math, doesn't sound like that wittling block worked after all. 
We had alot of free time just to wander around that afternoon, so we found a neat little pub called "The Old Thatch Tavern". It was completely authentic with small cozy rooms, wooden beams, and a thatch  (straw) roof. We hung out there for about two hours just taking in the laid back lifestyle of an Englishman with no cares in the world but sitting and enjoying each others' company. 
My favorite part of the night hands down was having the opportunity to see the amazing Royal Shakespeare Company perform "As You Like It." I had never read the play and was a little hesitant about seeing it for the first time because I simply didn't know if I would able to follow along with all of Shakespeare's flowery language. To my surprise, I actually found it easier to follow than analyzing every aspect of every letter like we used to in Mrs. Downey's class. The wonderful thing about this specific play is that there was a modern day spin to it. The music ranged all the way from dubstep to Mumford-esque styles. With all of the flowery shirts, leather vests, suspenders and bare feet, it was basically a hipster's paradise. After the play, we loaded up on the double decker buses and headed for Oxford. I'm so grateful that I was able to visit such a prominent figure's birthplace and learn a little bit more about the man behind the classics. 

Tune in soon for an update on my weekend, including the Summer Eights, awkward encounters, and sunshine!

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