Seeing Shakespeare

Yesterday was a first for me. I finally got to see Shakespeare! My boyfriend said that I can’t actually see him -but why not? I saw people dressed as him and also his grave… good enough.

Yes, Stratford was a lovely day out and the perfect place for the complete Shakespearian geek like me. I let my inner geek out first thing in the morning as I took out my William Shakespeare bag out  – basically a small shopping bag with his head on. Haha. And I got out my Shakespeare trivia cards for the journey ; -) Luckily, my boyfriend’s Mum, my sister and good friend, weren’t put off and we all had a lovely day.

We saw four main places…. either walking or hopping on our partly open-top bus:

Shakespeare's birth place

Shakespeare’s birth place

DSCF4587

DSCF4584 Ann Hathaway’s pretty cottage – the place that she grew up in and where she and Will ‘courted’ as a young couple.

DSCF4600

Nash’s house. The house Shakespeare is believed to have spent his last days – belonging to his granddaughter and her husband. This is the beautiful garden outside the house.

DSCF4603

… And finally his grave in the Church of Holy Trinity.

It was all very historical and interesting. It was fascinating to see inside the houses and get an idea of what life was like then, in addition to just admiring the beauty of the outside. You could imagine Shakespeare walking up to Ann Hathaway’s cottage (which is actually a massive farm house and has fondly been referred to as a cottage because of idyllic appearance) to ‘court’ her. Would he have been nervous to see her family? And tipped his hat off to her father out of respect? We even saw the bed that Will may have had-a-way with our Hathaway 😉 The ‘cottage’ was so lovely, that I would have happily moved in (add some heating, electricity and take away the millions of nosy tourists of course 😉 ).

A personal highlight for me was the character room at Nash’s house. Naturally, a purpose built room for tourism – but it was great to see displays of the ‘top ten characters’ and you could add your own favourite Shakesspearian character to a board too.There was a quiz on the wall too! I felt like I was at some sort of Shakespeare convention – not a ‘Trekkie’ but a ‘Shakey’ if you will 😉 I added ‘Othello’ to the favourite character board. That is my favourite play and I love that Othello himself is a little different to other charcters. He is black, yet in an important position and very well-respected for the time period. He is a calm, collected and gentle character, yet jealousy results him in him murdering his own wife. I love the dramatic change in him throughout the play and shows, perhaps, that jealousy (or another strong emotion) can drive any of us to murder. Sadly Othello didn’t make their top-ten though:

Top Ten Characters

  1. Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
  2. Hamlet (Hamlet)
  3. Bottom (A Midsummer’s Night Dream)
  4. Beatrice (Twelfth Night)
  5. Mercutio (Twelfth Night)
  6. Romeo (Romeo and Juliet)
  7. Falstaff (Henry IV part 1 and 2 and Merry Wives of Windsor)
  8. Macbeth (Macbeth)
  9. Henry V (Henry V)
  10. Cleopatra (Anthony and Cleopatra)

 

The hop-on, hop-off tour bus gave us much entertainment. One reason being, we went on the open-top section and it was freezing and blowy! We also kept having to duck when we passed trees (which was a lot), which was scary but also extremely funny! The tour guide on our bus (when we wimped out and sat inside the bus) was very informative and entertaining. She told us a few facts about general Tudor life:

  • As we drove past a road, she told us it used to be a popular highway. In wet conditions, it became very soft and poor people would come and ‘cup’ mud in their hand in order to make pots. This left many holes in the road… and you’ve guessed it, that’s where the term ‘pot-holes’ comes from!
  • Tudors used to use frog salvia to aid their sore-throats. Scientists have since found that there is infact an enzyme in frog saliva that has antisceptic in it. So they weren’t (too) crazy… and that is where the term ‘a frog in your throat’ comes from.
  • Four-poster beds became popular in Tudor times. I thought it was a warmth related reason. It comes from the fact they had hatched roofs though. There wasn’t any ceilings in bedrooms, so rubbish and bugs would fall from the hatching onto people in bed. Someone ( a man apparently -I’m not convinced!) invented the canopy like part in order to catch the bugs and rubbish. Clever! It then became a fashion statement too.
  • My favourite fact also links to the thatched roofing. When Tudors realised that thatching was a fire hazard, they all had to change to tiling. A team from the town committee went to an inn to tell the keeper that he had to change his roof to tiles. He gave them so much free ale that they forgot to ask him! So it is still thatched today:
Old Thatch Tavern

Old Thatch Tavern

 

So I had a very Shakespeare-y day and I loved every second! The nearby buildings were all named after Shakespeare quotes or plays or characters. I even had a milkshake called Much A Do About Oreo!

I fully recommend a day at Stratford to anyone who is interested in Shakespeare – even if you are not there is still so much to do. We paid £25 and this included the bus (which you can get on and off as much as you wish) and also the entry to 3 houses. There are still 2 main other houses to see and a boat trip that we didn’t do – so there is just so much! And I’ll be definitely going back….. no ‘to go or not to go’ question 😉

XSXS

 

For a recent post about Shakespeare’s birthday, take a look at this:

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/celebrate-this-23rd-april/

Advertisements

Celebrate this 23rd April!

Today is a day of celebration. It is:

St. George’s Day

William Shakespeare’s Birthday

World Book Night

And I think they all tie in nicely with us here in the UK. St. George’s Day means we should generally feel proud to be British today. Yes, people complain that there aren’t as many celebrations for that, as there are St. Patrick’s Day for example – well to those people I say, ‘Don’t complain – Do!’ Arrange something to celebrate if you feel you should. Me? I’ve just read a good work of fiction, in the British summer time, drinking a glass of Pimms and lemonade – very English and also ties in with World Book Night too 😉

So, that’s St. George’s Day taken care of. And I think you all know how I feel about books and I celebrate them very regularly anyway. (Take a look at A Book Lover’s Post in my ‘Love of Books’ section at the top, if you need reminding). That leaves Mr William Shakespeare to discuss. I am sitting here writing this drinking tea out of my Shakespeare quote mug, bought for me, funnily enough, by my friend from France. It has many quotes from his works that are well-known phrases today. It is amazing really, how much he has influenced our language. I know it is argued that many others helped him write his plays, so it is uncertain how much of the words are his own – but there is enough evidence to show he had a brilliant way with words, I think 🙂

Before I share with you some Shakespearian words of wisdom  – straight from my tea mug (nobody can say I don’t plan for these blog posts 😉 – I just want to exclaim my fascination with his actual birth date. Even though, his birth date is actually unknown – it is estimated that he was born on the 23rd since his baptism was the 26th April and this normally occurred 3 days after the birth. He then died on the 23rd April too.   I love how he died on his birthday, therefore. I just  think it made his life completely rounded off , complete, like one of his plays 🙂

Today he would have been 449 . Amazing really that we still study work of someone who was born centuries ago.  It is also the 397th anniversary of his death, as he died at the age of 52. They say his greatest achievement  was surviving his first year in the harsh, cruel Tudor period – where many new borns didn’t survive. I think some of his great words can challenge this achievement:

‘A fool’s paradise’ ‘Rhyme nor reason’ ‘A dish fit for the gods’ ‘The Queen’s English’ ‘It’s all Greek to me’ ‘in stitches’ ‘heart upon my sleeve’ ‘a green eyed monster’ ‘star crossed lovers’ ‘wild goose chase’ ‘all that glitters is not gold’ ‘fair play’ ‘make your hair stand on end’ ‘vanish into thin air’ ‘fancy free’ ‘love is blind’ ‘lie low’ ‘for ever and a day’ ‘in a pickle’

and my personal favourite, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

‘The course of true love did never run smooth’

Too true Bill!

The kids at school complain; ‘Why do we have to learn this old language?!’ I tell them, that to understand it (and they don’t need to understand it all), they need good analytical and communication skills. It is also interesting, yet they may not think that until years later. You must admit that you use a lot of the above phrases, or at least have heard of them.  Meaning, his words are still relevant today in their modern context.

Here’s to William Shakespeare, much-loved Bard and playwright  – then, now and forever 🙂

p.s – I guiltily admit that I have never been to Shakespeare’s birth place, but I am going in a few weeks and I’m very excited 😀

XSXS

Men and Women are merely players….

‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,’

I could ask a really deep, philosophical question like; why are we here? Still think about it by all means, but what I really want to ask is how and why we do things whilst we are here. I think Shakespeare had it right. All the world is a stage and we are all players or actors on it. Take away the fact that people do act as a living or for a job and just consider the ordinary, unscripted man/woman for a moment. We are here from the day of birth, or as Shakespeare calls it our ‘entrance’ and we do not leave until our end has come and we ‘exit’ from the stage. The world as a stage is a great metaphor I think. We all act from cot to coffin. Every day.

On a daily basis, we smile at certain people or scowl at others (not openly if you are of the polite kind 😉 ). We are acting. We are choosing to be a certain way with certain people. We are consciously thinking how to be. Our speech is a little different though and as I did my graduate degree on spoken language, I know that it is worlds (or stages) apart from a script. We naturally pause, we stutter, we splutter, we repeat things and sometimes we just say the completely wrong thing. In a script for a play or programme, none of that happens unless it has been included purposely for an effect. I have been thinking recently, as I decided on the topic for this blog, that more of this spontaneity should occur in soap operas and dramas. They are supposed to reflect ‘real life’, even if it is a more dramatic and  exciting version of it. I think we should see, therefore, someone starting to walk to the shop mumbling to themself, then rapidly turning around because they left the oven on. We should see people shuffle on past a neighbour half saying hi and half avoiding eye contact because they aren’t in the mood to talk. We should see people stuttering when they speak because they can’t get their words out. Or saying the complete wrong thing out of social awkwardness. Obviously now, I am talking about actors on earth acting as another character and this thought process can get a little crazy. But I just mean, television programmes would do well to add a little more ‘human’ to their characters because even with our human mistakes and characteristics, we are still acting all the time.

We put on a ‘brave’ face when we need to face something we do not want to do. We put on a ‘serious’ face when someone is telling us a really boring, long-winded story and all we want to do is laugh. And I tell you something for free, I put on a ‘happy’ face at work all day, everyday. That doesn’t mean I am faking being happy because I love my job. But working with children normally means you have to exaggerate your feelings of happiness, confidence and positivity – and definitely patience 😉 because you may not be feeling those things one day but you have to be them to do your job well. So I play the part.

So Shakespeare was also right by saying ‘His acts being seven ages.’ Meaning, man and woman go through the seven stages of life and obviously acting differently through each one i.e. infancy, teenage years, adult hood. But I think, we also have many, many different roles to play in all stages of our life. I’ve mentioned a job role – but what about yourself outside of work? For example, I am a daughter. A sister. A grand-daughter. A girl friend. A friend. A niece. A cousin. There are seven more roles through life for you. And I act differently for each one. Not because I prefer certain family members to others – even though, naturally strength of relationship does also affect how we act – but I am supposed to act differently with my sister then I am with my boyfriend! We all know how to change how we are in a suitable way.

So who is the director of the play of life? Religious ones of you will say God. Definitly one option. Maybe fate is an option too. We are all meant to act certain ways at certain times for our lives to sketch itself out. Maybe there is a puppet master controlling our every move for giggles and sinister pleasure. Have you ever watched The Truman Show? We studied it at school and I remember not particularly liking it. Yet, I can’t shake the idea that someone could be watching us at every given moment. Not in a Big Brother kind of way but, like on the film, where the world is watching your everyday life, like a soap opera. And all your family and friends are ‘actors’ and your behaviour is being observed and analysed. I’ve always toyed with this idea and think what people would make of watching me all day. Not that I do anything particularly fascinating you know, but it makes me conscious of my moves! And if you think about it, you would think that when we are alone we are not acting and that is the one time that we are 100%, truly ourselves. But even then are we acting? I am sitting here now. Alone. I am writing this, but I am acting as a professional, writer who is rushing to get an article out on deadline. Our imaginations and thoughts mean we are acting all the time.

So, maybe the only time we don’t act is in our sleep. But even then we dream and play a part, usually as the leading role or as a part that our unconsious wants us to play on the real stage of life. We need to listen to our hearts and minds and act in the best way possible. Do not wait in the wings or become part of the audience of your life. Play the leading role and make the most of it before your final exit 🙂

*Curtain Closes*

XSXS