June 3, 2016
Early morning; the guest house we are staying at in Stratford-upon-Avon serves us a full English breakfast. How this strange combination of foods came to be, I don’t know, but it’s kind of genius. Two pieces of toast, one sausage, one slice of ham, one bunch of baked beans, one egg, one stewed tomato, and one cup of tea later, I am stuffed.
After breakfast, our actor friend Paapa Essiedu, a.k.a Hamlet, arrives at our humble abode for a lovely little Q&A session over coffee. See Small Razorback for more details about our time with this rising star.
An hour later, we are on our feet and on the way to the house where Shakespeare was born. His childhood home has been turned into a museum. Upon entrance, we are shown a short video and walk through a small exhibit detailing his life and career as a playwright and poet. Included in the exhibit is one of only 750 to 1000 copies made of the First Folio. the first folio includes Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, and histories and was published after his death by two of his fellow actors. If this major work had not been published, many of Shakespeare’s plays would be lost today. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, not including one that we have lost, 154 sonnets, and 5 titled poems. At the time it was published, a copy of the first folio cost £1. To put this in perspective, a school teacher at the time earned £20 per year.
The house has been staged to look how it would have at the time of Shakespeare’s birth. The house creaks, none of the angles are 90°, and it’s not well insulated, but it is a fitting and humble place for the beginning of the great playwright’s life.
After exploring the house for about an hour, we took a 15 minute walk to Holy Trinity Church, the church in which Shakespeare was baptized and buried. There is also some speculation about whether Shakespeare was married in this church as well, but the marriage certificate does not specify, and therefore many local churches claim that they are the right one. His grave is humble, set into the floor of the great sanctuary, surrounded by the graves of his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. The sanctuary is absolutely stunning, covered in stain glass on all sides. Natural light shines in on the grave of the great poet.
It’s time for lunch! I walk back to Shakespeare’s home. Directly across the street is a cute little cafe called The Food of Love. I enjoy a spinach, mushroom, cheddar, and brie crepe and a creme tea. Creme tea is British-speak for tea with creme and a scone with a huge creamy glob of butter and raspberry jam. Delicious. After lunch, I returned to our guest house for a nice nap.
It’s 5:30 at this point and I have about an hour before I have to meet the group at the RSC for our evening show, Cymbelline. I get up and walk to a bar called The Encore right across the street from the theater. I have a cheddar souffle with a strange sort of side salad that was smothered in dressing, but it was still good. This place was a tad fancier than it looked on the outside. That’s something I’m finding about a lot of restaurants here, they look really fancy, but the prices are still decent. So it’s fine, I just feel really under dressed.
Cymbelline is a rarely performed play in Shakespeare’s cannon. And now I know why. the run time of this production was 3 hours and 5 minutes, not including a 20 minute intermission. Six plot lines are co-mingled to make one confusing jumble of confusion, making the denouement alone a full 30 minutes. But the production was great. Fantastic costumes and set pieces especially, just a really boring thing to watch.
I returned to our room at the guest house for a little bit of reading and an early night’s rest. Returning to London tomorrow.