- December 31, 2017
- Posted by: Topher Morrison
- Category: 49 Things Before I Turn 49
While staying in the tree pod from my previous adventure, I got to walk around Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
While the town is synonymous with Shakespeare, it is much more than that. It’s a market town with more than 800 years of history, containing not only many buildings that would have been familiar to Shakespeare and still survive today, but it’s also a thriving community that offers a wide variety of leisure and shopping experiences. There are many things to explore in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is why visitors flock back every year to discover more.
My first stop was the Royal Shakespeare’s Company. I was impressed by how modern it is. Clearly, Shakespeare was ahead of his time when he designed the building. It looks as if it was built near the 2010’s.
In addition to the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the RSC produces new work from living artists and develops creative links with theatre-makers from around the world. It also collaborates with teachers to inspire a lifelong love of William Shakespeare in young people by running events for everyone to explore and participate.
It was there that I got a map of the local attractions made famous by Shakespeare. His final resting place (the Holy Trinity Church), his birthplace, where he lived until he died… the usuals of an icon. Since it was so cold, I knew there was no way this Florida man could handle walking all over the town, so I walked to the closest landmark: His final resting place. The walk from the theatre to the church is beautiful – even when it’s freezing cold outside. You see beautiful parks, swans, ducks, and squirrels. And when you arrive to the church? It’s breathtaking, although a bit creepy, as it is with most British churches, which are also graveyards.
After walking around the church looking at the indiscernible headstones, Google became my guide and informed me that Shakespeare’s tomb was inside the actual church. However, on that day, it was closed to the public.
Surely they wouldn’t mind me taking a quick peek though, right? The only glimpse I got, though, was of a sanctimonious woman who promptly ran into the foyer to shush me away and to remind me what the “Closed to Public” signs mean. Her condenscending tone prompted a response from me that was far from holy, but I think Shakespeare would have been proud. From what I heard, he was a bit of a hell raiser himself.
From the church, I began to work my way towards the home where Shakespeare lived in until he died. It’s also when I discovered the map they provided me wasn’t to scale (or even accurate). I never found the house, although I’m sure I probably walked by it 2 or 3 times; because as I discovered by the end of the day, Stratford-upon-Avon is incredbly small, and you can walk it from end to end in about 15 minutes. After asking locals (I define them as anyone British. Whether they lived in Stratford didn’t matter to me) and getting conflicting reports, I ended up at Shakespeare’s birthplace. Good enough for me! As I stood in front of his home, looking at the tourists passing by, I began to reflect about what this man accomplished in his lifetime.
It got me to thinking about what an amazing feat he achieved. Here’s a person who is recognized around the world, and throughout time for his thoughts. How many people can say that? There really are only a handful of people throughout history who have achieved the kind of iconic recognition for their work. Not even most of the great contributors to society can say they are recognized for their work all over the world. Sure, there’s Newton, Plato, Socrates, and many others; but are they known all around the world throughout time, and do people know what they really did? I could argue that’s not the case. Only very few have achieved that level of global impact. In ancient times, Shakespeare and Da Vinci; in recent history, Einstein and Hitler (regrettably); and in modern day, Steve Jobs and Michael Jackson. (Queue the Apple haters to find offense in me comparing Jobs’ accomplishments to Shakespeare’s)
As I sit here writing this, I’m in a café across the street from his birthplace – painfully aware of the chasm of literary quality between his work, and mine as a blogger. I wonder if he had typos or grammatical errors. Did he have an Alejandra in his life who would ring him up and ask for his login and password to his blog so that she could correct his spelling mistakes and grammatical hiccups? Would she constantly scold him for his inability to remember the difference between when to use “thy” vs. “thee”? Or was he just a genius? I think I’ll go with the latter.