Even though I was a theater geek in high school and college, I struggled with understanding (let alone enjoying) Shakespeare. Somehow all the phrases such as, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be” made no sense to me at all. The only reason I enjoyed seeing A Midsummer’s Night Dream was because I had a crush on the lead.
Fast forward to my daughter, who also became a theater geek, albeit a Shakespeare loving geek. She even has the Shakespeare bobble head doll to prove it. Seeing her enjoyment of everything Shakespeare helped me appreciate his talent.
Going to the locations in Shakespeare trust Birthplace is an ideal way for children and adults to develop an awareness of the Bard’s contribution to literature and history.
Discover Shakespeare’s Family Homes
Five of Shakespeare’s homes are located in Stratford Upon Avon, England. While you can visit each location individually (it’s super easy to rent a car and drive from place to place), a “Five
House Pass” is also available, and gives a 40% over individual entrance tickets. All homes, except Mary Arden’s Farm are within walking distance of each other. (Although one family said they enjoyed the three mile walk to the farm because they didn’t want to fight traffic.)
Did he or did he not? That is the question. There’s much debate about the authenticity of Shakespeare’s birthplace. For now, let’s just go with “Circumstantial evidence suggests it is very likely.” So for the sake of being a Shakespeare-loving tourist, check out the first floor room where Shakespeare was born. It’s located above the parlor, giving the room an extra dose of heat. My favorite part of the house was the reconstructed workshop where Shakespeare’s dad, John made and sold gloves. The very professional reenactor explained how John would tan the skins and make the gloves. His workshop faced the main road so people could easily be enticed to buy gloves. The windows also let the “working class” glance inside the Shakespeare home and see the bed in the parlor, showing a sign of wealth. Our upstairs tour guides performed a short scene from Macbeth, adding to the fun and educational element of the tour.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens
Here’s a chance to learn about the “scandal” connected to Shakespeare’s personal life. At 18, he married Anne Hathaway, 26 years old, who just happened to be three months pregnant. After giving your children a short lecture on family planning, enjoy the nine acres of gardens and walks. A sculpture trail gives kids a chance to let off steam before going inside the cottage. The house gives insight into the life of Anne and her family through displays and costumed performers. I watched a school group of young children totally engaged in listening to a woman dressed in full Tudor costume. One little girl asked, “Can you run fast on the playground in that long dress?” Every guide we encountered answered questions as if it was the first time that question was asked. (Even though it wasn’t!) We walked from downtown Stratford Upon Avon to the cottage, although large parking places are available if you choose to drive.
Shakespeare’s Grave and Holy Trinity Church
After seeing where Shakespeare was born, it make sense to see where he was baptized, worshipped and then buried. Holy Trinity
Church, the oldest building in Stratford Upon Avon, is a short walk from the center of town. There is a small door leading into the massive 15th century doors, just big enough to let one person through at a time. On this is a sanctuary knocker. Fugitives from justice (often lynch-mobs!) could grab the ring and claim 37 days safety before facing trial. You’ll find Shakespeare’s grave in the Chancel of the church in front of the Altar, outlined with a rope. His wife Anne is next to him. Shakespeare, used to being in the limelight, gave large donations to the church to reserve this prime burial location.
To get even more of a feel about Shakespeare’s life, visit Halls Croft, home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna and her husband, Dr. John Hall. Built in 1613, the house has an air of upper crust society. Scheduled “Parlour Talks” explain what life would have been like for Susanna as the wife of a doctor. Puzzles and quizzes keep children involved as they tour the house and gardens. Several people we met commented how much they enjoyed the Hall’s Croft Café located inside the house.
New Place and Nash’s House
When we visited in March, 2015, Nash’s House and New Place were closed, preparing for renovation and new exhibits. Nash’s house is the-well preserved Tudor building where Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth lived. Shakespeare himself lived and died in New Place, right next door. Unfortunately that house was demolished so all that remains are parts of the foundation and gardens. Stay tuned for the grand re-opening in 2016!
Mary Arden’s Farm
For a complete run-down on the farm where Shakespeare’s mother grew up, go to: Shakespeare in the Farmyard.
Discover Shakespear’s Family Homes Pass
Visitors with even an inkling of an interest in Shakespeare can gain a wealth of information by purchasing the “Five House Pass”. An extra bonus is the fact you can use the pass as often as you like for a 12 month period. After vising these locations, older children just might find they have an edge on any school project pertaining to Shakespeare. History certainly does come alive after you’ve seen where Shakespeare lived and worked, compared to seeing a picture in a text book.
And to keep your children’s interest in Shakespeare alive even more, show them these “insults” from Shakespeare’s plays they can use when sparring with a sibling!
[Thine] breath stinks with eating toasted cheese.
You ugly venomous toad!
I scorn you, scurvy companion.
I had rather chop this hand off at a blow, and with the other fling it at thy face.