Chilling with Shakespeare (Or, as Stratford calls him, Cha-Ching!)

So, internet people, this Saturday I took a class trip to Stratford Upon Avon, birthplace of famous playwright William Shakespeare. I expected to be blown away and awed by the mere presence of Shakespeare in his birthplace and the town where he used to walk as a young boy and man.

Instead I was blown away by the extents to which people will go to earn a little cash. I mean, come on, people. Shakespeare was a MAN. Not a God. And certainly not a cash register! Giant flags marked the place of Shakespeare’s childhood home and in order to get to the house you had to walk through a set of incredibly cheesy, overdone displays and dramatic videos. Yes, one of those videos referenced the Shakespeare episode of Doctor Who and made me incredibly happy, but still. Unnecessary.

A little background on the poet and playwright might have been nice… on a plaque where you could read it if you chose and ignore it if you pleased, but certainly herding us all through a series of tiny little rooms full of expensive theatrics (which probably are used to justify the price to get in) was unnecessary. Eventually, however, you were let loose and got to walk out into the gardens and head towards the anticipated house. Except that as soon as you stepped in you were corralled again and given an extensive speech about the relative wealth of the Shakespeares. Things that, of course, I already knew and didn’t much care to hear again. Maybe it was the fact that I was really tired and maybe it was the fact that there were too many people in a small space, but I was relatively underwhelmed.

The good thing was, commercialised or not, I WAS standing on the same floor that Shakespeare (back when he was writing bad, angsty poetry like the rest of the young poets of the world) used to pace. And that many, many famous writers such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Emerson, Hawthorne and Dickens walked. And that my good old relative John Adams walked, too. Although I was overwhelmed by the museum-ification of what ought to have simply stood preserved as it originally was, it was still a little bit exciting to know so many greats had come before me to stand in that very spot (and hopefully be about as dismayed as I was).

Anyway, enough about the birthplace. From there we walked on to the two other places for which our school had pre-purchased our tickets, Nash’s Place and the third Shakespeare property the name of which utterly escapes me at the moment. We saw some pretty cool modern art depicting several different plays and characters from them, but mostly we saw a lot of reproductions of things that “may” have been involved in Shakespeare’s life at the time. And also some things I can’t possibly explain, such as scary ghost of Shakespeare impersonator guy, ginger Shakespeare, and the mystifying poster that asks “What if Shakespeare was a time traveling wizard?” featuring the T.A.R.D.I.S in the background (which makes no sense, really, considering the Doctor is hardly a wizard).

And then we did what any pair of girls would do when set free on the town–we shopped! Stopped in to a few little stores, H&M, and Lush and then stopped in to an adorable little cafe for a rest and a spot of tea. From there we wandered around some more until finally stopping for dinner at Cafe Nero, a lovely little chain that makes some pretty good paninis at some really good prices.

Finally, it was time to head to the RSC Swan theatre in anticipation of the main event–seeing a production of Measure for Measure! Having read it in advance (as class required us to do) I was interested to see what the Royal Shakespeare Company would bring to the stage, especially since the play itself is a little bit odd. However, had Gina not looked up reviews and warned me what was to come, I could not have been prepared for what ensued–men wearing corsets and see through shirts, a gigantic bondage codpiece, whips, leather, and a fleeting moment involving nipple clamps of which I’d rather not speak. Yes, my friends, it was Shakespeare, S&M style. It was certainly an interesting production, with several talented actors and a few about whom I was less certain. The costumes were distracting but rarely played upon and the scenery was quite minimal, as is often considered appropriate for Shakespeare. There was a bit of added comic relief, and the guy who played Claudio was exceptionally gorgeous, so all in all, I’d have to say I was pleased. If not even MORE confused about the play than I was when I started off.

A depressing and delayed bus ride and some excellent conversation later, I found myself back at school at the exceptional time of around 1:30AM, ready to go to sleep and mull over the brilliance (and commercialisation) of William Shakespeare.

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2 thoughts on “Chilling with Shakespeare (Or, as Stratford calls him, Cha-Ching!)

  1. Did they have actors in the gardens while you waited to get into the house proper? That was the best part for me, but they might not start that until the summer rush begins in April.

  2. There was a guy there delivering various monologues, which was pretty cool. But there wasn't really a line or anything, so we just watched for a few seconds before we got on to the main event.

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