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After attending the Stratford Town Walk, I went back to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Using the voucher I had received on the walk, I got the 2 for 1 discount. You enter just to the left of the actual home and walk through a short exhibit on Shakespeare. The First Folio (pictured below) really awed me. The First Folio is Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. It is a 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare’s plays. The fact that it’s survived this long is simply incredible.
Inside Shakespeare’s Birthplace
The house is setup as if it were in Shakespeare’s time. The ground floor has a parlor, a central hall, and a service/work area. His Father used the service area for his work as a glover. The exhibit they have showcases the steps of making gloves in the 1500s. Excuse the child, she’s not mine and was running amuck in the room. Children should be on leashes (jk). It’s likely that there was once a separate kitchen and brew house in the back of the house. As well as an addition workshop area.
Ever wonder how you can ward off those pesky evil spirits? Check out this Witch’s Bottle! They were used to make charms and spells to get rid of the evil spirits. You would fill the bottle with items such as pins, pieces of bone, hair, nail clippings, and urine. Once they were full they were often buried outside by the doorways of the house. YUCK! I’ll stick with my celtic necklace thank you!
Head upstairs and you get a pleasant view of the street out front. After touring the home I headed over to the Time Warp store across the street. Can’t stop a Whovian when they see Daleks!
Charles Dickens Saves the Day!
Phineas Taylor Barnum of Barnum and Bailey circus once had an interest in buying Shakespeare’s home. “While in Europe I was constantly on the look-out for novelties… I obtained verbally through a friend the refusal of the house in which Shakespeare was born, designing to remove it in sections to my Museum in New York; but the project leaked out, British pride was touched, and several ….. English gentlemen interfered and purchased the premises for a Shakespeare Association…” – Barnum (http://findingshakespeare.co.uk) Fortunately, that did not happen. Instead in 1847, Shakespeare’s Birthplace was purchased for £3,000 by public subscription. Charles Dickens was one of the leaders of the campaign to save the building. He even raised money for the purchase through performances of Shakespeare’s plays.
A window panel that used to be on the top floor has since been removed since so many visitors over the years have scribbled on it. Some of the scribblers are famous! Scottish writer Walter Scott, philosopher Thomas Carlyle, and two great Shakespearian actors, Ellen Terry and Henry Irving (his scribble can be seen in the image on the right.
Walk further into the house and you come upon a bedroom and a loft above. Like most of Stratford buildings in the 16th century, the house was built using local materials; oak and stone. Even thought there have been alterations and restoration work on the home, most of the original structure of the house survives.
The Room Where it Happens
The next room you enter is the actual room Shakespeare was born in. I’m not being dramatic here, I actually got chills in this room. It’s not much in the way of being overly lavish. However, during that time it probably was a lot for the family. It’s bigger than some of the apartments I’ve had in Los Angeles! The house remained in the ownership of Shakespeare’s direct descendants until 1670, when his grand daughter died. Having no children, it was passed onto his great-nephew.
Boy, this was a small doorway! I’m 5’8″ and I could barely go through without grazing my head! The main house became a tenanted inn called the Maidenhead (and later the Swan and Maidenhead), following the death of John Shakespeare in 1601. The inn only occupied the eastern two-thirds of the main house. Joan Hart’s, Shakespeare’s great-grandson, descendants lived in the other part of the house until 1793.
Just before exiting the house, they had a guestbook for visitors to sign. I really love writing in guestbooks while I’m traveling. Even if it’s something short, it’s a way to leave your mark. Without scribbling on the window pane!
A Bit of Theatre
After touring the house you exit into Shakespeare’s garden. I’m glad that I was there during the summer so that everything was in bloom. I was also just in time to catch some live theatre! These two lovely actors were performing bits of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. The both of them were wonderful and interacted with the crowd that had formed around them. I had requested the bit from Lady Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s best in my opinion! There really is nothing like theatre in England, especially at the home of a great!
Shakespeare’s Birthplace Garden
I strongly suggest visiting the Birthplace to anyone visiting the UK. You don’t have to be a history or theatre expert to enjoy the experience. It’s really more about seeing where he came from. Like Shakespeare himself, many greats come from humble beginnings.