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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

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Meeting Shakespeare in his own den

Of all the places I have visited around the world like theatre, Opera House, Museum, it is Stratford that I have been to most. In fact, it is countless and though nothing has changed, my urge to be there still prevails. I learn something with each visit that I may have missed studying Shakespeare from my school days. This season it was somewhat quiet in activity though the usual teeming crowds were there.

I had to brave the chilly Autumn winds that rips through all of a sudden. However, there was excitement in the air as programmes were being drawn out, out-door plays planned, literature competitions organised, visiting Dons' lectures on plays sorted, etc for the next year.

There were a multitude of swans in the Avon River, black, white and mixed and gliding gently. Occasionally, they would climb to the banks to be fed by the visitors. This is a favourite sight at his birthplace and it has inspired me many times to write over and over again.

The portrait of William Shakespeare
painted during the reign of Charles II.

Sitting pretty above all of us is his magnificent statue. His spirit is there; one would encounter the feeling if engaged in that sense and that is why I say I meet the Bard in his own den each time I visit Stratford. I feel it everywhere; the movement of his spirit with love and care the way it would have been when he was alive. What would the Bard have written today if he saw all of us? William and Kate, David Cameron, Knave of England, The Folk Around Avon for that matter, Victoria and Albert?

Walking around the familiar sights with blooms still blushing, I also spotted the unique plant maintained from a cutting (continued ever the years after his death) from what the Bard planted during his time.

Public interestht

Spread about are the key places. Apart from his Birthplace, Ann Hathaway's cottage, Mary Arden's house, Hall's croft and New Place are equally and lovingly cared which makes the poets birthplace, the Mecca for English literature the Bard gifted the world with. No where is a place so revered. No place is so much visited and no place holds public interest and no place that can offer a better education for literature students.

The continued recognition of the Birthplace as a memorial to the poet, the staff makes all endeavour to retain its historical and literary value at its peak. His Birthplace is indicated on the earliest plan of bearing the caption as 'House in Stratford-upon-Avon' issued in 1756 in which the famous poet, Shakespeare was born. In 1847 a notice was displayed the announcement of Shakespeare House that attracted considerable attention at Stratford that had been a heart stirring relic of a most glorious period. The ownership of the property passed from John Shakespeare to the poet who in turn passed it to his elder daughter to Sussana and his elder granddaughter, Lady Barnard and thereafter went down a string of owner - changes until it was finally purchased by Thomas Court for 210 Pounds. Finally it came to be what it is today with more bargaining and selling of this historic property.

By 1847, another announcement for the sale of the property made national news and at a stretch of long and arduous negotiations with rumours circulating that it would be removed to America produced immediate action. At the auction rooms in London, the bidding started with 1,000 guineas and advanced to 2,000 Pounds and finally sold for 3,000 Pounds and handed over to two committees amidst joy. Since 1847 the promoters were keen on handing over the Birthplace to the Government but after lengthy negotiations it proved impracticable. Thus the Committee was forced to undertake the intricate support-expenses of the Birthplace. Thereafter, the story of the administration can be traced in detail to what it is today. Everyone who visits the place quickly appreciates how it has been preserved with its original timber etc.

Original objects

Anne Hathaway’s cottage, one mile away from Shakespeare’s home. It was here that the Bard romanced and met
his future wife and married her.
The wondrous River Avon that inspired Shakespeare to write many of his plays.

As I walked through his house, I noticed his admiration for wooden furniture that was bulky and heavy, some crafted and others plain and they all had been meticulously selected and placed at appropriate places. The first room depicted the Warwickshire and Stratford in a map that he himself had drawn out and the exhibits in the inner room had traces of history and association of the Birthplace. Upstairs was a museum that contained illustrations of his parentage, career, work, sources, portraiture, and growing appreciation of the poet. In his bedroom where his parents slept before he was born, there is a partial exposure showing old wattle and daub constructions. A four-poster bed and his cradle are very well preserved. Leading further, is his study and other original objects. When finally I came out from the backyard, it was as though I had really met the Bard. His spirit and aura had followed me through. At least, that was the feeling I had.

The birthplace garden

Immaculately and lovingly spruced, the garden is magic for any visitor. With my love for horticulture, got lost in their beauty and scent. Shakespeare though not a regular botanist, had a keen eye for plants and a observer to their growing habits. Apart from minor alterations, the gardens are kept alive as Shakespeare had in his lifetime, Laden with trees, plants, shrubs, herbs and flowers, most of them are mentioned in his plays along with his fascination for the four seasons. There is a section dedicated to his ardour on plants that are less colourful and more interesting as Shakespearean specimens closely planted on informal grouping. Flowers I spotted were Lilies, pensies, roses daffodils and daisies but there were a multitude more in arabesque colouring.

Dr Levi Fox, Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has written several books separately on birds, flowers, herbs and inspirational love notes.

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