23 things you didn’t know about Stratford or Shakespeare

Stratford Upon Avon

I’m sure there are a million interesting things about Stratford upon Avon. There have to be. It’s a lovely place.   Here for a starter though are 23 that we learned our recent visit.

  • Stratford upon Avon has been given lamp posts by councils and countries around the world.  They line the streets and to be honest you probably wouldn’t notice unless you looked hard.
  • There are actually three theatres in Stratford.   The Royal Shakespeare Theatre where they show, well plays by Shakespeare.  One is called The Swan and is there they put on plays by other noteworthy playwrights (and is where we saw Don Quixote) and the third is slightly up the road out of Stratford and is called “The Other Place”.
  • The theatre burned down in 1926, leaving just the tower, so the current theatre is “new”.  The RST rebuild was only possible after a donation from an American billionaire

RSC Boards

  • When the stage was ripped up to be replaced, it was used to cover the floor in the reception area and along the balconies.  So everybody who visits has trod the boards at the RSC.
  • Each production has its own stage, built over a pit (to allow trapdoors to appear anywhere).  Taken up and swapped over ahead of each play’s performance that night.
  • Not only do the theatres not offer “star dressing rooms” , they are often shared.
  • There always two different productions running at each theatre at the same time (well they are on different nights obviously but unlike other theatres you won’t find one play on every night for a particular length of time).
  • Stage management is co-ordinated from desks in “the gods”
  • His date of birth is not known, but the custom was to baptise children on the third day so his date of birth is assumed, and may of course be wrong!
  • The font in the church pre-dates Shakespeare and as that was the church his family attended he was probably baptised three yards from where he now lies

Shakespeare Bust

  • The bust of Shakespeare in the church was commissioned by his family and is the closest to a contemporary image that exists
  • Shakespeare 18 when he got married, Anne Hathaway was 30.  Their first daughter was born six months later.  Ahem
  • Sheep Street is so named because flocks were driven down to from the Cotwolds hills to graze on the common land outside the theatres before being slaughtered and butchered.
  • Harvard House in Stratford was home to the Harvard family, one of whom (who didn’t live in the house) emigrated and bequeathed money to a college in Newtowne. Renamed Cambridge, the town’s college was renamed Harvard in his honour. It’s tenuous, I admit.
  • Actors come to Stratford and stay in cottages owned by the RSC.
  • RSC is a very grand ‘rep’ company – actors can be rehearsing one play while acting another and understudying a third.
  • He’d have been 450 this year you know
  • No-one knows his cause of death but London, actresses, high life. Wink, wink.
  • The only item Shakespeare left his wife when he died was his “second best bed”
  • In 1759 William Gastrell, sick of visitors looking through the window of the house where Shakespeare died in 1616, demolished it.   He had bought it six years before and wasn’t interested in the fact that Shakespeare had written some of his most famous works there, including the Tempest.   Known as New Place it has never been rebuilt, though the foundations are still there.  The townsfolk of Stratford were so outraged they ran Gastrell out of town and banned him from returning.

Stratford Costa

  • Some ‘old’ buildings are just mocked up “to fit in”. Yes, Costa, I’m looking at you!
  • The actors drink in the  Mucky Duck
  • Shakespeare has no descendants.   He had two daughters, one of, Susanna never had children (she died in 1649 aged 66), the other, Judith had three sons but they all died before she did aged 77 in 1692

 

Do check out Shakespeare’s England for all things Shakespeare and Visit England for help on other thing happening in and around Stratford.

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