Stratford-upon-Avon is intimately connected with the life of its most famous son, William Shakespeare. Visitors can see many of the places associated with him, as well as seeing the Cotswold countryside he knew well as a boy.
Visiting Shakespeare’s Home
Shakespeare’s formative years, including the first part of his marriage to Anne Hathaway, were spent in a house in Stratford-upon-Avon town centre. This has been a tourist attraction for several hundred years and is now known simply as Shakespeare’s Birthplace. There are often special exhibitions, each exploring a different aspect of the playwright’s life and works. Be prepared for large crowds on summer weekends and at holiday periods. Shakespeare’s Birthplace is open all year round, except for Christmas Day, although opening hours are slightly shorter in the winter months. There is a small café in the grounds, which serves drinks and light refreshments.
Notable Cotswold Influences in Shakespeare’s Work
In Shakespeare’s childhood, Stratford-upon-Avon was a small market town, sharing features with its Cotswold neighbours. As the playwright grew up, this is where he formed his ideas about English rural imagery. The forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is similar to Warwickshire woodlands of the day, while As You Like It is actually set in the nearby Forest of Arden. The language of his plays is also indicative of Shakespeare’s upbringing: words like “wappered” (which means “tired”) would have been familiar to him as a lad. Even some real-life Cotswold people are mentioned: The Taming of the Shrew mentions the real-life Hacket family.
The Home of Shakespeare: Exploring Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is the home of English theatre outside London, with the Royal Shakespeare Company being based here. Booking in advance is strongly advised for the most popular plays. Other Shakespeare-related attractions include New Place, where he died, and a little way outside the town itself is Mary Arden’s House, where his mother lived. Shakespeare was buried at Holy Trinity Church, where you can still see the curse he placed on anyone who dared to move his bones. The Elizabethan country house at Charlecote Manor stands nearby: the young Shakespeare is said to have once been caught poaching deer in its grounds. Stratford-upon-Avon also contains several other attractions, notably a butterfly farm, while there is a unique chain ferry across the River Avon. The town holds a fair each October.