Hiram College

By Abigail Stevenson ’19

This blog was written as part of Stevenson’s spring 3-week trip in 2017 to the United Kingdom with Professors Paul Gaffney and Rick Hyde.

DAY 8: April 26th, 2017

The morning began with a charming breakfast at several different cafés for those of us who braved the morning air and worthwhile lack of sleep with Paul. Megan, Hanna, and I stopped at a café and ordered drinks. As we opened them to reveal their contents, we all agreed that they reflected our personalities:

Megan: a creamy and delicate base with dark chocolate swirls and flings of powder on top

Me: Milky white chocolate bubbles below light pink and pearly marshmallows around freckles of chocolate

Hannah: a flat pool of mocha

We rejoined our traveling family to delight upon pastries and listen to some techno remix in a cute coffee shop. Hannah led us, afterward, to the home of Shakespeare’s birth and early life. On the small town’s horizon, she gestured to a jester holding the two mask of comedy and tragedy. Although the comical character himself represents comedy, he is written into most of Shakespeare’s creations including his tragedies. The human condition, like Shakespeare’s plays, reflects and absorbs them both.

Before we journeyed through the home—as there was a large French school ranging from eight years olds to high schoolers always somehow ahead of us—we alighted at a small circle. In the center stood two women with the words of Shakespeare in their minds. They recited his magic in the correct period dress and then ushered us to his beginning. We stood in a time glitch.

The floor below our feet was older than America.

A few rooms past the beginning stood the tanning shop, as the Bard’s father created leather accessories. We were told that, in order to make leather, the pieces had to be soaked in urine. Later, we found out that Shakespeare’s son-in-law, Dr. Hall, had the luxury of tasting urine to diagnose his patients. We discovered later that Shakespeare turned his home into a hotel called the “The Swan and Maiden Head,”, as he could not let himself sell his childhood palace.

After visiting his birthplace, we traveled to a garden that once stood as a grand and extremely expensive house. Surrounding New Place were Victorian zebra-striped homes. Inside the gardens, statues stood among gentle flowers. Each sculpture was a melting pot of a play. “Macbeth’s” was the hardest to guess: It was filled with faces and crushed under the sideways path of two large feet.

A short journey afterwards led us to a momentous Guild Hall-Cathedral. Inside, the Bard’s father was forced to scrape and cover years of Catholic history from the walls. The paintings were revealed once again for visitors like us. The largest one upon the wall seemed like a phantom of a Bausch masterpiece.

The Guild Hall was once turned into a boy’s school. Inside the school, we discover the place of learning that enveloped the young man’s mind. In fact, we experienced a piece of his education, as the reenact or inside—one of Shakespeare’s last teachers—taught us Latin. As we repeated his words, our echo sounded oddly and hilariously British.

Our last stop together for the afternoon was the death place of the great playwright. Gravestones guarded the ornate cream cathedral. Spires poked up to the rainy sky. Inside, monuments of long-dead people covered the walls in both stained glass and flower memorials.

Our very last stop of the night was the home of Susanna, Shakespeare’s daughter. She married Dr. Hall. Inside their home lived 400 year old furniture and oil paintings of the Rembrandt era with layers deteriorated so much so that they showed sketches and under-paintings.

After enjoying the pub food, Julius Caesar beckoned our crew. At first, to tell the truth (and although I love the play), I was quite unimpressed. However, as the show progressed, I became entertained with the mechanical manner of the transitions’ music and mob mentality that the “crowd” actors possessed. It reflected our society in a slow realization to myself. As the power and intensity grew, the second act swelled to an ultimate moment of murdered innocence, as a child was brutally murdered. How quickly we kill innocence when we try to save ourselves. As we left the play, I think we were all satisfied and slightly disturbed. The mechanized feel of the play was unnerving, yet surreal.

At the pub, to end our evening with a lighter note, we toasted the night with a cheery, eye-locked, “skole”.