Written by Amanda Worcester ’18
Reading about something and experiencing it are completely different things. This was especially true in Stratford-upon-Avon. Having read Shakespeare’s biography, I was familiar with his birth and death place, but being in those places made everything more tangible. I really got the sense of how he grew up and how the city was like in his time.
We started our tour of his life in his birthplace which had been restored to the time period. It was interesting to get the sense of how the family life worked and how his father made his money. It was also interesting to learn that Shakespeare had turned the family home into a pub and boarding house after he moved to London and the family didn’t need it. There are facts that aren’t well known, but were interesting to learn.
Getting to go to the schoolhouse that Shakespeare attended and knowing that I was in the room that he learned was incredible. The fact that he saw his first professional performance in that same room was something that was inspiring. Something that went along with that aspect of his childhood was also the parish that his father was in charge of. Something that was very prevalent during his time was the change from Catholicism to Protestantism. To see the paintings on the wall of the church, that his father was charged to cover, really made things real to me and showed me even more about this country in general. There is so much about this city that has preserved history and has honored both Shakespeare and theatre.
Throughout all of this I had often been reminded how much history England actually has. Instead of 200 years, I had to wrap my head around thousands. So many times it was highlighted how much history this country has and also how well preserved it is. This was seen in every single place that we went but it was especially incredible in London.
One of the first days in London we travelled to many places that showed the history of the city. Westminster Abbey was astonishing because it contained not only royal memorials and remains but also memorials for people who have been influential on English culture. It was also astonishing because it has been so well preserved since the 1000s despite all of the changes to the city around it.
Something that didn’t change was the Horse Guards, which was a strange experience. I walked past two police officers armed with automatic weapons. The guards had swords. I know the guards are there as a tradition, but it still impacted me. The presence of the police officers also reminded me of the state that the world is currently in. It was so easy to forget what was going on around the world when you are not around media. This was a stark reminder that nowhere is guaranteed to be safe.
On that theme we also saw a church that was destroyed during the Blitz of World War II. Instead of tearing the church down, it was repurposed. It was uplifting to see that the government had kept the remainder of the church and made it into a community area. There were benches and a water feature that made it a nice a relaxing place to be which is strange when you think of the events that had happened there. The preservation of history seems to be much more important there and they do it in ways that is accessible to everybody.