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Stratford-upon-Avon is a town steeped in the cultural history of the English Renaissance and it is only a short walk down along the river from Shakespeare Marina.
As you walk into the town, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is on the left bank of the river. This is one of the three RSC theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon. The other two, the Swan Theatre and The Other Place are also within easy walking distance.
All three theatres are very different in style but they all perform the plays of Shakespeare, as well as commissioning contemporary playwrights. Their mission is to make Shakespeare’s plays accessible to everyone, just as they were when first performed in Elizabethan times.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the original theatre. It has three tiers, and seats an audience of over a 1,000. The main stage has a thrust stage extending into the auditorium on three sides and so creating a greater connection between the actors and the audience. The beautiful and popular Rooftop Restaurant has extensive views over the town and river.
Beside the main theatre within a Victorian Gothic building, is the Swan Theatre. It seats 450 and productions have a more intimate quality. It has recently been extensively refurbished, making it accessible to all.
The third theatre, The Other Place, began life as a tin shed rehearsal room and is now a 200 seated studio theatre. Not only are plays are performed here; it is also a venue for live music including jazz nights, poetry readings and family events.
Walking into the heart of the town, you will come to Shakespeare’s New Place. After Shakespeare made his fortune in London, he purchased New Place as a new family home. At the time, it was the largest house in the Stratford-upon-Avon and the only one with a courtyard. Now, you can walk through this beautiful courtyard and the Great Garden marvelling at the unique artwork inspired by the life the family led and the plays Shakespeare wrote there.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582 when he was 18. Visiting Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the farmhouse where she grew up adds to yet more the tapestry of Shakespeare’s life. It is possible to visit the house and the gardens. Some of the original house and furniture have survived and it was in the beautiful gardens and orchards that William courted Anne.
Delving into the life of Shakespeare does not just inform us about his life and works but shows us how his language is embedded into the national psyche. Where do some of our everyday phrases originate? Phrases like “the game is up”; “as luck would have it”; “break the ice”; “heart of gold”; and “in a pickle”. Yes, they all have their roots in Shakespeare’s plays.
As you walk from the marina into the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon and back again, you cannot help but feel a connection with the genius of William Shakespeare.