Stratford-Upon-Avon: Always Remember, Never Forget

William Shakespeare has no doubt enveloped this entire trip, and rightfully so because it is a Shakespeare class. The trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon did not fall short in terms of history and appreciation of the brilliant playwright, but certain interpretations of his plays did. After seeing a fabulous adaptation of Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe, my expectations were perhaps a little high. That play did a fantastic job in terms of fitting modernity into a medieval setting. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of Hamlet, however, tried to fit the play into modern times, and, to me, the results were quite unfavorable.

Having consistent motifs is an important quality to have in any kind of writing, whether it be a play, a poem, a novel, or any other form of writing. Motifs allow for a level of creativity and imagination to occur from the reader/audience member. For example, the child in Macbeth served as this recurring motif that could be interpreted in an infinite amount of ways. The director of Hamlet, in my opinion, lacked this consistency with his motifs such as the African tribal theme.

As my classmates have heard over and over again from me, I was very discontent with Hamlet. There was no commitment to their motifs, the acting was subpar, and the overall feelings I had by the end was anger and disappointment. Anger because of how the director combined several different themes without any transitions as though he didn’t know what he was doing, and disappointment because most of the actors had no idea what they were saying. Elizabethan English is certainly not easy to master and actually know what you’re talking about, but if you’re in an actual production you should probably have some idea.

Although quite reluctant, I went in with an open mind for Cymbeline and it was such an improvement. The acting was amazing and there was so much commitment to the characters. This play had a modern theme as well, however it was slightly dystopian with a hint of steampunk in terms of costume choices. Even the set and props were consistent with the motifs. I also appreciated the different dynamics between the characters, and the swapped genders of some characters because they were seamless and had a very overwhelming effect.

Outside of the theatre aspects of the trip, Stratford-Upon-Avon is rather cute. It’s a huge difference from London, although there’s still no shortage of tourists. There’s not a whole lot to do besides shop and praise William Shakespeare, but you can still have fun. If you ever get bored, the Royal Shakespeare Company has a lovely selection of things to color (apparently it’s for the children, but we’re all children at heart). One thing I will critique about Stratford-Upon-Avon is that their mac and cheese is quite subpar, other than that it’s a very cute town.


Shakespeare’s Fame

There’s no doubt that William Shakespeare is probably of the most famous writer of all time, but how did he become so popular? I mean, not everyone gets such a mass celebration 400 years after their passing, and there is definitely something special about this writer.  Visiting the “Shakespeare In Ten Acts” exhibit at the British Library can leave someone dumbfounded by the mass amounts of artifacts and original works by the great William Shakespeare. But, how has he been recreated and so idolized for centuries all around the world? The evidence lies in the translated copies of his texts.

The original copies of William Shakespeare’s works are great and all, but only people in Elizabethan England could truly understand them. It wasn’t until much later when these books were translated, that Shakespeare could truly become such a phenomenon.This section of the exhibit featured several first edition books of translated Shakespeare plays, all starting back in the 19th century. Macbeth was now offered in French, Hamlet could now be read in Japan, King Lear was written in Mongolian. There were also more of William Shakespeare’s books written in Czech, Arabic, Thai, Setswana, German, and several others. These original translated books opened up the gateway that led to Shakespeare’s rise to fame and recreation.

People were even learning William Shakespeare’s work by a younger age as well. Children’s books began to be produced about Shakespeare’s plays in the 19th century as well. An original one featured in the exhibit displayed pictures to help explain the story and much simpler wording. This contributes to how Shakespeare has been recreated because now from the ages five and older, anyone could read Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, or any other play.

By the end of the 19th century, almost everyone in the entire world knew who William Shakespeare was. These translated copies of his work and the Children’s versions expanded his audience beyond anything he could have ever dreamed of. We celebrate him and revive his work time and time again because not only are his writings brilliant, but everyone can read them and perform them in their native language. By translating the books, everyone could view and appreciate his brilliance. I think part of the reason that we can celebrate such a great writer 400 years after his passing is because it’s not just an English thing to celebrate, and people from all around the world can come and appreciate him. These books played a huge role in William Shakespeare’s worldwide fame.

Who Even Is William Shakespeare?

We all know the expression “Heroes live forever, but legends never die”, and I believe it is certainly valid to say William Shakespeare is quite legendary. An average, everyday man with broad ideas and excellent writing skills is still circulating around 400 years after his death. William Shakespeare created and published so many great works and language that it is still used prominently today. From his creations we have adapted and contributed to our own creations as to who Shakespeare was, and still is, to this day.

An example of this can be seen in his monument at Westminster Abbey. His memorial sits in the middle of the wall, far superior to size and detail than the neighboring ones, who were also phenomenal poets and authors. It seems, however, to mask the impurities of Shakespeare’s stature during his life. In a giant shrine dedicated to the worship and mourn of prior kings, queens, and other royalty, perhaps it seemed unfitting to portray the poet as his natural self during his life. This man deserved more for his legendary and everlasting accomplishments that came after his death, and Westminster Abbey recognizes that. Shakespeare’s legend is forever preserved in the way he was perceived as opposed to the way he was.

Other elements of the statue make it quite unique in its portrayal and efforts to recreate and preserve William Shakespeare. He is seen leaning on a pedestal, and on the pedestal there are multiple faces on it. Atop the pedestal sits a pile of books in which Shakespeare leans on, pointing to a piece of paper with a quote on it. It’s as though to signify that William Shakespeare’s words contribute to the knowledge we have today. His words and ideas have molded our thoughts, speech, and even language itself into its more modern forms.

The quote on the piece of paper William Shakespeare is holding is from the Tempest, and is believed by many to be a farewell to the world. The quote reads “The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind”(Act IV Scene 1). I believe this quote is chosen because Shakespeare was unaware of how much of a legend he would become. He feared that all his work, and the accomplishments he had, would diminish and fade. Yet, here we are, 400 years later, still learning and trying to understand and recreate his genius mind.