Monday, July 30, 2012

Cool Stuff I Learned Visiting Shakespeare's Home in Straford

To enter the house you have to go through the Visitor Center. Yes, I was given a free pass by the Bed and Breakfast lady… but no matter… I just passed right in with a crowd. I’m pardoned… Time Served with Good Behavior.
The first thing you notice when you enter Shakespeare’s house is that there’s a bed in the front room. Why? Beds were totally expensive in Will’s time and people like to show them off. They’re tiny too. Barely kid size today. Speaking of beds in the Renaissance… they were basically a box board with ropes attached to the bottom and a mattress stuffed with straw or cloth. That means, every night you would have to wake up several times and re-fluff or “Make” your bed. This is where the expression “Sleep Tight” comes from.
Another cool thing I learned was about canopies over beds… Okay, suppose you have a thatched straw roof and mice and spiders were constantly falling on you while you slept. You’d want a canopy too. Also, another reason that beds were so small is that people slept sitting up. This is because there were fires constantly going in the hearth and rooms were covered in smoke. The only way to get a good rest was to sit up and hope not to choke.
After leaving London, Shakespeare returned to Stratford a wealthy man and converted his home into an inn and pub. He even had a special swinging door built that led to his bed chamber… charging visitors a shilling each. Quite a business mind, our Will.
Will’s father, John, an alderman and glove maker… yes, you should see all the gloves these guys made, quite a profitable business in itself… was not the cleanliest man. There is a public record of him being fined for not cleaning up a big pile of manure and muck that sat in front of the house for months. Totally disgusting... I mean, totally awesome!

Finally, although the house has changed hands many times over and it really isn’t the “exact” same dwelling that Will and family lived in years before… I mean how could it be with all the new wood and plaster over the walls… the stones on the floor remain the same… and I thought that was pretty cool. Apparently it was also quite fashionable years ago to sign one of the walls in the house for visitors… some famous signatures are Walter Scott, John Keats, Percy Shelley, William Butler Yeats, William Blake, and Queen Victoria. How’s that for a list.

Overall, the house is a must for any visitor… it was fun and silly and the actors inside marvelous and well informed. Thanks, Shakespeare House!

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