Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In touch with Shakespeare?

Stratford-upon-Avon -- the place where possibly the world's most well-known playwright was born, and where he died. Those are two of the very few 'facts', we have about Shakespeare's life. The man was a mystery.

How did the son of a glover become a sought-after playwright? Did he ever travel abroad, to the places where the plays are set? Did he love his wife, even though they spent so long apart? And why does his grave bear such an enigmatic inscription?

Many buildings in Stratford still look more or less as they would have in Shakespeare's time. It's not hard to imagine yourself back then.

But the most tangible connection we have is through the Holy Trinity Church, and the poet’s grave. Shakespeare is buried before the altar, along with several other members of his family, including Anne, his wife.

It's the almost eroded words on the stone that provide the mystery.
Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

Why did he choose them -- to prevent any attempt to remove his body to a grander setting, such as Westminster Abbey? The last dramatic gesture of stagecraft, from the master? Because the grave doesn't actually contain a body -- Shakespeare never existed -- he was Marlow, Bacon, a shadowy nobleman, a woman?

Unless someone is brave enough to dig him up, we'll never know. Renovators in the church earlier this year took care not to disturb the grave site, just in case.

It’s an actual physical link to the playwright, something that you can touch.
And if a small shudder runs up your spine when you read the words, isn't that exactly what he would have wanted?


(Don't forget that voting in American Title V goes on until midnight on 23 November. If you haven't checked out the entries yet you can find the contest on http://www.romantictimes.com/news_amtitle.php )


Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, chills are definitely going through me, and I'm not even there!!!
Thanks for the tour. I love Shakespeare, whoever he,she was, or was not.

Lexie O'Neill said...

How fascinating! To think I didn't know...thanks for teaching me something. I so want to go back, but no time soon with two kids in braces, and one about to start driving (pity me:)