7th July, 2016
And after our trip to Oxford, it was time for a literary pilgrimage of my own. Like any nerd with English degrees, I’ve studied some Shakespeare in my day. And I liked it. So, when I realized our path to Wales would take us pretty close to Stratford-upon-Avon, I had to plan a detour (or diversion, as they say in England).
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust manages several important sites related to Shakespeare’s life, but the one I was most drawn to was Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Not the actress, but Old Will’s wife. Besides the significance of Shakespeare to my own life as a reader and writer, I wanted to go to the cottage because its gardens have been dubbed as the most romantic in England. While on holiday with a partner, a stroll through some romantic gardens sounds about right.
As for the romance between Will and Anne, that’s anybody’s guess. Anne was 26 when she married the 18 year-old budding bard, and it was a shotgun wedding. Shakespeare wrote a heck of a lot of sonnets, but only one about her. It was, however, his only that was not in iambic pentameter. He took on the trickier iambic tetrameter, maybe to capture the trickiness of showing his love to his wife back at home while he was off writing and whatever else in London:
Those lips that Love’s own hand did make,
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’,
To me that languished for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
‘I hate’ she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day,
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
‘I hate’, from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you’.
In any case, Anne was a wealthy woman in her own right, and her house and lands had been in her family for generations. They are preserved and well cared for by, so we can enjoy them today.
I’d highly recommend you spend a few hours if you’re in the region. It’s worth spending a few hours of your time there. We took our time through the orchard, sculpture garden, forest walk, and finally, the cottage. The gift shop had some seeds from the garden that we’re looking forward to planting when we get home. Everything was lovely despite the on-and-off cool drizzle, which made the cream tea a welcome end to our time there. (For my fellow Americans, a cream tea is a pot of tea and scone, served with clotted cream and jam.)
With that, here are just a few of the photos we snapped that day.
We had a little fun in the interpretive space on Elizabethan courtship. It wasn’t hard to find ideal phrases for the pair of us.