Drama, the Bard, and Ghosts at Shakespeare’s Birthplace
The timeless appeal and universality of William Shakespeare’s work have made his hometown a point of pilgrimage. Already a flourishing market town in the Bard’s lifetime, Stratford’s half-timbered homes and air of historical prosperity would most likely draw visitors even without the fame of her native son. Although visits to his wife Anne Hathaway’s cottage, to the house where he was born, or to the 13th-century Trinity Church where he and his family were buried make up the required circuit, tickets for a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company will set your visit apart. Of the three theaters in town, most classics are performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre; there are weekly matinees for those heading back to London in time for dinner. The Elizabethan-style Swan Theatre was reconstructed along the lines of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre, and The Other Place is a more intimate venue for experimental productions.
Unpack at the magnificent Ettington Park Hotel, a stately neo-Gothic home on the banks of the River Stour. Sitting on the same site where a manor was first accounted for in the Domesday Book of 1086, this 19th-century luxury country house has long been associated with the Shirley family (Shakespeare’s Hal speaks of a “valiant Shirley” in Henry IV). The family ghosts linger still—the legendary Lady in Grey has quite a reputation in England. One of the more famed hauntings of the hotel has occurred here a number of times: the same book, Sir Walter Scott’s St. Ronans Well, has been known to fly off the shelf, always falling open to the same verse: “A merry place, ’tis said, in days of yore; But something ails it now—the place is cursed.” Guests will be hard pressed to find anything less than blessed about this pampering Warwickshire escape nestled amid 40 acres of deer-inhabited parkland and manicured gardens.