Stratford-upon-Avon sits one hundred miles northeast of London and was founded by the Anglo-Saxons as a market town in around 1196 AD. It most likely would have remained a simple English village if it weren’t for its famous son, William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare was baptized on April 26th 1564 in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church. He was the son of John Shakespeare, a respected Stratford alderman and a successful glove maker. As of now no records have been found giving what Shakespeare’s actual birthdate was. When Shakespeare was 18 years old he married local 26 year old Anne Hathaway, taking out a marriage license on November 27, 1582. William and Anne had three children, a girl and twin boys. One of their sons, Hamnet died of an unknown cause at the age of eleven in 1596.
Shakespeare didn’t make a name for himself in Stratford, he know that London was better suited for a playwright. Sometime between 1585 and 1592 he moved to London, were he became the successful actor and writer that we know today. In London he was part-owner of the playing group known as King Chamberlain’s Men and founded the famous Globe Theater, that he built on the banks of the river Thames.Shakespeare’s first works were the comedies, he then wrote his famous tragedies up until around 1608. After that, at the end of his career, he wrote the tragicomedies, also called his romances, and began his collaborations with other writers. In his lifetime Shakespeare wrote, and collaborated on, thirty-eight plays, one hundred and fifty-four sonnets, and two long sonnets.
Although London was the base for his success he traveled between there and his hometown of Stratford-upon- Avon throughout his career. In around 1613 Shakespeare retired back to Stratford and three years later, on April 23 1616, he died at the age of 52. William Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, the same church where he was baptized in.
Stratford-upon-Avon today has capitalized on being Shakespeare’s home, with an estimated 4.9 million visitors coming to this small medieval town each year. 2016 should draw even more visitors with it being the 400th anniversary of his death. The first Shakespeare Jubilee honoring him was in 1796, done by the famous actor David Garrick, which went over three days.
In Stratford you can tour Shakespeare’s birthplace house and gardens. The interior of house is setup as a museum of 15th century English life. The last room you visit is where legend says that Shakespeare was born. Since Shakespeare traveled back and forth between London and Stratford often he an Anne did have a house in the town, which no longer exists. Today where the house once stood is a vacant lot. The story why the house is no longer there is said to be because the last owned it didn’t like all the tourists peeking in the windows, so he tore it down. You can visit Anne Hathaway house and Holy Trinity Church and visit Shakespeare’s grave.
Other thing to do while in Stratford-upon-Avon is to walk along the Avon River, seeing the colorful houseboats moored along its backs. Visit the statue of William Shakespeare with the statues of some of his most famous characters around him, my favorite is Hamlet. Take in a play by the Royal Shakespeare Company, or dine in one of the many historic pubs and restaurants throughout the town.
All in all Stratford-Upon-Avon is where tourist meets history in a pleasant way, as long as you don’t peek in any windows.