The life of William Shakespeare revolved around two main destinations: Stratford-Upon-Avon, where he lived and died; and London, where he made a name for himself as the most famous playwright of all time. Be sure to spend some time in both places to discover more about the man behind the well-loved tragedies and comedies.
This little Warwickshire town on the banks of the river Avon is surely most famous for its Shakespearean connections, although this charmingly picturesque town is worth visiting in its own right. It’s easy to get here, whether by car, train, or even cheap flights into Birmingham airport.
Dedicated fans of Shakespeare should visit the playwright’s 16th century childhood home, located on Henley Street. Managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the house has been restored to its original glory, and exists as a museum and shrine to William Shakespeare’s early life.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Back in the 1930s this venue opened on the site of the a 17th century Shakespearean theatre which had been destroyed by a fire. The one-room theatre has a thrust stage, designed to replicate the theatre experience Shakespeare had worked with in his day. There is also a rooftop restaurant with incredible views of Stratford, perfect for a pre-theatre meal.
Little physical evidence remains of Shakespeare’s residence in the capital, largely due to the major changes to the city through history, such as the aftermath of the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Despite this, his legacy does live on here. Visitors on holidays to London continue to seek out the sights and attractions inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.
Shakespeare’s playing company formed the famous Globe Theatre in London in 1599, which was destroyed by fire (then rebuilt again) on the spot now known as Park Street in Southwark. About 230 metres from this site, on the south bank of the Thames, now stands a full working reconstruction, known as Shakespeare’s Globe. With authentic oak construction and featuring the only thatched roof in London, the building itself is admirable and certainly worth a tour. Fans of the Bard can also book in to watch a live performance. These, too, are recreated in the same style as Shakespeare intended, without spotlights, microphones or electrical instruments.
Performances in London
“The play’s the thing”, wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet, so if you can’t get a seat in a performance at the Globe, it’s still worth seeing a live show elsewhere. Tthere are many options in the capital. Book in advance for tickets to Hamlet showing in October at the Young Vic.
Alternatively, right now at the Wyndham Theatre, British actors David Tennant and Catherine Tate appear as Benedict and Beatrice in a rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Tate Britain (art)
Even if you don’t take in a play, it’s worth popping by the Tate Britain museum to see some great works of art inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. Sir John Everett Millais’ Opheli, depicting a scene from Hamlet; and Henri Fuseli’s Titania and Bottom from A Midsummer Nights’ Dream both hang in the Tate. You can always get the Tate-to-Tate boat service, connecting the Tate Britain to the Tate Modern … which stands next door to the Shakespeare’s Globe.