Experience Shakespeare’s England With These 6 Stops

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“His Mind’s Eye” at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; photo credit: James Kerr

Groups will have the opportunity to travel through Shakespeare’s footsteps while visiting a few of the landmarks that shaped his life.

It all begins at Stratford-upon-Avon, located on the River Avon about two hours from London, also known as “Shakespeare’s England.”

“Stratford-upon-Avon is a picturesque, quintessential English town,” explains Jo Litt, marketing manager at The Royal Shakespeare Company. “It’s large enough to have a wide range of shops and restaurants, and a world-famous theatre company, and small enough to walk enjoying the stunning scenery, the river and canals and surrounding countryside. Groups can easily explore the local towns and villages with other tourist attractions close by.”

Travel with us on six stops we experienced during a recent jaunt through the area that will have the literary fans, history buffs, and culture enthusiasts in your group enthralled at every turn as attendees immerse themselves in all things Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Groups will walk in the writer’s footsteps as they wander through this 16th century, 2-story home where Shakespeare spent his childhood. Complete with period furniture, they’ll get to see his bedroom, the family dining area, the parent’s bedroom, and his father’s glove-making area. Shakespeare’s Birthplace tour gives insight into what life was like for the famous author during his formative years, what his family life might have been like, and what type of clothing was used circa 1574. The tour concludes with a one-man monologue of the group’s choice of a Shakespeare play.

Stratford-upon-Avon is large enough to have a wide range of shops and restaurants, and a world-famous theatre company, and small enough to walk enjoying the stunning scenery, the river and canals and surrounding countryside.

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall

This schoolhouse, which opened just 18 months ago to the public, takes groups back in time to an era when only the men attended school, and children from ages seven to 14 shared a classroom. As we walked into the class, and took our seat on one of the pews at the front of the class, we were welcomed with a mini school lesson. The professor, dressed in period attire, showed us what a day in school would have been like for the boys. We even learned that back then the older children taught the younger ones, and school took place six days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

During this tour, attendees are also shown a movie that further depicts what school days were like for Shakespeare and his classmates; and gives them the opportunity to learn a little Latin and attempt to write with a period fountain pen.

Shakespeare’s New Place

Although the house no longer stands—it was burned down by one of the owners—Shakespeare’s New Place is a must-stop as it was the writer’s final place of residence in Stratford-upon-Avon (he died there in 1616). Groups learn that it was once the largest home in Stratford-upon-Avon (about 20 rooms), and it’s believed that Shakespeare bought the home for his wife and children as a way to show the townspeople his new status as a playwright. Today owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, there’s a stunning garden where the house once stood that’s open to visitors, and the neighboring house, which belonged to Shakespeare’s granddaughter, is now a museum where groups can check out artifacts from Shakespeare’s time, including Shakespeare’s will.

The Play’s the Thing Exhibit

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) campus is home to the interactive “The Play’s the Thing” exhibit, where groups get the opportunity to see costumes used by RSC actors, step inside the thought process of a director, play with props, and perform “Hamlet” on a virtual stage.

Rooftop Restaurant

The perfect stage for an afternoon bite, the Rooftop Restaurant on the third floor of the RSC campus, offers views of the River Avon and Startford-upon-Avon. Groups can also take a trip to the top of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Tower for 360-degree views of the city.

RSC Performance

Wrap up the day with a live performance at the RSC theater. We enjoyed the period play “The Duchess of Malfi,” which is playing through August 2018 in the intimate Swan Theatre. Or, groups can choose to see one of Shakespeare’s own works: “Macbeth” is showing through September 2018.

Consider purchasing a joint ticket for groups of 15 and up, which gives them entry into Shakespeare’s New Place, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall and the RSC exhibition, “The Play’s The Thing.” Meals at the cafe or bagged can also be arranged. For The Royal Shakespeare Company, the RSC Explorer Pass includes a guided theatre tour, the viewing Tower, and the interactive exhibition.

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