Thursday, September 18, 2008


--the name of the village has been shoveled into my mind time by English teachers in my formative years. I heard the name at least once a year (whenever Shakespeare came up. It seemed that my teachers loved to throw in this town name as that one little piece of tidbit that they remembered from their college days). I had no idea what "on Avon" meant, and I always tended to confuse the Stratford scene with my few other associations of England, most notably the Disney animated feature Robin Hood. So, in my mind, I pictured Stratford on Avon as a village in a forest glen populated by bald-headed friars and lyre-strumming roosters.

I am in a bus driving back to London from the modern Stratford. The green and beauty of the countryside keeps me awake--I don't want to fall asleep and miss the scenery.

By nature, I am always skeptical of "tourist traps"--places of historical merit that are so full of artificial atmosphere and "pay here for a look" that the solemnity or majesty of the area is swallowed up in capitalism. The Tower of London was such a place for me. I feel like I am wasting time anytime there are more glass display cases and usheres hurrying you along than there is seconds an hour. Stratford had a little of the tourist trap atmosphere, but felt it was very honest in its identity. Sure, the "shrines to Shakespeare" shop got a little tiring--a Shakespeare bra? Shakespeare insult magnets? Come on guys. The energy of the town was genuine, despite the kitsch.

My visit to Shakespeare's birthplace was rushed because of the large afternoon crowds. However, the guides were very helpful and friendly. One of them even too k time to leave his station and show me some of his favorite signatures in the "autograph window."

Stratford was an enjoyable place, but once I'd visited shop after shop of Shakespeare gifts, I couldn't help but thinking , "What? All this for Shakespeare?!!??" Perhaps I'll be convinced by the end of this term that Shakespeare really deserves the magnets, mugs, lingerie, postcards, plates, pens, cards, and chocolate bars.

1 comment:

Nellie said...

Dave, it's so good to have you posting again. I am loving these London posts. I feel like I am there.