Last week we were in Stratford-upon-Avon (well, it’s spelled that way officially, but the natives pronounce it Stratford-on-Avon), coincidentally on the day they were celebrating the asparagus harvest with some festivities downtown. Not blanched. Impressively thick by American standards but not nearly the size of the German asparagus. Before these festivities began, I was sitting on a bench, facing a pedestrian plaza, while my wife was browsing in a clothing store (yep, I’m one of those guys you see sitting on the bench at the mall). A chauffeured sedan with a coat of arms on the front bumper and flags on the fenders pulled up a couple of yards from where I sat. A distinguished-looking gentleman emerged from one door, and the chauffeur opened the opposite door for a well-dressed woman. Between the two of them, they had what looked to be about fifteen or twenty pounds of high-karat gold around their necks, including impressive, fist-sized medallions. I thought, hmm, this is England…coat of arms, flags, medallions…minor royalty, perhaps? So I nonchalantly strolled across the street to a couple of shopkeepers who were standing in front of their stores chatting. I begged their pardon and admitted to being just a stupid American, but who are those people? “Oh,” one replied, “that’s the mayoress and the mayor.”
Friendly folks, dressed up for the occasion of the asparagus festival, wearing the city’s official medallions, et al., and just there for the photo op, which included posing with a man dressed as a stalk of asparagus, something that a member of the Royal Family might have eschewed, I suppose.
That capped off a couple of days of going to the various properties maintained by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare’s wife, and at the farm where she was born we happened upon a group of American high school students just beginning a tour. So we joined them as the docent began his spiel. He asked the kids when America was discovered. Turned out he was looking for 1492 as the answer, whether it’s correct or not. His reason for asking was that the part of the house we were standing in was already a few decades old in 1492 and had been continuously occupied, mostly by Hathaways and their heirs, until the trust bought the farm in the latter part of the twentieth century.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It was a bonus.
I understand why we introduce Shakespeare in high school, but my memory of As You Like It in high school was struggling through the strange language and not getting the jokes. Seeing the show done right, when an adult, makes all the difference. Shakespeare remains a living part of our literary heritage. And the jokes still work. Maybe we should give high school students a coupon, redeemable twenty or thirty years later, to see a performance of the works we force them to read.
I was in Stratford-upon-Avon ten years ago. Visited and saw all the Shakespear locations, but alas, did not see a man dressed as an asparagus!
Did you get a photo, Dick?
L. Diane Wolfe
Actually, I think my wife snapped a few photos with her new camera, the instructions for which she has not yet read. So perhaps she'll get around to downloading the photos and sharing them with me. I'll try to remember to post one if she does.
When I was in high school, a Shakespearean Theater Troupe from the Catholic University in Washington DC presented the Merchant of Venice at a local junior college. Seeing it performed on stage really made it come alive! Today's high schools can expose students to more video than we ever saw, but a live performance makes all the difference.
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