Shakespeare Monument (credit: Thinkstock)
In observance of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a wealth of performances, special events and exhibitions will be held all over the world to mark the occasion. Unsurprisingly, the most significant festivities will be held in England, particularly in the two cities he spent most of his life. Although historians believe the world’s preeminent dramatist died on April 23, 1616, and several events have already concluded, the celebration of his life and work will continue into the New Year. The following are five of the most important sites to see in England in observance of the quatercentenary since the passing of the greatest and most treasured writer of the English language, William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Globe is a modern reconstruction of the legendary Globe Theatre built by Shakespeare and his theatrical company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in 1599. Located along the Thames River not far from the Globe’s original location in the London borough of Southwark, Shakespeare’s Globe continues to host the bard’s most famous and most enduring works in addition to special events, including the 10th World Shakespeare Congress and performances marking the 400th anniversary.
Among the Shakespearean productions slated for the Wonderful Summer Season 2016 are “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” Macbeth” and “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” In addition to the 1,500-seat main theater, other performances will be held on site at the smaller Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, inspired by the legendary 16th century Blackfriars Theatre and named after the American actor and director who founded Shakespeare’s Globe in 1997.
London is likely the first spot to explore for historical sites related to William Shakespeare. However, the Bard’s birthplace will also experience an uptick in interest as England and the rest of the world mark this very special anniversary of his passing. Located about 100 miles northwest of central London in Warwickshire county, Stratford-upon-Avon county is home to a wealth of premier attractions related to the famed poet, playwright and actor, including the 16th century home believed to be his birthplace, his grave site and the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Literary lovers from all over the globe also must not miss Mary Arden’s House, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother and the home of his wife Anne Hathaway. These spots are, along with Shakespeare’s birthplace, all part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
In observance of Shakespeare, countless numbers of visitors are expected to pay homage at Shakespeare’s final resting place within the historic Holy Trinity Church. Built in the 13th century, Holy Trinity Church is the oldest and second largest surviving building in Stratford-upon-Avon and was also the site of the Shakespeare’s baptism, recorded on April 26, 1564. Two days after the famed playwright’s passing, believed to be on April 23, 1616, he was buried under the floor of the church’s chancel, with a funerary monument unveiled in the following years. Alongside him lay four other members of his family, including his wife Anne, who passed away in 1623 at the age of 67 and his daughter, Susanna. Admission to Holy Trinity Church is free, but the church recommends a donation of £3 and £2 for seniors and students.
William Shakespeare’s New Place
As part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is reopening the site of the home he lived in for the last 19 years of his life in Stratford-upon-Avon. Just a short stroll from the River Avon and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, New Place is described as the “jewel of a crown of worldwide celebrations marking 400 years of his legacy”and a must-see attraction for lovers of the Bard of Avon. Visitors will be able to walk in his footsteps through the beautiful Knot Garden, tour the new exhibition center next door in Nash’s House, the former home of his granddaughter Elizabeth Barnard and her husband Thomas Nash.
Credited as the inspiration for “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Windsor Castle is an essential venue for Shakespeare 400. Completed in the 11th century, Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle and has been the home for British royalty for over 900 years, and Queen Elizabeth is known to spend most of her weekends here. As part of the celebration of the life and works of William Shakespeare, the Windsor Castle is hosting “Shakespeare in the Royal Library” with a series of public performances and programs, exhibitions of rare artifacts and other special events. Among the items from the Royal Collection on display to include Shakespeare’s First Folio published seven years after his death, copies of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” dating back to the Elizabethan era and items related to Herne’s Oak, an oak tree featured prominently in the aforementioned play. The exhibition at Windsor Castle’s Royal Library began on February 13 and runs through January 1, 2017.