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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Stratford
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0369  Friday, 28 April 2006

[1] 	From: 	David Kathman <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 11:05:32 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0361 Stratford

[2] 	From: 	Carol Barton <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 12:07:05 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0361 Stratford

[3] 	From: 	Terence Hawkes <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 17:39:29 +0100
	Subj: 	Stratford

[4] 	From: 	David Kathman <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 23:05:31 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0361 Stratford


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Kathman <
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Date: 		Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 11:05:32 -0500
Subject: 17.0361 Stratford
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0361 Stratford

Gabriel Egan or others with closer ties to Stratford may have more to 
say on this, but Peter Bridgman's rant about the Birthplace seems to me 
to contain a number of distortions.

Peter Bridgman wrote:

 >Gabriel Egan writes ...
 >
 >>It seems implied here that the birthplace is a fake and that
 >>Barton was disappointed when she realized that it was. If
 >>so, evidence is required. If not-if Barton was just disappointed
 >>that a 16th-century house isn't as she expected-then I'd suggest
 >>that this was a valuable learning experience.
 >
 >Carol Barton is entirely right.  The so-called "birthplace" is an
 >outrageous fake.
 >
 >In Shakespeare's time there were two adjoining timber-roofed
 >properties on the site of the present detached tile-roofed "birthplace".
 >WS must have been born in the eastern property as his father only
 >purchased the western property when WS was 11 (the western half
 >now has the period cradle!).

I am not aware of any evidence that the property purchased by John 
Shakespeare after William's birth was specifically the western property; 
as far as I recall, the records are ambiguous on this point, only noting 
that the property was on Henley Street.  However, it's possible that my 
memory of the facts is faulty.  Does Mr. Bridgman have any documentation 
to back up this assertion?

 >At some time between 1603 and 1646 a tenant in the eastern
 >property transformed it into a pub called the Maidenhead (later
 >the Swan and Maidenhead).  In 1762 Richard Greene made a
 >sketch of the two buildings, showing dormer windows in the
 >roofs and a porch in front of the western property.  Thirty years
 >later, dormer windows and porch were already gone and the
 >western property was now a butcher's shop.  In 1808 a new buyer,
 >Thomas Court, removed the exterior timber framing and refaced
 >the eastern property, i.e. the pub, in red brick.  Only in 1847 was
 >a Shakespeare Birthplace committee formed to purchase the two
 >properties and set up a birthplace monument. Incredibly, they
 >demolished both buildings and built the present fake-Tudor
 >building to resemble Greene's 1762 sketch.

As far as I'm aware, the Trust did not "demolish" the Birthplace 
properties; they renovated and restored them to make them look roughly 
as they would have in the 16th century, which is not the same thing as 
"demolishing" them.  They did demolish the buildings on either side of 
the Birthplace, to reduce the risk of fire.

 >None of the period furniture in the present building has any
 >connection with the Shakespeare family.

I don't think anybody associated with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 
has ever claimed that the furniture now in the Birthplace is the 
original furniture that the Shakespeare family owned. It is simply 
period furniture, and perhaps some replicas (I'm not sure off the top of 
my head), to give visitors a feel for what the interior of the home 
would have been like in the 16th century.  One may find this too 
touristy for one's taste, but to imply that the Trust has been 
dishonest, as Mr. Bridgman appears to do, seems disingenuous to me.

Dave Kathman

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Carol Barton <
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Date: 		Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 12:07:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 17.0361 Stratford
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0361 Stratford

Thank you, Peter. I hadn't intended to respond to Mr. Egan's diatribe 
(more in the spirit of giving Hardy less busywork to do, than because I 
couldn't). However: to second your response, for which many thanks, the 
only apparently "authentic" anything at the Birthplace was a small piece 
of wattle-and-daub covered by acrylic--everything else could and was 
being touched and mauled by the many visitors (and clearly had little 
value to anyone, even the proprietors).

I apologize for the typo--I meant "Avon" where I wrote "Arden" (with 
reference to the robotic swans), as well as for what I'm sure Mr. Egan 
will regard my own sentimentality with respect to the numerous 
properties of such landmarks. However: I far preferred to stand at the 
British Library viewing Caxton's _Canterbury Tales_ (open, to my 
delight, to the Wife of Bath's prologue!), or at Westminster in front of 
his sarcophagus (whispering "Whan that Aprill . . ."), or at the quiet 
little church in the Barbican where Milton's bones lie, or even in the 
Bucks house where he once lived, than to be anywhere in the tourist trap 
that is Stratford. What I missed, and dearly so, was the sense of 
history, of connection, of some vestige of the boy who would grow to be 
Shakespeare in anything I saw or felt. Anne Hathaway's house was already 
closed by the time we got there; perhaps that would have been more "real."

And I heard the paid tour guide tell some of the most outrageous fibs 
man ever uttered as matter of factly as if they were gospel--to people 
who clearly didn't know enough to laugh in his face.

In all--the experience was a sad one, for someone who had been 
introduced to Shakespeare by English parents whose life circumstances 
hadn't allowed for the completion of A-levels . . . but who nonetheless 
held the Bard of Avon in everlasting esteem.

Thank you for understanding.

Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Terence Hawkes <
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Date: 		Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 17:39:29 +0100
Subject: 	Stratford

Brian Willis will know that I'm a patient man. But why on earth would a 
version of Othello, given in German, be of any interest to an audience 
in Stratford?

T. Hawkes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Kathman <
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Date: 		Thursday, 27 Apr 2006 23:05:31 -0500
Subject: 17.0361 Stratford
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0361 Stratford

Peter Bridgman wrote:

 >Gabriel Egan writes ...
 >
 >>It seems implied here that the birthplace is a fake and that
 >>Barton was disappointed when she realized that it was. If
 >>so, evidence is required. If not-if Barton was just disappointed
 >>that a 16th-century house isn't as she expected-then I'd suggest
 >>that this was a valuable learning experience.
 >
 >Carol Barton is entirely right.  The so-called "birthplace" is an
 >outrageous fake.
 >
 >In Shakespeare's time there were two adjoining timber-roofed
 >properties on the site of the present detached tile-roofed "birthplace".
 >WS must have been born in the eastern property as his father only
 >purchased the western property when WS was 11 (the western half
 >now has the period cradle!).

Peter Bridgman's assertion that the western part of the Shakespeare 
Birthplace wasn't bought until William was 11 didn't sound quite right, 
and now I've had a chance to confirm this by looking in Schoenbaum's 
*William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life* and Mark Eccles's *Shakespeare 
in Warwickshire*.  Schoenbaum points out that the first record of John 
Shakespeare in 1552 shows that he was a householder in Henley Street 
then, so presumably this was at least part of the Birthplace. 
Schoenbaum says that "this must have been in the western part of the big 
double house; the wing in which, in afterdays known as the Birthplace, 
has made of Stratford a secular shrine" (15).  I'm not sure what 
evidence there is that this was the western part, but on the other hand, 
I know of no evidence that it *wasn't* the western part; as I said in my 
earlier post, the evidence is ambiguous.  Both Schoenbaum (15) and 
Eccles (24) then note that in 1556, John Shakespeare bought from Edward 
West a house with adjacent garden in Henley Street.  This must have been 
the other half of the Birthplace; Schoenbaum says that "this was to be 
the eastern wing, known to posterity as the Woolshop", though again, I'm 
not aware of any definitive evidence as to which wing it was.  So by 
1556, eight years before William Shakespeare was born, John Shakespeare 
owned two houses in Henley Street, which presumably were the two 
adjacent houses later joined together and today preserved as 
"Shakespeare's Birthplace".  It's reasonable to believe that William 
Shakespeare was born in one or the other of them, though we can never 
know with 100% certainty.

Mr. Bridgman's assertion that "his father only purchased the western 
property when WS was 11" appears to be based on the fact that in 1575, 
John Shakespeare purchased two houses in Stratford, with gardens and 
orchards, from Edmund and Emma Hall.  However, as Eccles notes, "There 
is nothing to show that either of these houses was in Henley Street" (27).

Dave Kathman

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