Almost 400 years after his death, phrases by the man from Stratford-upon-Avon pepper the conversation of those of us in the Western... more » World on an almost daily basis.
Every time we venture 'on a wild goose chase,' complain that something will 'make your hair stand on end' or was 'too much of a good thing,' counsel someone 'to thine own self be true', utter the insomniac's moan that 'I have not slept one wink' or assess that something was a 'foregone conclusion' and that 'all's well that end's well,' we quote William Shakespeare - often without knowing it.
Now, you may think that the lady doth protest too much, but by the time you factor in the 'Greatest Hits' - 'To be or not to be?' and dozens of others - it's pretty clear that the words of the Bard of Stratford have a cultural resonance.
The Shakespeare connection, and the five Bard-linked properties at its heart, play a pretty large part these days in underpinning the economy of Stratford - a riverside market town 30 miles or 40-60 minutes by train from Birmingham New Street. The world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), one of Britain's most prestigious theatrical ensembles, is based in Stratford, where it performs the works of Shakespeare and others in three theatres in the south east of the compact town centre.
The town retains a decent number of half-timbered buildings, including some handsome 15th-century almshouses which, these together with the Shakespeare links, make it an enjoyable contrast to Birmingham's relentless embrace of modernity. It also sits just 10 miles from The Cotswolds, one of England's protected areas of outstanding natural beauty, with more chocolate box villages than the average camera memory card can cope with.
Over the summer months and at weekends in spring and autumn you can expect crowds, especially around the Birthplace and at Anne Hathaway's cottage - the epitome of the fantasy picture-postcard thatched cottage. But outside peak time, and at Mary Arden's Farm (home of Shakespeare's mother), the most interesting and fun of the properties - especially for children - it feels a lot less like a tourist trap. The actual distance the walking route covers within Stratford-upon-Avon is about one and a half miles. less «