Onward to the main destination: Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the hospitality of Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust. Or as one of the locals told us, the experience of Clowns and Gowns.
One of the most delightful experiences in this trip was the opportunity to view a painted panel of Judith acquired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (discussed February 28, 2015 here). The Trust attempts to collect not only items belonging to Shakespeare himself, but items that are representative of the time period and place in which he lived. The panel is currently in storage; however, I had “connections” shall we say – and part of our tour was the opportunity to view items not displayed to the public. It was a THRILL to have the archivist unwrap the panel for me and talk about the significance of this artwork in Shakespeare’s time. She hypothesized it was probably part of a wardrobe or chest, meant to be a reminder of feminine virtues.
Yes, as my children remind me on a regular basis: I am such a nerd.
Shakespeare is also connected to my heroine through his own daughter, Judith (discussed June 27, 2012 here). The second of his daughters and twin to his son Hamlet (who died at age 12), Judith was possibly involved in a scandal — according to the docent of Hall’s Croft who gave me the TMZ version of events. Hall’s Croft is named after the elder sister, Susanna, who was married to Dr. John Croft. Judith was married to a prominent and prosperous innkeeper, Thomas Quiney, but he apparently had difficulty keeping his prominence within the marriage and ended up being punished by the church for his philandering. There is speculation that Shakespeare altered his will to severely limit Judith’s inheritance in order to keep it out of Quiney’s hands. However, Susanna did not escape the taint of scandal when she was accused of adultery and having a venereal disease (apparently false). At this late date, it can’t be determined whether there was truth to the rumors or whether repetition of the stories has made it seem like fact – but it adds a little spice to the “good old days” in Stratford-upon-Avon!