Stratford Journal: Hanging Out with Shakespeare’s Ghost
By Mia Powell
There is something almost magical about standing before Shakespeare’s grave inside Holy Trinity Church, in the medieval market town where he was born in England’s West Midlands. It’s the same church where he was baptized; the baptismal font is still there. And it’s steps from the river Avon, which he referenced dozens of times in his poems and plays, frequently noting its fearsome power to flood.
“It’s nothing special—all touristy things,” scoffed one of our guest lecturers when I singled out the trip to Stratford-upon-Avon as the highlight of my semester studying in London. What he didn’t know is that I’m a huge Shakespeare nerd. I was also the only English major on the trip; the visit helped me immerse myself in my chosen semester project inspired by Shakespeare’s writing, and I gave a report on the town where he was born and died.
As if to confirm there was some magic at work there, we saw a full double-rainbow after leaving the church and making our way back to the bed & breakfast where we were staying. A quick side note while I’m on the B&B: amazing. The absolute best night’s sleep I had the whole term, and a full English breakfast with homemade cupcakes—heaven.
Stratford-upon-Avon made me feel one with history. That’s what made my semester abroad so important to me; I felt enveloped in the past every time I visited a historic site (which was often, as that’s the central part of the British Life and Culture course). It’s something I’ve felt before, but never as intensely as when I stepped into Shakespeare’s church, saw his plays performed the way they were meant to be at the Globe Theatre in London, and walked the streets, knowing exactly what happened there. In Stratford: Shakespeare was born in this house; the Plague claimed the children next door; this is where he met his wife, Anne Hathaway, and this is the chair he sat in while he courted her. In London: this is where a bomb was dropped during the Blitz, and the marks on that building are from debris that fell; this is where Will and Kate were married; this is the actual Rosetta Stone in real life in front of my face. On our other trips: this is the room Churchill was born in; this is the “Peace Wall” that separates the British from the Irish in Belfast; this is the Canterbury Cathedral—you know, the one from The Canterbury Tales by the Geoffrey Chaucer?
That’s what’s so special about studying abroad. And it’s why I enjoyed Stratford-upon-Avon. I’ve never felt so attached to history, so able to touch a moment, and to be moved so deeply by the sight and the experience of something so important.
Mia Powell is a Class of 2019 Honors student majoring in English/writing and minoring in theology. She’s co-president of Sigma Tau Delta, an international honors society for English majors. After graduating, she plans to work in publishing