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Today, April 23rd 2016, marks 400 years after William Shakespeare’s death.
To be honest, I had no idea such a huge literary anniversary loomed on the horizon. Blame excessive lesson planning and exhaustion. I feel like I ought to turn in my “English Nerd” card, but I digress.
Besides J.K. Rowling and Oscar Wilde, I cannot think of another author who had such a profound influence on me and my writing. In my junior year of high school, we read Macbeth, a tragedy about an ambitious Scottish noble, and the train wreck of a plot enthralled me. What can I say. I’m a sucker for dark, complex, and violent characters even if it’s not politically correct to admit it! After we read Hamlet my senior year, I knew I wanted to major in English Literature despite the lackluster career opportunities waiting at the end of that long tunnel. Gotta follow your heart, though, right?
Today, on Twitter, I saw the hashtag #Shakespeare400 making its rounds. So I knew I had to ignore my previous plans and write a post celebrating The Bard’s impact on me and my travels!
Like I said, Shakespeare’s plays inspired me to major in English. If it wasn’t for him, I could’ve taken a very different path in life, maybe a path with more numbers and offices. As for travel, well, Shakespeare’s dramas have always fueled my desire to visit England. I never thought I’d reach England; every time I sat in a college Shakespeare class and read about the Globe Theater, I’d fume about my shackles holding me to New Jersey. I had too much to do to ever jet across the Atlantic Ocean. Those thoughts are laughable now.
I finally got the chance in May 2011 to visit southern England. I went with my mom and brother, and I was thrilled Shakepeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon earned a spot on our itinerary. This was my first trip to Europe, but not my first trip overseas (that honor belongs to Bermuda).
My time in Stratford-Upon-Avon was more sentimental than anything else. I could’ve spent way more than an afternoon wandering the small town’s streets and musing about dramatic ironic and tragic flaws. I’ll return. One day.
Thank you, William Shakespeare, for inspiring me and my travels. Here’s to you. Enjoy the photo essay, all!
Our first stop was to take quick photos at Anne Hathaway’s cottage. I think this was the first time it poured on our trip, and although I hate rain, I eagerly hopped off the bus for pictures. Luckily, the rain meant very few tourists blocked my view of the cottage, which pleased me because I’m selfish like that.
The cottage made me feel like I had magically transported to Renaissance England. Finally! I could see adorable thatched roofs rather than read about them in a badly xeroxed packet of notes!
At Shakespeare’s childhood home, we took a tour and learned not only about Shakespeare’s early life, but his career as a playwright in cosmopolitan London. I’m gonna be brutally honest here: I don’t remember much about the tour at all, except overhearing the Australian woman behind me exclaiming that Shakespeare was a “deadbeat” dad for leaving his children and wife to write plays.
I wish I could retrieve my memories and write colorful poetic prose about them, but I do remember the beautiful yellow flowers all over the side of the cottage, as well as the sheer feeling of excitement that I was actually in a place where Shakespeare walked, breathed, ate, and lived.
Of course no visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon would be complete without posing like a goof in front of Shakespeare’s most memorable cast of characters. Honestly, these characters are what make Shakespeare so important to me. They’re fully fleshed out and flawed, and although some may be considered cliche in current pop culture, the likes of Hamlet and Lady Macbeth will always hold a special place in my literary heart.
I’m like The Fool from King Lear, because the Fool speaks the truth regardless of his subservient role to the King. As you know, I value honesty on my blog. If I think a destination is too touristy, costs too much money, or is a waste of my time, I’ll say so. Will my bluntness draw in trolls? Probably. But I personally believe talking “rainbows and sunshine” all the time transforms a blog into a inauthentic mess. I’d rather be honest with you guys than paint a fake postcard image of a place.
I’m like William Shakespeare, because I’m creative and adore writing for a massive audience. If I didn’t like to write, I would’ve quit blogging in about two weeks. But I don’t like writing alone. I haven’t written a novel or book of short stories, because you don’t have the same conversations and validation as you do with blogging online. Writing a novel is incredibly lonely work, and like Shakespeare, I prefer to write for an interactive audience like you guys! My passion is paying off. I have some big exciting news to post this week so stay tuned for it!
I’m like Lady Macbeth from Macbeth, because my ambition sometimes trumps my relationships, but at least I know what I want. As a woman, sometimes I feel pressure to “play nice” and not chase after my dreams at the expense of my family, friends, students, co-workers, the man down the street, the mail person, etc. I think as women we’re constantly encouraged to put everyone else’s wants over our own wishes, and I’m sick of it! Like Lady Macbeth, I also know what I want out of life, which is more blogging and more traveling. Sure, I have my moments of laziness, but travel truly is my life’s purpose. No doubts at all.
I’m like Prince Hal from Henry IV Part I, because sometimes I’d rather have fun and avoid my duties. (And I refuse to talk about Part II because Hal transforms into a jerk, I’m sorry). I’m a high teacher and try to be a role model for my students, but like every other normal person on this planet, I sometimes ditch my responsibilities and have a lot of fun instead. I laugh, I make mistakes, I sometimes do foolish things, but I enjoy the moment. And I don’t anger my parents the same way Hal angers his father, thank god.
I’m like Falstaff from Henry IV Part I, because I can be vain and a bit of a show off, but I can also throw a good party. Not gonna lie, but I like nice things. I like fine wine, designer bags, swanky boutique hotels, and pricey cafes. I don’t always want to spend the money, of course, but what can you do. Prior to visiting Scotland, I had a materialistic streak a mile long and spent more money on clothes than I earned. Thankfully I was able to reel myself in. So, even if I embody some of Falstaff’s horrid traits, I have some of his better qualities too like making people laugh and enjoying parties!
I’m like Prince Hamlet from Hamlet, because my indecisiveness and laziness gets me into big trouble. Prince Hamlet is emotionally torn over avenging his father’s death and murdering his Uncle Claudius. Instead of “doing what must be done,” Hamlet “pretends” to go crazy and makes a lot of super duper long speeches, including the famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy. His waffling leads to his death. Of course.
Sometimes I can’t make decisions and procrastinate. You see it on this blog many, many, many times. I embrace my “fatal flaw,” but I also know that to thrive as a traveler and blogger, I need to follow my dreams and make choices rather than hide away.
Ultimately, my visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon gave me the first hints that I wanted more out of life than I currently had. The rain had cleared by the end of the afternoon, and the warm English sun shone on my face as I posed with each and every statue. Then, as I checked out the River Avon and the floating houses on the water, I knew my week in England wouldn’t be enough to stop the wanderlust that already tickled inside my brain.
Yet I never knew my life would turn out to be so awesome.
In honor of #Shakespeare400, share your favorite Shakespeare dramas in the comments! Feel free to discuss your favorite characters and how you’re similar to them. I’d love to hear from you!