i burn, i pine, i perish: oxford 002

When we made the trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. (Certainly not a café called “As You Like It.” Blatant tourist appeal…) Visiting Anne Hathaway’s house was probably my favorite site, perhaps because of our excellent and knowledgeable tour guide. It was a cultural shock to see how differently we conceive of wealth. The Hathaways were financially well off in their time, and yet we would think their setting the height of poverty nowadays. Seeing the rural context of Shakespeare’s life was also an eye-opener. Anyone can be famous in our age; you can even be famous for dancing to a Swedish electronica song on YouTube, thanks to the instantaneous nature of the Internet and the global communications culture we live in. But to become famous out of such a rural context is, really, astonishing.

Seeing his birthplace, his wife’s family home, and objects from his life, in one way, bring us closer to Shakespeare and to understanding the man and the playwright better. In a way, it humanizes a person long dead and expands our knowledge, which is generally limited to reading his works and then making assumptions. But at the same time, there is a dehumanizing aspect to these visits as well; touring a house and being told about it lends a certain museum quality to my knowledge of his life; he grows more distant, with a growing number of paragraph-sized museum plaques attached to his person.

P.S. The title is a quote from the movie “10 Things I Hate About You,” which is based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew (the quote is originally from the play).


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