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<   No. 4121   2019-11-11   >

Comic #4121

1 {scene: Shakespeare and the gang are standing in front of a Tudor-era building}
1 Ophelia: Wow. This set is amazing! How did you find it?
2 Mercutio: Oh... someone built it for a prank and we hired it cheap before they demolish it.
3 Ophelia: What sort of prank requires an authentic looking 16th century London?
3 Mercutio: Um...
4 Shakespeare: Yes... I’m curious about that too.
4 Mercutio: A very erudite one?

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Keen Shakespeare aficionados will notice the appropriateness of the background image here.

For those less keen on aficioning Shakespeare, the building is Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. It's the house in which William Shakespeare's father John Shakespeare was known to have lived and worked (as a glove maker and leatherworker) from 1552 (12 years before William was born). William inherited the house when his father died in 1601, so it's almost certain that William grew up in the house and most likely that he was born there. By this time however William was a grown man and had his own residence across town, so didn't need his childhood home to live in, and leased it out.

When William died in 1616, he passed the house to his eldest daughter Susanna. The house remained the property of John Shakespeare's descendants until 1806 (at one stage it passed horizontally to a descendant of William's sister Joan), when it was sold to a butcher.

Around this time the house fell into disrepair, but it was not forgotten. Literary luminaries of the 18th and 19th centuries began visiting the site as a pilgrimage, including Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and John Keats. Some of them signed their names on the walls or windowsills, and some of the signatures can still be seen today. In 1846 the last owner died intestate, and the house was put up for sale. For a year or so nobody was interested in buying it, until the American showman P. T. Barnum expressed an interest in buying it and shipping the entire house to the USA, in pieces, to be reconstructed on American soil.

Well, the thought of this was too much to bear, and the citizens of Stratford banded together to form the Shakespeare Birthday Committee and raise money to buy the house. With donations from several prominent literary names, they succeeded and acquired the property. The Committee morphed into the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which administers the house to this day.

I visited the house on a trip to England in 2009, and took this photo. It was really difficult getting a shot like this without dozens of tourists milling about in front of the house, and took me quite a bit of patient waiting.

Shakespeare's House

I also did a tour inside, which has been converted into a museum. I was keen to take photos of the interior and was doing so (not seeing any indications that photography wasn't allowed), when another visitor gave me a shocked tut-tutting and said under her breath, "Imagine taking photos in a museum! Anyone would know that's not the done thing!" Here's the offending photo:

Inside Shakespeare's Birthplace

I'm 99% sure I was allowed to take photos in there. I respect the photography rules when visiting museums and galleries, and go out of my way to look for any signs indicating the policy, and usually ask a staff member to make sure.

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