To those who know me well, it is no secret that I am a bardolator. What is a bardolator, you may ask? A bardolator is a lover of all things Shakespeare! When I noticed Shakespearean Stages was being offered as a summer camp at DreamWrights, I was so excited to help out in any way I could. Getting kids and teens excited about Shakespeare is something that I think is so important, and I was happy to step in and assist this week of Shakespearean Stages camp. (Kelsey Markey is the actual instructor of this camp and is also a fan of the Bard!)
I am not sure how this love began, but my British heritage has certainly played a role (no pun intended) in my fascination with this legendary British playwright. Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to travel and visit family in the UK, and on my last go-around, I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday in no place but Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Shakespeare was born in this little town along the Avon River in April 1564. He lived with his parents, Mary and John, and seven other siblings in a large home on Henley Street. When he was 18, he married Anne Hathaway and remained in the family home (middle right) even after they had their three children: Susanna, Judith, and Hamnet. Shakespeare died in 1616 and is buried under the altar of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford (bottom right). Above the inscription, a placard promises a curse on any who disturbs his grave.
To me, Shakespeare’s hometown is not just a tourist-trap. It is the place where a man was inspired to put pen to paper and translate the most essential pieces of the human condition into writing. His language may be convoluted, outdated, or downright superfluous to some, but the ideas that he expresses in his 38 plays and 154 sonnets speak to the flaws in all of us– in any time– as human beings. At times, we are all consumed by the destructive ambition of Macbeth or the hesitation of Hamlet. We are as impulsive as Romeo in first love, and we channel Cordelia’s unconditional devotion in our own families. We all know those two “enemies” who, like Beatrice and Benedick, mask their true feelings for one another behind insults and banter.
I suppose I ask — in defense of William Shakespeare– that in theatre and beyond, we get past the differences in vocabulary, sentence structure, and culture of his plays. Instead, focus on the fascinating thread of humanity that weaves centuries of people together. If you allow this to happen, you need not travel very far: you will feel a connection with Shakespeare as profound as crossing the threshold of his home.
Hannah Kohler, Summer Camp Intern