2014 is a very exciting year at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and around the world as we celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. There’s always something new to discover, so whether you’re brand new to Shakespeare, or his number one fan, take a look around and become part of the story.

If you’ve visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace then you may remember Shakespeare Aloud! - our in-house acting troupe who perform extracts from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets on request.

Throughout the summer holidays we’ve been keeping track of the requests in the garden, and revealed the top 5 most popular pieces on Facebook last week.

The people’s favourite - by quite a long way - was Romeo and Juliet!

Find out what else made it into the top 5 on the SBT Facebook page.

Shakespeare could have been depressed when he wrote Timon of Athens, Simon Russell Beale says

"Shakespeare could have been depressed when he wrote his finest and most puzzling works, the actor Simon Russell Beale has suggested, as he examines what inspired the playwright’s "torrent of bile" during a "bad patch".

Russell Beale, the acclaimed stage actor, said two of Shakespeare’s plays are so extraordinary they must have signalled a darkness in his personal life.

Suggesting Timon of Athens and King Lear are so “savage” they must have been written during a “bad patch”, the actor argues Shakespeare may have “temporarily lost faith in human nature.” Russell Beale has now examined the First Folio as part of a new BBC Four series, The Secret Life of Books.

Speaking of Timon of Athens, which some believe is unfinished, he said: “To my inexpert eye it looks potentially like rather a good play, but it must have been very depressing to write,”

Read the full article on The Telegraph website.

Harvest Share Scheme at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Each year the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust takes part in a Harvest Share Scheme organised by Transition Stratford; a local organisation that aims to develop positive, practical ways to achieve a more sustainable future for all.

This year’s harvest of fruit from the orchards at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage has started, and we’re anticipating a bountiful crop.

The Harvest Share project collects fruit from gardens in and around Stratford-upon-Avon and distributes it to local groups such as care homes, lunch clubs and children’s centres.

Fruit that cannot be used straight away can instead be processed into juices or cider, which are then sold on to generate income for Transition Stratford.

Stratford Harvest Share has already collected 400 kilos of apples and 40 kilos of plums this summer, over half of which was harvested from Anne Hathaway’s cottage! With further picks planned over the coming weeks, organisers are predicting that more than a tonne of fruit will be collected in total. 

We’re thrilled to be able to participate in this fantastic scheme and to contribute something to a variety of local community groups. To find out more about the project and see if you can get involved, visit the Transition Stratford website.

Shakespeare Revived: the new Copeland Replica Bust

We’re very pleased to introduce a new item into our retail range; the Copeland Replica Shakespeare Bust!


Produced exclusively for the Trust to coincide with our new Famous Beyond Words exhibition, this miniature bust stands at just 15 cm high, making it the ideal addition for any desk or mantelpiece.

The product took four months to create from concept to delivery, and was meticulously researched, sculpted in clay, and then hand cast and finished in Gypsum plaster. The bust is a replica of a mid-19th century Parian ware bust held in the Trust collections and currently on view in the Famous Beyond Words visitor exhibition at Shakespeare’s Birthplace.


Parian ware is a type of unglazed porcelain, designed to imitate carved marble. The original bust was made by William Taylor Copeland and is derived from the Chandos and Chesterfield portraits. The bust is British-made, classic and aesthetically pleasing and would make the perfect muse for any budding historian.


This beautiful piece has a unique presence and is exclusive to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It’s also the first piece to carry our new WS Shakespeare inspired branding and WS seal. The bust retails at £105 and every purchase supports the vital care and conservation of the Shakespeare houses and collections.

Find out more and purchase your own Copeland replica bust in the SBT online shop.

Nashville Shakespeare Festival

The Shakespeare on the Road team have made it to the Nashville Shakespeare Festival in Tennessee. Find out more about the festival’s history and their aims:

The mission of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival is to educate and entertain the Mid-South community through professional Shakespearean experiences.

The Festival enriches and unifies our community with bold, innovative and relevant productions along with empowering, participatory educational programs, setting the community standard of excellence in productions and educational outreach of the works of Shakespeare.


In 1988, following a dream of creating a Shakespearean theatre company in Nashville, a group of local actors produced the first free-of-charge Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It, and the Nashville Shakespeare Festival was born. During its twenty-five-year history, the Festival has grown into one the region’s leading professional theatres. Each summer 10,000 to 15,000 people attend the annual Shakespeare in the Centennial Park production which is designed to be accessible to people from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Since 1988, over 250,000 Middle Tennesseans have attended.

In 1992, in response to the need for an arts-in-education program in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival developed its educational outreach program, beginning with a series of fifty-minute versions of Shakespeare’s best-known works as “Shakespeare Samplers.” These abridged productions toured to middle and high schools throughout the state as well as regional colleges and universities. Through the years, The Festival has become a trusted resource for schools by offering enriching in-classroom workshops and creative opportunities for students. Over 180,000 students – many of whom had never experienced live theatre before – have been introduced to Shakespeare through the Festival’s interactive workshops and energetic performances.

In 2008, The Nashville Shakespeare Festival established its annual Winter Shakespeare production in residence at Belmont University’s Troutt Theater. The winter production allows The Festival to expand its repertoire to include plays that benefit from a more intimate indoor venue and to provide both public performances and daytime performances for schools. The first five winter productions, Hamlet, Richard III, The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Case, and Julius Caesar have served over 19,000 students and adults. The Festival has also expanded its outreach to include businesses and adult groups, providing workshops that exercise creative thinking, problem solving, and effective communication through working with Shakespeare’s language, characters, and themes.

Tudor Harvest Fair at Mary Arden’s Farm

Meet the Tudor job seekers at our traditional hiring fair at Mary Arden’s Farm this bank holiday weekend!

Browse the market stalls, sample some mead and try your hand at candle making, finger braiding and other Tudor crafts… 

There will be music, dancing and something for all the family to enjoy, so come and join in the fun from 23 - 25 August. Visit our website to find out more. 

Shakespeare in Gyula

This post was written by Prof Stanley Wells and originally published on Blogging Shakespeare.

While my colleagues of the Shakespeare on the Road venture are hurtling round a series of Shakespeare festivals in the New World – I hope to join them on the Canadian leg of their journey – I had the pleasure of attending a festival in the historic and delightful town of Gyula, in Southern Hungary. Dominated by a splendid medieval brick castle close to a lake in what is now an attractive municipal park, the town is famous for its hot thermal baths. Its annual Shakespeare festival, now in its tenth year, is part of a longer festival season catering for summer visitors from far and wide. It is also part of a larger network of European Shakespeare Festivals of no less interest and cultural significance than their American counterparts which take place in, among other locations, Gdansk, in Poland, Neuss, in Germany, and Craiova in Romania, the last of which I visited in June. Next year York, Great Britain, will join the list.

Gyula boasts a number of performance spaces, including the open courtyard of the castle itself; a stage built out over the lake; and two indoor venues. As with the other festivals, performances are complemented by a conference; this one, which lasted two full days and was chaired by Professor György Szönyi of the University of Szeged, was attended by Hungarian scholars and a number of overseas visitors among whom I was happy to be included. It took place in the town’s beautifully appointed and well stocked library. Its theme, influenced by the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jan Kott’s influential book Shakespeare Our Contemporary, was ‘Is Shakespeare still our contemporary?’ It provoked a series of papers and discussions concerned with contemporary approaches to Shakespeare in both study and performance given both by Hungarian scholars and by overseas visitors including Maria Shevtsova, of Goldsmiths’ College, London, Holger Klein, of the University of Salzburg, and the expatriate Hungarian Zoltan Markus, who teaches at Vassar College in America, and who has published a significant study of Kott.

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Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Ontario

Shakespeare on the Road has made its way up to Ontario, Canada to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival…


With William Shakespeare as its foundation, the Stratford Festival aims to set the standard for classical theatre in North America. Embracing our heritage of tradition and innovation, we seek to bring classical and contemporary theatre alive for an increasingly diverse audience.

For more than half a century, our mission has evolved to address the ever-changing, ever-challenging Canadian cultural landscape. What has remained constant, however, is our determination to create stimulating, thought-provoking productions of Shakespeare’s plays, to examine other plays from the classical repertoire, and to foster and support the development of Canadian theatre practitioners.

By searching Canada and the world for the finest talent, and by providing the conditions and training that enable those artists to achieve their most courageous work, we will immerse our audiences in a theatregoing experience that is not only innovative, entertaining and unsurpassed anywhere in the world, but also deeply relevant to, and reflective of, their lives and communities.

Visit the Stratford Festival website to find out more!

Shakespeare & Company - Lenox, MA

Located in Lenox, Massachusetts, Shakespeare & Company is one of the largest Shakespeare Festivals in the USA, founded in 1978 by Tina Packer.

The organization, led by Artistic Director Tony Simotes, attracts more than 60,000 patrons annually, with a core of over 150 artists and more than 30 full-time staff. The company develops and performs Shakespeare, classics and contemporary new plays of social and political significance, generating opportunities for collaboration between actors, directors and designers of all races, nationalities and backgrounds.

Shakespeare & Company embraces the core values of Shakespeare’s work: collaboration, commitment to language, visceral experience and classical ideals, expressed with physical prowess and an embodied contemporary voice. The Company offers one of the most extensive actor training programs by a regional theatre in the country, where professionals from all over the world come to train with the Organization known for its original, in-depth, classical training and performance methods.

Shakespeare & Company is also home to an award-winning and nationally recognized theatre-in-education program, one of the largest the Northeast; it reaches more than 45,000 students annually with innovative performances, workshops and residencies.

Take a look at the Shakespeare & Company website.

Life on the Homefront - Stratford in the dark

This post was written by Rebekah Owens and originally published on our Finding Shakespeare Blog.

On the night of January 31st, 1916, a zeppelin air raid on the Black Country prompted Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council to action. At a meeting in the Town Hall on February 8th, Mayor Archibald Flower expressed his concern that Stratford itself might be a target with its “priceless historic buildings”. He proposed that the Light Restriction Order be enforced. Although the Order had been in place as part of the Defence of the Realm Act since 1915, the local authority had no powers to impose it. This time, argued Mayor Flower, given the proximity of the zeppelin raids, the Order should now be enforced.

The proposal was passed. The fourteen street lamps still burning in the borough were extinguished. Chief Constable Superintendent Lee officially requested that shopkeepers close at 6pm, instead of 7, 8, or even 9pm; householders should ensure that their blinds were “closely drawn”. The Vicar, William Melville, held Sunday evening services earlier in the afternoon to avoid the necessity of using “full electric light”.  Advertisements for products to help people cope with the lighting restrictions were quick to appear in the pages of the Stratford Herald.

But it was not a popular decision.

A meeting summoned by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Fred Winter, show the matter of light restriction in the town to have been a hotly contested one. As reported in the Stratford Herald of 18th February, the traders in the town had flatly refused to close early. Why, complained a jeweller, to much applause, were the private householders not being made to obey the order, why pick on the shopkeepers? Accusations flew. The butchers were the worst offenders, said one trader. And come to think of it, what about that skylight on the roof of the Post Office in Sheep Street? And while we are on the subject of skylights, Councillor, what about that skylight on your premises in the High Street?

The proposal to close the businesses at 6pm was defeated. As was the proposal to close at 6.30pm.

In the end, the Councillors gave up.  A public notice appeared in the Herald showing that shops were to close at either 7, 8 or 9pm. In other words, no change.


This post comes from a series tracking the events of the First World War and life on the homefront in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1914 - 1918. It accompanies the current exhibition on display at Hall’s Croft.

Read more posts on Finding Shakespeare.