Abstract: This essay discusses Stratford on Avon, which is the birth place of England's greatest writer -- William Shakespeare. While the history of the city is crucial to the understanding of Shakespeare, as well as of England, Stratford on Avon remains to this day a major tourist attraction. The cultural life of the city is extremely varied -- as it was in the past, and festivals are organized regularly on a grand and inviting scale.
As far as the English literary tradition is concerned, there are few places that hold such an important historical role as Statford on Avon, the birth place of England's greatest writer -- William Shakespeare. And while the history of the city is crucial to the understanding of Shakespeare, as well as of England, Stratford on Avon remains to this day a major tourist attraction. The cultural life of the city is extremely varied -- as it was in the past, and festivals are organized regularly on a grand and inviting scale. In this way, Stratford on Avon has become one of the most fascinating and successful tourist sites in Europe.
Shakespeare, of course, constitutes Stratford's main industry. A businessman himself, he knew how to turn entertainment into money, buying the best house in town -- "New Place." In other words, Shakespeare was not only a writer but also a money-maker. In a very paradoxical sense, this very reality is played out in the home that he left behind. Every year, approximately half a million people visit his birthplace and the cottage in which his wife Anne Hathaway grew up. Tens of thousands come to visit the house that belonged to his granddaughter. They also come to explore the farm where his mother, Mary Arden, resided. (Russel, p.5) There is never enough to see, as Stratford's main industry remains extremely varied and multi-faceted. People just can't seem to get enough of Shakespeare.
Stratford is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain. One of the realities that nurture its successs is the fact that is is very accessible in a geographical and physical sense. It is very easy to get to by car, plane or train. It stands where a Roman road once forded the River Avon - a 19th century bridge now spans the river next to a 15th-century arched stone bridge. Stratford's first royal charter was granted in 1553. Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds lie to the south of the town, Worcester and the Malvern Hills to the west and Warwick Castle and Henley in Arden are to the north. All are less than an hours drive from Stratford. (Whiteman, p.78) In many respects, therefore, Starford on Avon is steeped in culture and history. The easy road, rail and airport access make it a great success. It is, without doubt, the perfect place for a vacation or a short break.
Thus, Stratford is a major British tourist centre because of its association with Shakespeare. Nonetheless, it also makes a good base from which to explore the whole of the Warwickshire area with Warwick and the Cotswolds close by. Using Stratford as a base, a person not only enjoys the delights of Shakespeare country but nearby are the "shire" counties of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. (http://www.uktouristinfo.com/counties) In other words, there is always much more to see than immediately meets the eye.
In Trinity Church, each April 23, fresh birthday wreaths surround Shakespeare's tomb. This shows the great respect and reverence with which Shakespeare is met. The wreaths are laid by members of the government, students from the grammar school and academics from around the world. All of them parade through the town in gowns and traditional garb out of respect for tradition. Entrance fees to the properties associated with Shakespeare generate a steady flow of income. This money is used for the Shakespeare Center, which offers courses, administers a library and promotes exhibitions and concerts. This is how the revenue travels in a cyclical fashion through the town's economy.
Indeed, Stratford upon Avon is a historic site. Moreover, it is an incredible touristic atrtaction. Although a relatively small city, it is a centre of English cultural life. It is a market town with light industries, but of course these industries in themselves do not even compare to the money that the tourism brings in. A building on Henley St., for instance, which is believed to be the poet's and playwright's birthplace, is open to the public. The site of the home he purchased in 1597, and where he died in 1616, is marked. Thus, there is no secret about what all the monuments represent.
Most of the structures and places in Stratford are connected with the life of Shakespeare. They were acquired by the nation in the 19th century. Edward VI's Grammar School, which Shakespeare may have attended, is national property. Shakespeare scholars from all over the world attend the Shakespeare Institute of the Univ. of Birmingham. In 1964 the Shakespeare Centre was established on Henley St. in Stratford. (Eglin.p.21) We can come to understand, therefore, why this place is such an incredible tourist attraction. It represents the history and culture which was symbolized by William Shakespeare and all of his works. At the same time, it also serves as an incredible educational vehicle for various scholarly purposes.
Stratford on Avon has buildings that house a records office, with historical material that include documents signed by Shakespeare and relating to his activities as a local citizen. These are incredible documents. Stratford is also home to the prestigious Shakespeare Institute, a postgraduate and research center of the University of Birmingham. In many respccts, this adds to the cultural atmosphere of the academic learning that goes on in this environment. One cannot deny that the aura of Stratford serves as a foundation to the culture that exists there. It is also very important to point out that Stratford has its beautiful riverside and Tudor architecture. Avignon was home to the Popes for much of the 14th century, and its fortifications, palace and churches form a rich architectural ensemble. Aix offers beautiful 17th- and 18th-century buildings and a cuisine filled with basil, thyme and marjoram. Rising over it is the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, made famous the world over by Cezanne's paintings. (http://www.stratford-upon-avon.co.uk/)
Thus, we see that not only was Shakespeare connected to great literature, but also to magnificent art. To his great contribution to his society, his memory is now surrounded by tremendous art. In this way we come to understand that art and literature very much inter-sect along certain realms of the society. Literature cannot be fully expressed without images, and we begin to understand this through the tourist attractions that inhabit Stratford of Avon.
The Center and the Institute work closely with the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose Stratford season attracts tourists, theater lovers and drama students alike. Its repertoire usually consists of four major Shakespeare productions, performed at the large riverside Royal Shakespeare Theater. Thus, the theatre is always busy with performance. Without doubt, the theatrical life is extremely varied and incredibly profound. It is vital to emphasize that the cultural activities in Shakespeare's hometown are self-supporting. Indeed, they completely survive off of the revenue they raise from tourism. This shows how popular Shakespeare remains to those that cotinue to respect the tradition that he left behind.
Geographically, we come to understand why Stratford upon Avon is so popular. After all, it is the home of Shakespeare and no one can deny that it is a beautiful small town. This town, in turn, is renowned for its picturesque timber-framed buildings. It is set in the beautiful rural Warwickshire countryside on the banks of the river Avon.
Keeping all of these facts in mind, we come to understand why Statford on Avon holds such an important role in Europe. It represents the cultural and historical life of England. As the birth place of William Shakespeare and a living cultural centre, it combines the two realms of history and culture. This is why it succeeds as a major tourist attraction -- in a way that few other places do.
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