Stratford-upon-Avon and The Globe Theatre

Every April 23rd is Shakespeare Day, which is a day to commemorate the famous British playwright.  William Shakespeare’s fans chose that day because he died on April 23, 1616, and may have also been born on that day in 1564 (his baptism was April 26, so it is possible).  Although the English used in his plays may not be the easiest to understand, his works have endured throughout the centuries.  Perhaps the main reason for this is because the themes found within his plays continue to remain relevant up to the present day.  Additionally, Shakespeare does a wonderful job of portraying humanity and placing you inside the minds of both villains and heroes.  Finally, whether you realize or not, Shakespearean created many phrases and words that have now entered into the English language.

If Shakespeare fans want to learn more about The Bard, they should visit his birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon, which is about a two-hour drive away from London.  Stratford-upon-Avon is a town along the River Avon, which is why “upon-Avon” is a part of its name.  This distinguishes it from other places in England with the name of Stratford.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Home at Stratford-upon-Avon.

At Stratford-upon-Avon, you can visit Shakespeare’s boyhood home, his wife’s home, and the home of his daughter and son-in-law.  You can also see the Edward VI School, which is believed to have been Shakespeare’s school.  With the exception of the school, which is still active, the homes were restored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust still maintains the homes and offers tours of them to visitors.  When I visited, the tour guides wore 16th century garb, and at Shakespeare’s Birthplace Home, even performed scenes from two of Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s supposed school, the Edward VI School at Stratford-upon-Avon.

At the home of Anne Hathaway, who was Shakespeare’s wife (not the actress of the same name), the tour guides described why Shakespeare and Anne got married.  About eight years younger than Anne, 18-year-old William had to marry Anne after impregnating her.  They ultimately had 3 children.  However, Shakespeare ended up living in London to work as an actor and playwright, while his family remained at Stratford-upon-Avon.

This is the childhood home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife.

The home of Shakespeare’s oldest daughter, Susanna, is called Hall’s Croft, and was the largest home in town.  Because Susanna’s husband, John Hall, was a doctor, the top floor displayed medical instruments from the 16th century.  They looked frightening!

Shakespeare fans should also try to visit the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London.  The original Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, burned down.  However, in 1997, a new Globe Theatre was built, with the attempt to make it look as much like the original as possible.  It is a circular, open-air theatre, and stands near the foundations of the original Globe Theatre (another building is on the original location).  The Globe Theatre currently provides historic tours of its building, where tour guides explain what a theater experience would have been like in Shakespeare’s day.  According to my tour guide, poorer people could not afford the seats, so paid an entry fee of a penny to stand in the middle of the theatre.  My tour guide mentioned how that would have been a smelly experience, because people hardly showered then, and because people used the middle of the theatre as the public toilet.  The original Globe Theatre had woodchips on the ground, which helped to cover up the litter, but the new Globe Theatre does not replicate this feature, due to fire hazards.

This is the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in London. The Globe Theatre is the circular, white building on the left.

Today, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre performs plays at the Globe Theatre during the warmer months of the year.  Visitors may purchase tickets to watch the play standing, just like the lower classes did during Shakespeare’s day.  However, that means that if it rains, those are the people who will get wet.

These are the seats at the Globe Theatre.

Because the Globe Theatre is currently closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Globe is currently streaming recordings of its older performances online: https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/watch/

You can also take a virtual tour of the theatre: https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/discover/about-us/virtual-tour/

As Shakespeare says in Act 2, Scene 7 of As You Like It, “We have seen better days.”  However, hopefully, by the end of this year, the Coronavirus will listen to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1, and will have “Melted into thin air.”

Shakespeare is buried at Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon. It might be hard to see in this photo, but you should look up his epitaph.

Sources and Further Reading

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Globe Theatre.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/Globe-Theatre (accessed May 1, 2020).

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “William Shakespeare.” https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Shakespeare (accessed May 1, 2020).

“Shakespeare Phrases.” Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-phrases/# (accessed May 1, 2020).

Shakespeare Trust Birthplace. https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/ (accessed May 1, 2020).

Shakespeare’s Globe. https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/ (accessed May 1, 2020).

Cuneo Mansion

In 2011, a group of house museums in the Chicago area formed a consortium called “At Home in Chicago.”  Some of these houses are free to visit, while others cost admission. A list of the homes can be found here: http://www.chicagohousemuseums.org/directory/

Some of the homes that usually cost admission, occasionally have free days. The Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills, Illinois has free days on the second Saturday of each month (except in the winter months, when it is closed).

The Cuneo Mansion was completed in 1916 and belonged to an electrical pioneer named Samuel Insull, who was also the founder of the Chicago Civic Opera House in 1929. Unfortunately, he lost the house during the Great Depression.

This description of Insull is from the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.

Eventually, the home passed hands to the wealthy Cuneo family, who later donated it to Loyola University in Chicago in 2009.  The University has hosted classes at the mansion, rented it out for events, and opened it up to the public for self-guided tours.

Cuneo received a permit from Rome to build a chapel in the home in 1940.

Although most house museums provide guided tours so that visitors can learn further information about the house, the self-guided tour option at the Cuneo Mansion was a nice change.  I did not have to rush through the house, as I would on a formal tour, but could admire its beauty at my own pace.  Because of the beauty of the home and grounds, Cuneo Mansion was apparently featured in a film with Julia Roberts called My Best Friend’s Wedding.

This mansion was probably built when Vernon Hills was less populated, however, it is now only five minutes away from Hawthorne Mall.  When you arrive at the house’s gated entrance, be prepared to get out of your car and dial security with the phone there, so that they can lift up the front gate and let you in.

The home can be rented out for private events, such as weddings.

Sources and Further Reading

At Home in Chicago. http://www.chicagohousemuseums.org/ (accessed August, 31, 2019).

Cuneo Mansion. John A. Mallin. https://johnamallin.com/project/cuneo-mansion/ (accessed October 19, 2019).

Loyola Lake County Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills History. Loyola University Chicago. https://www.luc.edu/cuneo/mansion/ (accessed August, 31, 2019).

Loyola University Chicago Cuneo Mansion and Gardens Downloadable Tour. Loyola University Chicago. https://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/cuneo/pdfs/cuneo-downloadabletour.pdf (accessed August, 31, 2019).