Monday, January 26, 2009

Coventry and Stratford

After a field trip to Lincoln, it was time to discover Shakespeare.  Dates and times are getting incredibly confused in my head because in British Studies we are about 300 years behind my Shakespeare class.  So fast-forward 300 years from yesterday's Cathedral and find yourself in Stratford peering into the life of Shakespeare.  On Saturday I boarded the coach once again (this is a weekly ritual by now) to make our way through Coventry and then to the prized destination: Stratford.  This was a school day trip and is required by my Shakespeare professor.  She is wonderful and I really enjoy going on trips with her.  She actually received her PhD in Stratford, so she knows the town well.  Before we went to discover Shakespeare we made a stop at Coventry.  

Coventry has nothing to do with Shakespeare.  Conveniently on the way to Stratford, Coventry is the site of bombed out cathedral ruins and the modern rebuilt cathedral.  We only spent an hour here, but it was enough time to feel the eeriness.  The ruins consist of the outside of the cathedral.  It is bare and stark.  What remains has moss growing and has become a lasting symbol of what war is capable.  The feeling that falls over the people roaming around the bare middle of the cathedral is one of despare and disbelief. The wind blows freely through the walls and it is another reminder of the loss and emptiness.  It was only yesterday that we visited beautiful Lincoln Cathedral.  The majesty of that building is amazing and it only
 further emphasizes the impact that the bombing of the Cathedral at Coventry has had on all who visit.  At one end there was a cross assembled from wooden rods and the words "Father Forgive Us" was on the wall behind.  This simple alter becomes for all of us a way to see the brokenness that characterizes humanity.  We can only live again through the Father's reconciliation.   
I think those people who lived and worshiped at Coventry understood this as well.  Although the ruins still stand, next door also stands a beautifully modern and dignified Cathedral.  

The new Cathedral is unlike any I have ever seen.  It has stained glass panels that capture a sense of peace and tranquility.  The structure is still majestic, but the feel is one of reconciliation.  Images of the old cathedral are prevalent.  There stands a cross made from nails saved from the old Cathedral and reconstructed stained glass also are on display.  

This part of the day was short, but the impact will last much longer. 

While eating our lunches on the coach, we departed for Stratford-Upon-Avon.  As I said earlier, this is Shakespeare's birthplace.  This a tourist site-the best of its kind.  As part of the school trip we were given a ticket for admittance into Shakespeare's Birthplace, his daughter's home, and his granddaughter's home.  We also went to the church in which he is buried.  The three properties we went to were all interesting, but semi began to mold together in my head.  All of them were very old and sparsely furnished and they each had gardens.  These were very touristy, but the houses did provide lots of contextual information about Shakespeare's life.  In between getting to these properties the girls that I walked around with and I went shopping.  There are tons of small specialty shops.  I bought truffles for my Meet-a-Family as a gift.  I even got to pick out the ones I wanted from the counter.  I enjoyed the day and it was nice not to be too rushed. 

This is me in one of the gardens we saw at the Shakespeare properties.

As dinner time approached, we decided that after the sack lunches from the refectory (cafeteria) we needed a good dinner.  Cafe Pasta to the rescue!  The pasta was excellent.  I had a gorgonzola and spinach penne dish.  It was wonderful.  The atmosphere was quite nice as well.  

After dinner it was time for the main point of the trip: the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Romeo and Juliet.  I didn't realize until we got to the theatre that the company was placing Romeo and Juliet in the 1940's.  The costumes and attitudes of the characters reflected that time.  Since it was the Royal Shakespeare Company, the dialogue was still Shakespeare's original words.  I was amazed at how much more I noticed with in the complex workings of the play as I watched the skilled actors.  Kim Harris, the theatre director at Jewell, always tells people that it is not the audience's fault if they can't understand Shakespeare; the understanding is completely the actor's responsibility.  The Royal Shakespeare Company truly followed this statement.  I understood so much.  It was a wonderful performance that brought a fresh perspective to a play that is over 400 years old!

Overall the day was wonderful.  I am happy to say that I have shown my love for Shakespeare by experiencing the place that takes his life to the max (everything is some how related to Shakespeare in Stratford)!  Although it was a good experience, I was very happy to see Harlaxton Manor even if it was at 1:00 am!  Needless to say, I slept in on Sunday and awoke to lots of homework and preparations for this week. The academic rigor is not compromised around here and one cannot take any time for granted.  Hence, I must conclude this post and study for some of my upcoming exams.  Good Night!

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