National Geographic : 1964 May
As King Richard III says (Act V, Scene 3): The sun will not be seen today; The sky doth frown and lower upon our army. I would these dewy tears were from the ground. We arrived, it is true, in the greatest heat wave of the season, despite the fog. The mer cury had soared to 70° and had made front page news. "Shocking day, sir!" the porter commented. And the chambermaid echoed the refrain: "Very 'ot, sir; close, I calls it; very un'ealthy, I says." TO UNDERSTAND Shakespeare's Eng land, one should start with the poet's native town and county. Warwickshire, according to that Anglophile Henry James, "is the core and centre of the English world; midmost England, unmitigated England." Certainly it is the England that tourists most often see in pictures: a land of green pastures and wooded hills; of gentle streams that, as Shakespeare wrote in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, make "sweet music with th' enameled stones"; of orchards, grain fields, and quiet 620 villages with straw-thatched cottages; in KODACHROMESBY DEANCONGERAND JOHN E. FLETCHER, ,RMICIlO N nF THF VICAR ANn CnI-IIRC WAIn FNCNn N G N short, a prosperous and peaceful countryside where every prospect pleases. But Warwickshire is not a mere postcard land for visitors. It is a busy county of hard working farmers and dairymen who contrib ute much to the food supply of England, as they did in Shakespeare's day. As in Shakespeare's time, too, Stratford is a market town, noted for its ale. Shakespeare himself was interested in brewing, and he invested in malt grains after his retirement from London to Stratford. An unsubstanti ated local legend, recorded by the Reverend John Ward in his diary, says that "Shake spear, Drayton, and Ben Jhonson had a mer ry meeting, and itt seems drank too hard, for Shakespear died of a feavour there contract ed." Whether he died of too much ale will remain unproved, but Autolycus in The Win ter's Tale sings that "a quart of ale is a dish for a king," and Stratford's good brew has tempted many besides the dramatist. Stratford in Shakespeare's time was at the head of navigation of the Avon, a tributary of the Severn. Goods shipped from Stratford found their way to the ports of the west of England and to the great world beyond. Cloth from the nearby Cotswold towns, gloves such as were made by Shakespeare's father, malt grains, ale, beef, mutton, raw wool, and fruit were articles of commerce. Shakespeare was a citizen of no mean town. Yet Shakespeare was essentially a country man. Stratford was still a small town, and its citizens were all close to the land, its products, and its activities. Each house had a garden. Some had barns. Shakespeare's father on one occasion was fined for keeping a compost pile in the streets, the mark of a thrifty gardener somewhat short of hygienic concern. The evil that men do lies after them; The good is oft interred with their bones. JULIUS CAESAR (ACT 111, SCENE 2) Shakespeare disproved his own words; the good of his literary legacy ranges far beyond his tomb (left) in Stratford's Holy Trinity Church. Tradition attributes the stone's in scription to the poet (page 626). Cross and choir move past worshipers at Holy Trinity. Parish records list Shake speare's baptism and burial (1564-1616).