A Bit of Bardology

You can’t really think of Stratford-Upon-Avon without thinking of Shakespeare, but how well do you know the ‘Bard’?

Read on… we think you will find these wee facts quite fun! If you have any other bits of Bardology please share.

Be warned they may leave you with an overwhelming urge to go and read Shakespeare and take a trip to Stratford-Upon Avon though…

Stratford Upon Avon is the home of whom?
Stratford Upon Avon is the home of whom?

Shakespeare’s plays are plenty and although they have never stopped being popular,  in the 17th Century it was very common for theatre producers to change his plays ‘for the better’, in order to appeal to taste. They would think nothing of taking out the corny puns and the frequent saucy bits, and even altering the endings to make tragedies like …Juliet Balcony VeronaRomeo and Juliet into comedies .

One extremely sanitised version of his collected works, which deleted around ten percent of the original text , was published by Henrietta Maria (aka Harriet) Bowdler in 1807. The title page of The Family Shakespeare informs the reader that it is an edition ‘in which nothing is added to the original text, but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family’. The edition  became notorious, and today the word ‘bowdlerisation’ is used to describe any work similarly cut, altered and heavily censored.

On a visit to Stratford simply wandering around the delightful streets is a really good way to spend half a day, as our colleague Charlotte discovered on a recent Omega break, but you may also like to visitHoly Trinity Church Stratfordthe Church of the Holy Trinity in the Old Town, right on the Avon just north of the Seven Meadows Bridge. Shakespeare was baptised and buried here, and there is a faded inscription threatening a curse on whoever disturbs his bones, which many think explains why he was not subsequently moved to Westminster Abbey.

There is also a small shrine-like wall monument, created just 7 years after the Bard’s death and bearing what is probably the most true and accurate likeness of him to be found anywhere.

Finally… have you ever wondered where the phrase ‘ Bardolatry’ comes from? – you have, great!

Bernard Shaw coined this sarcastic term in frustration at the tendency of some enthusiasts to claim not only that Shakespeare was the best English writer who ever lived, but also that he was the finest philosopher, psychologist, social theorist and political analyst who ever lived too….would you agree with this?

Well, Shaw was happy to recognise the ruff-collared writer’s creative talents, but thought this kind of ‘bardolatry’ was pushing it a bit far.

If you have any other ‘facts’ and thoughts you would like to add please do let us know!


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