We were delighted to receive a visit from five Buddhist monks recently, who were in England to host guided meditations in various towns and create a sand mandala during their time in the Lake District as part of their teachings. During their time in England, it was very important to the monks to stop in Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the location of Shakespeare's birth, as they have read many of his plays during their childhood in India & China. They particularly enjoyed seeing the images of the paintings from the Guild Chapel, the video in our 'Famous Beyond Words' exhibition about Shakespeare and performance, and hearing about the sites & sounds from our guides within the house.
I was particularly moved when one of the monks quoted lines from Cordelia's speech and spoke to the group about the meaning of true love and compassion, and how he felt that Shakespeare's plays, "showed an awareness and wisdom that Shakespeare understood what was important in this life and beyond." He explained to the others present the difference between Cordelia's love for her father, and that of her two sisters, and then one of the others spoke about Romeo & Juliet and themes in that play, and also about Lady Macbeth and her complicated path. To hear them discuss the differences in these characters was fascinating to say the very least!
The people who were accompanying the monks made a point of saying that this had been the highlight of their time in England and how excited the gentleman were to visit us as part of their busy itinerary. For our part it was a real pleasure to play host. The performance at the end of their visit was truly the icing on the cake, as Shakespeare Aloud just happened to perform the balcony scene and Cordelia's response to her father from the opening scene of Lear! I myself started to tear up when I noticed a smile and a tear in the eye of the individual who had spoken the lines of Cordelia's in our earlier conversation.