The Shakespeare Experience
Discover the man behind the works in each of our five homes
We have five unique houses, each telling a different chapter from the story of Shakespeare’s life. For Shakespearian enthusiasts and novices alike, we invite you to learn about the most iconic playwright of all time. Discover the man behind the works and journey from his humble beginnings as a Glover’s son, to renowned playwright of extraordinary wealth and the owner of Stratford’s most prestigious home.
Want to walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps? Explore William’s childhood home, located in the bustling centre of Stratford-upon-Avon where he was born, bred, and trained in his father’s profession.
Begin with the ‘Famous Beyond Words’ exhibition to introduce yourself to Shakespeare’s life and times, acquainting you with the man whose work is globally influential four hundred years after his death. Be inspired by historical artefacts from his lifetime, including a copy of the First Folio, first published in 1623 by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, shortly after his death. This treasured link to the masterful work continues to inspire us today and is one of three copies held by the Trust and one of just 230 copies known to survive.
Embark on Shakespeare’s story in the parlour of the Birthplace by walking on the original flagstones of the house. Stand where Shakespeare stood and follow his footsteps into the home where he spent his formative years. Speak to our costumed guides for fascinating insights into Shakespeare’s life and times in the very building he was born.
Although fortunate enough to attend the local grammar school it is still likely William would have worked alongside his father in the Glover’s workshop. Stand where father and son may have sold their goods to passing customers on the lively street outside.
Upstairs, discover those who fought to save and support Shakespeare’s Birthplace, including Charles Dickens and Henry Irving (whose signature is engraved, amongst several other prolific names, in an original window piece) and visit the room in which Shakespeare is believed to have been born.
Conclude your Birthplace experience by requesting a sonnet or scene from our wonderful actors. Enjoy Shakespeare’s most poignant poetry and iconic plays in his childhood home.
Retrace the path to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery where as a young man Shakespeare courted his wife-to- be. Imagine the house as it was then, a rural, single story farmhouse and learn how it has changed over 13 generations.
Be sure to see the ‘courting settle’, the bench on which William supposedly courted Anne. The bench remains an enthralling potential link to the Tudor romance, as do the original flagstones of the kitchen (dating back to 1463). Stand where William and Anne stood as our guides retell the storey of the lover’s courtship and whistle stop wedding.
Upstairs sits ‘Shakespeare’s Courting Chair’. Contemporary carvings of two elements from the Shakespeare coat of arms suggest it is likely to have been used by the Shakespeare family at New Place. Could William have sat on the chair whilst he persuaded Anne to marry him? You will also find the Hathaway bed. Could this potentially be the 'second-best bed', as mentioned in Shakespeare's will? Ask our guides how the Trust restored the chair to its home through a lucky bid and why the ‘second-best’ bed remains a symbol of intimacy and love.
Shakespeare’s New Place brings a contemporary twist to where Shakespeare’s family home once stood. When Shakespeare died in 1616, having lived 19 years at New Place, the property passed to his daughter, Elizabeth. The building was finally demolished in 1759. It is now a registered garden where you can make your own personal connection with Shakespeare the man and the writer.
Shakespeare purchased New Place for £120 in 1597, as his success as both writer and shareholder continued. Today, the site is used to retell how William had grown to be not only a great playwright but also an astute businessman. Visitors are invited to enter where the original entrance of New Place would have stood and can then tour our specially commissioned artworks commemorating Shakespeare's life and works.
Take a moment to reflect in The Hornbeam Circle where Jill Berelowitz’s sculpture, His Mind’s Eye captures the inspirational mind of William Shakespeare on the site he owned when he was writing more than half of his plays. Imagine the welcome that would have greeted Shakespeare after making the journey of several days back to his wife and children, in the town he called his home.
Although Shakespeare did purchase a property in Blackfriars in London it is believed he rented this out and only lived there when working, William’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, his family and New Place, were clearly close to his heart.
Complete your Shakespeare Experience in our exhibition, where you can view the deeds of the house, Shakespeare's signature and our copy of Shakespeare’s will. Some of the objects mentioned in the will are held by the Trust today, including Shakespeare’s sword and what is believed to be Shakespeare’s signet ring, engraved with his initials.
Visit the home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna and her husband John Hall. Here you can imagine Shakespeare visiting his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in the home they shared, so close to William’s own.
Study the medicinal herb garden of John Hall and visit our ‘Method in the Madness’ exhibition to learn more about the attitudes towards health and wellbeing in Tudor times and how they relate to Shakespeare’s work. Discover the practices of Hall as outlined in his ‘Little Book of Cures’ and view Tudor medical instruments.
Listen as our guides reveal the history of Hall’s Croft, which was lived in up until 1949. Noteworthy visitors include Winston Churchill and Ghandi and perhaps Shakespeare, visiting his granddaughter.
Our organic farm in Wilmcote, just a short distance from town, provides an immersive Tudor experience, allowing you to step back in time and imagine the childhood of Shakespeare’s mother. Imagine if you will Shakespeare being brought here as a young boy to escape the plague when it 'visited' Stratford in the 16th century.
Join in with traditional Tudor customs including an authentic Tudor Dinner, learn the etiquette observed by people in Shakespeare’s time and learn more about the folklore of the rural community that may have influenced so many of Shakespeare’s works.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust cares for over 1 million museum, library and archive items. Situated in the centre of Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, our collections have been designated as being of international importance. So if you want to learn even more visit the ‘Reading Room’, located in the Shakespeare Centre. View records of Royal Shakespeare Company reviews and have access to a plethora of literature centred around Shakespeare to complete your learning experience.
To find out more about our collections either before or after your visit you can also explore our online catalogue.
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Discover Shakespeare's family homes
Discover Shakespeare's family homes