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I See Elsie

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 8:59AM   |  Add a comment

A dramatic event happened last weekend.  I'll set the scene, complete with due respect for Dr. Kidd's consistency in recounting Shakespeare's younger years.

It's a sunny Saturday morning.  The sun is shining and getting warmer.  Birds sing and swans swim in the Avon.  A four person boat of rowers-in-training swiftly glides along the river while their cox encourages them to row faster.  A group of 80, or so, Ithacans gathers on the edge of the river.  Bill Sheasgreen quietly keeps towards the back of the group.  Tim Kidd carries the attention in the front of the group.  He stands on the ledge of the embankment.  Sunglasses are on and he wears a blue coat.  Or does he wear a black coat?  The color makes no difference.  Dr. Kidd wears a jacket.

Dr. Kidd wore a black coat.

He introduces his audience to the early year's of Shakespeare's life- the years spent living in Stratford-upon-Avon.  The son of a glove maker, he was apprenticed to a butcher from whom he would bring the leather to his father for the gloves.  And like putting together the 5 fingers of a glove, Shakespeare put together the 5 feet of iambic pentameter.  Shakespeare was a student at the local grammar school where he learned his "little Latin and less Greek".  His teachers were likely to have been Oxford scholars of Welsh origin, as teaching is the traditional profession of the Welsh.  They also say that Welsh is the language of heaven, so some of you should start learning it.  Others of you need not bother.  He and Anne Hathaway got into a spot of trouble in a local bush, which was solved with a special license and a shot-gun wedding.  They had 3 children- Susanna was his eldest and favorite, Hamnet who died aged 9 and Judith who married a local good-for-nothing man who had hoped that in marrying her the old man would be good for a few bob.  But he was wrong, and the majority of Shakespeare's estate was left to Susanna.  She married a doctor, who treated Shakespeare in his final illness.

A rapt audience on a sunny morning

But I digress.  I've run ahead of the story.  The group listens intently in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, wondering if they're sitting near Hamnet Shakespeare's lost grave.  A local man out for a morning stroll is confronted with our group in the path on the river edge and diverts around us.  It's possible that a baby cries in the distance.  

A small crack is heard overhead.  The group thinks, oh, that's weird, and continues listening to the story of Shakespeare's young life.  And then it happens.

A massive branch, the size of a small car crashed down next to our group.  There's a moment of startled silence, a sigh of relief that no one was injured and the talk goes on.  Most of us thought no more of the incident, but there was a lesson to be taken from it.  

Shakespeare penned his own epitaph, saying, 

GOOD FREND FOR iESUS SAKE FORBEARE,

TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE.

BLESE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES,

AND CVRST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.

Be warned, the man meant what he said.  Did he see one of our numbers as a threat to the repose of his bones?  In As You Like It Shakespeare writes that we "Find tongues in trees", and this past Saturday I think he said what he needed to in the form of a tree.  I'm pleased to announce the innocence of our entire group.  We heeded his warning and spared both the stones and his bones for another year. 

-Claire


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