William Shakespeare lives in a stylish, imitation-Tudor house at Stratford-on-Avon, a growing exurbanite community some ninety miles outside of London. He was born here in 1564, and not long ago decided to return, hoping that the country air would alleviate a pale cast of thought that has bothered him ever since his tragic period. The slanting half-timbers, the asphodels, the greenwood, and a new coat of arms give the New Place in Chapel Street a rich feeling of hey-nonny-no.
Mr. Shakespeare met us at the gate. We quickly recognized the firm, exopthalmic phiz of the First Folio portrait with bagged chin and five o'clock shadow. He looked saddened, but rested. With obvious pride, he began walking us over his freehold toward the garden. "It's really the movie sale of Hamlet that's done it," he admitted. "We've even been talking about taking a trip. I rounded up some pamphlets on Bermuda the other day. We'll probably never go, but it's nice to think about."
Through a mullioned back window, we noticed Anne--his accommodating, somewhat elderly wife--fluffing out the bolster on the second-best bed. In a far corner of the garden, his granddaughter Elizabeth sat, studying a chess problem. We reached a mulberry tree, where a much-thumbed Holinshed lay open on a bench, and, beside it, a copy of Plutarch, heavily underlined. We took our seats (a near-by armillary served as ground for our tape recorder), and he asked us for news of London. He wanted to know if we found the work of Beaumont and Fletcher at all to our taste, if Ben Jonson was still roaring around town, and if the Bear Garden had reopened next to the Globe Theatre. We reassured him on all counts, though he was grieved to hear that the Mermaid Tavern had temporarily lost its license.
INTERVIEWERS: Do you think the Mermaid Tavern has been an important influence on you?
MR. SHAKESPEARE: You mean, as a literary thing?
INTERVIEWERS: Yes. Taken as something typically Elizabethan.
MR. SHAKESPEARE: Now you must be very careful how you use that