The Golden Bee is the archetypal Tudor-style Olde England tavern in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s stomping ground. Next door is the living history museum, The Falstaff Experience. Like all English school kids I had Shakespeare practically rammed down my throat at secondary school and like all my fellows came to loathe him and all his works. It took me decades to overcome this nausea and swing in the opposite direction entirely. If they’d made me listen to Beethoven and Mozart at school I’m sure I’d have hated them as well, but fortunately our music teacher was a vacuous idiot of the sort who’d never survive in the profession today and who in fact would probably have been arrested over some of the innuendos he made to the girls in our class.
In Shakespeare’s day, it was common practice for the bones of the deceased to be exhumed for reasons of research or religion, or simply to make space for more bodies, and a lot of them ended up as landfill or ground to powder and used as fertiliser. Shakespeare was apparently terrified that this would happen to him so he had a curse placed on his tomb in the Holy Trinity Church where he is buried to ward off the gravediggers following his death in 1616. It’s like something out of an MR James creepy ghost story:
‘Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare
To dig the dust encloased heare;
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones.
And curst be he that moves my bones.’
I can imagine a bachelor don around the turn of the 20th century coming to Stratford from Oxford or Cambridge on a short holiday and taking a room at The Golden Bee. He’s making brass rubbings late in the afternoon in Holy Trinity Church when he doesn’t notice the sun setting and a shadowy figure sitting in the pews. Back in his room at around midnight he’s sitting up in bed reading Religio Medici by Sir Thomas Browne by gas lamp when he hears creaking oak floorboards in the passageway outside and a sound like crushed silk…
Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?