10th Dec, 2016

Former Archbishop of Canterbury talks Shakespeare at Stratford's Holy Trinity

Stratford Editorial 15th Feb, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

FORMER Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams told of his fascination with William Shakespeare and his own recent efforts as a playwright when visited Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church

The sell-out An Evening with The Most Revd Rowan Williams on Friday (February 12) was a fund-raiser for the restoration of the 13th Century St Peter’s Chapel, one of the oldest parts of the church and situated just a few yards from Shakespeare’s grave.

The Friends of Shakespeare’s Church launched a £60,000 appeal last year with the aim of restoring the chapel ahead of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this April.

Despite not having yet reached the target, work began, and the building of the church’s new South Side extension is now nearly complete.

Professor Ronnie Mulryne, Chair of The Friends, said: “St Peter’s is a beautiful Aladdin’s Cave of treasures.

“The aim of the restoration is to restore the chapel to its primary purpose as a lovely, tranquil and sacred space in which prayer and reflection can be enjoyed by congregation and visitor alike.

“It will also be used for smaller weddings and services.

Dr Williams, now Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University, spoke of his own recent efforts as a playwright and described them as “a bit of imaginative writing.”

In his play, Shakeshaft, set in 1581, Dr Williams seeks to reconstruct a dialogue between the young bard and the Catholic priest Edmund Campion, later arrested by priest hunters, convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

Dr Williams said: “We know “Shakeshaft” and Campion stayed in the same house in Lancashire. I found this a wonderful idea to play with. What I really wanted to do was not write a piece of historical detective work, but to think about what a great saint and a great artist might have had to say to each other.”

“It William Shakeshaft really is William Shakespeare he would have been very young indeed, in his late teens at this point, and not yet a great man. It’s always fascinating to speculate what sort of youth somebody like that might have been..

“So the core of the play is the dialogue between Shakeshaft and Campion, who knows that as soon as he is captured he will be tortured and executed.”