We’re sharing another blog post today that has been written by Bettina Harris, Library Support Assistant at Shakespeare Institute Library. The University of Birmingham’s world-renowned research and reference collection on English Renaissance literature is housed at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.
This post explore the link we have here at Charlecote with the famous bard…
Charlecote, the seat of the Lucy family, and the first, very large country house known to have been built in Warwickshire in the latter part of the 16th century, was begun in 1559 or 1560. It was of brick, the fashionable material of the day, and originally consisted of a main block, one room deep, and two projecting wings. A two-storied porch, decorated in the classical style, was added later. If viewed from above, the house then resembled a large capital E lying on its side, and so it is supposed that the addition was in compliment to Queen Elizabeth I.
The main block contains the Great Hall with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Among other rooms displaying decorated ceilings and wood panelling, the current drawing room is where Elizabeth stayed for two nights in 1572 (see below) when she visited Charlecote on one of her Royal Progresses. The two-storied gatehouse that guards the approach to the house, and under which the Queen would have passed, remains unchanged.
There is plenty of evidence for the time-honoured story that the young Shakespeare poached deer in Sir Thomas Lucy’s grounds. Charlecote’s estate of 185 acres, which lies about four miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon, backs on to the river. It had no deer park as such until 1618 when the Lucy family applied for a royal licence to create one; the fallow deer that now live there arrived in the 18th century. But in the 1580s, the Lucy lands would have consisted of woodlands rich in chestnuts, elms, oaks and sycamores; there was a free warren teeming with rabbits and hares, besides numerous pheasants, wood pigeon, foxes and roe deer. It would also have been rigorously patrolled by several keepers on the look out for locals hoping to bag a free supper.
Other local landowners owned similar parks and Shakespeare quite frequently refers to hunting and to deer in the plays – ‘‘What, hast not thou full often struck a doe,/ And borne her cleanly by the keeper’s nose?’ asks Demetrius in Titus Andronicus. Elsewhere, in The Taming of the Shrew and Venus and Adonis, he gives us ‘Fleeter than the roe’ and the ‘fleet-foot roe.’ There is a deer hunting passage in Henry VI (3.1) and around a hundred lines deal with the subject at the beginning of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The deer-stealing story begins with two independent accounts; the first in…