Shakespeare Tree Planting

Saturday 23rd April 2016

“On the same day fifty-two years later I’ll be marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by playing a matinée and evening as King Lear on tour in Northampton. Between the two performances I’m due to plant a mulberry tree in Abington Park, near the Peacock Aviary. King James I, a champion of mulberry trees, inspired Shakespeare, keen to honour the birth of his first granddaughter Elizabeth, to plant one in his garden in Stratford. Elizabeth survive the Civil War, married well and moved into her husband’s family home in Abington Park. A century after that, the aptly names Thomas Sharpe cut down Shakespeare’s tree and started selling off bits of it as mementoes; at that moment, the Shakespeare knick-knack industry was born. David Garrick acquired a cutting from the tree which he planted in the grounds of Abington Park in memory of Elizabeth, the playwright’s last surviving relative: a strange unresonant gesture, but Garrick always slightly missed the point in his curating of Shakespeare’s reputation - he had already presented a Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford in which nobody spoke a line from any of the plays. In planting a new one I’m following not only him but Henry Irving and Laurence Olivier, and my vanity is such that I don’t mind breaking into precious downtime between two performances of Lear to do it.”

Exert from “In pursuit of Shakespeare” which appeared in the TLS on 20th April 2016.


Reading some of Orlando’s words from As You Like It