When it comes to William Shakespeare‘s own beliefs about ghosts and spirits, scholars and actors hold divergent views. ‘Did Shakespeare believe in ghosts and spirits?” said the actor who led the Stratford-upon-Avon town ghost tour. “One hundred per cent! Of course he did!” And the unspoken corollary to that was, of course, so do all those who tread the boards.
Actors have long been known for their strange rituals and curious beliefs. Many theatres throughout the UK have their ghost stories to tell. None more so than the Royal Shakespeare Theatre itself in Stratford-upon-Avon. There, you may hear of the Grey Lady, the Perfumed Lady, and numerous other spectral visitations. Unsettling and eerie things have also been experienced by builders working on the scaffolding around the Upper Circle during the renovations for “The Transformation Project.”
Dame Judi Dench Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart may be numbered among those great actors who have experienced curious phenomena either on stage or in an otherwise empty auditorium at other notable theatres. When I researched ‘Paranormal Warwickshire‘ I included Rugby Theatre in my enquiries and, sure enough, discovered that this theatre too has several supernatural presences, in the auditorium, on the stairs, and in the dressing rooms.
However, on the other side of the debate, we may find Professor Sir Jonathan Bate, Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, eminent scholar of Shakespeare, who tends to the view that the Bard himself probably agreed with Hamlet’s friend Horatio, that supernatural manifestations all “emanate from the mind.” Shakespeare, he argues, used ghosts and spirits as excellent dramatic devices, and in every instance where they appear in his plays, they emphasise the mental state of the living character on stage.
Decide for yourself. Watch my reading here on YouTube from my introduction to ‘Paranormal Warwickshire‘. And if you enjoy it, don’t forget to like and comment and subscribe to The SC Skillman Channel while you’re there!
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