STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England — Just over four centuries ago, the third-born child of a leather tradesman walked the streets of this medieval market town, nestled in the countryside of an enchantingly verdant island, and imagined stories set on a vast continent he would likely never see.
Epic French battles. Illicit Italian love affairs. Brooding Danish princes.
William Shakespeare, forever after known as England’s national poet, was obsessed with Europe.
It’s an obsession that survives in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the men and women who tread daily in the Bard’s footsteps past half-timbered Tudors are fixated on their country’s imminent rupture from the European Union.
But is that break a historical triumph, or a tragedy?
This is my town; I live just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Washington Post sent a journalist to wander around the town and get a few stock opinions about Brexit, and balance them in his article. It doesn’t say much that other articles about Brexit opinions say; and it includes some of the erroneous opinions of Brexiteers that you see repeated in the press here in the UK. It looks like they just wanted a hook to hang their article on, and found it in Stratford.
Two hours by train from London, or a five-day walk in Shakespeare’s era, Stratford is heavily reliant on tourists, giving it an international outlook and affluence unusual for provincial England.
And this is why the people who support Brexit in Stratford are mistaken. The town will suffer if tourists from the EU need visas to come here. Without tourists, and without the theater, this would be just a sleepy market town in the middle of an essentially rural area. Sigh.