Roger Pringle studied at the universities of Cambridge and Reading. From 1989 to 2007 he was Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon, with overall responsibility for the five historic Shakespeare Houses (including the dramatist's Birthplace and Anne Hathaway's Cottage), and for developing the Trust's educational work. He has published several books on Shakespeare and on Stratford, and has lectured widely. He is also a poet and for thirty years directed the annual Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival, as well as devising many poetry programs involving Royal Shakespeare Company actors, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Peggy Ashcroft, Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley. From 1976 to 1986 he served as Executive Secretary of the International Shakespeare Association. He holds honorary degrees from the universities of Birmingham City and Coventry, and is a life trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and an honorary governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
For well over two hundred years Americans have been coming to Stratford in considerable numbers: among the first to record a visit, shortly after Independence, were two future Presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. In this lecture, Roger Pringle looks at this enduring tradition and the reasons behind it. Some emphasis is given to the varying and memorable responses made to their Stratford experience by notable American writers, including Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Henry James and Mark Twain. The talk also details ways in which American interest and generosity have enhanced the town's heritage.
This talk offers a personal viewpoint as to why William Shakespeare continues to be the worlds' best known writer, and what, for the speaker, are the key aspects of his genius and appeal.