The Stratford Chalice
Made in: London
Made by: Unknown
Size: Cup H:127mm, W:72mm Paten H:32mm, W:76mm
For Elizabethans, the communion cup was central to the Protestant religious service. Every parishioner was obliged to sip from it: a new communal experience, and one that everybody had to join in.
This silver communion cup is from Holy Trinity Church in Stratford upon Avon. It was brought to Stratford when Shakespeare was a boy as part of a nationwide campaign to tell England that Catholicism was out – and the Protestant reformation under Elizabeth was back and here to stay.
An object like this takes us closer to Shakespeare's daily life – he may even have drunk from it – and helps us imagine what life was like when private belief and practice was inseparable from national politics.
This object is from the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon
'Stay, give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine./Here's to thy health!/Give him the cup.'
Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 2
'It is the poisoned cup. It is too late.'
Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 2
- Shakespeare could conceivably have taken communion from this cup
- Shakespeare seems never to have left Stratford, in the sense that his family and main home remained there (he lived in relatively inexpensive lodgings in London)
- His wealth came from his position as actor and sharer in the company, not as a playwright
- Shakespeare's two daughters were married in Holy Trinity Church. His son, Hamnet, was buried in the churchyard
- Shakespeare is buried in front of the altar alongside his wife, Anne Hathaway
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