Obama takes in Hamlet as Britain celebrates Shakespeare's 400th anniversary

Sat Apr 23, 2016 2:02pm EDT
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By Roberta Rampton and Alex Fraser

LONDON/STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death on Saturday by visiting the Globe theater in London for a performance of a scene from Hamlet, where the Danish prince poses the question: "To be or not to be".

Celebrations were also underway in Stratford-upon-Avon where England's greatest playwright was born in 1564 and died in 1616.

Thousands of people lined the streets of half-timbered Tudor buildings in the Warwickshire market town, 100 miles northwest of London, and donned Shakespeare masks to watch a procession of characters from the playwright's comedies and tragedies.

On the banks of the Thames, actors at The Globe, London's monument to the Bard, treated Obama to a preview of a special touring production of his tragedy Hamlet, which was due to be performed there later on Saturday.

As the sun illuminated the theater's wooden stage through the open roof, Obama was entertained for 10 minutes by a troupe of actors playing violins, mandolins, an accordion and penny whistles.

"That was wonderful. I don't want it to stop," Obama said.

The visit was something of a pilgrimage for the 44th President of the United States who has named Shakespeare's tragedies as among the top three books that have inspired him.

With its white-washed curved walls, the Globe opened in 1997 and is a replica of a theater where Shakespeare performed, situated a few hundred yards from today's version, which burned to the ground in 1613.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama is given a tour of the Globe Theatre in London by Patrick Spottiswoode, director of education for the Globe Theatre, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque