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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 15:35 GMT
To marry or not to marry?
Anne Hathaway's House, Stratford
Couples could soon marry at Anne Hathaway's cottage
Plans to hold civil wedding ceremonies at Anne Hathaway's cottage has prompted a split in opinion between Shakespeare preservationists.

The government is currently considering a relaxation of marriage licence rules, which would clear the way for weddings to be held in venues like a private home, garden, mountain top or beach.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust wants to take advantage of the changes when they come into force and hold civil wedding ceremonies in the cottage of Shakespeare's wife, now a tourist attraction.

However James Philpotts, a founder member of Hands Off Our Theatre (Hoots), which campaigns against changes in the Royal Shakespeare company's Swan Theatre, is against the idea.

It is confusing cinema and populism with the real Shakespeare story

James Philpotts

He told the BBC's Today programme: "It seems like an entirely misappropriate use of Trust property.

"This property has a particular part to play in the Shakespeare story and it is inappropriate to organise a civil marriage ceremony there.

"It is confusing cinema and populism with the real Shakespeare story."

However Trust spokeswoman Norma Sweeney said that the idea of holding marriage ceremonies at Anne Hathaway's cottage did not demean or diminish Shakespeare.

"He was a showman and the main part of his life was dealing with shows.

"If you look at Shakespeare's plays, there were marriages in some of them.

"Marriage is a drama of one sort or another which may or may not end in another drama.

"We feel we have beautiful houses connected with Shakespeare. They would provide decent and beautiful settings for marriages not connected with religion."

Ms Sweeney said that once the regulations regarding marriage licenses changed, they would hope to be able to apply for a license to carry out weddings there.

See also:

14 Nov 01 | Scotland
Wedding bill brings tourism boost
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