Another in the occasional series on “London Settings for Shakespeare’s Plays” …
Temple (Henry VI Part I)
Temple was first recorded in the twelfth century as Novum Templum, or “the New Temple”. It takes its name from the Knights Templar of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, who relocated themselves here in the twelfth century (having previously been located in Holborn), and whose former land here became the site of the Inns of Court of Inner and Middle Temple after the order was suppressed in the early fourteenth.
The surviving Inner Temple Gate-House, a timber-framed town-house, is Jacobean, and dates to 1610-11.
The surviving Middle Temple Hall is Elizabethan, and dates to 1571. Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” premiered here in 1602. It was performed here again exactly 400 years later in 2002, with an all-male cast, authentic hand-made costumes and period music and instruments.
The courtier, diplomat, bureaucrat, poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer died on this day in 1400. In life, he had been variously employed as Chaucer was variously employed as a “Varlet de Chambre” by Edward III, between 1367-74; as the “Comptroller of the Customs and Subside of Wools, Skins and Tanned Hides” by Edward III and Richard II, between 1374-86; and as “Clerk of the King’s Works” by Richard II, between 1389-91 (he is also thought to have studied Law at the Inner Temple, in c. 1366). In the course of his employment, in 1373, he is thought to have come into contact with Petrarch and Bocaccio, and to have been introduced to Italian poetry, in Italy. Between 1374-86, he would undoubtedly have met travellers from all over the country and continent at his then place of work at the Custom House on the river-front in Billingsgate, including those making the pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, some of them perhaps providing inspiration for the colourful characters he wrote about in the “Canterbury Tales”. He would appear to have written “The House of Fame”, “The Legend of Good Women”, “Parlement of Foules”, and “Troilus and Criseyde”, and also at least to have begun to write “The Canterbury Tales”, at this time, at his lodgings in Aldgate. Earlier, in 1369, he had written “The Book of the Duchess” in honour of his mentor John of Gaunt’s wife Blanche of Lancaster (who died of the plague that year).
“(T)o the Tower Street, and there met the fire burning … . And … Sir W. Pen and I did dig [a pit], and put our wine in it, and I my parmazan cheese”.
And John Evelyn wrote:
“The burning still rages; now gotten as far as the Inner Temple, al Fleetestreete, old baily, Ludgate Hil, Warwick Lane, Newgate, Paules Chaine, Wattling-streete now flaming & … the stones of Paules flew lie Granados, the Lead melting down the streets in a stream, & the very pavements … glowing with a fiery rednesse, so as nor horse nor man was able to tread on them, … : the … Wind still more impetuously driving the flames forewards: nothing but the almighty power of God … able to stop them, for vaine was the help of man”.