Tag Archives: Shakespeare

“Shakespeare and his fellow actors promise to be good neighbours” (Henry Carey, 1594)

On this day in 1594, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, wrote to the Lord Mayor of London:

“Where my now company of players have been accustomed … for the service of her majesty [Elizabeth I] …  to play this winter time at the Cross Keys in Gracious [Gracechurch] Street; these are to require and pray your lordship (the time being such as, thanks be to God, there is now no danger of the sickness [plague]) to permit and suffer them to do so.  The which I pray you rather to do for that they have undertaken to me that, where heretofore they began not their plays till towards four o’clock, they will now begin at two and have done between four and five and will not use any drums or trumpets at all for the calling of people together and shall be contributories to the poor of the parish where they play, according to their abilities”.

Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon

Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon (1526-96) was a nobleman, a courtier to his cousin, Elizabeth I, and a politician as well as a patron of Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.  He was the son of Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary, and it has been speculated that he was fathered by Henry VIII.

Cross Keys  plaque.JPG

The site of the Cross Keys, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, is visited on our “Historic Shoreditch and Spitalfields” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” and “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

Essex’s Rebellion (1601)

a-painting-of-essex

the-death-of-essex-from-a-broadside

On this day in 1601, Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, led an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the then Queen,  Elizabeth I, and her court, a treasonous act for which he was later tried, convicted and, on February 25th, beheaded (at the Tower of London) (*).  Four of his supporters, Sir Christopher Blount, Sir Henry Cuffe, Sir Charles Danvers and Sir Gelli Meyrick,  were also executed, on March 5th, although all the  others, including the Earl of Southampton, were spared.

Essex had earlier been publicly disgraced and politically and financially ruined by being placed under house arrest and removed from his office as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, for  failing to execute Elizabeth’s orders to him to suppress an insurrection in that country (led by the Earls of Tyrone).  It was in Essex House – on the Strand – that he hatched his crackpot  plot.  On February 7th, 1601 he took a boat from Essex Steps to the “Globe” in Southwark to bribe Shakespeare’s “Lord Chancellor’s Men” to stage a special performance of “Richard II”, overplaying the scene in which the King was deposed, with a view to encouraging support among the watching crowd.  The plan began to backfire on the morning of the fateful following day, February 8th, when four of the Queen’s men arrived to arrest him, and he was forced to take them hostage (one of them being Thomas Egerton, the 1st Viscount Brackley, the Lord Keeper).  However, he decided to carry   on regardless, and, with some two hundred followers, marched from Essex House upon the City.  When  they  arrived at the gates, they met with a hostile reception, having by that time  already been denounced as traitors (by Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, the  Secretary of State).  At this, most of Essex’s  supporters deserted him, and he was forced to return to Essex House, where after a short siege, during which he attempted to destroy any evidence that might incriminate him, he found himself forced to surrender to the Queen’s men (under the  Earl of Nottingham).

The site of Essex House is visited on our “Rebellious London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) Note that this is no longer universally accepted.

St Etheldreda (and Ely Palace)

Today is the Feast of St Etheldreda …

7 - Statue of St Ethledreda in Ely Cathedral

The church of St Etheldreda

 

1 - The decorated Gothic exterior of the church of St Etheldreda

The church of St Etheldreda in Ely Place was originally built as a private chapel in Ely Palace (see below), owned by the Bishops of Ely,  in  around 1293, and pressed into service as an Anglican church after the Reformation.  It was undamaged  in the  Great Fire of 1666, although it has been somewhat modified subsequently.  It was “restored to the old faith” in 1874.

5 - Crypt

The interior contains a number of memorials to Catholic martyrs, including John Houghton, Prior of Charterhouse, who was hanged, drawn and quartered  at Tyburn in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church.  The exterior  is a rare, restrained  and fine surviving example of the Decorated Gothic style of ecclesiastical architecture.  The church is easily  overlooked on account of its tucked-away location (and small size).  Etheldreda was the Abbess of Ely in the seventh century.

Ely Palace

6 - Reconstruction of Ely Palace

John of Gaunt

John of Gaunt lived in Ely Palace after his own Savoy Palace was destroyed in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 (see June 15th posting).  In a scene in Shakespeare’s  “Richard II”, set here, he uttered the immortal words:

 

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle,|This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,|This other Eden, demi-paradise,|This fortress built by Nature for herself|Against infection and the hand of war,|This happy breed of men, this little world,|This precious stone set in the silver sea,|Which serves it in the office of a wall,|Or as a moat defensive to a house,|Against the envy of less happier lands,|This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”.

The palace’s gardens were said to produce the finest strawberries in London, in honour of which a “Strawberrie Fayre” is still held nearby  every June.  In a scene in “Richard III”, Gloster says to Ely:

“My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you, send me some of them”.

The palace’s Great Hall was famed for its banquets.  One such, in 1531, attended by the then king, Henry VIII and his queen,  Catherine of Aragon, is said to have lasted for five days!  According to surviving records, the guests managed to get  through 24 oxen, 51 cows, 91 pigs, 100 sheep, 168 swans, 444 pigeons, 720 chickens and over 4000 larks!

Sir Christopher Hatton

In 1576, the palace was ordered by Elizabeth I to be leased to  her  favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, for a rent of £10 a year, ten loads of hay, and a rose picked at mid-summer.   It remained more or less continuously  in the possession of the Hatton family until the death of the last Lord Hatton in 1772, when it was finally demolished to make way for what is now Hatton Garden.

The church and the site of the palace are  visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”  themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk).

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk), by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

 

“This Woodden O” (Shakespeare’s “Globe”)

Site of original Globe

Detail of plaque marking site of  the original Globe

June 12th –  According to the Shakespearean scholar Steve Sohmer, on this day in 1599, the original  “Globe” was opened in Southwark.  Also, on this day in 1997, Sam Wanamaker’s reconstructed “Globe” was officially opened by the Queen.

The original “Globe”  was  built by the theatrical impresario Cuthbert Burbage, using some materials salvaged from his father James’s “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, after the expiry of the lease on that latter property (see also  postings here and here).

It   was later burnt down in a fire in 1613, after sparks from a theatrical cannon set some thatch alight during a performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry the Eighth”; re-built in 1614; fell into disuse sometime around 1642, when the performance of plays was banned, by order of the Puritans; and was finally demolished in 1644, again by order of the Puritans (see also posting here ).

The gallery below (photos by Bob Jones) features both of the plaques marking the Globe’s original site, and also includes images of the reconstructed Globe, built on the Bankside quite near to that spot. The reconstruction (fruition of many years’ effort by Sam Wanamaker) opened in 1997.

The site of the original “Globe” – “Shakespeare’s (own) play-house, and the venue where many of his plays were first performed”– is visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special (together with the reconstruction).

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of our web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Book Review – “Shakespeare in London”

Shakespeare in LondonShakespeare in London” by Hannah Crawforth (Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at King’s College London), Sarah Dustagheer (Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at the University of Kent) and Jennifer Young (Teaching Fellow in English Literature (1590-1700)  at the University of Leeds), published by Bloomsbury in 2014 (ISBN (PB): 978-1-4081-4596-8).  Available from your friendly local book-shop (or faceless tax-avoiding online giant).  Price £16.99 or less.

The core contention of this fascinating, thoughtful   and thought-provoking book, akin to Ackroyd’s, is that Shakespeare’s adopted home of London informed, and indeed was the nourishing womb of, all of his writing. He did not often directly reference it in his works (*). However,  he may have indirectly referenced the violence of Tyburn in “Titus Andronicus”; the political machination of Whitehall in “Richard II”; the class distinction of the Strand in “Romeo and Juliet”; the legal machination of the Inns of Court in “The Merchant of Venice”; the religiosity of St Paul’s Cathedral in “Hamlet”; the madness of Bedlam in “King Lear”; the misery of imprisonment for debt in the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark in “Timon of Athens”; and the strange new world of the “cabinet of curiosity” on Lime Street in “The Tempest”. And the rich variety and cosmopolitanism of one of the first true World Cities in the form of an ever-present back-drop. The City was the World, in Microcosm.

Sites associated with Shakespeare are visited on various of our standard walks, and on our “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) London” and “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

(*) He did, though, set one of his most famous scenes here, in Ely Palace: that in “Richard II” in which John of Gaunt utters in his dying speech the immortal words: “This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle,|This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,|This other Eden, demi-paradise,|This fortress built by Nature for herself|Against infection and the hand of war,|This happy breed of men, this little world,|This precious stone set in the silver sea,|Which serves it in the office of a wall,|Or as a moat defensive to a house,|Against the envy of less happier lands,|This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”.

St Etheldreda (and Ely Palace)

St Etheldreda – detail

June 23rd –  Today is the Feast of St Etheldreda.

The church of St Etheldreda in Ely Place was originally built as a private chapel in Ely Palace (see below), owned by the Bishops of Ely,  in  around 1293, and pressed into service as an Anglican church after the Reformation.  It was undamaged  in the  Great Fire of 1666, although it has been somewhat modified subsequently.  It was “restored to the old faith” in 1874.

The interior contains a number of memorials to Catholic martyrs, including John Houghton, Prior of Charterhouse, who was hanged, drawn and quartered  at Tyburn in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church. The exterior is a rare, restrained and fine surviving example of the Decorated Gothic style of ecclesiastical architecture.  The church is easily overlooked on account of its tucked-away location (and small size).  Etheldreda was the Abbess of Ely in the seventh century.

John of Gaunt lived in Ely Palace after his own Savoy Palace was destroyed in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, and he died there in 1399.  In a scene in Shakespeare’s  “Richard II”, set here, he uttered in his dying speech the immortal words:

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”.

Reconstruction of Ely Palace (in the Crypt of St Etheldreda)

Reconstruction of Ely Palace (in the Crypt of St Etheldreda)

The palace’s gardens were said to produce the finest strawberries in London, in honour of which a “Strawberrie Fayre” is still held nearby  every June.  In a scene in “Richard III”, Gloster says to Ely:

“My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you, send me some of them”.

The palace’s Great Hall was famed for its banquets.  One such, in 1531, attended by the then king, Henry VIII and his queen,  Catherine of Aragon, is said to have lasted for five days!  According to surviving records, the guests managed to get  through 24 oxen, 51 cows, 91 pigs, 100 sheep, 168 swans, 444 pigeons, 720 chickens and over 4000 larks!

In 1576, the palace was ordered by Elizabeth I to be leased to  her  favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, for a rent of £10 a year, ten loads of hay, and a rose picked at mid-summer.  It remained more or less continuously in the possession of the Hatton family until the death of the last Lord Hatton in 1772, when it was finally demolished to make way for what is now Hatton Garden.

Statue of St Ethledreda in Ely Cathedral

Statue of St Ethledreda in Ely Cathedral

The church and the site of the palace are  visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”  themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

“This Woodden O” (Shakespeare’s “Globe”)

2 - New plaque

8 - Is it just me, or is this Mark RylanceJune 12th –  According to the Shakespearean scholar Steve Sohmer, on this day in 1599, the original  “Globe” was opened in Southwark.

The “Globe”  was  built by the theatrical impresario Cuthbert Burbage, using some materials salvaged from his father James’s “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, after the expiry of the lease on that latter property (see also  postings here and here).

It   was later burnt down in a fire in 1613, after sparks from a theatrical cannon set some thatch alight during a performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry the Eighth”; re-built in 1614; fell into disuse sometime around 1642, when the performance of plays was banned, by order of the Puritans; and was finally demolished in 1644, again by order of the Puritans (see also posting here ).

The site of the original “Globe” – “Shakespeare’s (own) play-house, and the venue where many of his plays were first performed”– is visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special (together with Sam Wanamaker’s reconstruction  on Bankside).

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).