Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Shakespeare, Aldermanbury Square.JPG

William Shakespeare was born on or around this day in 1564, and died on this day in 1616.

Although he was born and died in Stratford-upon-Avon, he spent almost the entirety of his productive working life in London, and in truth is much more a London than a Stratford figure. He arrived in London  sometime between 1585 and 1592,  and  lived in the parish of St Helen, near  “The Theatre” and the “Curtain” in Shoreditch, in 1596; in the Liberty of the Clink in Southwark, near   the “Globe”, in 1599; and in Silver Street, near  the  “Blackfriars”, in 1604.

As Peter Ackroyd put it in his marvellous “Shakespeare – The Biography” (Chatto & Windus, 2005), “Shakespeare did not need to address London directly … ; it is the rough cradle of all his drama”.  However, as Hannah Crawforth, Sarah Dustagheer and Jennifer Young suggest in their thoughtful and thought-provoking “Shakespeare in London” (Bloomsbury, 2014), 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”; 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.  Moreover, he did set one of his most famous scenes in London, in Ely Palace: that in “Richard II” in which John of Gaunt utters 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”.

Sites associated with Shakespeare are visited on many of our walks, most particularly 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).

“Shakespeare’s own play-house” (The Globe)

1 - Sam Wanamaker at the site of the Original Globe in 1947

2 - Wanamaker's reconstructed Globe

On this day in 1644, “The Globe” was demolished by order of the Puritan City authorities (and the site redeveloped by Sir Matthew Brand or Brend). The play-house had originally been  built in 1599 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 April 13th posting). It had then 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”, and been rebuilt in 1614, before falling into disuse sometime around 1642, when the performance of plays was banned by an Act of Parliament forced through by the Puritans (reading, in part: “It is … thought fit, and Ordained, …  That, while these sad … Times …  do continue, Public Stage Plays shall cease, … instead of which are recommended … the profitable and seasonable considerations of Repentance, Reconciliation, and Peace with God, which probably may … bring again Times of Joy and Gladness to these Nations”).

“The Globe” was Shakespeare’s (own) play-house, and the venue where many of his plays were first performed”.

The sites of the original play-house and recent reconstruction are visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk, and on our “Post-Medieval [Tudor and Stuart] London – The City that Shakespeare knew” 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).

Shakespeare buys a house in Blackfriars (1613)

 

Shakespeare's house plaque - Copy

On  this day in 1613, according to the surviving Deed of Conveyance (*), William Shakespeare bought for £140 a “dwelling house or Tenement with th’appurtenaunces situate and being within the Precinct, circuit and compasse of the late black Fryers London, …  and now or late being in the tenure or occupacion of one William Ireland or of his assignee or assignes; abutting upon a streete leading downe to Pudle wharffe on the east part, right against the Kinges Maiesties Wardrobe; part of which said Tenement is erected over a great gate … ”  [the former entrance to the Black Friars Priory, dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538].

There is no evidence that Shakespeare  ever lived in this particular  house in London, returning to his native Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613, and dying there in  1616, but  he is known to have spent almost the entirety of his productive working life in London, and in truth is much more a London than a Stratford figure.    He is known to have arrived in London  sometime between 1585 and 1592,  and  to have lived in the parish of St Helen, near  “The Theatre” and the “Curtain” in Shoreditch, in 1596; in the Liberty of the Clink in Southwark, near   the “Globe”, in 1599; and in Silver Street, near  the  “Blackfriars”, in 1604.

As Peter Ackroyd put it in his marvellous “Shakespeare – The Biography” (Chatto & Windus, 2005), “Shakespeare did not need to address London directly … ; it is the rough cradle of all his drama”.  However, as Hannah Crawforth, Sarah Dustagheer and Jennifer Young suggest in their thoughtful and thought-provoking “Shakespeare in London” (Bloomsbury, 2014), 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”; 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.  Moreover, he did set one of his most famous scenes in London, in Ely Palace: that in “Richard II” in which John of Gaunt utters 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 site of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars house is visited on our “London Wall” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Tudor and Stuart London” 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).

(*) Readers may be interested to know that the deed, which is one of only a handful of documents to bear Shakespeare’s signature, is currently on display in the “By me William Shakespeare: A life in writing” exhibition in the Inigo Rooms in the East Wing of Somerset House, which runs until May 29th.

It also bears the signatures of Shakespeare’s trustees, namely John Hemmyng and John Jackson, Gentlemen of London, and William Johnson, Citizen and Vintner of London  (and of the vendor, one Henry Walker, Citizen and Minstrel of London).  It is tempting to suggest that  John Hemmyng was the same man who once acted alongside Shakespeare in the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men”, and later, after his death, helped to  put together the First Folio of his works; and William Johnson the same man who was the landlord of the Mermaid Tavern in Bread Street just off Cheapside.

Essex’s rebellion (1601)

Robert_Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

February 8th – 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 “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).

Facial Hair through the Ages

November 1st

To mark the beginning of ‘Movember’, here’s a look at some of the facial hair styles adopted by the  Tudors and Stuarts, ranging from “boyish” to “strictly no-nonsense”, by way  of the peculiarly popular “rakish”.

Top row, left to right: Christopher Marlowe; “The Laughing Cavalier”; Francis Drake.

Middle  row, left to right: William Shakespeare; James I; James I’s “favourite” George Villiers, the First Duke of Buckingham.

Bottom row: Henry VIII; William Cecil, Lord Burghley; Thomas Cranmer.

(Click image to see full-sized original)

Facial hair through the ages

Facial hair through the ages

Shakespeare and London

12th September 2013 – I’ve just got back from a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the London Metropolitan Archives (www.cityoflondon.go.uk/lma), organised by the London Historians (www.londonhistorians.org).
The highlight was the “Shakespeare and London” exhibition, which features not only “The Shakespeare Deed”, a property deed signed by Shakespeare (one of only six surviving examples of his signature), but also other documents from his lifetime, along with maps, photographs, prints and models which explore his relationship with London.  The exhibition runs until 26thSeptember 2013.
The site of the property to which the deed pertains, in Blackfriars, is visited on our Wednesday afternoon “St Paul’s to Westminster – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” and Friday morning “London Wall – A Story of Survival” walks.
Please note that any of our walks can also be booked at any other time, subject to prior agreement (e-mail lostcityoflondon@sky.co.uk or phone 020-8998-3051).

“This Woodden O”

12th June  – According to the Shakespearean scholar Steve Sohmer, on this day in 1599, the original  “Globe Theatre” was opened in Southwark (see also the April 22nd blog on “Shakespeare in London”).   

The site of the original “Globe” is visited on our Thursday afternoon walk “Historic Southwark – Shakespeare’s London and more”, together with Sam Wanamaker’s reconstruction  on Bankside.

A special themed walk on “The London that Shakespeare knew” is also available on request.
Romantic antics during a back-stage tour of the Reconstructed Globe
To book a place on any scheduled walk, or to arrange a private walk, please email lostcityoflondon@sky.com or ring 020 8998 3051
Further information  is available from other parts of our website www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk And for updates, news and promotions, why not visit (and ‘Like’) the Lost City of London Facebook page