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The life of one of the most famous names in world literature is full of questions. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) left no diaries or epistolary, but there are documents that help us to reconstruct various moments in his life. All research on the famed English poet and playwright confirm that his track is lost in 1585 in his native Stratford-upon-Avon, reappearing twelve years later in London, already a renowned author. Wealthy and esteemed by all, Shakespeare lived more than two decades in the British capital, where he established his success. Later he went back to his beloved Stratford-upon-Avon to spend his last days with his family.
Join us in this exciting tour of the iconic London sites and venues that are intricately linked to the author of such memorable works as King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth among others.
We begin in Bankside by the river Thames at The Globe theater. The Globe is an exact replica of the theater founded by Shakespeare and his company in 1599 and demolished in 1644 under the Elizabethan Puritanism. The current Globe stays true to the customs of the 16th century as the audience watches the performances standing up or sitting on simple wooden benches. In the basement, there is an exhibition that elucidates the context and times of the Great Bard, and a treasure chest of Shakespearean recordings from different generations of actors such as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Judy Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jude Law.
Also in the area of Bankside, you will find the Sam Wanamaker’s Playhouse Theater, built in the Jacobite style and opened to the public in 2014. Its programming includes theater, opera, and concerts, by the dim candles and chandeliers lights.
The George Inn is located in nearby Southwark. This popular and historic pub was frequented by Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and their contemporaries. Its Elizabethan style makes it an exceptional place: it is London’s last remaining pub with balconies, and during the summer it often presents classical plays in its courtyard.
Two of the great bard’s plays, Othello and Measure for Measure premiered at Somerset House, a former royal residence in Strand, Westminster and currently an important cultural center. The writer’s footprint can also be seen in the National Portrait Gallery, founded in 1856, which houses the famous Chandos Portrait, considered the most credible depiction of the author. It is also essential to visit The Rose Theatre in Park Street, which just turned 450 years, where Shakespeare premiered his plays Henry IV and Titus Andronicus.
We end our tour at Westminster Abbey, where you can visit the Poets’ Corner, a space that pays homage to the greatest British artists. Although the remains of the famous author rest in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Poet´s Corner boasts a sculpture of the Bard, placed 124 years after his death “by popular esteem,” as recorded in the Latin inscription placed on the base of the monument to the greatest English writer of all time.
The London of today is worlds apart from the London in the time of the Great Bard, but we are all the better for the body of work he left behind. ■