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Explore Shakespeare's London

On 23 April, it was 454 years since a certain William Shakespeare was born. Like all birthdays, it is worth celebrating and there are plenty of places in London linked to the playwright. So, if you would like to walk in the bard’s footsteps, or those of his characters, here are the sites to visit.

The Globe Theatre

Of course, there could be no better tribute to Shakespeare than going to see a play and The Globe Theatre is a lovingly recreated version of the playhouse set up by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It sits around 230 metres from the original site of the theatre, which was built in 1599, but still hosts authentic performances of the bard’s work to this day.

The Cockpit pub

You need little excuse to visit this atmospheric pub in the City of London, but the site has a strong connection with Shakespeare. It was constructed in the 1840s, but before that was the location of Blackfriars Monastery. Shakespeare is said to have purchased the gatehouse, with the help of a number of other actors, in 1613 and used it as a theatre to stage plays.

Statues of Shakespeare

Look out for the depiction of Shakespeare leaning his elbow on a pile of books in Leicester Square Gardens. It is a copy of another statue of the bard, which can be found at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Despite the similarities, there are a number of subtle differences. For example, the Leicester Square memorial features a quote from Twelfth Night, whereas the statue in the abbey shows Shakespeare holding a scroll with a misquoted passage from The Tempest.

Plaques on Curtain Road

Curtain Street in Shoreditch may not be the most obvious place to go searching for connections to Shakespeare, but keep your eyes peeled and you may be surprised. Plaques at 86-90 Curtain Street show where The Theatre, the second permanent playhouse ever built in England and where Shakespeare acted, was located. Excavations in 2008 discovered the foundations of the telltale polygonal structure.

The George Inn

The George Inn in Southwark is often referred to as “Shakespeare’s local”, as he lived and worked nearby. It was one of the popular inn-yard theatre locations of the Elizabethan period, meaning he may well have acted at the venue. The original inn that dated back to 1542 burnt down in 1676, being rebuilt straight away to the same plans. Today, only the south side remains, but it is the last galleried coaching inn in London to still operate to this day.

Tower of London

If you have never been to London before, then the Tower of London is likely to be on your list of attractions to visit. While you are there, be sure to see what is thought to be the final resting place of two of Shakespeare’s real-life characters. Two small human skeletons were found under the staircase in the White Tower, supporting the theory that Richard III killed his two nephews at the site to take the throne of England, as is depicted in Shakespeare’s play.

claudiodivizia via iStock

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