Literary Dispatches from London-William Shakespeare
It’s Friday night, and where can you find us? A pub crawl along the south bank of the Thames River, of course. We met up with our guide from London Walks (http://www.walks.com/) outside the Blackfriars tube station. To be honest, this had already been a long, fun day and I was pretty tired. We’d gotten up early and were among the first twenty people admitted into the Tower of London when it opened. From there we walked across the London Bridge, then had afternoon tea at the Borough Market, then walked to the London Eye, took a ride, and had dinner. It was great, but my Fitbit indicated that we’d already walked eight miles (nearly 20,000 steps) and gone up the equivalent of 94 flights of stairs. The sun was now starting to set. The walking, however, was not done. Fortunately it involved pints of beer and a good dose of history.
The city of London was established in approximately 50 A.D. by the Romans. Over a thousand years, the area grew. Stereotypes are that people on the north and west side of the Thames are rich and powerful (Kings and Queens and castles and Parliament) and the East and south side of the Thames are poorer and working class people. I will not wade into that debate, because, from what I saw, it was expensive to live anywhere in London---east or west, north or south--- and it seemed like poorer, working class people have largely been pushed out of the entirety of the city’s core...but I digress. If you’re interested in the history of London and like historical fiction, you can check-out Edward Rutherfurd’s 1,100 page book (https://amzn.to/2K1IHwX). True confession: I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but my mom has and I think that she could have given some of these tours after all that she had learned from it.
Fast forward to the late 1500s and early 1600s and the South bank of the Thames and its surrounding neighborhoods were the hub of trade and you could also go there to pursue less formal interests. This could be gambling, bear-baiting, prostitution or the theater. It was interesting to learn that most, if not all, of this land was owned by the church, condemning these activities on Sunday while simultaneously becoming wealthier and richer through the collection of rent and fees at the same time.
This was also the stomping ground of William Shakespeare. After a pint at a riverside pub, we saw both the site of the original Globe theater, built in 1599, as well as the “new” one built in 1997 about 700 feet away from the original. Perhaps a high school teacher told me once, but I’d never fully realized that Shakespeare was not just a writer, but also a business person. He was part owner of the acting troupe that performed his plays, and he was also the part-owner of several theaters in this area that also produced his plays.
I didn’t see a play here, but if/when I go back, I think I would like to. When I initially heard about the reconstructed Globe theater, it struck me as simply a gimmick to profit off of tourists. A Disney version of history. When I saw it and heard about the passion of Sam Wanamaker, an American actor and director, I appreciated and admired the effort far more. In 1949, he was annoyed and shocked that the original site of the Globe theater was merely marked with a small, blackened plaque. He began spearheading the raising of money and research into recreating an accurate replica. Seeing it up close, it was very cool. It is a precise replica of the original (only due to fire codes it seats less people and has a fire exit) This theater is also the only building with a thatched roof in London!
After visiting this site, our pub crawl continued, propelling us forward three hundred years to the era of Charles Dickens, which is the subject of a future literary dispatch.
JD Trafford is the award winning author of six novels, including “Little Boy Lost” which has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide and his latest best-selling legal thriller “Without Precedent.” You can learn more about or purchase J.D. Trafford’s books at https://www.jdtrafford.com/the-books