William, William …… wherefore art thou?


It seems perfectly apposite that in the month captured within “the lovely April of her Prime”, [Sonnet III c. 1609] the site of Shakespeare’s London residence has been identified.

After ten years research, dedicated theatre historian, Geoffrey Marsh has truffled out the precise location as      35 Great St Helen’s, EC3 at which was written, inter alia, Romeo and Juliet. Sends a positive thrill down the spine to discover the place whence sprang lines transplanting us to the Verona of 1597/98.

Appropriate, then, to view its location at a distance.

Our shot shows the Manhattanizing of the City. The gap between Tower 42 (NatWest Tower as was) on the right is separated from the thicket on the left by Bishopsgate. It is exactly at that point where St Helen’s church is sited. The graveyard over which his rooms looked is gone, the house too. But ground beneath our feet is the ground that once was beneath his. Ain’t that utterly scintillating?

St Helen’s encircled [with Spital Fields top right]                                                 Image courtesy of Geoffrey Marsh/Jack Delaney

Mr Marsh – director of the V&A’s Theatre and Performing Arts department – has delivered up to us a veritable time machine by virtue of Research. It is as compelling an ignition to the imagination as anything could be: like directly plugging into the socket of history. 

Shakespeare was a tenant of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers, miraculously still located in St Helen’s. 

Alas Romeo would now be hard pressed to wonder          “… what light through yonder window breaks?” given that over St Helen’s there loom not gothic glories to God but millennial mountains to mammon.

Purple reign

Who's Queenie?

Who’s Queenie?

We’re awash with anniversaries and this year, an annus horribilis for the dazzling array of stars who’ve fallen from the firmament [Prince being the latest], entwines co-incidences. This day is the Ninetieth birthday of Elizabeth II and this year, the 400th anniversary of the demise of a poet who delighted Elizabeth I: there seems something astoundingly connected, neatly folded, meshed even.

When Republicans chant that a Monarchy is a constitutional anachronism which ought to be abolished, the alternatives posited seem somehow deficient in pomp, solemnity, awe-striking ability. Let’s face it: countries require a figure-head and foisting that crushing responsibility onto a normal human being, ill-prepared for devoting themselves to a life of duty, has been proven over and over as an omni-shambles.

However one feels about who is or isn’t Queenie, it is possible to ponder on the steadiness her course has charted. It links with all who came before. This anchoring provides stability. Taking for granted that seam through history tears at the fabric of who we are. And as Lear says to Gloucester “through tattered clothes great vices do appear”.