Explore iconic places from the playwright's life, and the locations said to have inspired him
William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language. His influence is far-reaching, his narratives ubiquitous, and his words often quoted, despite him living over 400 years ago. If you've ever wondered what life was like at the time for the world's most famous playwright, then take a virtual tour with us of these important places from his own story.
Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
The bard is believed to have been born here in 1564, in this restored half-timbered house in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. The house would have been considered quite large at the time, and was originally divided into two parts: one side for living, one side for his father to conduct his glove-making business from. Shakespeare married at the age of 18, but after the birth of his twins in 1585, few historical traces of him exist until he appeared on the London theatre scene in 1592.
The Theatre, Shoreditch
Tucked away in corner of East London you can find this graffiti homage to the first permanent, purpose-built theatre in London associated with Shakespeare. Simply called The Theatre, it was built in 1576 and it was here that Shakespeare wrote and performed as part of an acting company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men. In 1598 the company had a disagreement with the landowner of the area, so dismantled The Theatre, and transported the materials across the river Thames to construct a new stage: the Globe.
Globe Theatre, Southwark
The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 and then destroyed by a fire in 1613, when a theatrical cannon used during a performance of Henry VIII misfired and ignited the wooden beams. It was then rebuilt in 1614 and then demolished for the last time in 1644. The precise location of the building remained unknown until a small part of the foundations was discovered underneath a car park in 1989. The remains sit underneath a listed building so haven't been fully excavated, but a plaque commemorates the spot.
Shakespeare's Globe, Southwark
Round the corner from where the original theatre stood you can find Shakespeare's Globe, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse. The design process was difficult, as the first Globe accommodated 3,000 spectators in a style that didn't conform to modern-day safety requirements. As a result the current-day version only houses 1,400, but is considered a faithful reconstruction, made entirely out of English oak with no structural steel. It opened in 1997 and stages plays every summer.
The George Inn, Southwark
The George Inn is an Elizabethan-era public house not far from where the Globe Theatre stood in Shakespeare's day. It's suspected that the playwright would have frequented it, especially as it was a famous coaching inn with a courtyard where theatrical productions would have been performed. The structure is what's known as an "inn-yard", a pub built with three sides around a yard, with double-tiered galleries where the audience could stand. It still operates, but only one side of the original facade remains.
Juliet's Balcony, Verona
Many of Shakespeare's works are said to be inspired by real life stories, including the doomed romance Romeo and Juliet, which mirrors some real-life inhabitants of 13th-century Verona in Italy. Although the connection is disputed, this was the house of the Capello family, now known as the Casa di Giulietta for its resemblance to the name Capulet. It has become a tourist attraction for its "Juliet" balcony, where some believe the real-life Romeo and Juliet would have murmured sweet nothings to one another.
The picturesque renaissance Kronborg castle located in the town of Helsingør, Denmark, is known to many as the setting of Shakespeare's famous tragedy Hamlet. Shakespeare never visited the castle himself, and it's supposed that he heard about the castle from someone that did—perhaps one of his actors who performed at Kronborg while touring Europe. Shakespeare called Hamlet's castle "Elsinore", which is the anglicized name for Helsingør.
The story goes that Queen Elizabeth I visited Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire in July 1575, and was wooed by nobleman and patron of the arts Robert Dudley with lavish pageants, fireworks, plays and banquets. Crowds of locals would gather to witness the festivities, and it's thought that the young William Shakespeare could have visited from nearby Stratford-up-Avon, gaining inspiration for a future life in the performing arts, as well as for his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespeare's New Place
New Place was Shakespeare's last residence in Stratford-upon-Avon and is where he died in 1616. The house no longer exists, and is now the site of a memorial garden. At the time of his death, he had written approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems. His works still remain extremely popular today and are continually studied, performed and re-interpreted all over the world.