Literary London – Shakespeare in Southwark Cathedral
Our guides are getting ready for the Literary Footprints Festival in October, and so our blog is featuring some of the best of London’s Literary places.
The alabaster sculpture, made by Henry McCarthy in 1912, shows the world’s most famous playwright resting outside the Globe Theatre. He usually has a sprig of rosemary in his hand. The aromatic herb rosemary, as Ophelia says to her brother Lertes in Hamlet, is for remembrance; “pray, love remember”.
Although Shakespeare was never a regular worshipper in London, many members of his acting company were on the parish register of St Saviours Church, the name by which Southwark Cathedral was known during the bard’s lifetime.
Indeed, the famous first folio of Shakespeare’s plays, produced after his death by two members of his acting company – John Hemings and Henry Cordell – lists all the company’s members. Over half (but not including William Shakespeare) also appear on the parish register of St Saviours.
Immediately above the McCarthy sculpture is a delightful stained glass window which depicts many of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Designed and made by Christopher Webb, it was unveiled in 1954 by the celebrated British actress Dame Sybil Thorndike who made her stage debut in 1904 in a regional production of The Merry Wives of Windsor and went on to perform in hundreds off Shakespearean productions.
Neil, who is a qualified Southwark Cathedral guide as well as a Shakespeare admirer, will also show Literary Footprints walkers the ledger stone in Southwark Cathedral commemorating the death of Edmund Shakespeare, the bard’s younger brother who died at the tragically young age of 27.
Shakespeare on Bankside walkers will also find out how vanity killed the man who succeeded Shakespeare as the principal writer of the King’s Men, the bard’s acting company from 1603.