Today I spent the day with historian and author Adrian Tinniswood at Hampton Court, one of the most astonishing historical royal palaces in England. Originally acquired by Cardinal Wolsey in 1514, the palace became home to Henry VIII, who began major building works in 1529. It has been closely connected with English monarchs ever since. However, for me, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Hampton Court, is its connection with Shakespeare. In 1603-4, Shakespeare and his players, the King’s Men, attached to the Globe theatre on Bankside, were summoned to Hampton Court to provide entertainment during the royal Christmas celebrations. They were lodged at the palace for three weeks and performed seven plays in the Great Hall built by Henry VIII. It is likely Shakespeare would have overseen the productions of his own plays, and perhaps even have acted on stage. The Great Hall is, aside from Middle Temple, I think the the only surviving theatrical space in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally rehearsed and performed. A large room with a raised dais at one end for the King and his family, the plays were probably staged at the opposite end, above which is a musicians gallery beneath a vast window.
So if you’d like to stand in the one of the only remaining theatrical spaces in which Shakespeare’s plays were performed during his lifetime, hie thee along to Hampton Court Palace.