Treading in the footsteps of Shakespeare

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.

 The Great Hall at Hampton Court

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.

The lovely detail above, from the Tudor Garden, was restored by historical paint expert Patrick Baty. You can see more of his work at Hampton Court here.
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  • February 9, 2012 - 12:28 am | Permalink

    I went to Hampton Court last year specifically because of the Shakespeare connection. Pictured him grabbing a bite to eat out of that giant kitchen behind the scenes as well as treading the boards out front. Was fascinated and loved the entire place of course. Such an awesome place!

  • February 8, 2012 - 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Whenever in the UK I always try and get to Hampton Court. It’s one of those “home bases”. I never tire of it and never will. I have a fascination with the brickwork and space. Not to mention all the people associated with it. Lovely post btw. Last time I went to HC I went by boat which takes a while from Westminster but is totally worth it. Amazingly beautiful trip and nice to travel and arrive the way everyone did in Shakespeare’s day. As an aside its Instantly recognisable in Horrible Histories clips too. Great that they can film at historic sites exposing these historic palaces/houses in a new way, to a younger audience. Back in the UK in July and although much of the trip is not set, my day at Hampton Court was planned ages ago….

  • June 16, 2011 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    Thank you. Hampton Court is stunning. And of course you must visit Stratford on Avon too. Perhaps you could take yourself on a Shakespeare Tour?!

  • June 15, 2011 - 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Lovely post, some day I am going to come down to England and visit all the places connected with Shakespeare. Hampton Court sounds stunning. Absolutely steeped in history. You must have had a great day.

  • June 10, 2011 - 10:45 am | Permalink

    I grew up a few miles from the palace and went to college just down the road. I visited it many times, and it’s magic has never worn off. Aside from the connection with Shakespeare, it was also at the conference held there in 1604 in which James I determined to commission a new authorised version of the bible. Thus the palace plays host to the two most important literary icons in the English language – Shakespeare and the KJV.

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