It seems strange, but the boisterous, bustling, familiar precincts of London that Shakespeare trod have mostly vanished from sight. The Great Fire that devastated London in 1666 swept the core of the City into ash and ruin. Almost every building or church of note that lay west of the Tower, with the exceptions of the areas around Bishopsgate and Aldgate, were laid to waste. From the Tower to the Fleet, Tudor London was mostly devastation. The London we see today was built on its bones.Share
To understand the London of the playing troupes, you must first seek the roots of the city, the ebb and flow of its tides, particularly the torrent of change that was engulfing it throughout the reign of the Tudors....and what London meant for players, playwrights and theatre.
Rooted in commerce & trade, fed by the river Thames, inculcated with a sense of purpose and centrality and commercial drive, London was the dominant metropolis of Britain. 400 years later Disraeli coined it well when he described the City as "that great cesspool into which all the loungers of the Empire are irresistibly drained”.
Prior to the 15th century London had not been a large or overly populous city in a thousand years. London in the Tudor era had a dense, noisome population estimated between 160,000 and 200,000 people, all crammed into a few square miles of buildings. This density of population achieved during the Tudor era opened up the opportunity for a more robust and permanent situated forms of entertainment rather than the opportunistic and transactional formats previously used. In short, an audience was now waiting. (Read more.)