I once reckoned Shakespeare named several inns.
The Boar’s Head
This is the best recognised, the usual resort for Falstaff and his cronies.
Hold it right there: the two references in II Henry IV are only in stage-directions (II.iv and III.iii) and similarly a stage direction in II Henry IV (II.iv). A bit earlier (II.ii) in II Henry IV, there’s a cryptic reference:
PRINCE HENRY: Where sups he? doth the old boar feed in the old frank?
BARDOLPH: At the old place, my lord, in Eastcheap.
This allusion, says A.R.Humphreys, editing the now-discontinued Arden text:
is the nearest Shakespeare comes to naming the Boar’s Head Tavern — ‘the olde Taverne in Eastcheap’ of F[amous] V[ictories of Henry V — i.e. the ur-text ].
Humphreys then quotes from Shakespeare’s England; an Account of the Life and Manners of his Age, a source-book from 1916-1917 which has been ruthlessly pillaged, often without attribution, ever since:
This famous hostel … was on the N. side of Gt. Eastcheap. … The tavern abutted at the back on St Michael’s in Crooked Lane, and was just where the statue of William IV now stands.
However, says Humphreys, further pillaging that source:
There is no evidence that it existed in Henry IV’s time; the first reference to it as a tavern dates from a lease of 1537.
Oh, and by the way, don’t go looking for the statue in that location. When the King William Street traffic was sorted (You think? Never travelled on the Route 43?) in 1936, the sailor king was shifted to Greenwich Park. Worth a visit, because, if approached from the left side, William’s telescope could be misinterpreted.
The miscue might be suggested by William’s curious sex-life. He shacked up with Dorothea Bland, a.k.a. Mrs Jordan, an actress from Waterford. Together they had a brood of at least ten children, all illegitimate, and collectively (from the father’s title) the Fitzclarences.
To alleviate his debts with a parliamentary subscription, William was induced into a legitimate marriage to Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, from whom the Australian city takes its name.
Other named Shakespearean resorts
One play that didn’t, just didn’t appear on school syllabuses was Measure for Measure. It was treated as a ‘problem play’, not just because of the sexual theme, but because its structure is dodgy, and no-one is wholly convinced it’s a ‘comedy’.
In Act II, scene i Pompey, servant to Mistress Overdone, is interrogating Froth, a foolish gentleman, before Duke Angelo:
He, sir, sitting, as I say, in a lower chair, sir; ’twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you have a delight to sit, have you not?
The Bunch of Grapes is a generic name for boozers — and this one is implied to be a low dive:
this house, if it be not a bawd’s house, it is pity of her life, for it is a naughty house.
In The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, scene iv, Tramio encounters ‘the Pedant’, outside the house of Baptista. ‘The Pedant’ claims a previous association:
… but I be deceived Signior Baptista may remember me,
Near twenty years ago, in Genoa,
Where we were lodgers at the Pegasus.
The Comedy of Errors has Antipholus of Ephesus telling Angelo to rush home and collect a chain that will be a way of seducing mine hostess there:
Get you home
And fetch the chain; by this I know ’tis made:
Bring it, I pray you, to the Porpentine;
For there’s the house: that chain will I bestow —
Be it for nothing but to spite my wife —
Upon mine hostess there: good sir, make haste.
Finally, in Twelfth Night, Act III, scene iii, we arrive at one that we ought to be able to locate. Antonio is none too keen to be seen in the streets because of ‘previous’ with Duke Orsino. He passes his wallet/purse to Sebastian and tells him:
Hold, sir, here’s my purse.
In the south suburbs, at the Elephant,
Is best to lodge. I will bespeak our diet
Whiles you beguile the time and feed your knowledge
With viewing of the town. There shall you have me.
Which, too often, the schoolmen try to associate with the Elephant and Castle, in Southwark. Just down the road from the South Bank and Shakespeare’s Globe. After all, The Globe was put up around 1599, and Twelfth Night dates from a couple of years later.
That Bill Shagsper would have needed a hostelry in the neighbourhood.
Too convenient, I fear.
The Elephant and Castle would, indeed, have been a coaching inn, serving routes to Kent and the south coast: it sits conveniently at the junction of the modern A2 (the Dover Road) and the A3 (the Portsmouth Road). Unfortunately there is no record of a pub of that name, at this site, before the reign of George III.
Those medieval misericords and choir-stall ‘poppyheads’ include several elephants. The earliest seems to be at Exeter, from around AD1240. There’s another at Manchester, and one at Chester. The latest, early sixteenth century, is down the road here at Beverley Minister — but better is the elephant in Beverley’s St Mary’s Church. All derive from medieval bestiaries.
That takes us to the liveried companies, each of which would have a strong church connection. In the late sixteenth century the Worshipful Company of Cutlers was granted a crest: an elephant bearing a castle.
There was, it seems, a cutler’s shop nearby — and that’s a better origin than various perversions of La Infanta de Castilla, for one or other royal bride.
But here’s an off-the-wall thought
Georg Ludwig became George I, King of Great Britain and Ireland, by default:
- his nominal religion fitted the job description;
- cousin Anne spawned regularly, but none of her brats made it to adulthood. Even William, Annes’ son and the Great Protestant Hope, fell foul of meddling medics, shuffled off his mortal coil, aged eleven, and so provoked the Act of Settlement, 1701;
- the Scots were suborned by English threats of trade embargoes to go along with a continued joint monarchy (the Act of Security, 1704);
- a whole catalogue of uncles, who would nominally have preceded him, disqualified themselves by premature deaths, failures to produce male heirs (that dratted Salic Law, which prevented Little Vicky getting Hanover) and penchants for boyfriends;
- mother Sophia (by most accounts, quite a bright lady) pegged it a few weeks too soon;
- nobody came up with the idea of a potion to squelch Georg and the Hanoverian males, and so improve the royal gene pool, and tgive his sister, Sophia Charlotte (another bright lady, who had to settle for being Queen of Prussia) a clear run.
So Georg got his regal crown by Anne’s death (1 August 1714). It took him until 18 September to show up in England, with a company of eighteen cooks and — note this — two mistresses. He never learned to speak English, which suited his Whig ministers very nicely, thank you. To show their gratitude the Whigs amended the Act of Settlement to allow Georg leave to make repeated trips back to Hanover.
The Elephant and the Maypole
Georg had particular tastes in his female company, all on the ‘substantial’ side. Arlene Foster would have been in with a chance.
The very-political marriage to his cousin Sophia Dorothea, then aged just sixteen (another bright lady) was — shall we say — ‘open’. She was short of avoirdupois, and a bit of a looker, which is more than any image of Georg ever managed to convey. She resisted the marriage as much as she could, and fainted when she was introduced to her prospective groom. Sophia Dorothea, scorned and neglected, formed an over-close attachment to dashing Swede Philip Christoph von Königsmarck (and his saucy and revealing letters to her became public knowledge). Sophia Charlotte and Philip Christoph were on the point of flitting off, when he was cruelly done down by the court guards, and she was whisked off to spend the rest of her life in captivity. On her death-bed she cursed Georg, and predicted he would die within a month: he obliged.
Georg’s tupping-list included Sophia Charlotte von Kielmannsegg (as right: and that would be a posted up image), the married daughter of his father’s mistress — and, to common gossip, thereby his own half-sister. The sexual relations between Georg and Sophia Charlotte were always formally and firmly denied: but the courtiers knew and chattered about the bedroom goings and (err) comings.
Sophia Charlotte came wholesale, a large lady: hence, when the English were able to snigger, ‘The Elephant’.
The ‘official’ mistress was Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg, by whom he had three illegitimate daughters, all to be awarded titles. Melusine acted the part of Georg’s spouse, but — to those sniggering English detractors — was ‘The Maypole’ (by the look of her portraits, only because she was a whit less gross than ‘The Elephant’).
There was, it seems, a risqué line about Georg and Sophia Charlotte: ‘the king in his castle’.
Sarf Lunnen humour could easily twist that.