The location of William Shakespeare’s London home where the playwright wrote “Romeo and Juliet” has been identified for the first time, according to new research.
Theater historian Geoffrey Marsh spent a decade meticulously researching the home of the English dramatist and poet by cross-referencing official records to pinpoint where exactly Shakespeare lived during the 1590s.
Marsh’s quest began after The Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered in 2008. The historian wondered where Shakespeare was living when his plays were performed there, which predated The Globe as the playwright’s workplace.
It had previously been identified that the Shakespeare lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station, then known as the parish of St. Helens, after he was listed on taxpayer records in 1597/98, but the exact location was never identified.
The original 1598 St. Helens tax record. William Shakespeare’s name can be seen at the bottom. Credit: National Archives
According to Marsh, evidence suggests Shakespeare had lived in a property overlooking the churchyard of St. Helens as a tenant of the Company of Leathersellers, a guild that organized the Elizabethan leather trade.
While erratic spelling made it a challenge to decipher and interpret the documents, Marsh was was able to analyze records that were “remarkably” preserved, stretching back to the 1550s.
“The place where Shakespeare lived in London gives us a more profound understanding of the inspirations for his work and life,” said Marsh, who is also the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Department of Theatre and Performance.
“Within a few years of migrating to London from Stratford, he was living in one of the wealthiest parishes in the City, alongside powerful public figures, wealthy international merchants, society doctors and expert musicians.”
Historian Geoffrey Marsh analyzed archives that dated back to the 1550s. Credit: Paul Harries
The historian added that living in a place like London would have “enhanced Shakespeare’s status as he developed his career, sought a family coat of arms and planned to buy an impressive and expensive house in Stratford.”