What if Shakespeare and his friends had gotten together and carved their names on the wall of an inn made famous by Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales? The intriguing possibility of such a link between these two great English writers stems from an anecdote found in a little-known manuscript.
Unfortunately, the Tabard Inn burned down in the great Southwark fire of 1676, so there’s no way of knowing the truth for sure. But the Shakespeare graffiti story grabs our imagination even if it was only hearsay, and that tells us something about the intense hunger out there for more details about the playwright’s life.
Our guest is Martha Carlin, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was interviewed by Rebecca Sheir.
The title of this podcast episode is “Betwixt tavern and tavern.”
"Thou hast saved me a thousand marks in links and torches, walking with thee in the night betwixt tavern and tavern…" —Henry IV, Part 1 (3.3.43-45)
“Some Notes for my Perambulation in and round the Citye of London for six miles and Remnants of divers worthie things and men,” with reference to Shakespeare: “The Tabard I find to have been the resort Mastere Will Shakspear Sir Sander Duncombe Lawrence Fletcher Richard Burbage Ben Jonson and the rest of their roystering associates in King Jameses time as in the large room they have cut their names on the Pannels,” ca. 1643. Edinburgh University Library, MS La. II 422/211, fol. 8