Most people’s ideas about the Elephant and Castle area of south London are, I think, that it is modern, and frankly a bit gritty. But did you know it features in William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night? Twelfth Night was first performed on 6 January 1601 as part of Queen Elizabeth I’s Christmas celebrations and then had its first public performance at the Middle Temple.
Act III, Scene III:
A street. A conversation between Antonio, a sea Captain, and Sebastian, who has been shipwrecked.
Do not, then, walk too open.
It doth not fit me. 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.
Why I your purse?
Haply your eye shall light upon some toy
You have desire to purchase; and your store,
I think is not for idle markets, sir.
I’ll be your purse-bearer, and leave you for
I do remember.
The circumstances under which I was drawing the ‘idle markets’ of Elephant and Castle on Saturday 14 March 2020, were unexpected. Urban Sketchers London had scheduled a sketchcrawl there. Suddenly, London was hit by anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. We decided to cancel the meet-up with 24 hours’ notice. I was sketching alone at the meeting point in case people had not got the cancellation message – my sketch is above. No-one turned up but me.