To the Elephant

to the elephant

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.
SEBASTIAN:
Do not, then, walk too open.
ANTONIO:
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.
SEBASTIAN:
Why I your purse?
ANTONIO:
Haply your eye shall light upon some toy
You have desire to purchase; and your store,
I think is not for idle markets, sir.
SEBASTIAN:
I’ll be your purse-bearer, and leave you for
An hour.
ANTONIO:
To th’Elephant.
SEBASTIAN:
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.

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