British Columbia

Shakespeare's London mapped online by UVic researchers

Thursday is believed to be William Shakespeare's 451st birthday, and thanks to a project in B.C., you can now take a virtual stroll through the Bard's old stomping grounds in London.

The Bard would have celebrated 451st birthday on Thursday

A portrait of William Shakespeare attributed to a little-known artist named John Taylor. (Sang Tan/AP Photo)

Thursday is believed to be William Shakespeare's 451st birthday, and thanks to a online project at the University of Victoria, anyone can take a virtual stroll through the playwright's old stomping ground in London.

The Map of Early Modern London project has created an interactive, digital version of a map, which was originally cut from wood in 1561, but had since been lost to history. The earliest version researchers had to work with is from 1633.

"We started with a map that was missing a little bit of information, but otherwise presents this really wonderful picture of London as Shakespeare would have seen it when he came to London in the late 1580s or 1590s," said project director Janelle Jenstad.

The huge research team filled in the missing information, and have labelled neighbourhoods and features such as streets, landmarks, waterways, taverns, churches and brothels.

"People can come to our map and they can select all of the gates in the wall for example, or the wall, and those will automatically colour in so you can see the shape of the wall," said Jenstad.

UVic's Map of Early Modern labels streets and landmarks from 17th century London, including Silver Street, where William Shakespeare resided. (Map of Early Modern London/Facebook)

Jenstad said project started as a way to help students better understand Shakespeare's plays.

"There's that extra layer of meaning in those plays that's lost to us unless we're prepared to enter that space virtually and understand the Tower of London was the first thing that you saw when you walked out of the Globe Theatre and looked north," she said.

Jenstad said Shakespeare likely celebrated most of his birthdays at work.

"He probably woke up in the morning ... in his lodging on Silver Street, had breakfast of some sort in an 'ordinary' — a type of a restaurant where people took most of their meals — and then he probably walked to the theatre."

To hear the full interview with Janelle Jenstad, listen to the audio labelled: A map of Shakespeare's London.

Watch Bard on the Beach artistic director Christopher Gaze sing Happy Birthday to Shakespeare