Tired of all the well-worn paths when it comes to Shakespearean-influenced pub crawls? Sick to the back teeth of every tavern dubbing itself 'the one and only pub Shakespeare drank at?' Well don your ruffs, hoist up your pantaloons and disregard the mildest yearning to learn anything remotely linked to the Bard — this is the alternative Shakespeare pub crawl you never knew you needed! Just make sure you drink responsibly, and don't end up getting Bard barred.
1. The Cauldron, Stoke Newington
"Double, double toil and trouble..." at The Cauldron in Stoke Newington you can make like the three witches. Slip on a cloak, wield a magic wand, and use molecular mixology to brew some extremely drinkable elixirs. Maybe you can even magic yourself into an interesting person with a five-year fixed mortgage and an Ultimate Frisbee participation medal.
2. Shakespeare's Head, Holborn
It's your round, so duck into this perennially popular Wetherspoons to save some shillings! Among the Curry Club posters and pro-Brexit paraphernalia, you'll find some interesting Shakespearean titbits scattered on the walls, as well as the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet blown up massive on a wall in one of the bogs — and really, it doesn't get more romantic than that.
3. The Hung, Drawn & Quartered, Tower Bridge
This stately pub ordained with chandeliers, marble columns and gold framed historical portraits also boasts an unmissable view of the very tower in which Shakespeare villain/Leicester car park celeb Richard III is reported to have abducted his two infant nephews for safekeeping while he schmoozed his way to the crown. They also serve chicken wings! (The pub, not the nephews.)
4. The Swan, Bankside
What more fitting place to visit than a boozer neighbouring the Globe Theatre, which also lays on Bard-themed afternoon teas? The Midsummer Night's Dream tea — and its Love Potion cocktail made with Earl Grey infused gin and prosecco — sounds, well, dreamy. But as for the Macbeth afternoon tea coming in August... how are you meant to order it without bringing bad luck on yourself?
5. Bear & Staff, Leicester Square
Want to experience the feeling of a defenceless animal being harangued and bated by drunken theatre goers, just like in intervals at the original Globe Theatre? Simply observe the bar tenders working at the Bear & Staff, while nursing an overpriced craft ale!
Time to pop into an off licence, pick up a few tinnies and raise a can of Special Brew to the big man himself, at the William Shakespeare statue in the centre of Leicester Square. (While you're there, you can raise one to Indiana Jones, Mary Poppins and Bugs Bunny too.) Then hit the Leicester Square Theatre round the corner, to watch Sh*tfaced Shakespeare! (The theatre has four bars.)
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare perform Much Ado About Nothing at Leicester Square Theatre from 12 July-9 September 2023
Words: James Murfitt