400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death marked with Poems on the Underground

04 July 2016

Today, Transport for London launched a new set of Poems on the Underground to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

The three works by Shakespeare that will be featured on Tube trains across the network are Sonnet 116, Ariel's merry song from The Tempest and more sober lines from King Lear.

Also featured are three poems written in response to Shakespeare's works, by the Romantic poet P.B. Shelley and by two contemporary poets; the distinguished Belfast poet Michael Longley and Carol Ann Duffy, the UK's Poet Laureate.

The poems - which will be displayed for twelve weeks - form part of London's wider celebration of the playwright, which included a special edition Tube map where station names were replaced with famous characters, plays and modern adaptions of the Bard's works.

Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, said: `Poems on the Underground is a much loved part of our city, and it is fitting that for this year, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the selection brings a range of his work from sonnets to his plays. Showing Shakespeare's work alongside contemporary poets inspired by him is a wonderfully fitting tribute.'

Judith Chernaik, writer, editor and founder of Poems on the Underground, said: `It's a special pleasure to be joining celebrations of Shakespeare, the most international of great English poets, whose works have been translated into every world language and whose plays are performed by theatre companies, amateurs and schoolchildren across the world.'

Poems on the Underground, founded in 1986, aims to bring poetry to a mass audience. It helps to make journeys more stimulating by showcasing a diverse range of poetry, including classical, contemporary and international poets in Tube train carriages across London. The programme has inspired similar displays on public transport in cities worldwide, from New York and Paris to Moscow and Shanghai. Poems on the Underground is supported by Transport for London, Arts Council England and the British Council.

For more information about Poems on the Underground, please visit tfl.gov.uk/poems.


Notes to Editors

  • PDFs of the poems are available from the TfL Press Office on request
  • Sonnet 116: 'Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. . ..' A popular love poem often featured in marriage ceremonies today - although Shakespeare hints that at least one of the loving partners is likely to stray, as in the famous definition of love: "It is the star to every wand'ring bark, /Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken."
  • Ariel's song, from The Tempest: 'Where the bee sucks, there suck I / In a cowslip's bell I lie' --- a merry celebration of summer.
  • King Lear:
    'Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
    That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
    How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
    Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
    From seasons such as these? O! I have ta'en
    Too little care of this. . ." (III. 3. 28-36)
  • Poems on the Underground is generously supported by London Underground (TfL), Arts Council England and the British Council. Poems are selected by writer Judith Chernaik and poets Imtiaz Dharker and George Szirtes. Posters are designed by Tom Davidson, and are available from the Poetry Society and London Transport Museum.
  • London Transport Museum is staging an exhibition of forty poem posters celebrating 30 years of Poems on the Underground, running from April 29th for three months.
  • A free leaflet of '30 Poems for 30 Years', published in celebration of Poems on the Underground's 30 years, is available from London Transport Museum and selected Tube stations.