Shakespeare's Kings & Rogues

In November last year I began working with my friends over at Language of Form on the design and artwork for the forthcoming season of plays at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.
My initial brief was to research and design a set of heraldry for each of the performances in the 2010 programme, plus one extra to represent the season as a whole. There were a number of requirements and restrictions for each of the designs, most importantly they each had to reflect the content of the plays as well as being sympathetic to particular characters and themes. But the brief also stated that each of these designs must remain contemporary and refined, despite the historic content - not easy!
Work began by researching each play and highlighting imagery that can be used or translated for the designs. Once this had been done I then moved onto sifting through hundreds of examples of heraldry, shields and crests in order to find shapes, flourishes or objects that can be used and re-drawn for this project.
After days of research and sketching initial ideas (many rejected!) I continued to work very close with LoF to refine the final concepts.
This image shows the final approved line art for the whole season;
Once the line art had been approved it was a race against time to convert the drawings into black and white blocks. The final requirement in the brief required the heraldry to work as positive and negative shapes as the final outcome would comprise of the designs being visible through photographs. This meant some fast brushing up of my adobe illustrator skills to re-draw the shields as accurately as possible.
These are the final designs that are beginning to appear in the national press and poster sites around London and will throughout the Globe's season;
Kings and Rogues. This is the design which represents the season and incorporates apposing 'King' and 'Rogue' elements. The spear at the base of the design is re-drawn from Shakespeare's own family heraldry.
Macbeth. A tragic tale of regicide and it's aftermath, the design reflects upon the dark elements of the play with the witch's cauldron, the ghostly forest and the bloodied dagger. Being a Scottish play, the shield design incorporates the saltire whilst smothered with wild thistles.
Henry VIII. Henry was well known for his extravagant ways and this crest had to reflect this. The lion and dragon are re-drawn from original Henry VIII heraldry, as is the shape of the shield. The canon represents the one used in the first performance of the play in 1613, which is believed to be at blame for the original Globe burning down.
Henry IV Part 1. A design with strong war-themed objects, the Boars head at the top of this design represents The Boars Head Tavern where Henry and Sir John Falstaff (a drunkard represented by the barrel of ale) passed time with talk of war and rebellion.
Henry IV Part 2. This design incorporates Henry's coronation (crown) with elements of prostitution (the wilted flower)and prison (keys). The uneven scales relate to the bribery in the play.
The Merry Wives of Windsor. A quintessentially English play, the design had to reflect its colourful and musical characteristics, as well as the stags horns which Falstaff is tricked into wearing. The laundry basket represents the 'buck basket' where he was hidden (and subsequently tricked) by Mistress Ford.

Anne Boleyn. Written by Howard Brenton. The brief for this design was to create a crest which depicted the life of Anne Boleyn. The eagle is re-drawn from original Boleyn heraldry and the outer flourishes suggest a feminine yet tragic life. Inside the shield the fleur-de-lis signal to her royal marriage and the cross her religion. She was well-known as wearing a necklace carrying a B and of course her gruesome end at the blade of a sword.
Bedlam. Written by Nell Leyshon. Being much more difficult to research, this new play depicts life around London's Bedlam hospital. The brain with arrows represents the hospitals' mentally ill, the rabid dog it's madness and the conical flasks it's medicine. The Hangman's knot and the hands clutching keys, bottles, rags and chains all aim to conjure the desperation and the vile conditions inside Bedlam.

Thanks to Julie and Ryan for inviting me to work on this project with them.


  1. Those are very well done.

  2. John Robert Colombo15 June 2010 at 16:15

    Dear Mr. Hayes: I merely want to convey the delight I had seeing the crests or coats of arms and reading your comments on them. I was directed to your site by Mr. Budden. I had written to the Globe expressing pleasure in seeing the coat of Henry IV Part I which was reproduced in two colours in a quarter-page advertisement in "The Times Literary Supplement." Your comments add to my appreciation of the series of crests. You must have been a heraldist in a previous life! I am a Toronto-based writer with an interest in typography. No reply expected.
    John Robert Colombo

  3. Thanks Mr. Colombo. I've sent you an email...

  4. Really good. May use some elements for a tattoo


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