Behind the scenes: A travel guide to Shakespeare’s plays

Monday, 23 April 2012 1:08 PM

To celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday today and in fact the anniversary of his death too, we’re taking you on a tour of Shakespeare’s Europe, visiting some of the settings for his most famous plays. From touring eerie Glaims Castle in Scotland, home of Macbeth; to visiting a star-crossed lovers balcony in Verona from Romeo and Juliet; and searching the woods near Athens for fairies in A Mid Summer Night's Dream

Verona, Italy - “In fair Verona where we lay our scene ...” There’s no denying that Shakespeare loved Italy; many of his most famous plays are set there, including Romeo and Juliet, perhaps the most famous one of all, as well as Two Gentlemen of Verona. Like in the play itself, Verona is a romantic city full of grand piazzas and sweeping bridges, it's not heard to see why Shakespeare loved it so much. Here visitors can go on a guided tour of Shakespeare’s Verona and even visit Juliet’s house. Having no actual connection to Shakespeare’s fictional character, it’s still a great place to act out the famous balcony scene and post a letter to Juliet in the wall.


Athens, Greece - The Greek capital is the setting for one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays - A Mid Summer Night’s Dream and the lesser known Timon of Athens. Although most of these plays are set in a mythological Greece, there are still parts which are set in the city itself. Named only as a ‘wood near Athens’, the setting for the majority of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream is not really known, although you could always go walking in the forests around the city to see if you can spot any fairies. Also visit the Acropolis where a few of the scenes are set.


Venice, Italy - Another of Shakespeare’s favourite cities was Venice, the setting of a number of his plays, including The Merchant of Venice and the beginning of Othello. While there are many arguments to whether Shakespeare actually visited Venice or not, he certainly depicted the elegant city pretty accurately and you can visit many of the places mentioned in the plays. You can also explore the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, where the Jewish moneylender Shylock is thought to have lived in The Merchant of Venice.


Glamis, Scotland - Glamis is the setting for Shakespeare’s story of Macbeth and visitors can actually visit the real Glamis Castle, which lies in eastern Scotland, just north of the city of Dundee. As well as being the setting of the gruesome murders in Macbeth, the Glamis Castle was also the childhood home of the Queen Mother. Among the oldest and perhaps eeriest part of the castle is Duncan’s Hall, which commemorates the killing of King Duncan by Macbeth. You can also visit the real Birnam Wood, home of the three witches, which lies west of Glamis and just north of Perth.


Rome, Italy - Back again to Italy, but this time to its ancient past with plays such as Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra. Although most of Shakespeare’s Roman plays were set in ancient Rome, most of them were based on real historical events, so there are many attractions where you can go to see places mentioned in his plays. Among others is The Forum, where Marc Antony speaks over Caesar’s corpse and the place where Caesar actually died - the famous Colosseum.


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