This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of England’s greatest writer, the legendary playwright William Shakespeare. His many masterpieces have become invaluable cultural treasures, surviving their author to be retold in countless forms over the years. “They say, that they have measur’d many a mile, To tread a measure with you on this grass” – Love’s Labours Lost The Bard’s plays are most commonly talked about in terms of his creative use of language, and their emotive stories which span the ages, but sometimes overlooked is his use of romantic real-world settings to frame his tales. The city or country the playgoers are transported to is key to understanding the narrative. Feeling inspired? Travelling to and immersing yourself in these remarkable places is an unusual and innovative way to appreciate the Bard’s work. To celebrate the anniversary of the great writer’s death, we’ve come up with a list of our top five Shakespearean settings (and a few quotes to boot), as well as our suggestions for the best way to get there and soak up the culture in Europe .
The Settings of Shakespeare
Play(s): The Merchant of Venice, Othello
“All that glitters is not gold; Often have you heard that told” – The Merchant of Venice The world-famous floating city is featured in some of the most renowned Shakespeare plays; its romantic associations, vivid and appealing culture and truly unique aesthetic make it the perfect stage for the Bard’s masterful brand of storytelling. From tranquil gondola rides along the picturesque network of canals to discovering the intricate detail of Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice is a must-visit city.
“Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure; Like doth quit like, and Measure still for Measure.” – Measure for Measure Austria’s capital and largest city, Vienna is at once a thriving metropolitan hub and a beautiful monument to the past. It plays host to the ethical and judicial dilemmas of the “problem play” Measure for Measure (a label given to the more difficult to define Shakespeare plays). The city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the architecture and culture display layers of civilization, from Celtic through Baroque to sleek and modern.
Play(s): Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus
“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!” – Julius Caesar Formerly the capital of the greatest empire on Earth, Rome was the seat of the great Julius Caesar and the epicentre of culture in the western world. The base of Caesar’s power is suitably imposing, the iconic arches and columns of the architecture creating a magisterial sense of authority and cultural dominance. 2,000 years later the iconic buildings remain, and Italy’s capital is a thriving hub of culture, elegance and taste.
Play(s): Romeo & Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona
“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow” – Romeo & Juliet Arguably Shakespeare’s most successful and ubiquitous play, Romeo & Juliet is perhaps the greatest love story ever told. “In fair Verona, where we lay our scene” is the second line of the play, and Verona is nothing if not fair. A gorgeous sprawl of plazas and arched bridges, terraces, balconies and magisterial churches of white stone, Verona is a portrait of the essence of Italy.
Play(s): A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s most magical romantic comedy takes place in the rich forests surrounding this great city. Named for the ancient god of wisdom Athena and built around the remnants of the world’s most progressive ancient civilisation, Athens is a cultural and historical marvel. The well-preserved architecture is astounding, and the legacy of the birthplace of democracy is awe-inspiring to behold. Walking the Greek Islands Exit, pursued by a bear.