Whether in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond — or in various unknown, lost, or mythological places — Early Modern actors tread stage boards that could be familiar or unfamiliar ground. Shakespeare made some creative choices in the settings of his plays, often reaching across vast distances, time, and history. The great cities of Troy and Tyre no longer existed, and the Britain of Cymbeline and King Lear was long gone. Most of his London audience had never visited Italy, yet he set plays in Venice, Verona, Mantua, and Messina. With these wide ranging locations, he frequently united characters from different backgrounds, comparing their cultures, languages, and practices. How well do you know the numerous places to which Shakespeare invites his readers? Can you name the home countries of some of his most famous characters?[qzzr quiz=”111688″ width=”100%” height=”auto” redirect=”true” offset=”0″]
Do you have any Shakespearean geographical brain teasers to add? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured Image: Nova totius terrarum orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula (1606). Guiljelmo Blaeuw. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Suggested additional brainteaser:
Did Bohemia ever have a seacoast?
Correct answer: Yes
This is merely one example where Shakespeare’s alleged errors turn out to be errors on the part of Shakespeare scholars, who keep underestimating this genius.
Thank you for acknowledging that The Tempest takes place on a Mediterranean island. There has been a lot of nonsense about Bermuda, partly based on “the still-vex’d bermoothes,” which probably referred to a section of London beset (and “vexed”) by de-still-eries. The actual island seems to have been Vulcano, which fits every single characteristic of the island in the play.
Regarding A Winter’s Tale, Bohemia DID in fact have a sea coast between 1575 and 1609. Perhaps coincidentally, this time period coincides with Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford’s trip to Italy and the surrounding areas. So, “Shakespeare” was in fact, correct!
In 2GoV Launce must hurry after his master who is already “shipped” aboard a vessel bound for Milan. He is urged to “post after with oars,” i.e., row out to the ship which is anchored in the “road” waiting for the tide to ebb so it can start downstream to the Adriatic. Pathino even reminds Launce that should he “lose the tide” he will lose his master. To give us a better geographic (actually hydrographic) context, can anyone provide a tide table for the Adige at Verona?
Bohemia once had a sea coast in precisely the same way that England had (and still has) a Mediterranean coast—through short-lived treaty. So the correct answer is “No”.
“In which play does the master of geographically accurate detail give us an Italian Duke, a Spanish virgin, an English Madame and Austro-Hungarian Laws?”
And Isola Vulcano fits Prospero’s island like an adult elephant fits Baby’s First Romper suit, Prospero’s island is small, remote and (almost) uninhabited. Vulcano is large, populous and permanently in sight of the Italian mainland and the north coast of Sicily.
If this is really published by the OUP I am amazed at the use of English – “treaded”?
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