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Around the world in Shakespeare’s plays

Sarah Drumm
22 April 2016

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this April, Sarah Drumm rounds up the best destinations to honour the Bard’s works and bring his plays to life

1. Verona, Italy
Verona’s status as a city of love was cemented in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a tale of two star crossed lovers who would rather die than be apart from one another. A wander through the northern Italian city should reinforce this reputation. Verona can be explored on foot, with a gelato in hand of course, with a stroll alongside its ancient walls, underneath the Roman gates and past its iconic amphitheatre. Verona claims to contain more Roman ruins than any other Italian city – including the homes of Montecchi and Cappelletti families – known in English as the Montagues and Capulets.
Shakespearean hotspot: Casa de Juliet, to see Juliet’s balcony. Via Cappello, 23 - 37121, Verona

2. Inverness, Scotland
Inverness is the Scottish highland town where King Macbeth lived in the ninth century. Not all of the landmarks mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth are still in existence today, but Scotland’s royal history is abundant in this town. Cawdor Castle, although built after King Macbeth’s death, is often visited by those wanting to experience how Macbeth, at that time Thane of Cawdor, and his Lady might have plotted their murders. Outside of the Shakespearean sites, Inverness can offer great seafood, fantastic natural scenery, and of course a chance to spot the Loch Ness Monster.
Shakespearean hotspot: The grounds of Inverness Castle – said to have been built on the same land where Macbeth killed King Duncan.

3. Athens, Greece
Athens is known as the world’s ancient capital, the birthplace of democracy and the home of philosophical excellence. It also happens to be the setting of one of Shakespeare’s most raucous plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream. After exploring the city – which is essentially its own open-air museum – take a trip outside of Athens to one of Greece’s many green spaces to see the unrestrained countryside where Shakespeare’s fairies cast their spells.
Shakespearean hotspot: Half an hour north of Athens is Parnitha forest, a woodland which also houses the grand Tatoi Palace.

4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is set on the ancient shores of Illyria, where its characters find themselves shipwrecked. Today, Illyria is better known as the modern-day coast that joins Slovenia, Montenegro and Croatia, and the play is said to have been set in what is now Dubrovnik. The city itself is charming, with its walled perimeter separating the car-free old town from the luscious Istrian sea. Narrow alleys are sprawled across the old town, with countless cafes and restaurants where you can sip wine and while the afternoons away. 
Shakespearean hotspot: Coincide your visit with the Midsummer Scene Festival, which celebrates Shakespeare’s plays with performances running from 20 June to 4 July.

5. Helsingør, Denmark
Fly into Copenhagen before travelling up to Helsingør, perhaps better known outside of Denmark as Elsinor, the location of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In recent years, the city has become a cultural hub for Denmark, with an annual festival, HamletScenen, held each August in honour of the Bard, in addition to a recently opened Maritime museum commemorating the town’s historic ports and the Culture Yard, which contains a public library, exhibition and concert spaces, all situated on the seafront.
Shakespearean hotspot: Kronborg Castle, referred to as Elsinore Castle in Shakespeare’s play, is the where Hamlet lived.

6. Rome, Italy
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a play about power and upheaval in Roman times. To get to grips with the struggles depicted in Julius Caesar, make sure to visit The Colosseum, Pantheon and Roman Forum, which were used for gladiator matches, executions and Emperors’ speeches. The city’s monuments reinforce its reputation as a fearsome ancient ruler. After taking in the sights, head to the hip neighbourhood of Ostience to indulge in another Roman tradition – feasting – in one of the many food markets found here.
Shakespearean hotspot: The Palazzo della Cancelleria is made from the scavenged remains of the Theatre of Pompey – where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Piazza della Cancelleria, Rome.

7. Beirut, Lebanon
Wildly popular when it was written, Pericles, Prince of Tyre is not so well-known these days, and is the only Shakespearean play to been made into a film just once. Set in Lebanon, the city of Tyre itself it is unfortunately off-limits due to political tensions, but Beirut provides a more than suitable stand-in. The city is packed with history, and still evokes ancient Phoenicia, as Lebanon was known in Shakespeare’s day. Beirut’s National Museum is filled with Roman statues and other age-old treasures, while the Martyrs’ Square is another historical focal point.
Shakespearean hotspot: 45 minutes north of Beirut, the ancient port town of Jbail summons the Phoenician setting of Pericles.