To celebrate Shakespeare Day, Tamsin Wressell picks out some of the destinations featured in the legendary Bard’s plays
Where: Elsinore (Helsingør), Denmark
One of the finest Renaissance castles in Northern Europe, Kronborg castle is famously the setting for most of the action in The Bard’s tragic masterpiece, Hamlet (there’s only one act set outside, in a nearby cemetery). The castle is the ideal setting for the plot — enclosed, with plenty of alcoves and pillars to hide spies scheming corrupt plans. Located north of Copenhagen, the castle holds performances of Hamlet every summer on an open-air stage in a courtyard. In the countryside nearby there are other castles, historic streets, Gothic churches and a medieval cloister. You can also easily visit the Swedish town of Helsingborg from Elsinore, with ferries running frequently from the port.
Love’s Labours Lost
Where: Navarre, Spain
Set in Shakespeare’s own time in a park outside the royal court of Navarre, the outdoor setting of Love’s Labours Lost was clearly chosen to convey a sense of freedom and fun. The present-day location is in the Basque Country, in Pamplona, the historical capital city of Navarre. Pamplona is home to one of the world’s most famous festivals, San Fermin, during which bulls are released and chased through the cobbled streets. Outside of the eight-day festival in July, Pamplona is a beautiful medieval destination to visit, with historic attractions, green parks and great tapas.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Where: Athens, Greece
Despite the main location being a magical place inhabited by fairies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins and ends in medieval Athens. The enchanted woodland on the outskirts of the city sets the scene for the play with the outdoors being used once again to indicate mischief and excitement. Elements of medieval Athens can still be seen today in the capital, mainly in the form of churches, monasteries and museums. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, Athens is steeped with other historic landmarks and ancient sites, while markets, street cafes and a relaxed lifestyle add to the appeal of the city.
Romeo and Juliet
Where: Verona, Italy
Although it mainly takes place in Verona, a small portion of Romeo and Juliet is set in the city of Mantua, in the Lombardy region. The Italian setting fed Elizabethan audiences with preconceptions of feuds, quick tempers, passion and violence, which is further emphasized by the hot temperatures of summer in Verona. Monuments from the Renaissance period in which Romeo and Juliet is set have been preserved in the city. These include the churches of Santi Nazaro e Celso and San Giorgio in Braida, the palaces of Pompeii and Canossa, and the gates of Porta Palio and Porta Nuova. There is, of course, also Casa di Giuletta, Juliet’s House, a tourist magnet ever since it was adopted as the setting for the famous fictional balcony where Romeo woos Juliet.
Where: Various locations, England and Scotland
Although there are a few English scenes, Macbeth takes place largely in Scotland. The scenes in Inverness, Dunsinane and Fife focus mainly on castle settings, although a military camp near Forres also features. The only English scene is at King’s palace in London. A number of historic castles are still intact and open to visitors in Scotland, while England is home to plenty of notable attractions relating to The Bard, including Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London and several places of interest at his birthplace, Stratford on Avon.