Share this page

Geography of Shakespeare's Plays

With Margaret Drabble

Could the plays have been written by somebody who never left England?


Drabble: Shakespeare’s geography was patchy. He gave Bohemia a seacoast and a desert, which many, including Ben Jonson, have delighted to ridicule; but A Winter’s Tale is a romance, and accuracy was not his aim. Illyria in Twelfth Night is also a mythical place of dreams, a version of Elysium. His Italian cities, particularly Verona and Venice, glitter with Renaissance glamour, and one would like to think he might have been there; but equally he could and would have talked to travellers, seen paintings, read accounts, and constructed from them the lively cities we see on stage. 

It was not necessary for him to go to Rome to write his Roman tragedies: he found the Forum and the Capitol in Plutarch. He travelled in books and in his imagination, as writers do; and as the greatest writer of them all, he did it supremely well. His Egypt, with its flies and gnats of Nile, is as real as the Forest of Arden.

Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield in 1939, educated at Cambridge, worked briefly as an actress with the RSC, and then became a writer, and author of seventeen novels and various works of non-fiction.

Discover Shakespeare's family homes

Find out more

Learn about the man from Stratford

William Shakespeare
Where Shakespeare's story started Relive Shakespeare's love story Walk in Shakespeare's footsteps