Locations used in Shakespeare plays

William Shakespeare spent the majority of his life between London and his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and while much of his work is set in his home country, most of his stories take place further afield, in mainland Europe and beyond. Of the 49 countries or empires used as settings in Shakespeare's 37 canonized plays, the most frequently used location is England itself, which was used in 13 of his stories. Shakespeare's histories make up the majority of these stories, as they deal primarily with the lives of English monarchs (although many of these are also set in France, as the crowns were connected during the reign of the Plantagenets), while only one of Shakespeare's comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, takes place in England.

Romantic settings

Italy is the second most frequently used location in Shakespeare's plays, even though it did not exist as a united country in Shakespeare's lifetime. Although there is little evidence that he ever left England, Renaissance Italy, with it's quarreling states and ethnically diverse trading cities, allowed Shakespeare to establish a more romantic and complex background for his stories. Italy's ancient history also provided the setting of some of Shakespeare's tragedies, such as Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, however these stories have been categorized separately as they took place across the Roman Empire, which stretched beyond Italy, as far as Northern Africa and the Middle East (Ancient Greece has also used this specification).

To see or not to see?

There were also some locations that were used only once by Shakespeare, but the stories have become synonymous with their location. Macbeth, for example, is commonly referred to as "the Scottish Play", due to the superstition surrounding its production (many struggling theaters would put on Macbeth as a last-ditch attempt to reverse financial problems, however they did not always succeed and Macbeth became synonymous with theaters going out of business), and today fans can even travel along the 'Macbeth Trail' and visit locations from the story. Kronborg Castle in Denmark has also become a popular tourist attraction for Shakespeare fans, as it was the setting for Shakespeare's longest and most performed play; Hamlet. Other popular Shakespearean landmarks are the Globe Theater in London, his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Juliet's balcony in Verona (even though there was no mention of a balcony in Romeo and Juliet).

Frequency of countries or areas used as locations* in William Shakespeare plays

Number of plays set in this country
Ancient Rome/Roman Empire5
Ancient Greece5
Unknown/Fictional Location2
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Release date

October 2019



Survey time period

1589 to 1613

Supplementary notes

* This only includes locations in which a significant part of the story takes place. For plays set in ancient times, the empire to which they belonged has been used. For plays set later, the current country has been used. For example, this means that plays set in Ancient Rome (which also may have taken place in the Middle East or North Africa) have been classified here as "Ancient Rome/Roman Empire", whereas stories set in later times in Sicily, Venice and Verona have been classified as taking place in "Italy".

Release date is date of extraction.

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Statistics on "Theatre and the West End in the United Kingdom (UK)"

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