You know, we never did get to London’s Globe Theatre, even though it had been on my original list. Nor did we go to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see his birthplace, or the pretty little cottage that was Anne Hathaway’s. And yet, I felt the presence of Shakespeare in so many other places, none more so than Italy. I sometimes forget how many of his plays are set in Italy, but driving around the country and seeing run-of-the-mill road signs for Mantua, Padua, and Verona makes Romeo and Juliet seem so much more real. I found myself wondering why he chose these particular cities, and how he had such intimate knowledge of them. And they actually still exist, and I was driving right by them! So weird. We even saw a sign for Aleppo, the place Macbeth‘s witches mention during one of their many nasty curses. As we drove, I imagined Romeo banished from his true love, only now I actually knew how far away he was banished! The literature geek in me even posted “Banished” as my facebook status as we drove through Padua, because I knew the location tagline would say -in Padua. Apparently I was the only one of my several hundred facebook friends who thought that was cute. Even my English teacher friends didn’t bite. Moving on.
Our travel book said you can even go see Juliet’s house in the fair city of Verona. I pointed out facetiously that this would be tricky since she was a fictional character. But I wasn’t quite so facetious when Dev reminded me where we actually live…and the fact that millions of tourists come every year to see Anne of Green Gable’s house. Right.
And then there’s Venice. Having walked through the Rialto Bridge, and seen the dozens of tiny shops still selling all manner of things, I can now imagine Shylock there counting his ducats, and Antonio trading goods in Merchant of Venice. Before that, it was difficult to visualize how a bridge could be a market place.
Another place that constantly evoked Shakespearean images and quotes in my head was Scotland. Driving from Edinburgh northward to Loch Ness, we saw signs for Cawdor, Scone, Fife, Forres, Inverness, and even saw Glamis Castle and Dunsinane Hill on the map. Having driven almost as far as Inverness, and knowing how long it took us in our Citroen Picasso, I realize what a mammoth journey it must have been for Macbeth and his cronies to get to Scone on horseback, or on foot, for the coronation – quite a hike! But then again, that’s fiction too…although we did see a huge mural at Edinburgh Castle that traced the line of the monarchy in Scotland, and Macbeth and Duncan are both there; we even saw the Stone of Destiny, on which they were supposedly crowned.
I guess the point is that even though we didn’t do any of the more direct Shakespeare touristy things, we still experienced, and talked about, Shakespeare. His influence is everywhere, not just in our language and our literature. And seeing some of these places, even fleetingly, makes his plays so much more real and relevant.
I hope that when our girls start studying them in school, they will take a little bit of that experience with them as well.