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Globe(a)l Shakespeare

Prepared by Danuta Goc³awska from TTC in Radom

On May 1st 2004 Poland together with 9 other countries joined the European Union. The fact evoked different emotions in different parts of the continent. Young people expressed enthusiasm that from now on they would be able to travel freely from country to country although many of them have problems with finding Munich or Edinburgh on the map. On the other hand, a certain Dutch tour guide in Amsterdam was genuinely surprised that Latvia was in Europe.


We are all Europeans but we do not know our neighbours well. It could be the aftermath of the 60 years of cold war which effectively divided the continent into 2 parts. This division caused the continent to drift apart and some believe it lacks the feeling of unity that was a common thing in medieval or Renaissance Europe. People of former epochs seem to have known Europe better than us and to have travelled more extensively. You do not believe me, do you? Well, the evidence is easily found in literature. When you scrutinise the legends of the Round Table, geographically they cover vast stretches of Europe from the Scottish islands to southern France. The Wife of Bath from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” during her pilgrimages visited Spain (Santiago), Rome, Bologne, Cologne and her fashionable clothes were from Ypres and Gent (Belgium).


The most renowned English poet, William Shakespeare, produced 39 plays. His history plays are prevailingly set in a variety of European countries, e.g. Greece, Navarre, Italy, France and today’s Austria. While many of his tragedies tend to favour ancient Rome (Titus Andronicus, Julius Ceasar, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra) or Athens (Timon of Athens) as a location, some use European countries as their background (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello).


To give you an opportunity of getting better acquainted with Shakespeare’s plays as well as following his characters footsteps, here is a little quiz for you that shows how European – which in his days still meant “global” – Shakespeare was. Click the link for Glob Quiz.

For a map with the towns mentioned by Shakespeare go to:

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