‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears’; today marks a pretty special day in the literary calendar, for today is the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, the greatest of all England’s dramatists and undisputed “Bard of Avon”. Since his death in 1616, Shakespeare has gone on to become the world’s greatest and most widely regarded writer, and his plays are not only performed more than any other playwright, but have also been translated into every major living language throughout the world- pretty impressive right?
In celebration of the Bard’s birthday, we wanted to do something a little different. So, we perused a selection of Shakespeare’s plays to find out where in the UK this witty wordsmith preferred to base his dramas. Like many writers of his generation, Shakespeare thrived on the romance of Italy, so plenty of his more popular plays are set there. There are however, a few places in the UK where Shakespeare chose to spin a yarn or two- take a look at these below, you might just learn something!
Macbeth, The Scottish Highlands
As Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedy, Macbeth required a brooding and ominous backdrop to help bring this tale of witchcraft and evil to life. Where better then than the Scottish Highlands, a place of thunderous skies, bleak heathlands and mysterious folklore. It’s thought that the actual setting of Macbeth’s Castle was Inverness, though many acts were played out in the surrounding Highlands, including the infamous scene in which Macbeth encounters the three witches. As the play is based on true events, literary fans will appreciate Inverness’ dramatic modern castle, built on the site of its 11th century counterpart which housed the real players of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
As You Like It, The Forest of Arden
Some might argue that Shakespeare’s As You Like It is based in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, but we like to think it was set in the historical region of Arden, Warwickshire. The Forest of Arden is a historic region of England, stretching from the River Avon to the River Tame, and was once one of the most heavily forested regions of Britain. Now, few of Arden’s trees remain, yet the landscape still retains its pastoral appeal,
making it a popular destination for walking, cycling and golf. Plus, Arden is a stone’s throw from Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, so it’s a must-see destination on any literary tour.
Henry VI, Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle, described by many as England’s ‘definitive castle’, is used on a number of different occasions in Shakespeare’s history plays, highlighting the castle’s popularity in Elizabethan England. Kenilworth features in the second part of Shakespeare’s dramatic depiction of the life of Henry VI, and is thought to be the inspiration behind A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visit the castle and you’ll soon see why Shakespeare- amongst other literary figures- was inspired by Kenilworth. With its imposing keep and monstrously dense walls, this is one mighty stronghold that would have had the enemy quaking in their chainmail.
Now that we’ve exhausted our knowledge of Shakespeare’s favourite UK settings, we’d love to hear which of the Bard’s thirty seven plays you prefer, so let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Or, for your chance to take part in the birthday festivities for yourself, head to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where a special two day event dedicated to the famous playwright is due to take place. You can find out more about what’s going on for the bard’s birthday by clicking here. Alternatively, visit our Stratford Upon Avon cottages page for our complete range of accommodation that’s