Synopses & Reviews
Shakespeare never set a play in his own Elizabethan London. From the castle in Elsinore where Hamlet avenges his fatherand#8217;s death to Cleopatra
and#8217;s Alexandria at the height of the Roman Empire to the seaport town in Cyprus where we await the arrival of Othello, each of Shakespeareand#8217;s plays is set in a time or space remote from his primary audience. Why is this? How much did the Bard and his contemporaries know about the foreign lands his characters often inhabit? What expectations did an audience have if the curtains rose on a play which claimed to take place in ancient Troy or the Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre in northern Spain?
Mapping Shakespeareand#8217;s World explores these questions with surprising results. It has often been said that setting is irrelevant to Shakespeareand#8217;s playsand#151;that, wherever they are set, their enduring appeal lies in their ability to speak to broad questions of human nature. Peter Whitfield shows that, on the contrary, many of Shakespeareand#8217;s locations were carefully chosen for their ability to convey subtle meanings an Elizabethan audience would have picked up on and understood. Through the use of paintings, drawings, contemporary maps and geographical texts, Whitfield suggests answers to such questions as where Illyria was located, why The Merry Wives of Windsor could only have taken place in Windsor, and how two utterly different comediesand#151;The Comedy of Errors and Pericles, Prince of Tyreand#151;both came to take place in ancient Ephesus.
Just when one might think there was nothing more to be said about Shakespeare, with Mapping Shakespeareand#8217;s World, Whitfield offers a fascinating new point of view.
“A wide-ranging and insightful addition to the literature of travel.”
Colin Thubron, author of To a Mountain in Tibet
and#8220;An important book which uncovers the history of travel writing before we learned to call it travel writing.and#8221;and#8212;Condand#233; Nast Traveller
This is a book which every serious reader of travel books will find absorbing; It is probably the most thoughtful study of the subject since Paul Fussell's Abroad
and#8220;A wide-ranging and insightful addition to the literature of travel.and#8221;
Taking the form of fact-filled travelogues, stunt-writing spectaculars, or genre-blurring imaginative works, travel writing has never been more popular than it is today. But beyond the self-conscious literary artistry of todayandrsquo;s narratives lies a rich and well-documented history of travel writing, stretching back over several thousand years and incorporating the work of mariners and missionaries, diplomats and dilettantes alike.From the ancient world to the present, Peter Whitfield offers the first broad survey to range over the whole history of travel writing, highlighting more than one hundred texts, including works by Marco Polo, T. E. Lawrence, Christopher Columbus, Daniel Defoe, Joseph Conrad, and Captain Cook. Whether their travels were merely for pleasure or the result of exploration, military occupation, or trade, the writers discussed here all sought to reimagine their surroundings and, through their writings, reinterpret them for the reader. Because of that personal, interpretive approach, Whitfield shows, their work inhabits a strange borderland between fact and fiction. Over time, as our travel objectives have changed, so too has the tone of travel writing, eschewing the traditional stance of cultural superiority in favor of a deeper sensitivity to other peoples and places. The book is rounded out by numerous illustrations from manuscripts and books of travel in the collection of the Bodleian Library.and#160;A world-class examination of a little-explored genre, Travel: A Literary History
offers an accessible look at the history of travel writing that will make a great addition to any carry-on.
The locations of Shakespeareand#8217;s plays range from Greece, Turkey and Syria to England, and they range in time from 1000 BC to the early Tudor age. He never set a play explicitly in Elizabethan London which he and his audience inhabited, but always in places remote in space or time. How much did he and#8211; and his contemporaries and#8211; know about the foreign cities where the plays took place? What expectations did an audience have if the curtain rose on a drama which claimed to take place in Verona, Elsinore, Alexandria or ancient Troy?
This fully illustrated book explores these questions, surveying Shakespeareand#8217;s world through contemporary maps, geographical texts, paintings and drawings. The results are intriguing and sometimes surprising. Why should Loveand#8217;s Labourand#8217;s Lost be set in the Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre? Was the Forest of Arden really in Warwickshire? Why do two utterly different plays like The Comedy of Errors and Pericles focus strongly on ancient Ephesus? Where was Illyria? Did the Merry Wives have to live in Windsor? Why did Shakespeare sometimes shift the settings of the plays from those he found in his literary sources?and#160;and#160;and#160;
It has always been easy to say that wherever the plays are set, Shakespeare was really writing about human psychology and human nature, and that the settings are irrelevant. This book takes a different view, showing that many of his locations may have had resonances which an Elizabethan audience would pick up and understand, and it shows how significant the geographical background of the plays could be.
About the Author
Peter Whitfield is the former director of Stanfords International Map Centre in London. He is the author of numerous books, including Images of the World, A Universe of Books, and London: A Life in Maps.
Table of Contents
1. The Prehistory of Travel Writing
2. The Age of Discovery
3. The Seventeenth Century: The Non-conquerors
4. The Eighteenth Century: Travelling for Knowledge
5. The Nineteenth Century: The Theatre of the World
6. The Twentieth Century: No Foreign Land
Principal Works Discussed