Shakespeare in Italy

6 Shakespearean plays that are set in Italy

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of all time. It is not clear if Shakespeare ever visited Italy during his lifetime however, many of his plays are based there. It’s interesting, then, that nearly a third of his plays are set on the boot-shaped peninsula when he never visited Italy!

He clearly had a fascination with this alluring country, and who could blame him? Italy truly is a magical place with scenery, cities, and culture that are second to none. Here are six of Shakespeare’s plays famously set in Italy, with locations you can still explore today.

#1 All’s Well That Ends Well | Florence

“All’s Well That Ends Well” is a complicated tale of love and war whereby Helena is in love with Bertram and the feeling is not mutual. She follows Bertram to Paris and compels him to marry her, but he flees to Florence to fight in the Tuscan War. After much intrigue and conflict, Bertram accepts Helena as his wife and they live happily ever after. Both Florence and Tuscany are featured throughout this play and are ideal destinations for any Italian tour.

#2 “The Merchant of Venice” | Venice

“The Merchant of Venice” follows a young man named Bassanio who desperately needs a loan to woo a wealthy woman. The majority of the play takes place in the Jewish ghetto area of Venice, which can still be visited today. Visit places like Doge’s Palace and The Rialto Bridge which are settings for many scenes.

#3 “Romeo and Juliet” | Verona

“Romeo and Juliet” is Shakespeare’s ultimate tragic love story between two star-crossed lovers from fair Verona, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. With their two noble families at war with each other, Romeo and Juliet marry in secret. Their union meets a shocking and tragic end. Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta) is in Verona and is where the famous line, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” is recited.

#4 “Much Ado About Nothing” | Sicily

Set in Messina, Sicily, “Much Ado About Nothing” is a comedy full of fun, frivolity, and misunderstandings. The play is centered around two couples on their path to true love. The mistaken identity is a common Shakespearean technique, and this play uses it to a hilarious effect. The warm and tropical seaport of Sicily is the perfect setting for this romantic comedy, with many scenes taking place in Leonato’s luscious outdoor garden.

#5 “Julius Caesar” | Rome

“Julius Caesar” is arguably Shakespeare’s most iconic Roman tragedy. The play, which is based on historical events, tells of Caesar’s violent political downfall. Many will recall Caesar’s famous line, “Et tu, Brute?” – the moment when Caesar realizes his ultimate betrayal by Brutus. Explore the remains of the Roman Forum where Mark Anthony proclaimed, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” during the eulogy for his fallen friend.

#6 “Othello” | Venice

“Othello” is a Shakespearean tragedy that examines themes of revenge, racism, and jealousy. The tragic hero, Othello, is a Moor and a respected general of the Venetian army. His life is destroyed by the devious plotting of an envious soldier, Iago. The thriving city and canals of Venice are the setting for much of the action in Othello. Modern travelers frequent Palazzo Contarini Fasan, or Desdemona’s House, named for Othello’s ill-fated wife.