Maybe not if it means braving the ocean in an ancient galleon or having to endure Elizabethan health and safety standards or restaurant hygiene.
However, if it were possible to enjoy a Shakespearean cruise without abandoning the creature comforts of 2012, I suspect many would be interested. Well it is possible and if you’re a fan of the bard and his contribution to English literature, this is something you might want to consider.
So how do you become a Shakespearean cruiser?
Well it’s surprisingly easy. Just choose cruises that bring you to ports or countries in which some of the playwright’s finest works were set.
To further develop the theme, you could also look for cruise ships that host theatre companies specialising in Shakespearean productions. An example of such a company is Drama At Sea.
And if that still wasn’t enough, you could always inject some Shakespearean language into your conversations with people you meet on holiday.
For instance, if your ship is late leaving port why not approach a random fellow passenger and declare in theatrical style, “To sea or not to sea? That is the question.”
Who knows, it could be the start of a lifelong friendship – though I wouldn’t bank on it.
Alternatively, when leaving your favourite on-board watering hole you could gaze into the barman’s eyes and say, “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
It could change your whole relationship with him. But not necessarily for the better.
So what are the plays and related places that could add a Shakespearean dimension to your cruising? Here’s my shortlist to get you started.
Antony and Cleopatra
This tragic love story between two larger than life characters from over 2,000 years ago still resonates with modern audiences. And you can celebrate it by cruising to one or both of the cities where the play is set.
If you want to see things from the Roman perspective, you might try one of these Mediterranean cruises that begin and often end in Rome.
On the other hand, if it’s the Egyptian angle you’re after, then this 15 night Red Sea cruise will give you almost two days in Cleopatra’s home town, Alexandria.
Don’t forget, if you cruise from Rome, you are also commemorating Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus.
Many critics believe this to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. So if you’re a true fan of the legendary wordsmith from Stratford-upon-Avon, you’ll surely want to visit Denmark at some point. How better to do that than on a cruise?
Hamlet, of course, was a fictional character, but the setting for the play – Helsingør, better known in English as Elsinore – is real enough. As luck would have it, it’s just down the road from Copenhagen which is a popular start and finish point for many Western European, Baltic and Norwegian cruises.
What’s more, if your cruise takes you west towards Norway, you’ll pass Helsingør on the way and see why this location would have been of such strategic importance to the Prince of Denmark.
The Merchant of Venice and Othello
There’s a long list of reasons why you’d want to visit Venice and close to the top of that list must be the above mentioned plays. Both were partly set in this city in north-eastern Italy.
If you’d like to experience the world of the eponymous merchant, as well as that of the Moorish general married to Desdemona, then one of these Mediterranean cruises could be just what you’re looking for.
While you’re in town and have half a day to spare, you might consider visiting Padua which is not so far away and where The Taming of The Shrew was based. This will also bring you a little closer to Verona, allowing you to pay your respects to Romeo and Juliet, as well as to The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
In addition, lovers of old Bill’s work will be delighted to hear that some of these Venice cruises call in at Athens, the setting for much of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as Timon of Athens.
Shakespeare was a prolific writer and it would take a prolific cruiser to visit all the locations of his plays. But if you’re feeling up to it here are three more suggestions to consider:
• Macbeth – Scotland
• Much Ado About Nothing – Sicily
• Troilus and Cressida – Turkey and the Dardanelles
And finally . . .
Now I’ve whetted your appetite for all things Shakespeare, you might be interested to view these two manifestations of Shakespearean acting.
The first is Laurence Olivier delivering the famous “Now is the winter of our discontent” soliloquy from Richard III. The second is Peter Sellars spoofing Olivier’s performance using the words of a Beatles’ song.
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