Illyria, Italia, Englandia

  • Murray J. Levith
Part of the Contemporary Interpretations of Shakespeare book series


Like an American on a one week tour of all of Europe, when Viola comes ashore in the second scene of Twelfth Night, she wants to know where she is: ‘What country, friends, is this?’ (I,ii,1). And the captain assures her, ‘This is Illyria, lady’ (I,ii,2). Editors dutifully note that Shakespeare takes his place name from a favourite sourcebook, Golding’s Ovid, and that Illyria is located in present-day Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, all would also agree that the feel and ambience of Orsino’s dukedom of music and love is decidedly Italian — like the settings for a goodly number of other Shakespeare plays.


Terra Firma Italian City Roman Ruin English Audience Shakespeare Play 
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  1. 1.
    See Lewis Einstein, The Italian Renaissance in England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1902) pp. 366, 367;Google Scholar
  2. F. P. Wilson and G. K. Hunter, The English Drama 1485–1585 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969) pp. 114, 137–8.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 2 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958 ) p. 153.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    See K. M. Lea, Italian Popular Comedy, vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934 ) pp. 431–43.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    G. H. McWilliams, Shakespeare’s Italy Revisited (Leicester University Press, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    Thomas Coryat, Coryat’s Crudities vol. 1 (Glasgow University Press, 1905).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Murray J. Levith 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murray J. Levith
    • 1
  1. 1.Skidmore CollegeNew YorkUSA

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