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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Research
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0219  Thursday, 6 February 2003

From:           Philip Tomposki <
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Date:           Wednesday, 05 Feb 2003 21:59:09 -0500
Subject:        Re: Research

>From Elliott H. Stone:

"I do not know why it is continuously repeated that Shakespeare's
geography of Italy is wrong. It is quite clear that Verona was
approached in his time by a canal and thus was an important seaport and
had a harbor. It still exists! I know many fervent Shakespeareans that
have traveled on it."

I'll take your word on the canal, but there are plenty of other reasons
to question Shakespeare's knowledge of Italy.  For example, why do the
Veronese characters in TGV engage in a 1400 circumnavigation of Italy to
reach Milan, a mere 90 land miles away?  How could landlocked Mantua get
into a naval conflict with Venice (TS, IV, ii, line 83)?  When did Padua
get moved to Lombardy (TS, I, I, lines 2-3)?  There are many other
errors which I omit for the sake of brevity.

"...Yes, Bohemia in Shakespeare's time had a seacoast!..."

Really, I must have slept through the history class that dealt with the
geological cataclysm that gave Bohemia a seacoast, as well as the one
that took it away.  That Bohemia was, at that time, part of an empire
that contained seacoasts does alter the fact that Bohemia itself was
landlocked.  The U.S. is bordered by two oceans and a gulf, but we don't
talk about Montana's seacoast.  Besides, a coast in a remote province
will not serve.  Perdita is visited regularly by Florizel.  She must
therefore live within reasonably proximity to the Palace, which would
not be located in the boonies.

"...There may be anachronisms in the Canon but the Bard's geography was
excellent."

That Shakespeare's geography is sometimes correct only means he was
using an accurate source at the time.  The errors of geography in the
Canon are numerous and not always explicable by artistic choice.  To
quote Samuel Johnson, Shakespeare is "little careful of geography".

>From Marcus Dahl:

"Shakespeare didn't need to have sailed (or not sailed) anywhere to get
his idea that Bohemia had a coastline - he got it from his source text -
Greene's 'Pandosto'."

Indeed, and the university educated Greene sets his tale when the Oracle
of Delphi is still active, centuries before the real Bohemia existed.
Greene's, and Shakespeare's, Bohemia is a fantasy.  So, of course, is
Shakespeare's Illyria, Ephesus, Navarre, and even his Italy, France and
Denmark.  Fantasy locals can easily be created without the need for
'research'.

Best,
Philip Tomposki

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