The Shores of Hybridity: Shakespeare and the Mediterranean



Some critics in recent years have tried to shift the focus of Shakespeare’s universe to the Atlantic and make Shakespeare scholarship a branch of New World studies. But Shakespeare’s plays remain centered on the Mediterranean – roughly twenty of his thirty-seven plays have Mediterranean settings. This Mediterranean focus does not, however, mean that Shakespeare’s vision is Eurocentric. In the Renaissance, the Mediterranean was a multicultural world, and recent studies have stressed in particular the important role the Ottoman Empire played in economic, political, and cultural developments in the sixteenth century. In such plays as The Merchant of Venice and Othello Shakespeare looks at the complex interplay of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Venice and other Mediterranean settings. For Shakespeare, the Mediterranean has a historical as well as a geographic dimension. Almost half of his Mediterranean plays are set in antiquity and reflect his awareness of the classical heritage of the Renaissance.