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On the Bard's 450th, a birthday tour of some play 'sets'

Luca Ceccarelli (R) kisses his wife Irene Lanforti after getting married at Casa di Giulietta in Verona in this June 1, 2009 file photo. REU
Luca Ceccarelli (R) kisses his wife Irene Lanforti after getting married at Casa di Giulietta in Verona in this June 1, 2009 file photo. REU

LONDON (Reuters) - Known as the Bard and regarded as England's greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, whose 450th birthday is celebrated on Wednesday, let his imagination roam as widely as his characters.

Following are some of the locales, cited by travel website www.GoEuro.co.uk, associated with Shakespeare and his plays.

"Macbeth" - Scotland

"Something wicked this way comes" - the oft-quoted words of the three witches before their second meeting with the brave but ruthless Scottish general, Macbeth. Although there are no sites in Scotland directly connected to the real-life Macbeth - an 11th-century King of Scots - the fictional character's titles of Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor point to popular attractions Glamis and Cawdor castles. Glamis Castle's history is as extensive and captivating as its gardens, which are listed in an inventory of Scotland's grandest gardens. The building is a Grade I listed site, highlighting its historic and cultural significance. Cawdor Castle makes for just as an intriguing a day out, with a number of nature trails in surrounding grounds.

"Romeo and Juliet" - Verona, Italy

"I do remember an apothecary, And hereabouts he dwells" - upon hearing of the death of his beloved Juliet, Romeo seeks out poison so that he may join his lover in death. This poison is sought in the same city in which much of the story is set, Verona in northern Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the story of the ill-fated lovers is probably entirely fictitious, visitors can explore the actual previous abodes of the Capulet and Montague families: Via Capello (Juliet's House), Romeo's House which is viewable from the outside only, and finally the somber location of Juliet's tomb, among others. Nobody is sure if Shakespeare ever left Britain, arguing that he may merely have got his descriptions of foreign lands from visitors to London. However, if he traveled anywhere in the world it is arguably Verona that left the most lasting impression, having been the setting for two of his other plays, the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" and "The Taming of the Shrew".

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" - Athens, Greece

"Out of this wood, do not desire to go" - Tatiana's command to her lover in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is spoken in a wood just outside Athens, the city in which much of the story takes place. There is not a great deal in Athens which actually commemorates the Bard or his use of Athens as a setting for his plays, which also includes "Timon of Athens", but there are plenty of sights in Athens that evoke the Greek gods who figure in Shakespeare's comedy.

Shakespeare's Globe, London, England

Opened in 1997, the structure is an approximation of how the original Globe Theatre - owned by Shakespeare's theatre company, The Lord Chamberlain's Men - would have looked in the 17th century. Shakespeare's Globe lies less than 250 meters (yards) from the site of the original theatre, which was demolished in 1644. Performances of Shakespeare's works take place daily, and as the theatre receives no government subsidies, it relies heavily on donations and income from ticket sales. Shakespeare's works on offer now and for the next two months include "Hamlet", "Much Ado About Nothing", "Antony & Cleopatra", "Titus Andronicus", "All's Well That Ends Well" and - nearer Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon than its fictional setting - "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Louise Ireland)

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