Illyria in Shakespeare: Significance & Overview

Illyria in Shakespeare: Significance & Overview
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  • 0:01 Illyria in Twelfth Night
  • 1:15 Characters in Twelfth Night
  • 1:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Illyria is the setting of one of William Shakespeare's most popular comedies, 'Twelfth Night.' Illyria is not a typical place; it is a place where many unusual things happen. Learn more about Illyria and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Illyria in Twelfth Night

When we think of stories involving mystery, adventure and romance, we often think of them taking place in far-off, exotic lands. Twelfth Night is a comedy written by William Shakespeare. It tells the story of the odd occurrences that take place in a woman's life after she is shipwrecked on one such exotic island.

The setting of Twelfth Night is in Illyria, an ancient region of land on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Illyria is not exactly the place readers might expect it to be. The characters in the play are people of noble birth. However, they behave like commoners who only want to have a good time. Critics believe Shakespeare set Twelfth Night in Illyria to convey that the world, along with the story's content, is unexpected and unusual.

Although Twelfth Night is entirely fictional, Illyria was actually a real place in classical antiquity. It was also one that many Europeans likely had no real knowledge of. It is possible that William Shakespeare chose Illyria as the setting for Twelfth Night for this reason, and because Illyria has a mild climate and was remote and exotic. Shakespeare also mentioned Illyria in Henry VI, Part II, where he claimed it was known for piracy. Despite the fact that an actual Illyria once existed, the Illyria of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is based in fiction.

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