“Twenty-three days…” The Voyage of Cleomenes and Dion to Delphi (Part 2 of 2)

lhertzel_1303424945_quill-pen        Continued from “Twenty-three days…”  The Voyage of Cleomenes and Dion to Delphi (Part 1)

So, Cleomenes and Dion head off on their journey to summon the Oracle at Delphi for spiritual counsel on the matter of Hermione’s fate.

The map below comes from Richard P. Roe’s book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels:

Palermo to Delphi & Return: Route of Cleomenes and Dion

Palermo to Delphi & Return: Route of Cleomenes and Dion

In Act 2 Scene 3, a servant notifies Leontes that “Cleomenes and Dion, / Being well arrived from Delphos, are both landed.”  Leontes remarks: “Twenty-three days / They have been absent.”  Why twenty-three days, you ask?  Read the excerpt below from Roe’s intriguing book:

By the fact of specifically numbering the days of the messengers’ trip so exactly, Leontes’ words make us certain that the playwright knew about this route, having traveled it himself.  And knowing the route, he also knew how long it took:  ten days of sailing, three days at Delphi, then ten days back to Sicily and the royal palace:  twenty-three days.  Not fifteen or forty or twenty:  exactly twenty-three.  (Roe 254)

Roe then describes the method of sailing used by Mediterranean sailors:  “coasting.”  Mediterranean sailors did not sail throughout the night as did the English.  They would travel close to the shoreline and “put in at nightfall safely near it, to eat and get a little sleep” (255).

So, if Shakespeare never set foot outside of England, how did he acquire this specific knowledge?  Over a few pints with a seafarer at the Mermaid Tavern?  Or, did the playwright actually spend time in Italy?


“Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern” John Faed, 1851


2 responses

  1. I like your approach!

    1. Well, thank you very much, Ms. Maycock. I’ve learned from the best, you know!

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