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Shakespeare's World

When Shakespeare was writing Macbeth, it was common knowledge that Scottish warriors wielded claymores in battle. But what does a claymore look like?

The objects in this gallery are all from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and they date from around the time that Shakespeare was writing his plays. They will help you to understand some of the references and imagery that you will find in Shakespeare’s scripts.

Remember that scenery in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres was minimalist, and everything was performed in daylight so lighting effects were impossible. Only a few small props were used, including swords, but many of the other things you see here would never have been visible onstage: characters would simply refer to them. Shakespeare would have been dependent on his audience to understand what he was describing and imagine it for themselves.

We hope that being able to see some of the objects that Shakespeare and his audience would have been familiar with will help you to imagine the plays better too! We will be adding more information about the objects in the gallery and how they relate to Shakespeare’s scripts in the next few weeks, so please keep coming back to check for more.

Click on the images below to launch the 360° views of the objects.

All Shakespeare's world gallery images are © The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Dagger cauldron breast plate crossbow crossbow bolt
Left-hand dagger (main-gauche)
Italian, c. 1550
Large bowl for wine (bādiye) or water
Iranian, 1601-1602
Breastplate for light field use
South German, Nuremberg, c. 1560
Crossbow with cranequin and associated bolt
German, 16th century
Crossbow bolt (quarrel)
European, mid-16th century
powder flask pistol armour scottish sword  
Horseshoe-shaped powder flask
European, possibly German

Wheel-lock pistol
Italian, 17th century
Miniature cuirassier armour
French, 17th century (armour); 19th century (figure)
Two-handed sword (claymore)
Scottish, c. 1500-1530


Dagger Dagger

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