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THE story on which this play is founded, is related as a true
one in Girolamo de la Corte's Hiftory of Verona. It was ori. ginally published by an anonymous Italian novelist in 1549 at Venice; and again in 1553, at the same place. The first edition of Bandello's work appeared a year later than the last of these already mentioned. Pierre Boisteau copied it with alterations and additions. Belleforest adopted it in the first volume of his collection 1596; but very probably some edition of it yet more ancient had found its way abroad; as, in this improved state, it was translated into English, by Arthur Brooke, and published in an octavo volume, 1562, but without a name.
On this occasion it appears in the form of a poem entitled, The tragicall Historie of Romeus and Juliet: It was republished in 1587, under the same title: “ Contayning in it a rare Example of true Conßancie : with the fubtill Counsels and Prattises of an old Fryer, and their Event. Imprinted by R. Robinson.” Among the entries on the Books of the Stationers' Company, I find Feb. 18, 1582. "M. Tottel] Romeo and Juletta.” Again Aug. 5, 1596: “Edward White] á new ballad of Romeo and Juliett." The fame story is found in The Palace of Pleasure: however, Shakspeare was not entirely in debted to Painter's epitome; but rather to the poem already mentioned. Stanyhurst, the translator of Virgil in 1582, enumerates Julietta among his heroines, in a piece which he calls an epitaph, or Commune Defunctorum : and it appears (as Dr. Farmer has observed), from a passage in Ames's Typographical Antiquities, that the story had likewise been translated by another hand. Captain Breval in his Travels tells us, that he saw at Ve. rona the tomb of these unhappy lovers. STEEVENS. This story was well known to the English poets before the
time of Shakspeare. In an old collection of poemas, called A gorgeous gallery of gallant Inventions, 1578, I find it mentioned:
“ Sir Romeus' annoy but trifle seems to mine." And again, Romeus and Juliet are celebrated in “ A poor Knight bis Palace of private Pleasure, 1579." FARMER.
The original relater of the story on which this play is formed, was Luigi da Porto, a gentleman of Vicenza, who died in 1529. His novel did not appear till fome years after his death; being first printed at Venice in 1535, under the title of La Giulietta. A second edition was published in 1539: and it was again reprinted at the same place in 1553, (without the author's name,) with the following title: Hiftoria nuovamente ritrovata di due nobili Amanti, con la loro pietafa morte; intervenuta gia nella citta di Verona, nell tempo del Signor Bartolomeo della Scala, Nuovamente fampata. Of the author some account may be found prefixed to the poem of Romeus and Juliet.
In 1554 Bandello published, at Lucca, a novel on the same subject; (Tom. II. Nov. ix.] and shortly afterwards Boisteau exhibited one in French, founded on the Italian narratives, but vary. ing from them in many particulars. From Boisteau's novel the same story was, in 1562, formed into an English poem, with considerable alterations and large additions, by Mr. Arthur Brooke. This piece was printed by Richard Tottel with the following title, written probably, according to the fashion of that time, by the bookseller: The Tragicall Hystory of Romeus and Juliet, containing a rare example of true constancie; with the subtill counsels, and practices of an old Fryer, and their ill event. It was again published by the fame bookseller in 1582. Painter in the second volume of his Palace of Pleasure, 1567, published a profe tranflation from the French of Boisteau, which he entitled Rbomeo and Fulietta Sh speare had probably read Painter's novel, having taken one circumstance from it or some other prose translation of Boisteau; but his play was undoubtedly formed on the poem of Arthur Brooke. This is proved decisively by the following circumstances. 1. In the poem the prince of Verona is called Escalus; so also in the play.-In Painter's translation from Boifteau he is named Signor Escala; and sometimes Lord Barthelomew of Escala. 2. In Painter's novel the family of Romeo are called the Montesches; in the poein and in the play, the Monta
gues. 3. The messenger employed by friar Lawrence to carry a letter to Romeo to inform him when Juliet would awake from her trance, is in Painter's translation called Anfelme: in the poem, and in the play, friar John is employed in this business. 4. The circumstance of Capulet's writing down the names of the guests whom he invites to supper, is found in the poem and in the play, but is not mentioned by Painter, nor is it found in the original Italian novel. 5. The residence of the Capulets, in the original, and in Painter, is called Villa Franca; in the poem and in the play Freetown. 6. Several passages of Romeo and Juliet appear to have been formed on hints furnithed by the poem, of which no traces are found either in Painter's novel, or in Boisteau, or the original; and several expressions are borrowed from thence, which will be found in their proper places.
With respect to the name of Romeo, this also Shakspeare might have found in the poem; for in one place that name is given to him: or he might have had it from Painter's novel, from which or from some other prose translation of the same story he has, as I have already said, taken one circumstance not mentioned in the poem. In 1570 was entered on the Stationers' books by Henry Bynneman, Tbe Pitifull Hystory of ij lovyng lialians, which I fuf. pect was a profe narrative of the story on which our author's play is constructed.
Breval says in his travels, that on a str:& inquiry into the histo. ries of Verona, he found that Shakspeare had varied very little from the truth, either in the names, characters, or other circum. ftances of his play. MALONE.
It is plain, from more than one circumstance, that Shakspeare had read this novel, both in its prosaick and metrical form. He might likewise have met with other poetical pieces on the same subject. We are not yet at the end of our discoveries relative to the originals of our author's dramatick pieces. STEEVENS.