Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Montagues and Capulets: Fact or Fiction?

The opening lines of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tell of two warring families, the Capulet's and Montague's, also telling the tragic out come of " two star-cross'd lovers" right from the start.

 Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

But the question on my mind after reading this was who were these two families?


Shakespeare based his most popular tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, on two very real people. These young lovers lived in Verona, Italy ,just like his characters, and died in a real-life tragic love story in 1303. The Capulet and Montague families were prominent citizens of Verona at the time.Apparently, Shakespeare uncovered their story in literature. A poem, "The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet," by Arthur Brooke, was written in 1562. William Painter, a prosist, penned "The Goodly History of the True and Constant Love of Rhomeo and Julietta. Matteo Bandello had written a novella of the story in 1554, revising Luigi da Porto's "Guiliette e Romeo" ("Juliet and Romeo"). Even earlier, Masuccio Salernitano had recounted the story of the tragic young lovers in "Mariotto and Gianozza of Siena" (which doesn't sound nearly as catch-y) in 1476.Italian traveling theater companies performed the drama throughout Europe and England. So, in all actuality Romeo and Juliet is not the original work of William Shakespeare but  just a tale retold from history.
Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy. Those are hundreds of love letters under it.


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