Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in London, in the mid-1590s. This play about two lovers was among his most popular and most frequently performed plays. It was extremely popular even in Shakespeare's lifetime. However, Shakespeare did not introduce the story into the English language. Romeo and Juliet borrows from a tradition of tragic love stories dating back to antiquity. For instance, Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid's Metamorphoses, which has many similarities to Shakespeare's story: the lovers' parents despise each other just like those of Romeo and Juliet and Pyramus falsely believes his lover Thisbe is dead. Furthermore, the Ephesiaca of a Greek writer Xenophon of Ephesus, written in the 3rd century, also contains several similarities to the play, including the separation of the lovers, and a potion that induces a deathlike sleep. However, the earliest known version of the Romeo and Juliet tale akin to Shakespeare's play is the story of Mariotto and Gianozza by Masuccio Salernitano, published in 1476. In 1554, Matteo Bandello published the second volume of his Novelle, in which he presented his version of Giuletta e Romeo. Arthur Brooks, a poet, introduced the story of The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet in a poem that was itself an adaptation of adaptations that stretched across nearly a hundred years and two languages. This story was also retold in prose in The Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Many details of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are taken directly from Brooks’ The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, starting from the meeting of the two lovers, their secret marriage, the drinking of the sleeping potion at the ball to the timing of their suicides. Such preemption of other stories is characteristic of Shakespeare, who often based his plays on earlier works by his colleagues. On the other hand, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet differs from the works it is based upon: in the...
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