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ROMEO AND JULIET.] 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 originally published by an anonymous Italian novelift in 1549 at Venice; and again in 1553, at the fame place. The first edition of Bandello's work appeared a year later than the last of these already mentioned. Pierre Boifteau copied it with alterations and additions. Belleforeft adopted it in the first volume of his collection 1596: but very probably fome edition of it yet more ancient had found its way abroad; as, in this improved ftate, it was tranflated into English, by Arthur Brooke, and published in an octavo volume, 1562, but without a name. On this occafion it appears in the form of a poem entitled, The tragicall Hifiorie of Romeus and Juliet: It was republished in 1587, under the fame title: "Contayning in it a rare Example of true Conftancie: with the fubtill Counfels and Practifes of an old Fryer, and their Event. Imprinted by R. Robinfon." Among the entries on the Books of the Stationer's Company, I find Feb. 18, 1582: "M. Tottel] Romeo and Juletta." Again, Aug. 5, 1596: "Edward White] a new ballad of Romeo and Juliett." The fame ftory is found in The Palace of Pleafure: however, Shakspeare was not entirely indebted to Painter's epitome; but rather to the poem already mentioned. Stanyhurft, the tranflator 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 obferved,) from a paffage in Ames's Typographical Antiquities, that the ftory had likewife been tranflated by another hand. Captain Breval in his Travels tells us, that he saw at Verona the tomb of these unhappy lovers. STEEVens.
This ftory was well known to the English poets before the time of Shakspeare. In an old collection of poems, 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 his Palace of private Pleafure, 1579." FARMER.
The first of the foregoing notes was prefixed to two of our former editions; but as the following may be in fome refpects more correct, it would be unjustly withheld from the publick.This is not the first time we have profited by the accuracy of Mr. Malone. STEEVENS.
The original relater of the ftory 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 fecond edition was published in 1539; and it was again re
printed 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 pietofa morte; intervenuta gia nella citta di Verona, nell tempo del Signor Bartolomeo della Scala. Nuovamente ftampata. Of the author fome account may be found prefixed to the poem of Romeus and Juliet.
In 1554 Bandello published, at Lucca, a novel on the fame fubject; [Tom. II. Nov. ix.] and fhortly afterwards Boifteau exhibited one in French, founded on the Italian narratives, but varying from them in my particulars. From Boifteau's novel the fame ftory was, in 1562, formed into an English poem, with confiderable alterations and large additions, by Mr. Arthur Brooke. This piece, which the reader may find at the end of the prefent play, was printed by Richard Tottel with the following title, written probably, according to the fashion of that time, by the bookfeller: The Tragicall Hyftory of Romeus and Juliet, containing a rare Example of true Conftancie: with the fubtill Counfels, and Practices of an old Fryer, and their ill event. It was again published by the fame bookfeller in 1582. Painter in the fecond volume of his Palace of Pleafure, 1567, published a profe tranflation from the French of Boifteau, which he entitled Rhomeo and Julietta. Shakspeare had probably read Painter's novel, having taken one circumftance from it or fome other profe tranflation of Boifteau; but his play was undoubtedly formed on the poem of Arthur Brooke. This is proved decifively by the following circumftances. 1. In the poem the prince of Verona is called Efcalus; fo alfo in the play.-In Painter's translation from Boifteau he is named Signor Efcala; and fometimes Lord Bartholomew of Escala. 2. In Painter's novel the family of Romeo are called the Montefches; in the poem and in the play, the Montagues. 3. The meffenger employed by friar Lawrence to carry a letter to Romeo to inform him when Juliet would awake from her trance, is in Painter's tranflation called Anfelme: in the poem, and in the play, friar John is employed in this business. 4. The circumftance of Capulet's writing down the names of the guests whom he invites to fupper, 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 refidence of the Capulets, in the original, and in Painter, is called Villa Franca; in the poem and in the play Freetown. 6. Several paffages of Romeo and Juliet appear to have been formed on hints furnished by the poem, of which no traces are found either in Painter's novel, or in Boifteau, or the original; and several expreflions are borrowed from thence, which will be found in their proper places.
As what has been now ftated has been controverted, (for what may not be controverted?) I fhould enter more largely into the fubject, but that the various paffages of the poem which I have quoted in the following notes, furnish fuch a decifive proof of the play's having been conftructed upon it, as not to leave, in my apprehenfion, a fhadow of doubt upon the fubject. The queftion is not, whether Shakspeare bad read other novels, or other poetical pieces, founded on this ftory, but whether the poem written by Arthur Brooke was the basis on which this play was built.
With respect to the name of Romeo, this alfo 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 fome other profe tranflation of the same story he has, as I have already faid, taken one circumftance not mentioned in the poem. In 1570 was entered on the Stationers' books by Henry Bynneman, The Pitifull Hyftory of ij lovyng Italians, which I fufpect was a profe narrative of the story on which our author's play is conftructed.
Breval fays in his travels, that on a strict inquiry into the hiftories of Verona, he found that Shakspeare had varied very little from the truth, either in the names, characters, or other circumftances of his play. MALONE.
It is plain, from more than one circumftance, that Shakspeare had read this novel, both in its profaick and metrical form. He might likewife have met with other poetical pieces on the fame fubject. We are not yet at the end of our discoveries relative to the originals of our author's dramatick pieces. STEEVens.