The Enduring Legend Of Romeo And Juliet

2297 words - 9 pages

Romeo and Juliet is the story of the two star-crossed lovers, a secret marriage, potions to simulate death, and a tragic ending has been the subject of writers for centuries. Claims of a basic plot can be found as early as the third century (Dill 4), however, the more detailed versions of did not appear until the fifteenth century. The legend of Romeo and Juliet slowly developed by the efforts of Luigi da Porto, Matteo Bandello and Arthur Brooke. However, it was, "only in Shakespeare’s hands did the love story itself become the lyrical celebration of youthful passion that we all associate with the names of Romeo and Juliet today" (Mack 71). I intend to give a history of the development of Romeo and Juliet leading to the success of Shakespeare with its effect on the town of Verona, Italy. Luigi da Porto published his version of Romeo and Juliet in 1530. The people of Verona credited him with "the first to tell the story of the two unfortunate lovers" (Masterpieces of Verona 48). They may acknowledge his story with such acceptance since he claimed Pellegrimo of Verona had the early fourteenth century chronicles from Bartolomes Della Scala showing the two unfortunate lovers as a true story. Porto’s claim of a factual account may have actually inspired the future writers to use Verona as the setting of Romeo and Juliet.

Matteo Bandello, an Italian writer, included the story in his Novelle published in 1559. This popular prose was translated into French which Arthur Brooke used as a base for his 1562 poem, The Tragicall Historye of Romeo and Juliet.

It has been noted that Shakespeare relied entirely on the Arthur Brooke poem to bring Romeo and Juliet back to life. Shakespeare’s talents are credited for the changes he made in the three thousand-line poem. The first noticeable change is the time span in which the story takes place. Shakespeare had shortened the time span from nine months to a few days. With such a little time to solve the problems "the hasty march of events becomes a major cause of the tragedy" (Hankins 17). Another example of time, gave Romeo and Juliet three months of bliss in the Brooke poem compared to one passionate night in the Shakespeare play.

Shakespeare changed the characters and events in his play which resulted in a positive addition to his play. Mercutio was slightly mentioned in the Brooke’s poem, while Shakespeare developed his character by involving him in two duels with Tybalt. This change enhanced "Romeo’s dilemma of love against honor" (Hankins 17). Though he used most of the incidents involving the nurse, Shakespeare gave her an original personality by showing her as an affectionate, easy-going (except around Mercutio) individual. His portrayal of the Capulet family is described as "a remarkable study in family psychology." (18). Families today are still being advised that being critical of your child’s choice of a partner will most likely cause them to rebel and become more attracted. Instead parents...

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