The legend of Romeo and Juliet, more or less authentic, which inspired Shakespeare so well , has been told many times in the Middle Ages (Xenophon of Ephesus, Masuccio of Salerno ), was fixed, in the first half of the sixteenth century, by the moving news of the Vicente Luigi da Porto (around 1524), the Veronese families of Montecchi and Cappelletti, anglicized in Montaigu and Capulet by the great tragic, surely existed. Dante names them to the sixth song of Purgatory. They were both Ghibellines, but the legend shows them separated by a mortal political hatred, which forms the starting point of the drama.
The son and daughter of their two main representatives, Roméo Montechsi and Giulietta Cappelletti, who met by chance, devote themselves to an eternal love, manage to get married secretly, but finally find refuge and assured union only in the death. From this rather simple theme, Luigi da Porto has made a wonderfully touching story. Put in verse, from 1553 by a certain Clizia of Verona (a pseudonym), the legend was taken up by Matteo Bandello, in 1554 and by Arthur Brooke, in 1562, in an English poem which is perhaps the only source of Shakespeare. Verona is still shown the coffin on marble which is said to have been the tomb of the two lovers. (NLI).
Among the works inspired by the legend of Romeo and Juliet, let us quote: the Farewells of Romeo and Juliet, by Delacroix (1846); Romeo and Juliet, above, by Charles Jalabert (1857); the painting of Louis Boulanger, Romeo buying poison, and that of Hermann Goldschmidt, Juliette waking up in the arms of her lifeless lover and killing herself. Other paintings relating to Romeo and Juliet were exhibited by Alexandre Colin, Chiflart, James Bertrand. A beautiful marble group of Antony Noel (1875) depicts Juliette leaning over Romeo’s lifeless body, lifting her head apesantie with the last sleep him and giving a supreme kiss.
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy in five acts, Shakespeare, whose date is uncertain. It was composed, it is believed, at different periods in 1591 and 1597.
In addition to the beauties of this piece, it has a particular interest, for it was the first tragedy of Shakespeare; alone, a young man could write some scenes of
Romeo and Juliet and find the true accents of passion and love. Another subject of admiration is the manner in which Shakespeare was able to paint Italy and the Italians, for the characters, their lyrical ardor, their southern impetuosity, the tone of their language have nothing English.
Here is the subject of the drama: two powerful families, the Capulets and Montaigus, troubled Verona by their quarrels; but Romeo, a Montaigu, sees Juliet, a Capulet, and the two young people love each other madly; a Franciscan monk secretly marries them, in the hope that this union will bring a meeting between the two enemy families. Unfortunately, Romeo, provoked by Juliet’s cousin, puts the sword in his hand and kills him. The Prince of Verona exiles Romeo, with the threat of death if he does not leave the city on the spot.
The farewell scene on Juliet’s balcony is one of the most graceful and touching of Shakespeare. Soon Juliette will be forced to marry a man she hates 💔. She simulates death, thanks to a narcotic, and is transported to the burial place of her family, in order to escape this marriage. But Romeo hurries; Believing that Juliet is gone, he swallows a poison and dies at his side. When the young woman wakes up, she knocks herself with Romeo’s dagger.
The means that bring about the denouement are a little puerile, but Shakespeare redeems everything by the poetic beauty of which he knew how to parry this drama, the masterpiece of his youthful tragedies.
Several operas have been written on this theme, in particular Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. (NLI).