All blogs are property of authors and copying is not permitted.

Monday, October 10, 2016

ROMEO AND JULIET - One of The Greatest Love Stories Ever Told

Posted by Author R. Ann Siracusa


In your opinion, what is the greatest love story ever told? Leave a comment and tell us why you think so.

Many believe one of the greatest love stories ever told is that of Romeo and Juliet. The storyline is the basis of hundreds of songs, paintings, plays, literary works, and romance fiction.

Each year, during the first weekend of September, the historic city of Verona, Italy, holds a festival to commemorate the birthday of the city's most famous daughter, Giulietta Capuleti – the legendary Juliet Capulet of the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. It's a real Italian party, with lots of food, singing, dancing, and costumes.


Shakespeare's play may have made this love story popular, but it's a much older legend of an unrequited love which has been told in Italy at least since the 1400's. Historians speculate that the story existed as oral tradition long before that.

It's possible that the oral tradition is based on the ancient Babylonian legend of Pyramus and Thisbe, a story which dates back to 331 BC.

Pyramus was the most gorgeous man in Babylonia and Thisbe, the most beautiful maiden. They had grown up as neighbors and were childhood friends. When they fell in love, they were forbidden to marry by their parents.
One night, they planned to meet and run away together, but a mountain lion attacked Thisbe. She escaped, but the mountain lion took her veil. When Pyramus saw her bloodied veil in the mountain lion's mouth, he believed she'd been killed, and so he stabbed himself with his sword. When Thisbe saw Pyramus dead, she picked up his sword and killed herself also.
That legend sounds similar enough to Romeo and Juliet to have been the basis for the tale first committed to paper as a novella by Masuccio Salernitano, Published in 1478, Salernitano's story names the lovers Mariotto Maganelli and Giannoza Saraceni, and it takes place in Sienna.
Salernitano's plot is so similar to Shakespeare's play, which wasn't written until sometime in the early 1590s, that there isn't much doubt the play is a retelling of the same story. (Portrait to lower right:  Masuccio Salernitano)

Shakespeare isn't the only writer who got the idea from Salernitano.

Some fifty years after Salernitano's novella, between 1528 and 1531?, Luigi La Porta wrote a similar story set in Verona, which uses the same names as used in Shakespeare's play written sixty years later, Romeo and Juliet. La Porta explained that the plot had been given to him by an archer named Pellegrino da Verona.

In 1562, Matteo Bandello rewrote La Porta's book. Bandello's work was turned into an epic poem by Authur Brooke, entitled Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet.
A French version, written by Pierre Boastuau, draws on both Salernitano and Brooke's poem. William Painter, in 1569, wrote a version of it. Spaniard, Lope de Vega, in 1590.wrote a Spanish version.
Somehow Shakespeare read Salernitano's novella. There are a number of theories about how the playwright got so many stories from Italy although he never traveled there … as far as anyone knows. However he obtained this tale, he wrote the play sometime between 1591 and 1596. It was published in 1597 and the first performance wasn't until 1662. His play popularized the Romeo and Juliet story which has provided inspiration for a multitude of artists and sculptors, writers and poets, screenwriters, ad infinitum.

After 400 years, time has not tarnished or dulled the romance of the two doomed lovers. We never tire of hearing, reading, and seeing it again and again in its various storylines and settings. It strike very near the heart and always will.


The real truth is lost in the dust of time. However, it is true that during the late 1200s, there were two important families in Verona named Capuletti and Montecchi. These family names are mentioned by writer and poet Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy (Canto IV of the Purgatory-written in around 1310-1330), and a reference is made to a grief shared by these two families. No mention is made regarding of what that mutual sorrow might be.

During that period, under the reign of the Scaligeri family, there was constant war between families for dominance of Verona, but history doesn't call out the names of Capuletti or Montecchi. Even though these two families are not remembered as movers and shakers, during this time there was great hatred between opposing families, making the story quite possible.

After the 1936 Academy Award winning film of the play, the Veronese government realized the city could capitalize on the story. Visitors today can visit museums, churches, homes, and plaques containing quotes from the play. All the places tourists see there are commemorating Shakespeare's play, not the real people.

If you travel to Verona, you can visit Juliet's house at #23 Via Cappello and see her balcony where, supposedly, the famous balcony scene took place.

Of course, the five-story house isn't the Capuletti's house and never was. It was originally a 13th century inn -- said to have once been the stable of the Dal Cappello family -- that was purchased by the City of Verona in 1936 and restored in Gothic style and decorated inside like the home of a Renaissance merchant. 

Inside the house, you can visit Juliet's bedroom. The bed is actually the one used in the Franco Zeffirelli film in 1968. In the courtyard the statue of Juliet is rubbed for good luck. You can also visit the Capuletti's tomb.

There is also the house of the Montegue, or Montecchi. It was built in the 14th century and once belonged to the family of Count Nogarola. Today it is private and closed to the public, but has a plaque containing a quote from the play. 


According to  there are several unusual traditions and a crowd of tourists pushing and shoving in front of the Capuleti house to participate in those traditions. Most of these so-called "traditions" sound modern to me, as well as being pure vandalism.

"Tradition 1: Scrawl the name of your lover on the walls in sharpie."

The plaque at the Montegue house.
Photos by runawaybunny

"Tradition 2: Stick a piece of gum on the wall, then have someone take a picture of you while you stretching the gum out between your fingers." The end result (left) isn't very romantic. Photo to left is the gum wall.
"Tradition 3: Write the name of you and your boyfriend on a padlock, and lock it somewhere. Anywhere." Apparently this practice is taking hold and spreading around the world.
"Tradition 4: Juliet’s breasts bring good luck/fertility/longevity/better orgasms. You must touch them on the statue and take pictures of it!"
Some references say the tradition is rubbing the statue for good luck. I guess where you rub it it up to you. However, you can buy a breast-shaped keychain in the gift shop just off the courtyard.
Most of the "greatest love stories" involve lovers being kept apart and/or making extreme sacrifices to be together. In the older stories, that sacrifice is often death. It's surprising how many follow the Romeo and Juliet theme, which makes them love stories and tragedies at the same time, but not romances.

Some of these are strictly heroes and heroines in literature, some myth or legend, and others who are real historical or modern figures who are well known and capture wide interest. Many of us are familiar with the names, but not with the stories. 

Leave a comment and tell us what you consider the greatest love story and why.

with a novel by R. Ann SiracusaFacebook  Twitter  GooglePlus  Website 

A new Murder Mystery by R. Ann Siracusa



Tina Donahue said...

Personally, I like an HEA. I love Jane Austen. Watched Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion recently on YouTube. OMG, those films had me smiling and sniffing at the end.

Also watched Tess of the D'urbervilles. Read it in high school. Only thing I recalled was that it was long and boring, so seeing the film was basically new for me. Talk about a downer story. That's too much reality for me. When I read or watch a romance, I want to escape real life. I don't go for the heroine/hero dying, getting raped, etc. etc.

Melissa Keir said...

I fell in love with Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade. But I do agree that the story isn't a happily ever after. I would have given anything for that type of love though who wanted to die for me. :)

Share buttons