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opening up mysterious vistas of the unexpressed, or responsive to the finer nuances of souls. At exalted times it even assumes lyric form; and Gervinus has pointed out that the lovers exchange their first greetings in a sonnet, that Juliet utters her own epithalamium or marriage hymn (iii. 2.), and that the lyric dialogue of the lovers as they part at dawn echoes in everything but its unique splendour of poetry the 'dawn song' (alba, Tagelied) of mediæval poetry.1 The evidence thus points to 1594-5 as the time at which Romeo and Juliet was substantially composed, though it is tolerably certain that some parts of our present text were written as late as 1596-8, and possible that others are as early as 1591.

The story of Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare found it, was already a work of art, refined and elaborated by the shaping fancy of several generations. Particular features in it have far-reaching parallels: the legendary poison which produces apparent death; the love between children of hostile houses. The so-called 'Neapolitan Boccaccio,' Massuccio, in his Novellino, 1476, used the device of the poison to deliver his heroine from a peril like that which threatens Juliet; but his lovers have other names, live in Siena, and are embarrassed by no family feuds. Luigi da Porto was the first to localise the romance in Verona, to call the lovers Romeo and Giulietta, and to entangle their destinies in the conflicts of noble families.2 Da Porto's novel was widely read

1 How did Shakespeare become acquainted with this mediæval lyric form, whose home was among the Troubadours and Minnesänger? The problem

has keenly exercised German scholars, and is discussed with profuse learning but without very definite result by Ludwig Fränkel

in his Shakespeare und das Tagelied. Fränkel supposes Shakespeare to have been introduced to the German Tagelied by the Hanseatic merchants of London.

2 That the story is not historical is now recognised. The historian of Verona, Girolamo de la Corte (1594), who relates


in Italy, and presently inspired more pretentious versions of the story. Gherardo Boldiero sang in an epic poem (published 1553) of the unhappy love of two faithful lovers Giulia and Romeo,' and the blind dramatist Groto turned it into a tragedy, Hadriana. Both these ambitious pieces, however, were of trifling importance compared with the skilfully elaborated prose version of the story published in 1554 by the novelist Bandello. Bandello added a number of dramatic traits, motives, and minor personages: Romeo's Mentor-Benvolio, the Nurse, the love at first sight, the rope-ladder, and Juliet's vision of the horrors of the vault. In Bandello's version the story first gained currency beyond the Alps and the Pyrenees. In France it was translated, with several significant changes, by Boaistuau in the Histoires Tragiques (1559).2 In Spain it provided Lope de Vega with the materials of a tragi-comedy Castelvines y Monteses, and somewhat later was dramatised by

it as having happened there in 1303, merely took it from the novelist Bandello. The Montecchi and Cappelletti were historical families of Verona, but belonged to the same (Ghibelline) party; and as such, not as enemies, they are mentioned together in a famous line (Vieni a veder Montecchi e Cappelletti,' Purg. vi. 106) by Dante, who lived in Verona but a few years after the alleged date of the event. But Shakespeare's 'Escalus' doubtless has his ultimate origin in Bartolommeo della Scala, the then Governor of Verona.

1 Adrian Sevin had, as early as 1542, retailed a substantially identical story, with the scene

Francesco de Rojas in Los Bandos de Verona.1 In England, Bandello's novel was reproduced in two notable versions,—the metrical Romeus and Juliet of Arthur Brooke (1562),2 and the prose translation in Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1567). Of all these forms of the story Shakespeare was probably acquainted only with the two last mentioned; and the poem of Brooke was virtually the sole source of his own work. But the fame of the story no longer depended on literature when he wrote: the pitiful history of Romeus and Julietta adorned the hangings of chambers, and Juliet figured as a tragic heroine in the sisterhood of Dido and Cleopatra.

It was not for nothing that an Englishman handled the story before Shakespeare. Brooke enriched the Italian romance with a series of homely, realistic

1 Both plays have been excellently translated by F. W. Cosens.


2 Brooke speaks in his 'Ad. dress to the Reader' of having 'the same argument lately set forth on stage with more commendation than I can look for. A trace of this has been suspected in the fragments of a Latin tragedy, Romeus et Julietta, preserved in the British Museum (Sloane MS. 1775), an edition of which is announced by Mr. Gollancz. But a madrigal in the same hand, addressed to the author of Ignoramus (first performed 1615), and written in the midst of what is plainly the original MS. of the drama, makes it probable that Shakespeare's tragedy preceded (cf. Keller in J. B. xxxiv. 256).

been made to prove Shakespeare indebted to Groto's Hadriana; most positively by Walker (Hist. Memoir on Ital. Tragedy, 1799) and Klein (Gesch. des Dramas, v. 436). The passage to which they attach most weight is the parting scene (iii. 5.), where Latino (Romeo) bids Hadriana listen to the nightingale. But

the whole resemblance reduces itself to the nightingale, while even this is quite differently applied. In Groto it is actually the nightingale whose song is heard; in Shakespeare, Juliet would fain believe the lark to be the nightingale. Groto's play was certainly known in England shortly after; Jonson, in Volpone, iii. 2, makes Lady Politick Would-be

enumerate'Cieco di Hadria vie Groto' among the Italian authors whom she has read (cf. Schulze,

3 Repeated attempts have Jahrbuch, xi. 197)


traits congenial to the English taste of his time, most of which reappear, transfigured, in the finer art of Shakespeare. The poison-seller is already Shakespeare's desperate apothecary; Romeo, on the news of his banishment, already wallows on the ground. and tears his hair. Above all, Brooke has struck out a rude but vigorous sketch of the Nurse-in Bandello a mere name,-and given hints which Shakespeare did not despise :-her rambling garrulity about Juliet's childhood, her acceptance of Romeo's gold and prompt desertion of his cause when he is


The poem, in fact, contains the entire material of the play, and the story of both might be summarised in almost identical words. But in Brooke the material forms a series of moving incidents loosely strung together in a rambling narrative; in Shakespeare it coalesces in a vital organic whole. The quarrel of the rival houses appears faintly in the background of the poem, contributing casually to the lovers' ill-luck; in the drama it is an essential condition of their tragic doom. Brooke is possessed with the mediæval faith in Fortune, and his Romeo and Juliet are alternately lifted and depressed at the bidding of her changing moods; in Shakespeare an uncontrollable wind of destiny sweeps them through the brief rapture of existence. The most obvious symptom is the enormously heightened temperature and quickened time. In Brooke the action is measured by weeks, in Shakespeare by hours. Brooke's lovers are united and live happily together for three months; then Fortune thinks fit to mingle 'sour with the sweet,' whereupon Tybalt is introduced to make an unprovoked assault upon Romeo. Shakespeare peremptorily rejected this see-saw of joy and sorrow, and made the fatal brawl and Romeo's banishment occur

on the very noontide of his marriage, so that the rapture of the lovers is lifted into poetry by the pathos of near parting and mysterious foreboding:

O God, I have an ill-divining soul !1

This momentous change is very simply and naturally effected. Tybalt is introduced at Capulet's feast; Romeo kindles his anger at the same moment as Juliet's love, and he is scarcely married when he encounters Tybalt's vengeful fury. But Shakespeare drew the toils of his destiny closer yet. Brooke's

Romeo, after vainly attempting to pacify Tybalt, kills him in an access of militant fury like his own. Shakespeare's Romeo deals the blow upon which the whole tragic sequel hangs, in response to a deeper and more inexorable prompting. Tybalt's hectoring threats do not disturb his self-control; he intervenes only to keep the peace. But the fiery Mercutio is not to be restrained. It is only when Mercutio has

got his mortal hurt in his behalf that Romeo flings aside respective lenity and falls with fire-eyed fury upon his friend's slayer,-to realise a moment later the abyss into which his destiny has betrayed him : 'O, I am fortune's fool!' Then the prince intervenes, and now, once more, it is only the plea that he had drawn his sword in behalf of Mercutio-the prince's kinsman - which converts his sentence of

death to banishment.

Thus Mercutio's participation in this critical incident gives it a far subtler coherence, and this is his chief function in the plot. In Brooke his namesake merely passes for a moment before us at the banquet, as

1 Presentiments play an unusually prominent part in this tragedy. Premonitions haunt Romeo as he steps into the hall

of the Capulets (i. 4. 106); and Friar Laurence's forebodings are mirrored in Romeo's dreams

(v. I. init.)

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