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THE PLAYS EDITED FROM THE FOLIO OF MIDCXXIII, WITH WARIOUS
BY RICHARD GRANT WHITE
W O L. X.
B O S T O N
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.
“AN EXCELLENT conceited Tragedie of Romeo and Iuliet. As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right Honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants. LONDON, Printed by Iohn Danter.” 1597. 4to. 39 leaves.
“THE MOST Excellent and lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet. Newly corrected, augmented, and amended : As it hath bene sundry times publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants. I.ONDON Printed by Thomas Creede, for Cuthbert Burby, and are to be sold at his shop neare the Exchange.” 1599. 4to. 46 leaves.
The same. “As it hath beene sundrie times publiquely Acted, by the Kings Maiesties Seruants at the Globe. Printed for Iohn Smethwick, and are to be sold at his Shop in Saint Dunstanes Church-yard, in Fleetestreete vnder the Dyall.” 1609. 4to. 46 leaves.
Romeo and Juliet occupies twenty-five pages in the folio of 1623, viz. from p. 53 to p. 79, inclusive, in the division of Tragedies. It is not divided into Acts and Scenes, and is without a list of Dramatis Personae.
R O M E O A N D J U L I E T.
ROM what hidden recesses of the past the story of Romeo and Juliet is derived, and through how many strata it had filtered before it burst forth from Shakespeare's mind a spring of living beauty, it is hardly worth the trouble very curiously to inquire. The incidents of the tale are based upon political and social conditions which existed in Italy in the first half of the fourteenth century; and to that period they are referred by Luigi da Porto, one of its earliest relators, who in the title page of his book assigns the death of the lovers to the time of Bartholomeo della Scala, and by the traditions of Verona, which limit that event more exactly to the year 1303, a time when the family called Della Scala did rule that city.* Some of the leading incidents of the story—the secret marriage, the banishment of the husband, the proposal of second nuptials, and the bride's recourse to a sleeping potion — were originally embodied, as far as we
* Da Porto was a gentleman of Vicenza, who was born in 1485, and died in 1529. The title of the first edition of his book, which is dateless, is, “Istoria nouellamente ritrouata di due nobili amanti: con la loro pietésa morte interuenuta già nella città di Verona, nel tempo del signor Bartholomeo della Scala. Venezia, per Benedetto di Bendoni.” — A second edition was published in 1535. In the brief introduction of his novel Da Porto professes to have learned the history of Romeo and Juliet from a Veronese archer named Peregrino, who, in his turn, had heard his father tell it. But, according to the novelist, his informant doubted the truth of the story, because he had read in some chronicle that the Capelletti and Montecchi were of the same faction. Whether Peregrino is a fictitious character or not, the doubt is quite surely Da Porto's; for in his day archers did not read chronicles. That the Capelletti and Montecchi (or Monticoli) were at deadly variance seems, however, to be true. See Alessandro Torri's most thoroughly edited edition of Da Porto's novel, 8vo., Pisa, 1831, pp. xiv.–xviii. 56–63, and, also, Su la pietosa morte di Giulia Cappelletti e Romeo Montecchi Lettere Critiche de Filippo Scolari, 8vo., Livorno, 1831, pp. 7, 8, and passim.