Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Tales of Star Crossed Lovers – Part 1

Over the next few weeks, we’ll post synopses of four tales that preceded Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Comparing them will give you a sense of the continuities and transformations of the central plot, as it was told over time. Look for shifts in the interpretation of the events, differences and similarities, and the evolution of the narrative arc.


1. Masuccio Salernitano, Novellino (Novella 33), 1476

Mariotto, a young man from a good family from Siena, falls in love with Ganozza, the daughter of an eminent and highly esteemed citizen. She  loves him in return. They are married in secret by an Augustinian Friar. Involved in a hot argument, Mariotto kills another honorable citizen and is condemned to exile. Proclaimed an enemy of the city, he flees to Alexandria.

Meanwhile, Ganozza is pressed by her father to marry one of her other suitors. She pretends to be dead by taking a potion and the family, in mourning, buries her. Soon thereafter she dresses as a friar and leaves for Alexandria to find her true love. However, Mariotto learns of the death of his beloved Ganozza, and returns to Siena intending to find his own death next to his spouse. He is recognized despite his disguise, caught, and executed. When Ganozza returns to Siena with Mariotto’s uncle, she learns her lover has been beheaded and flees to a convent. There, she eventually dies of grief.

SOURCE: Play guide published by the Guthrie Theater | EDITORS: Jo Holcomb, Courtney Kersten


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