Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Tales of Star Crossed Lovers – Part 2

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.


2. Luigi da Porto, Istoria novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti con la loro pietosa morte, intervenuta già nella città di Verona nel tempo del Signor Bartolomeo Scala, (the newly recovered story of two noble lovers and their Pitiable Death, that took Place in the city of Verona, at the time of signor Bartolomeo Scala), 1529

In Verona two feuding families, the Montecchi and the Capelletti, are under threat of punishment by the city’s lord, unless they bring to an end their longstanding hatred and settle for a moderate peace. Just about that time, the only heir of the Montecchi, Romeo, a youngster of incomparable beauty, shows up at a feast held by the Capelletti. He wears a mask and pursues an attractive young lady with whom he is infatuated. On this occasion, Giulietta, the only child of the Capelletti, notices Romeo and the two fall in love at first sight and woo one other.

A few days later the lovers plan to be wedded by Friar Lorenzo (confessor to both). a philosopher, expert in natural and supernatural phenomena, the friar arranges their secret wedding. They spend several happy nights together as husband and wife. Unfortunately their families

feud is suddenly rekindled. During a brawl, despite Romeo’s concern to not hurt any member of Giuletta’s family, he ends up slaying her cousin, Tebaldo Capelletti.

As a consequence, Romeo is banished from Verona. He leaves for the city of Mantua, while Giulietta remains behind, weeping all day. Misunderstanding the cause of their daughter’s grief, Donna Giovanna Capelletti and her husband decide to comfort her after Tebaldo’s death. They plan to marry Giulietta with a young count of the Lodrone family. The news worsens Giulietta’s gloomy state.

After lengthy arguments with her parents, she goes back to the friar to seek his help. When the friar sees that she’s willing to go to such an extremity as death, he suggests to her a way of overcoming the adverse circumstances in order to be reunited with Romeo. He gives her a potion that will allow her to appear dead. Indeed Giulietta is buried in her family crypt. Once alone, she recovers, is able to leave unnoticed, and joins her husband.

Meanwhile though, a friar that Lorenzo had sent with a letter to Romeo, cannot find him in Mantua and doesn’t deliver the message explaining the whole situation. but Pietro, a servant to Giuletta and friend of Romeo, rushes to bring him the news of her death.

On hearing Pietro’s account, Romeo sets off to Verona dressed as a peasant, determined to take poison too and join his spouse in death. He arrives at the Capelletti crypt, finds Giulietta laid to rest in her tomb, drinks the poison, and collapses next to her body. as Romeo suffers the agony of dying, Giulietta awakens, early enough for the two lovers to briefly see each other alive and to realize their helpless misfortune.

Friar Lorenzo arrives but cannot intervene to save Romeo. He tries to persuade Giuletta, who is overwhelmed by desperation, to accept the terrible outcome and spend the rest of her life in a convent as a nun. But Giulietta holds her breath for much too long and dies, asphyxiated.

The guards arrive and Friar Lorenzo is taken for questioning about the young woman whose body was found outside the crypt. On the next morning, a search of the tomb, reveals Romeo’s dead body in the crypt. The friar eventually relates the entire truth.

Later in church, the Capelletti and the Montecchi, devastated by grief, come to the realization that they suffer a common plight. a compassionate embrace brings their ancient enmity to an end. They will raise a monument to their children’s memory.

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


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