Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Tales of Star Crossed Lovers – Part 4

Here it is!  The fourth and final synopsis of 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.


4. Pierre Boaistuau, Histoire troisième de deux Amants, dont l’un mourut de venin, l’autre de tristesse (The Third Story, of Two Lovers, one of whom died of Poison, the other of Unhappiness), in tragic tales, 1559

In Verona during Bartolomeo della Scala’s rule, two noble families, the Montesches and the Capellets, often clash violently due to their envy of one another. Rhomeo, the only heir of Montesche, is hopelessly in love with a woman who ignores his affections. a friend advises him to forget about her and look around for other beauties. Rhomeo and a few friends put on masks and attend a ball in the Capellets’ house. There, he falls in love with Juliette, the only daughter of his family’s sworn enemies. His joy knows no limit when he learns that she loves him in return. They speak at her window and plan to be wedded by Friar Laurens, Rhomeo’s spiritual father. Juliette confides the plan to her nurse and Romeo to his servant Pierre; both help the pair with a secret wedding. The couple anticipates an opportune moment to make their union official. However, during a street brawl that Rhomeo peacefully tries to stop, the young man inadvertently slays Thibault, Juliette’s dear cousin. Consequently he is banished for life from Verona. Juliette wants to go with him, but Rhomeo asks her to stay behind, for their honor’s sake.

While he is exiled in Mantua, Juliette does nothing else but cry. Distressed by their daughter’s state, Juliette’s parents decide to wed her to a handsome suitor, chosen by antoine Capellet: Count Paris of lodrone. Juliette goes back to friar Laurens with the intent to kill herself rather than marry Paris. Instead, the friar suggests another outcome: by drinking a potion prepared by him, Juliette can avoid this impossible wedding through a false death. Now she feigns to accept the imposed marriage and appears quite charming when meeting Paris. Yet, as planned, on the eve of the wedding she takes the potion, and on the next morning she is found ‘dead’.

Friar Laurens entrusts a fellow friar with a letter to Rhomeo which relates everything. In Mantua though, the emissary is quarantined due to a case of plague. Pierre, who attends Juliette’s funeral and knows nothing of friar laurens’ plans, heads straight to Mantua and brings the horrible news of Juliette’s death. Rhomeo returns to Verona determined to die next to her. He gives Pierre a letter for his father, buys poison from an apothecary, finds Juliette’s tomb, takes the poison, and dies. Laurens, worried about Rhomeo, goes to the tomb where Pierre waits for his master.

Juliette wakes up in dismay with Rhomeo dead by her side. The friar explains what happened and offers to take her to a secret convent. The commotion of the guards’ arrival forces both the friar and Pierre to hide. Juliette, alone for a moment, seizes Rhomeo’s dagger and stabs herself to death. friar laurens and Pierre are asked to tell their story publicly. after hearing the story and reading Rhomeo’s letter to his father,

Bartolomeo, the lord of the city, sentences the apothecary to death, banishes Juliette’s the nurse from Verona, sets Pierre free and leaves Friar Laurens in peace. Sharing their sorrow, the Montesches and the Capellets bring the feud to an end and keep their heirs in the same tomb, making it a beautiful monument.

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


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