Sources: The Genealogy of Romeo and Juliet

It is thought that Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet on

  • the narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562) by Arthur Brooke, which in turn was a translation into English of
  • a story from the Histories Tragiques (1559) by Pierre Boaistuau, which was a translation into French of
  • Matteo Bandello’s Giuletta e Romeo (1554), written in Italian, which contains for the first time Romeo’s initial depression, the ongoing feud, and the characters on which the Nurse and Benvolio are based; it is a different version of
  • Luigi da Porto’s Giulietta e Romeo (1530), which contains for the first time the names of the lovers and their families (Montecchi and Capuleti), the location of Verona, the lovers’ deaths by dagger and poison respectively, and characters that are the basis for Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris; it is an adaptation of
  • Mariotto and Gianozza by Masuccio Salernitano (1476), which contains for the first time a secret marriage by a collaborative friar, a fight that ends in death which forces Mariotto’s exile, Gianozza proposed marriage to another, a sleeping potion, and an undelivered message (though here, Mariotto is executed and Gianozza dies of grief)
  • The Ephesiaca of Xenophon (third century) contains separation of the lovers, and a false-death potion
  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses (first century AD) includes the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, which contains a forced separation by their parents, and Pyramus mistakenly believing the death of Thisbe

hmmmm, Pyramus and Thisbe… where have I heard that before?