Romeo and Juliet was not a Shakespeare original

Romeo and Juliet was not a Shakespeare original

Did you know that Romeo and Juliet was not a Shakespeare original, but based on “The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet” by Bandell

This narrative poem, first published in 1562 and the key “source” for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, can be found complete as:

Brooke’s ‘Romeus and Juliet’ Being the Original of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Newly Edited by J.J. Munro. 1908. Rpt. NY: AMS Press, Inc., 1970.

or chopped down as

The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet. In The Sources of Ten Shakespearean Plays. Ed. Alice Griffin. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1966. 3-43.


The original publication title page reads only The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet, written first in Italian by Bandell, and nowe in Englishe by Ar. Br. Very little is known about Arthur Brooke, who is later credited with the work: although see Nina Green, “Who Was Arthur Brooke?” The Oxfordian 3 (2000): 51-70. An Arthur Brooke existed, born about 1544 and drowned early in 1564 on his way to help Protestant forces in France, but many Oxfordians consider this poem a youthful composition by de Vere, who later expanded and revised the story for the stage. See Paul H. Altrocchi, MD, “Shakespeare, Not Arthur Brooke, Wrote Tragicall Historye of Romeus & Juliet.” Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter 43.1 (Winter 2007): 22-26.

Ponderous amounts of source study and comparisons can be found in the Introduction in the 1970 Munro edition listed above; most pertinent involves Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (stylistically also detectable in uses of such archaisms as the verb prefix “y-” and words such as “eke,” “eyne,” “cleped,” “maugre,” “hight,” etc.).

The poem is a “cautionary tale for young lovers” (Farina 177) and is faulted for its (a) excessive alliteration; (b) frequent classical allusions; (c) a curious form of ‘unnatural’ natural history … ; (d) didactic harangues; (e) lengthy soliloquies; (f) balanced antithesis; (g) extravagant description and artificial sentiment” (l-li). The “dullness” of this “long, moralising poem” is supposedly “undisputed” (Farina 175).

It is written in poulter’s measure (rhyming couplets of first six and then seven beats), the from used in the “Golding” translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and in other suspected early de Vere works.


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