“The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet ” is a tragedy composed by William Shakespeare between 1594 and 1596, among the most famous and represented, as well as one of the most popular love stories.
It must be said, however, that, from the discoveries made by various scholars of medieval English and Italian literature, it seems that the English playwright did not write the text of this work only based on his inspiration, because other manuscripts have been found whose contents are the same as that of Shakespeare but were written earlier.
There is that of Luigi da Porto (Vicenza, 1485 – Vicenza, 10 May 1529) a writer and historiographer from Vicenza. Luigi da Porto in his "Historia Novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti", published in about 1530, gave history much of its modern form, renaming the young Romeus and Giulietta and transporting the action from Siena to Verona (a city that at the time of Da Porto was strategically important for Venice), at the time of Bartolomeo della Scala, in 1301-1304. From Porto presents his story as historically true and, in the plot, there are already key elements: characters corresponding to those of Shakespeare (Mercutio, Theobald and Paris), the brawl, the death of a cousin of Romeo's beloved, the banishing from the city of the latter and the tragic end of both in which Romeo takes a poison and Juliet pierces with a dagger. From Porto he found perhaps inspiration from the vision of the two Scaliger fortresses present in Montecchio Maggiore (in the province of Vicenza), which appear in contrast to each other. In addition, his story seems to reflect autobiographical events, namely his love with Lucina Savorgnan, in the context of feuds between noble families in Friuli.
As for the names of the two families involved in this work, they were already known in the fourteenth century, inserted by Dante in his Comedy (precisely in the song VI of purgatory, lines 105-106-107):
“Vieni a veder Montecchi e Cappelletti, Monaldi e Filippeschi, uom sanza cura: color già tristi, e questi con sospetti!”
"Come and see Montecchi and Cappelletti, Monaldi and Filippeschi, uom sanza cura: already sad colors, and these with suspicions!"
Only the Montecchi are originally from Verona, while the Capulets (who were called Cappelletti) come instead from Brescia, although they are also in Verona until the years of Dante's stay, in today's Juliet's House, where their presence is also witnessed by the coat of arms of the hat on the keystone of the entrance arch to the courtyard of the 19th century building. There are no reports of struggles between Cappelletti and Montecchi, while the latter have for a long time carried on a bloody fight against the Guelphs (especially with the Guelph Sambonifacio family). News of the Montecchi comes after they were banished from the city by Cangrande della Scala, after attempting a plot against him. The historical context in Dante does not refer to the events of the contrarian love among the lovers of these families, who do not appear there, but speaks of the two families, commiserating them, since they were families "already sad".
In any case, in Verona everyone thanks Shakespeare for the tourism that the story and the myth of Romeo and Juliet bring to the city.
• Dante Alighieri. Divina Commedia, Purgatorio, Canto VI, vv. 105-106-107.
• Giovanni Arnaldi, Montecchi, in Enciclopedia Dantesca, Roma, Treccani, 1970.
• Mario Carrara, Gli Scaligeri, Milano, Dall’Oglio, 1966.
• Giovanni Solinas, Storia di Verona, Verona, Centro Rinascita, 1981
• Luigi Da Porto, La Giulietta, Giunti Editore, ISBN 88-09-20456-5.
• Cino Chiarini, Romeo e Giulietta. La storia degli amanti veronesi nelle novelle italiane e nella tragedia di Shakespeare, Firenze, Sansoni, 1906.
• A. Serpieri e AA. VV., Nel laboratorio di Shakespeare. Dalle fonti ai drammi, Parma, 1988.
• Maria Cristina Zaniboni, Un’antica passione. Romeo e Giulietta dalle fonti a Shakespeare, Imola Grafiche Galeate, 1988.
• La Giulietta nelle due edizioni cinquecentesche, a cura di Cesare De Marchi, Firenze, Giunti, 1994.
• Le storie di Giulietta e Romeo, a cura di Angelo Romano, Roma, Salerno, 1993.
• Albino Comelli e Francesca Tesei, Giulietta e Romeo: l’origine friulana del mito, L’Autore Libri, Firenze, 2006.