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THE story on which this play is founded, is related as a true one in Girolamo de la Corte's History of Verona. It was originally published by an anonymous Italian novelist in 1549 at Venice ; and again in 1553, at the same place. The first edition of Bandello's work appeared a year later than the last of these already mentioned. Pierre Boisteau copied it with alterations and additions. Belleforest adopted it in the first volume of his collection 1596 : but very probably some edition of it yet more ancient had found its way abroad; as, in this improved state, it was translated into English, by Arthur Brooke, and published in an octavo volume, 1562, but without a name. On this occasion it appears in the form of a poem entitled, The tragicall Historie of Romeus and Juliet : It was republished in 1587, under the same title: "
Contayning in it a rare Example of true Constancie : with the subtill Counsels and Practises of an old Fryer, and their Event. Imprinted by R. Robinson.” Among the entries on the Books of the Stationers' Company, I find Feb. 18, 1582: “M. Tottel] Romeo and Juletta." . Again, Aug. 5, 1596 : “ Edward White) a new ballad of Romeo and Juliett.” The same story is found in The Palace of Pleasure : however, Shakspeare was not entirely indebted to Painter's epitome ; but rather to the poem already mentioned. Stanyhurst, the translator of Virgil in 1582, enumerates Julietta among his heroines, in a piece which he calls an Epitaph, or Commune Defunctorum : and it appears (as Dr. Farmer has observed,) from a passage in Ames's Typographical Antiquities, that the story had likewise been translated by another hand. Captain Breval in his Travels tells us, that he saw at Verona the tomb of these unhappy lovers. Steevens.
This story was well known to the English poets before the time of Shakspeare. In an old collection of
called A gorgeous Gallery of gallant Inventions, 1578, I find it mentioned:
“ Sir Romeus' annoy but trifle seems to mine." And again, Romeus and Juliet are celebrated in A poor Knight his Palace of private Pleasure, 1579. FARMER.
The first of the foregoing notes was prefixed to two of our former editions ; but as the following may be in some respects more correct, it would be unjustly withheld from the publick. This is not the first time we have profited by the accuracy of Mr. Malone. STEEVENS.