The Bard

If you’re alive, breathing, seeing, smelling & touching…you know that there’s nothing like being in love. Here’s to a purrrrfect Valentines Day!

Love stories.  As old as the hills.  Unsuspecting encounters, a first glance and then something special happens, that changes things forever.  Today marks a special anniversary – the date believed to be the first enactment of William Shakespeare’s world-renowned play Romeo and Juliet.  Written sometime between 1591 and 1595, it stands in the historical record as one of the greatest love stories ever written.  Retold many times in playhouses and theaters and a wealth of film adaptations of both traditional and modern interpretations it has become part of our culture and vernacular still today.  In pre-celebration of Valentine’s Day on Sunday, and lovers throughout the ages, here are some surprising facts and tidbits you most likely never knew.  Be sure to spoil all those in your life who you love in your own special way, and thanks Will for this amazing story.  And tons of love to my family, friends, KHT team and customers! Thx to You Tube for the videos and ancient-origins.net and howlifeunfolds.com for the insights.

Click on these links and enjoy the music while reading:
The Pointer Sisters
Bruce’s Live Version

  • For those who skipped their middle school reading assignment, here’s a recap: “An age-old vendetta between two powerful families erupts into bloodshed as a group of masked Montagues risk further conflict by gatecrashing a Capulet party. A young lovesick Romeo Montague falls instantly in love with Juliet Capulet, who is due to marry her father’s choice named Paris. With the help of Juliet’s nurse, the women arrange for Romeo and Juliet to marry the next day, but Romeo’s attempt to halt a street fight leads to the death of Juliet’s own cousin, Tybalt, for which Romeo is banished. In a desperate attempt to be reunited with Romeo, Juliet follows the Friar’s plot and fakes her own death. The message fails to reach Romeo in time, and believing his beloved Juliet dead, he takes his own life in her tomb. Juliet wakes to find Romeo’s corpse beside her and filled with anguish, kills herself. The grieving family agree to end their feud.”
  • or as some have recapped – “just a couple of sneaky, spoiled rich teenagers getting all jazzed up over each other, and then, when they can’t get their way, overdoing it in the end.”
  • Historians have researched Romeo and Juliet and believe in fact, that the play was not of William’s own creation – but rather a variation on a story told many times from the 1400s onwards.  Centered on the theme of star-crossed lovers, borrowed from poets as far back as ancient Greece, Romeo and Juliet’s tale was told at least a century before Shakespeare actually wrote it.
  • The first certain tale of the woes of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet descends from Italian author Masuccio Salernitano (1410-1475). Published a year after his death, Salernitano’s 33rd chapter of his Il Novellino tells of Mariotto and Giannoza, a pair of lovers who come from the feuding families of Maganelli and Saraceni respectively. In this account, their love affair takes place in Siena, Italy rather than in Verona and is believed to have occurred contemporary with Salernitano’s time.  Mariotto and Giannoza fall in love and marry secretly with the aid of an Augustine friar. Shortly thereafter, Mariotto has words with another noble citizen—in this case, not his love’s cousin—and kills the nobleman, resulting in his fleeing the city to avoid capital punishment. Giannoza, distraught, is comforted only by the fact that Mariotto has family in Alexandria, Egypt and makes a good home for himself there.  However, her own father—unaware of her wedding—decides it is time for her to take a husband, putting her in a terrible position. With the aid of the friar who had wed her and Mariotto, Giannoza drinks a sleeping potion to make her appear dead, so she can be smuggled out of Siena to reunite with her husband in Alexandria. Of course, this plan goes terribly awry, and her letter to explain their plan to Mariotto never reaches him, though news of her death quickly does.  While she flees to Alexandria to finally reunite with him, Mariotto returns to Siena – risking his own life to see her corpse one final time. It is then that he is captured and taken to be executed for his previous crimes, beheaded three days before Giannoza’s own return to the city. Giannoza then, heartbroken, wastes away of a broken heart, supposedly to be finally reunited with her beloved husband in heaven.  Like Shakespeare’s account of Romeo finding Juliet sleeping but believing her dead, Salernitano’s earlier story contains a scene in which Mariotto finds the sleeping body of Giannoza, and believes she has died.  Like Shakespeare’s account of Romeo finding Juliet sleeping but believing her dead, Salernitano’s earlier story contains a scene in which Mariotto finds the sleeping body of Giannoza, and believes she has died.
  • The themes of feuding families, the forbidden love, the sleeping potion, and the terrible communication mishap all lead to the parallel ending of mutual death of the star-crossed lovers. Writing only a hundred years apart, Shakespeare could well have come across Salernitano’s work, or one of the many other variations that were written before the story reached the Bard’s desk.
  • Luigi da Porta in the 1530s wrote a similar compilation, telling the tale of Romeo Montechhi and Giulietta Cappelleti, moving the setting of their lives from Siena to the Verona – the same place where Shakespeare would locate it. The pair again wed in secret with the aid of a friar, only to be torn apart by Romeo’s accidental killing of Giulietta’s cousin and their subsequent deaths—Romeo by Giulietta’s sleeping potion, and Giulietta by holding her breath so she could die with him.
  • Despite the numerous versions of Romeo and Juliet’s story that preceded William Shakespeare, it cannot be denied that it was his work that transformed their love affair into one of the greatest stories ever known. The Bard might have borrowed heavily from Salernitano, Bandello, and Brooke, but the audience which his play was presented to took the text into their hearts and spread it throughout Elizabethan England until the characters’ names became interchangeable with the mantra “meant to be”.
  • Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet’s undying affection have made the passionate story immortal, and it remains one of the foremost inspirations for modern romantic literature.

And for my trivia buffs out there:

1. William Shakespeare wasn’t the first person to write about the Montagues and the Capulets. The two families were kicking around long before William Shakespeare got a hold of them. In “Divine Comedy,” the epic poem that took Dante more than 10 years to complete, he makes the following reference, written more than 250 years before Shakespeare was even born.
“Come and see, you who are negligent, / Montagues and Capulets, Monaldi and Filippeschi: / One lot already grieving, the other in fear. / Come, you who are cruel, come and see the distress / Of your noble families, and cleanse their rottenness.”
2. It wasn’t always called Romeo and Juliet – When it was first published, Romeo and Juliet went by a much more descriptive—and much longer—title: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
3. The first publication of Romeo and Juliet is thought to be an unauthorized version of the play. Romeo and Juliet was originally published in 1597, in the First Quarto. But Shakespeare scholars have long argued that this version of the play was not only incomplete, but unauthorized. The 1599 version, published in the Second Quarto, is the version of Romeo and Juliet we all know and love today.
4. Juliet is just 13 years old – We know that Romeo and Juliet are a young couple in love—but it’s easy to miss just how young Juliet is. In Act I, Scene III, Lady Capulet says that Juliet is “not fourteen.” She is actually just about two weeks shy of her 14th birthday. Romeo’s exact age is never given.
5. The couple’s courtship was indeed a whirlwind – Talk about a whirlwind romance! Given that we know Juliet is just 13 years old, her impetuousness might seem more understandable. But from the time they meet to the time they marry Romeo and Juliet have known each other less than 24 hours.
6. There is no balcony in Romeo and Juliet’s “balcony scene.” – One of Romeo and Juliet’s most iconic moments is what has become known as “The Balcony Scene,” which occurs in Act II, Scene 2. There’s just one problem: The word balcony is never mentioned in Shakespeare’s play. There’s a good reason for that, too: according to Merriam-Webster, the earliest known usage of the term, originally spelled balcone, didn’t occur until 1618—more than 20 years after Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. According to the play, the scene takes place at Capulet’s Orchard when “Juliet appears above at a window.”
7. It wasn’t until 1662 that a woman played the role of Juliet – As anyone who has seen Shakespeare in Love knows, back in the Bard’s days and up until 1660, all stage roles were performed by men. But in 1662, actress Mary Saunderson stepped onto the stage as Juliet; she is believed to be the first woman to play the iconic role.
8. One writer dared to give Romeo and Juliet a happy ending – Irish poet and lyricist Nahum Tate, who became England’s poet laureate in 1692, had a penchant for messing around with Shakespeare’s words. In addition to rewriting Shakespeare’s King Lear as 1681’s The History of King Lear—in which he tacked on a happy ending to the tragedy (Cordelia married Edgar)—he did the same with Romeo and Juliet. Unlike his version of King Lear, which became quite popular, his alternate ending for Romeo and Juliet didn’t seem to stick.
9. Romeo has become shorthand for a male lover – Romeo and Juliet has had a lasting effect on the English language, including its popularization of words like ladybird and phrases like wild goose chase. But Romeo, too, has his own dictionary entry: in addition to being defined as “the hero of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet who dies for love of Juliet” by Merriam-Webster, Romeo has also come to mean “a male lover.”

BONUS:  Turns out, 58 million pounds of chocolate are purchased in the seven days leading up to Feb. 14 and 225 million roses are grown and cultivated for Valentine’s Day.

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