Romeo and Juliet Before Shakespeare: Four Tales of Star-Crossed Love

By Nicole Prunster - TT08

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This volume contains translations, into contemporary English, of novellas by Salernitano, Da Porto, Bandello, and Boaistuau that were forerunners to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. These translations are preceded by an introduction that traces the evolution of the tale of the two Veronese lovers.

Tommaso Guardati (circa 1410-1475), more commonly known as Masuccio Salernitano, wrote the Novellino, a collection of fifty short stories, under the patronage of Roberto Sanseverino, prince of Salerno, which was published posthumously in 1476. Luigi Da Porto (1485-1529), a soldier in the Venetian army and friend of the literary theorist and poet Pietro Bembo, is the author of letters valuable as historical documents, of poems, and of one novella. Matteo Bandello (1485-1561), born in Castelnuovo in Lombardy, abandoned the Dominican order in favour of court life that enabled him to write encomiastic poetry, Petrarchan verse, and his major literary work: a collection of 214 novellas from which Shakespeare derived Twelfth Night, Much Ado about Nothing, and Romeo and Juliet. Pierre Boaistuau (circa 1517-1566), born into the middle class of Nantes, is perhaps best known as the publisher of the first edition of the Heptaméron of Marguerite de Navarre as well as being the adapter, into French, of six Bandello novellas, published under the title Histoires tragiques.

After completing her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Nicole Prunster took up a lectureship at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, where she teaches courses on Italian theatre and the novella. As well as publishing articles in these two area, she has co-edited a volume on women in Italian culture and a collection of essays on the contemporary writer Antonio Tabucchi.

127 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-7727-2015-3 softcover
Published: 2000


Annali d’Italianistica, 20 (2002), p. 490. Reviewed by Erika Milburn.

The Sixteenth Century Journal, 32:3 (Autumn 2001), pp. 826-827. Reviewed by Ann Crabb.

Renaissance Quarterly, 53:4 (Winter 2000), p. 1260.



1. The Authors
Masuccio Salernitano
Luigi da Porto
Matteo Bandello
Pierre Boaistuau

2. The Evolution of the Romeo and Juliet Tale

Bibliography and Notes

Masuccio Salernitano, Mariotto and Ganozza
Luigi da Porto, A Tale about Two Noble Lovers
Matteo Bandello, The Unfortunate Death of Two Most Wretched Lovers
Pierre Boaistuau, Of Two Lovers