The Appeal of Doomed Lovers: Background information when reading Juliet

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Juliet

by Anne Fortier

Juliet by Anne Fortier
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2010, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2011, 464 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Appeal of Doomed Lovers

Print Review

Search the web for "famous love stories" and you'll find that most sites rank Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in 1st place. Considering how few of the general populous will have actually read or watched a performance of Shakespeare's arguably most famous play in recent years it seems likely that what keeps this pair of star-crossed lovers in everyone's minds is not Shakespeare's work itself but the countless adaptations, parodies and representations of it since it was first performed in the late 16th century. In fact, it's difficult to imagine a single literary work that has inspired more artistic endeavors. Tchaikovsky's overture, Prokofiev's ballet and West Side Story are just the tip of the iceberg - various sources estimate there are upwards of 77 films and 24 operas based on Shakepeare's Romeo and Juliet, plus any number of musical pieces, paintings and books.

But what inspired Shakespeare to pen the story that has subsequently inspired 500 years of artistic endeavors?

The true origin is likely lost in the mists of time, but for our purposes let's start with the Roman myth, as told by Ovid, of the doomed Babylonian lovers Pyramus and Thisbe. Forbidden to marry by their parents they arrange to meet under a mulberry tree. Thisbe arrives first but, seeing a lioness with a kill, flees leaving her veil behind her, which the lioness mutilates. Pyramus arrives and, on seeing the bloody veil, falls on his sword splashing the white mulberries with his blood. Thisbe returns, sees her lover dead and stabs herself with a sword - and in honor of the young lovers the gods turn the mulberry fruit red.

Fast forward to Dante's Divine Comedy (1308-1321) and we find a reference to the warring families of Montecchi and Cappalletti, who were political rivals in Lombardy.

About a century and a half later Mauccio Salernitano (1410–1475) writes a story of doomed lovers set in Siena, Tuscany (which is also the setting of Anne Fortier's Juliet.).

In 1530, Luigi da Porto adapts Salernitano's story, moving the location to Verona, and naming his lovers Giuletta Capuleti and Romeo Montecchiand.

Fifteen years later Matteo Bandello publishes his version of da Porto's novel as a poem. Shortly after Pierre Boaistuau translates the story into French, adding a good dose of moralizing and rhetorical outbursts.

Then, in 1562, Arthur Brooke translates Boaistuau's version into English, adding a few flourishes of his own and naming it The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet.

It is Brooke's poem that is believed to be the basis for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (~1954), with additional details provided by a version of the story from William Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1566) - a collection of sixty stories which provided Shakespeare with inspiration not just for Romeo and Juliet but also for other plays including Timon of Athens and All's Well That Ends Well.

And thus, perhaps, we have the answer to why Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has such lasting appeal. It's not really Shakespeare's play, or its many reworkings, that holds us in thrall, but the simple timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers, whether their story be set in ancient Mesopotamia, medieval Italy, or in the modern day, such as in Anne Fortier's Juliet.

This article was originally published in September 2010, and has been updated for the July 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...
  • Book Jacket: See What I Have Done
    See What I Have Done
    by Sarah Schmidt
    Sarah Schmidt's historical fictionalization of the Lizzie Borden story is a tsunami. From the ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.