Rhomeo and Julietta extracted from The second Tome of the Palace of Pleasure

Chrzanowski 1567pThe novella has its roots in the 12th century, when Petrus Alphonsi, a baptized Spanish Jew, put together the first collection of tales to entertain readers and provide moral lessons. The stories were translated into French. Soon after, the fableaux was born and it migrated to Italy and into the hands of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375). The mixture of comic and tragic tales of the Decameron mark the birth of the novella. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, Italian writers produced some 4,000 novellas. Those by Matteo Bandello, who was born near the end of the 15th century, were among the best. His tales did not shy away from representing vices that exposed the worst side of the Italian Renaissance.

Englishmen interested in the “new learning” turned to Italy as a source of the classics, and their literary explorations exposed them to novellas, which were shockingly realistic and bawdy stories by English standards at the time. William Painter, in particular, brought the novella to England in force. His Palace of Pleasure, published in 1566, included some sixty-five novellas. The book was an immediate success. The next year, Painter produced an even longer second tome with more than half of the novellas by Bandello. Altogether, three editions of the first volume and two of second were published before 1600. The book had a major impact on the development of English drama. More than forty Elizabethan and Jacobean plays derive plotlines from Palace of Pleasure. It is also striking that the characters have Italianate names in nineteen of the twenty Shakespeare plays not based on British history.

The present book is the thirty-page “Rhomeo and Julietta” novella extracted from the second volume of Palace of Pleasure (1567) and separately bound. Painter’s translation derives from the same source as Arthur Brooke’s earlier English verse version of tale. Brooke is generally acknowledged to be Shakespeare’s primary source; there are details, however, in the play that can only derive from Painter. Most notable is the time for Juliet’s drug to wear off: “40 hours at least” in Painter and “two and forty hours” in Shakespeare.

The present copy belonged to James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (1820–1889), with his initials and collation note at the end. The famous Victorian antiquary and Shakespeare scholar published over sixty works. He was the driving force behind and a major financial contributor to the purchase of property and establishment of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Chrzanowski 1567p *

STC 19124

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675