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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: July ::
Montecchi and Cappelletti
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 408.  Friday, 2 July 1993.
 
From:           Jon Callas <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Jul 93 08:43:05 PDT
Subject:        Montecchi & Cappelletti
 
    [Nota Bene: This comes from an internal DEC discussion group on
    historical antiquity, which we informally designate as being up to the
    Renaissance, or even a little later if it's pertinent, interesting, or
    both. I found it quite interesting. Joe Gobbini is a part-time historian
    who lives in Italy. -- Jon Callas]
 
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Note 193.11                Famous Male-Female Couples                   11 of 11
COLEOS::GOBBINI                                      50 lines  30-JUN-1993 14:13
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                  -< Romeo Montecchi and Giulia Cappelletti >-
 
    I'm sure you have recognized Juliet and Romeo, although Shakespeare
    anglicized their names. This famous couple has become the symbol of
    love contrasted by group loyalties. Stories like theirs will happen and
    be told as long as there are family/national/racial loyalties, and
    sexual attraction to overcome them. Which is like saying: forever.
    The case of Bosko Brkic' and Admira Istvic' which happened a couple of
    months ago shows how actual the situation is.
 
    Anyway, Giulietta and Romeo probably existed for real. Shakespeare
    based his story on a tale by Matteo Bandello, written around 1550.
    Bandello was a Franciscan friar and a provincial superior of his
    order, besides being a prolific short story writer. He says the story
    was narrated to him as true fact. Certainly the incredible details
    (e.g. the poison that simulates death) must have been added along the
    way, unless Bandello added them on his own. But the Montecchi and
    Cappelletti families really existed, and really had a feud. Dante
    mentions them in Purgatory as an example of feuding families. He is
    addressing Emperor Heinrich VII, asking him to come to Italy, give
    it a stable government, and suppress all the inter-city wars and
    inter-family feuds:
 
               Vieni a veder Montecchi e Cappelletti,
               Monaldi e Filippeschi, uom senza cura,
               questi gi` tristi e color con sospetti.
 
    (Come, you careless man, come and see Montecchi and Cappelletti,
    Monaldi and Filippeschi, the former already in open strife and the
    latter about to start one.)
 
    Dante wrote this at some time between 1305 and 1310. He spent much of
    his exile in Verona, so he knew what he was talking about. Supposing
    Giulietta and Romeo really existed, their story may have happened at
    any time between Dante's time and 1550, but probably close to 1300.
    When Bandello wrote, it was already a century-old tale, transmitted by
    word of mouth and amplified in the telling. Besides, feuds don't last
    that long; after two or three generations one of the two families (or
    both) becomes extinct. So if we say it happened between 1300 and 1350
    we have a good probability of being right.
 
    Giulietta's house and tomb that are shown to tourists in Verona, are
    fakes. The house is a real old house, which, since it had not been
    renovated since the 1400's, and was located on Via Cappelli, was
    arbitrarily designated as the the Cappelletti family house. It had no
    balcony, so one was taken from a neighbouring house and added to it.
    You can't have Shakespeare's balcony scene without a balcony, can you?
    This was done in the early 1800's. Likewise, Giulietta's supposed
    sarcophagus is only a medieval carved-stone cattle trough. Let the tourist
    beware!
 
    Joe G.
 

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