When did Romeo and Juliet play

In the courtyard of Juliet's house ("Casa di Giulietta") in Verona
Dominic Schwöbel

Romeo and Juliet - what is it about the sad legend?

If Shakespeare could assert the marketing rights for his world-famous dramatic characters today, he would only be a very rich man from what would flow into his box office from Verona. Because today they belongJuliet's house, yourGrave site in a former Franciscan monastery and the Romeo's house to the main attractions of Verona. Julia's house in particular has become a real place of pilgrimage for lovers from all over the world.

The heart-wrenching story of the two unhappy lovers, who cannot get together because of the bloody feud between their two families and who therefore end in a tragic double suicide, does not come from the famous English playwright - after all, he had in the Years1597 resorted to other literary sources: especially the ItalianLuigi Da Porto, from his novella from the year 1531 numerous copies and modified versions circulated throughout Europe and also in England. However, from the material he found he created a masterpiece that made the story of Romeo and Juliet immortal.

In Verona this history is kept alive with great effort and the three pilgrimage sites already mentioned, to which one should also include the bronze bust of Shakespeare and the memorial plaque next to the Maffeiano Museum, seem to give the whole thing a historical foundation.

As I said, they seem to do it, because to put it straight away: outside of the poetic fantasy of Luigi Da Porto and Shakespeare, the world's most famous lovers never existed and are all that can be seen in Verona as historical reminiscences fictitious and has no historical basis whatsoever. The two families Montague andCapulet (in Italian Montecchio e Capuleti or Cappelletti), did indeed exist in Verona in the Middle Ages, but there is no trace of a rivalry between them in the historical sources.

Juliet's house:

Left: the statue of Julia in front of her alleged home
right: the many pieces of paper with messages and petitions from lovers
Photo: Hans Weingartz / Luu
What is presented today as "Juliet's House" has basically only existed since 1937. The idea to spruce up a dilapidated building in the center of Verona for the "Casa di Giulietta" came upAntonio Avena, then director of the Verona Museums. His choice fell on the house in Via Cappello 23, because the apex stone on the entrance arch of the inner courtyard shows the coat of arms of the Capulet family, one of the few remains from the time when this family (possibly) lived here. In the centuries before 1937, the house had served as a stable with an attached guesthouse, which, according to Charles Dickens, was by far one of the worst in Verona. The historical photo gives an idea of ​​this:
The "Juliet's House" at the end of the 19th century, before the touristic restoration: hardly recognizable and no trace of the famous balcony
Anonymous author
Antonio Avena transformed the building, which was actually ripe for demolition, into a beautiful medieval-looking house with a museum, using the American film drama as a model for the radical renovationRomeo and Juliet served, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production from the year 1936. Antonio Avena was particularly impressed by the film's balcony scene, with Romeo's declaration of love for Juliet (which is already featured in Shakespeare), this cliché was too beautiful not to turn into reality in this now very romantic place. The busy director of the Verona museums used the marble stones of a sarcophagus, which were kept in the warehouse of the "Museo di Castelvecchio" and which date back to the 14th century, to attach the stage-effective balcony to the house, where today, twice a day, two actors re-enact the flirtation of the famous lovers.

There has also been a gold-plated one in the courtyard since 1969 Bronze figure of Julia, which is already suspiciously polished on some parts of the body, probably by mostly male hands. Above all, the walls of the entrance portal are constantly littered with inscriptions and notes with petitions from happy and unhappy lovers from all over the world. The guards remove them at regular intervals - but only to make room for new messages of love.

In the museum of the house you can even admire Julia's bed - and if you believe in it, then it is also true. If you turn a blind eye, you can admire the whole thing as an elaborate illustration of Shakespearean drama; what the English playwright himself would say remains in the dark - and that is perhaps better for the undeniable suggestive power and popularity of the place.

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Romeo's house and Juliet's tomb:

The so-called is far less frequented Romeo's house in Via Arche Scaligere 4, which is only due to the fact that it is privately owned and cannot be visited inside. Actually a shame, because in contrast to the Casa di Giuglietta this house is an authentic building, one of the few preserved medieval houses in the center of Verona and of these it is perhaps the most beautiful and best preserved. Next to the archway in a high, crenellated wall, there is a simple sign "Casa di Romeo".

The only thing that made this house the "Casa di Romeo" is the relative proximity to the "Casa di Giulietta", because there is nothing to suggest that it could be a house of the Montague family. There are no historical sources that could suggest this. But to complete the scenario of Shakespearean drama you needed such a house - and Romeo shouldn't have to walk too far to the beloved Juliet's balcony.

And finally there are those in Verona Juliet's tomb, a stone sakophagus made of red marble in a vaulted crypt of the former Capuchin monastery San Francesco al Corso. Here, too, Antonio Avena was at work, the director of the Verona museums, who in 1937 conjured up the "Juliet's House" from scratch. And he was inspired by the same American film "Romeo and Juliet", which has already had a strong influence on the current appearance of the "Casa di Giulietta". The film wasn't shot in Verona, but the final scene with the lovers' deaths took place in a crypt. In order not to disappoint the tourists who were expected in Verona as a result of the Oscar-nominated film, a similar-looking place was searched for as Juliet's grave and was also found in the former Capuchin monastery "San Francesco al Corso". The ancient sarcophagus, which had previously been carelessly standing around somewhere in the cloister garden, was transported to the crypt and Julia's public grave was ready. The fact that the sarcophagus is without a lid may seem strange to some visitors, but the same applies here as to all other pilgrimage sites in the Romeo and Juliet legend: you just have to believe in it.

Not only in Verona ...

The two "Castles of Romeo and Juliet" in Montecchio Maggiore
Filippo Mazzaia
The town is about 50 km east of VeronaMontecchio Maggiore, actually a more industrial place, but in the north of which there are two castles about 300 m apart, which the city has now included in the series of cult sites of Romeo and Juliet.

The two castles (see photo above), their real namesCastello della Villa and Bellaguardia Castle are, are now popularly almost always just Giulietta Castle (Juliet's Castle) and Castello di Romeo"(Castle of Romeo), although it is well known that they never had anything to do with the Montague and Capulet families. How did that come about?
Signs pointing to the two castles in Montecchio Maggiore
Luigi da Porto, who created one of the first versions of the legend, which Shakespeare later reverted to, lived in a villa inMontorso Vicentino near Montecchio Maggiore and from its windows, the two castles can be clearly seen. At the beginning of the 20th century, at the same time as the tourism-promoting effect of the legend of Romeo and Juliet was discovered and began to be promoted in Verona, people also remembered Luigi da Porto, who allegedly made use of these two castles to his work had been inspired. The name of the Montegue family is "Montecchi" in Italian and the resemblance to Montecchio, the name of the city, did the rest to encourage the renaming of the castles, although this name resemblance is pure coincidence.

And since the new names of the two castles had such a positive impact on tourism, the municipality of Montecchio Maggiore has gone one better and is now happy to call itself Città di Giulietta e Romeo (City of Juliet and Romeo) and holds folkloric events every year in order to earn this new title - and to earn something in the process. But the two castles are still beautiful.

Conclusion: What does it matter if everything is made up - the main thing is that it attracts romantic spirits.

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© 2021 Wolfgang Pruscha