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First Edition 1893.
GLASGOW: PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO.
As to the date at which Romeo and Juliet was first Date of Play. written, and what its form then was, we have no certain information. Its first printed appearance is the Quarto of 1597, but that quarto was without doubt a pirated one. The second quarto, 1599, is described on the titlepage as.“ newly corrected, augmented, and amended”; and this edition is our best authority for the play in its complete state, though it does not enable us to decide with certainty how far the alteration of form is due to revision by the poet, how far to correction and completion of the pirated quarto. Nor of course does it give us any help as to the date of composition. Internal evidence clearly points to two periods of work, the earlier being indicated by the abundance of rhyme and of forced conceits; and it is now pretty generally held that the play in its original form, or a substantial part of it, was written in 1591 or 1592, and received its final shape in 1596. If the Nurse's words in i. 3. 23 allude, as has been supposed, to the earthquake of 1580, we have the year 1591 as the date of that part of the play, or the year 1593, if the Nurse's miscalculation is to be harmonized with her statement of Juliet's age. It is, however, to be doubted whether any particular earthquake is alluded to.
Source of the plot.
Here we are upon more certain ground. Though the story in its main incidents is found in various old romances and poems, Greek, Italian, and French, Shakespeare's main source was the poem of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke, published in 1562, while here and there in the play are indications that he had consulted a translation of Boisteau's Histoire de Deux Amans (itself an adaptation of the Italian Bandello's romance on the same subject) which appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, 1597. He may also have seen a play, probably an English one, to which Brooke refers in his address “to the Reader,” though no such play has come down to us, nor do we even know its title. Brooke's poem of alternated twelve and fourteen syllable rhymes, extends to 3026 lines, and, says Grant White,* “the tragedy follows the poem with a faithfulness which might be called slavish, were it not that any variation from the course of the old story was entirely unnecessary for the sake of dramatic interest, and were there not shown in the progress of the action, in the modification of one character, and in the disposal of another, all peculiar to the play, self-reliant dramatic intuition of the highest order. For the rest, there is not a personage or a situation, hardly a speech, essential to Brooke's poem, which has not its counterpart—its exalted and glorified counterpart-in the tragedy. To mention every point of correspondence between the poem and the play, would be to recount here the entire progress of the story in both, accompanied by a description of the characters : . . Suffice it, here to observe, that in the poem we find even Romeo's invisible and soon-forgotten
* Shakespeare's Works, Vol. x. pp. 8-10.