The Heritage of Love: The Misty Origins of Romeo and Juliet
"Manuscript Ital. VI 618 (6351), in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, contains a series of four anonymous novellas from the Italian Quattrocento, known collectively as Refugio de' mixeri ('Shelter of the Wretched'). Deeply sentimental in their mode and tragic in their ending, these tales tell 'true stories ... which merit being told for the morality they contain'. Their protagonists come all from prominent stocks of fifteenth-century Venice, Verona, Padua, and Montagnana, whose archives - according to their mysterious author -preserved details of their tragic events ('Not knowing how Julia had died, the magistrates wrote down a description of the sword, which is still shown to the present day in their offices'). Largely neglected by scholars, the first novella transmits to us the oldest version of the legend of Romeo and Juliet. The famous legend of the two famous lovers of Verona might find its ultimate reference in a forgotten tabloid from Venice, reporting the gory and macabre story of Giulia de' Castelli and Pruneo degli Astolfi."
Stefano Cracolici is Reader in Italian at Durham University (MLaC).His specialization is Italian early modern culture, broadly defined as the age spanning from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Four main concerns have guided his research: the enduring impact of the classical legacy on Italian literary and artistic heritage; the interactional dimension of humanistic discourse and its crucial role in establishing academic, courtly, religious and diplomatic networks; the heuristic force of imagination and the poetics of visual entertainment; and the interdisciplinary study of Italian culture, with a special focus on the history and theory of the emotions in their medical, religious and aesthetic inflections. His most recent book is devoted to Mantua in the age of Andrea Mantegna (‘Il ritratto di Archigynia: Filippo Nuvoloni e il suo “Dialogo” d’amore’, Florence 2010).
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