Elizabethan Love Stories.

Elizabethan Love Stories is a collection of stories (edited by T. J. B. Spencer and published by Penguin Shakespeare Library in 1968) that inspired some of the plays of William Shakespeare. There are eight stories:
The Story of Gilette of Narbona from The Palace of Pleasure by William Painter, translated from The Decameron by Boccaccio. This inspired All's Well that Ends Well.
The Story of Romeo and Julietta from The Palace of Pleasure by William Painter, translated from Bandello. This inspired Romeo and Juliet.
The Story of Apolonius and Silla from Farewell to Military Profession by Barnaby Rich (1581). This inspired Twelfth Night.
The Story of Promos and Cassandra from An Heptameron of Civil Discourses by George Whetstone (1582). This inspired Measure for Measure.
The Story of Felix and Felismena from La Diana by Jorge de Montemayor, translated by Bartholomew Young. This inspired The Two Gentleman of Verona.
The Story of Bernardo and Genevra from The Decameron by Boccaccio, translated perhaps by John Florio. This inspired Cymbeline.
✧ The Story of Giannetto of Venice and the Lady of Belmont from Il Pecorone by Ser. Giovanni. This inspired The Merchant of Venice.
✧ The Story of Disdemona of Venice and the Moorish Captain from Gli Hecatommithi by Cinthio (1565). This inspired Othello.
Of these eight stories, two (Romeo and Juliet and Othello) are tragedies, two (Measure for Measure and All's Well that Ends Well) are problem plays, and the remaining four are comedies. I've never shied away from admitting that I generally dislike all of Shakespeare's comedies (with the exception of Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream) so it's no surprise that I wasn't terribly into this collection and found my attention waning on numerous occasions. But it is still a very useful companion to have, and it actually made me appreciate Shakespeare more: some of these stories felt a little flat, and remarkably I couldn't even concentrate on The Story of Romeo and Julietta, the inspiration for one of Shakespeare's finest and most famous plays. The simple fact is this: Shakespeare did it better, he did them all better. It was good to read the collection for that, and curiosity too - reading something that Shakespeare himself read or knew and was inspired by. For that insight, it's invaluable, and, as ever, it's always good to dip into Italian literature! I would like, at some point, to read some more modern translations of these original tales.

Comments

  1. interesting source material... i read part of "The Decameron" once upon a time, but i quit when i got tired of reading the same plot over and over again... i quite like most of Shakspeare, even the comedies, but a major part of that is above and beyond the plots: having to do with clever repartee and idiosyncratic tropes...

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    1. Ah, the Decameron - that was a chore! Really wasn't so into that one I must say!

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