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"Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace": Factional Violence in Sixteenth-Century Verona

Sat, March 24, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hilton Riverside, 1st Level - Grand Salon Breakout 22


Verona’s tourism industry fares well in exploiting the popularity of Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, but to what degree was the play inspired by true events? Shakespeare based his play on the works of others, particularly on Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti by Luigi da Porto (published posthumously in 1530). Yet the historical events that inspired da Porto have received far less attention, particularly with regard to the setting of the play. In this paper I investigate the violent altercations between two factions in Verona that troubled the city’s Venetian administrators in the 1520s, by presenting newly discovered documents from the state archives in Venice and Verona. At the same time, I make a suggestion as to which clues in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and the stories on which he based his tragedy, indicate that it had indeed been these events that inspired the play's general atmosphere of civic discord.


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