One of the most famous tragedies in the world – Romeo and Juliet’s, if we use the names William Shakespeare used in his famous play – probably started near Porta Borsari in Verona.
We all know how it ended: after a tormented story the two young lovers committed suicide, and only then did their aristocratic families reconcile after a long period of contrasts.
The final straw between Montecchi and Capuleti was a deadly fight between members of the two dynasties: an episode that was documented by Piedmontese author Matteo Bandello (1485-1561), before the Bard’s masterpiece, in the novella
La sfortunata morte di due infelicissimi amanti che l’uno di veleno e l’altro di dolore morirono, con vari accidenti:
“On Easter, along the main street near Porta Borsari, going towards Castelvecchio a large group of the Capuleti met some Montecchi and attacked them fiercely, with weapons. Tebaldo, Juliet’s cousin, was amongst the Capuleti. The stalwart young man incited his crew to beat the Montecchi boldly, without hesitation […].”
“Then Romeo arrived […]. He was upset to see his relatives come to blows with the Capuleti […] and tried to calm them down by yelling to his family and servants, so loud that many of the people on the street heard him: ‘Brothers, let’s confront them and stop this tussle in any way, but let’s try to make them lay down their arms’.”
Unfortunately, Bandello concludes, Romeo’s good intentions were not enough to stop the fight – which ended with Romeo himself killing Tebaldo and having to flee from Verona. Juliet, at that point, was left to cry “not her cousin’s death […] but the lost hope of marrying” her beloved.
It is hard to look at this beautiful Roman gate, probably built in the 1st century AD, and not think about how these historical tragic events led to one of the most heart-wrenching love stories of all time.