Shakespeare’s Narrative Sources: Italian Novellas and Their European Dissemination

Da Porto

Da Porto’s novella was first published in Venice by Benedetto de Bendoni, with the title Istoria novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti: con la loro pietosa morte intervenuta già nella città di Verona. The publication date is uncertain but it is supposed to have taken place around the year 1530/31. A reprint of the same text was issued in 1535, again in Venice by Benedetto de Bendoni, with a new title: Novella novamente ritrovata d’uno innamoramento, il quale successe a Verona nel tempo del Signor Bartolomeo dalla Scala, istoria iocondissima. A second edition was published, probably under the supervision of Pietro Bembo, in 1539 in Venice by Francesco Marcolini. The novella, titled La Giulietta, had undergone a linguistic revision and some additions, and was published in the collection Rime et Prosa di Messer Luigi da Porto.


Luigi Da Porto was born in Vicenza on August 10, 1485 son of Bernardino Da Porto and Elisabetta Savorgnan. Luigi’s parents died when he was young, and his custody was given to his grandfather Gabriele and later to his uncle Francesco. Little is known about the years of Da Porto’s youth. Hypothesis range from his presence at Urbino’s court or in Venice around 1502 and 1503, where he might have met Pietro Bembo who then became a dear friend and with whom he exchanged many letters. In 1505, indeed, Luigi was back in Vicenza and started his epistolary correspondence with Bembo, in the same year he met Matteo Bandello. In 1507 Da Porto went to live with an aunt in Vicenza and witnessed the beginning of the events of the Cambrai League. Luigi was first a witness and then participated in the war which saw the alliance of France, the Empire and the Papato against Venice. Da Porto participated in the war on the side of Venice and in 1510 he was appointed captain and sent to Friuli. He will describe the various events of the war in his Lettere Storiche. In 1511 Da Porto was wounded during a battle won by the venetians but which left him with a serious wound in his throat. Luigi was then brought to Udine and successively to Venice where he lived for some years during his healing. The injuries he received maimed him for all of his life and terminated his brief military career. Luigi, his brother, and his aunt Pietra were obliged to live in Venezia till 1517 when they returned to Vicenza, which had been freed from the Imperial troops. Da Porto was awarded privileges and the positione of  Vicar of Arrignano as a reward for his faithfulness to the Replublic of Venice during the war. In the last years of his life Da Porto collected his seventy Lettere Storiche – which had been addressed mostly to his uncle Savorgnan and written between 1509 and 1511 and after his wounding till 1513 – dividing them in two volumes with the addition of introductory passages. The letters were published partially and anonymously in 1560-62, a complete collection will only be published in 1857 in Florence.

In these last years of his life Da Porto also probably composed the novella titled Historia novellamente ritrovata dei due nobili amanti, con la loro pietosa morte intervenuta già nella città di Verona nel tempo del signor Bartolomeo della Scala. The novella was probably written in 1524 since a novella Da Porto had written is mentioned in a letter by Pietro Bembo in which he offers to read it. In the same period, he probably composed a series of poems (principally sonnets), then published in Rime et Prosa in 1539 along with the second edition of the novella, then titled La Giulietta.

Da Porto’s health worsened in 1529 and on May 10th he died in Vicenza and was buried in the church of Santa Corona.


Bullough, Geoffrey. 1961. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press. 

De Marchi, Cesare, 1994, La Giulietta, Firenze: Giunti.

Perocco, Daria, 2017, La prima Giulietta, Milano: Franco Angeli.

Romano, Angelo, 1993, Le storie di Romeo e Giulietta, vol. 1 & 2, Roma: Salerno Editore.

Torri, Alessandro, 1831, Giulietta e Romeo: Novella storica di Luigi da Porto di Vicenza,  Pisa: Fll.i Nistri.

Digital archive created by Roberta Zanoni