Love, especially desperate, intense love, is a popular theme for many pieces of literature over the years. Because of love’s powerful and ubiquitous nature, many easily relate to it, which is perhaps a strong reason for its popularity as a theme in literature. But as many also know, love does not always work out perfectly. Two very famous stories, that of Pyramus and Thisbe, recounted by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, and also Romeo and Juliet, written by the great William Shakespeare. There is little doubt Shakespeare used the story of Pyramus and Thisbe as inspiration for Romeo and Juliet, and thus they have many similarities. Both stories share very similar plots with similar archetypal young lovers as characters. Because Shakespeare used Pyramus and Thisbe as his inspiration for Romeo and Juliet, at first glance the stories seem almost identical with essentially the same beginnings and endings; however, the two stories differ slightly in their journeys to the climax and end of the plot.
Pyramus and Thisbe and Romeo and Juliet both begin with two very attractive, desirable youth who are unaware of each other’s existence. Pyramus and Thisbe become aware of each other due to the close proximity of their homes:
Pyramus and Thisbe, he the loveliest youth, and she the most sought after girl, the East held, lived in neighbouring houses, in the towering city of Babylon, that Semiramis is said to have enclosed with walls of brick. Their nearness and their first childhood steps made them acquainted and in time love appeared…(IV:55-92)
Ovid does not detail exactly how the two fall in love, but we can use our imagination to fill in the blanks. This is very different from Romeo and Juliet. In Shakespeare’s t...
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...ng his dagger. Both stories involve a third party in the deaths, but who that is differs. In Pyramus and Thisbe, the lioness serves as an intermediate between the two deaths, while Romeo’s friend, Friar Lawrence, plays this role in Romeo and Juliet.
Overall, Romeo and Juliet and Pyramus and Thisbe are extremely similar. Obviously, this is not surprising because one is based off the other. However, It is the fine details of each story that make them unique classics. These time-honored tales are remarkable in their very own special ways. The drama of the star-crossed lovers is a motif that is very often illustrated, but rarely gets old.
Ovid, and Rolfe Humphries. Metamorphoses. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1955.
Shakespeare, William, and Alan Durband. Romeo and Juliet. Woodbury, NY:
Barron's, 1985. Print.
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