Arthur Brooke (Broke) [? — 19.03.1563] was the author of a long poem called The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, which was published in 1562. Over thirty years had passed before it finally inspired Shakespeare’s imagination around 1595 as he produced his version of the eternal love story:
|Frontispiece of The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet
“It is written in rhymed verse and was taken from the French translation of one of the stories in Matteo Bandello’s Novelle (1554–73; French trans., 1564–82). Brooke altered the original; for example, he developed the character of the nurse, changed various aspects of the last scene, and introduced Fortune as the controlling agent of the lovers’ lives. That Shakespeare also incorporated these changes indicates it was Brooke’s poem he used as a source and not the original story of Bandello. Brooke’s poem also included a preface that expressed his stridently Protestant views of the Roman Catholic church and its moral corruption” (Arthur Brooke. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 7, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/80742/Arthur-Brooke).
Dr. S. Wells notes that Arthur Brooke “seems to have been a member of the family of the Lords Cobham (1527–1597), by one of whom Shakespeare was accused of pillorying as Falstaff in Henry IV Part One.”
Unfortunately, Arthur Brooke drowned on his way to serve the Queen in France, Le Havre (Newhaven) on a ship called The Greyhound on March 19th, 1563.
“Modern editions of Brooke’s poem include Romeus and Iuliet (1875), edited by P.A. Daniel, and Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 1 (1957), edited by Geoffrey Bullough” (Encyclopædia Britannica. Op. cit).
Sources: Arthur Brooke // Encyclopædia Britannica. URL: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/80742/Arthur-Brooke; Arthur Brooke // Tudor Place. URL: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/ArthurBrooke.htm; Arthur Brooke (poet) // Wikipedia : The Free Encyclopedia. URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Brooke_(poet); Stanley Wells. URL: http://stanleywells.co.uk/.
Further reading: Munro J. J. (1908) Brooke’s “Romeus and Juliet,” Being the Original of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. London ; New York : Chatto and Windus ; Duffield and Company; Green N. (2000) Who Was Arthur Brooke? Author of The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet // The Oxfordian. Vol. III. P. 59–70; Idem // Politicworm | Shakespeare authorship. URL: http://politicworm.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/green-arthur-brooke-tox00.pdf
N. V. Zakharov