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Last month, The State Library of NSW marked the 400th anniversary of the death of poet and playwright William Shakespeare. The State Library of NSW – Australia’s home of Shakespeare – created history in the iconic Mitchell Library Reading Room on 22 April with 50 aspiring Juliets reading the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Talented young Australian stage actor Ed McKenna stepped up as Romeo for this special event, staged as part of the Library’s major Shakespeare 400 program.

Romeo and Juliet is arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play. It has been performed for over 400 years and hasn’t been out of print since it was first published in 1616. However, according to State Library rare books expert, Maggie Patton, many people will be surprised to learn that Romeo and Juliet was not an original Bard tale!

The State Library of NSW has just acquired an incredibly rare 1564 book (now on display in the Library’s Amaze Gallery) that reveals the true author of Romeo and Juliet!  It features a collection of stories by Italian author Matteo Bandello, one featuring the story of ill-fated young lovers.

Shakespeare drew inspiration from an English translation of Bandello’s story to create the tragic story of young love that we are all familiar with today. However, Ms Patton believes that modern readers may have preferred Bandello’s ending. She says that in Bandello’s original story Romeo and Juliet spent time together in the tomb and had time to say their farewells.

Read more about this startling historical revelation.