Pyramus and Thisbe
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Pyramus and Thisbe are two characters of Roman mythology, whose love story of ill-fated lovers is also a sentimental romance. It is briefly summarized by Hyginus (Fabulae 242) and more fully elaborated in Ovid (Metamorphoses 4). Geoffrey Chaucer was among the first to tell the story in English with his The Legend of Good Women. The "Pyramus and Thisbe" plot appears twice in Shakespeare's works. The plot of Romeo and Juliet burroughs directly from it and a comic recapitulation appears in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Use of gratuitous violence
Roman versions of mythological events are riddled with gratuitous violence, often to the point of absurdity. In Pyramus and Thisbe however, Ovid actually uses the violence to his own advantage, allying it with the dark tone of the overall story. The extent of pain that Pyramus expresses when he kills himself serves a dual purpose - it upholds the ideal of the Roman man as well as showing that he is willing to die graphically for the woman he loves. By contrast, Thisbe's death is described in much less detail to portray the end of the darkness and the conclusion of the story.
The story of Pyramus and Thisbe appears in Giovanni Boccaccio's On Famous Women as biography number twelve (sometimes thirteen) and in his Decameron, in the fifth story on the seventh day, where a desperate housewife falls in love with her neighbor, and communicates with him through a crack in the wall, attracting his attention by dropping pieces of stone and straw through the crack.
Geoffrey Chaucer was among the first to tell the story in English with his The Legend of Good Women. The "Pyramus and Thisbe" plot appears twice in Shakespeare's works. The plot of Romeo and Juliet may draw either from Ovid's Latin retelling in the Metamorphoses, or from Golding's 1567 translation of that work. A comic recapitulation appears in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act V, sc 1), enacted by a group of "mechanicals".
Luis de Góngora wrote his Fábula de Píramo y Tisbe in 1618. John Frederick Lampe adapted the story as a "Mock Opera" in 1745, complete with a singing "Wall" described as "the most musical partition...ever heard." In 1768 in Vienna, Johann Adolf Hasse composed a serious opera on the tale , Piramo e Tisbe.
Edmond Rostand adapted the tale from Romeo and Juliet, making the fathers of the lovers conspire to bring their children together by pretending to forbid their love in Les Romanesques. Rostand's play, translated into English as The Fantastics was the basis for the musical The Fantasticks. The musical West Side Story, based on Romeo and Juliet, and The Fantasticks, thus have the same ultimate source. Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, also wrote a children's version of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in her short story "A Hole in the Wall".
A play adaption of the myth holds a prominent position in the play " A Midsummer Night's Dream". The myth is to be played out by a group of commoners for a wedding.
There is a chapter entitled"Pyramus and Thisbe" in the Count of Monte Cristo, alluding to the secret romance between Maximillian Morrel and Valentine de Villefort.