By patient examination of the original Italian text of Matteo Bandello this chapter offers evidence that William Shakespeare had read the story of doomed lovers in the Novelle, and perhaps in Luigi da Porto's 1530 version, too. It shows that Shakespeare is not the first author to carefully link the events in this fictional story of star-crossed lovers to actual dates, holy days, and lunisolar events in a specific calendar year. The chapter also shows that Bandello reworked da Porto's story to conform the action to the solar and liturgical calendars of AD 1302. It suggests that Shakespeare's close reading of Bandello may have inspired Shakespeare to exploit the tale of Romeo and Juliet to interrogate the Gregorian reform of 1582 by linking events in his tragedy to actual dates and holy days in that topsy-turvy year.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.