Shakespeare based the plot of his play "Romeo and Juliet" mainly on a poem called "The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet" by Arthur Brooke and a story called "The Palace of Pleasure" by William Painter. The poem and story in turn were based on Italian novellas.
Brooke's narrative poem was first published in 1562. It follows the story "Giulietta e Romeo," an Italian novella written in 1554 by Matteo Bandello, which was translated into French in 1559 by Pierre Boaistuau. Brooke used the French translation as his source. Bandello was inspired by a similar story of "Giulietta e Romeo" that was published in 1530 by Luigi da Porto, which not only used the names of the lovers, but also the feuding families of Capuleti and Montecchi and the setting of Verona. Luigi da Porto adapted his version of the romance from an Italian novella published in 1476 called "Mariotto and Gianozza" by Masuccio Salernitano. The story was set in Sienna, and Salernitano claimed it was based on true events.
Shakespeare used Italian novellas as the basis for a number of his plays, such as "Measure for Measure," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Merchant of Venice." "Romeo and Juliet" followed Brooke's poem closely, although Shakespeare added depth and complexity to some of the characters.