Broke, Arthur (DNB00)
BROKE or BROOKE, ARTHUR (d. 1563), translator, was the author of 'The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iulieit written first in Italian by Bandell, and nowe in English by Ar. Br. In ædibus Richard Tottelli.' The colophon runs: 'Imprinted at London in Flete Strete within Temble barre at the signe of the hand and starre of Richard Tottill, the XIX. day of Nouember An. do. 1562.' The book was entered in the Stationers' Register late in 1562 as 'The Tragicall History of the Romeus and Juliett with sonettes.' The volume is mainly of interest as the source whence Shakespeare drew the plot of his tragedy of 'Romeo and Juliet.' It is written throughout in rhymed verse of alternate lines of twelve and fourteen syllables. Broke did not (as the title-page states) translate directly from the Italian of Bandello, but from the 'Histoires Tragiques extraictes des Œuvres de Bandel' (Paris, 1559), by Pierre Boaistuau surnamed Launay and François de Belle-Forest. Broke does not adhere very closely to his French original: he developes the character of the Nurse and alters the concluding scene in many important points, in all of which he is followed by Shakespeare. In the address to the reader Broke shows himself a staunch protestant, and deplores the introduction into the story of 'dronken gossyppes and superstitious friers (the naturally fitte instrumentes of unchastitie).' He also notices that the tale had already been acted on the stage with great applause. The popularity of Broke's undertaking is proved not only by Shakespeare's literal adoption of its story, but by two imitations of it, issued almost immediately after its first publication (Bernard Garter's 'Tragical History of two English Lovers,' 1565, and William Painter's 'Romeus and Giuletta' in the 'Palace of Pleasure,' 1566).
Only three copies of the first edition of Broke's translation are now known to be extant: one in the Malone collection at the Bodleian, a second in Mr. Huth's library, and the third—an imperfect copy—among Capell's books at Trinity College, Cambridge. According to the Stationers' Register, Tottell obtained a license to reprint the work in 1582, but no edition of that date has been met with. Ralph Robinson reissued the original edition in 1587, and added to the title the words: 'Contayning in it a rare example of true constancie, with the subtill counsells and practises of an old fryer and their ill event.' Modern reprints are numerous. Malone issued it (without the prefatory notices) in his 'Supplement to Shakespeare,' 1780, and struck off twelve separate copies for private distribution. It reappeared in the Shakespeare variorum edition of 1821; in J. P. Collier's 'School of Shakespeare,' 1843; in W. C. Hazlitt's 'School of Shakespeare,' 1874; and in the New Shakspere Society's 'Originals and Analogues,' pt. i. (1875), edited by P. A. Daniel.
Broke died in the year following the production of his chief work. In 1563 was published 'An Agreement of sundry places of Scripture seeming in shew to Iarre, seruing in stead of commentaryes, not only for these but others lyke. Translated out of French and nowe fyrst publyshed by Arthure Broke.' The printer, Lucas Harrison, states in his address to the reader at the beginning of the book that Broke was out of the country while it was passing through the press; but on the last page some verses headed 'Thomas Broke the younger to the reader' state that Broke had recently perished at sea. Among George Turberville's 'Epitaphes and other Poems' (1567) is one 'On the death of Maister Arthur Brooke, drownde in passing to New Haven.' Turberville writes very pathetically of Broke's sudden death, and praises very highly his tale of
Julyet and her mate;
For there he shewde his cunning passing well,
When he the tale to English did translate.
Turberville describes Broke as a young man, and notes that he was crossing the seas to serve abroad in the English army.
[Introduction to Broke's Komeo and Juliett in J. P. Collier's School of Shakespeare (1843); Broke's Agreement (1563); Turberville's Epitaphes (1567); Ritson's Bibliographia Poetica; Brit. Mus. Cat.]