Pyramus and Thisbe
In the Ovidian version, Pyramus and Thisbe is the story of two lovers in the city of Babylon who occupy connected houses/walls, forbidden by their parents to be wed, because of their parents' rivalry. Through a crack in one of the walls, they whisper their love for each other. They arrange to meet near Ninus' tomb under a mulberry tree and state their feelings for each other. Thisbe arrives first, but upon seeing a lioness with a mouth bloody from a recent kill, she flees, leaving behind her veils. When Pyramus arrives he is horrified at the sight of Thisbe's veil, assuming that a fierce beast had killed her. Pyramus kills himself, falling on his sword in proper Roman fashion, and in turn splashing blood on the white mulberry leaves. Pyramus' blood stains the white mulberry fruits, turning them dark. Thisbe returns, eager to tell Pyramus what had happened to her, but she finds Pyramus' dead body under the shade of the mulberry tree. Thisbe, after a brief period of mourning, stabs herself with the same sword. In the end, the gods listen to Thisbe's lament, and forever change the colour of the mulberry fruits into the stained colour to honour the forbidden love.
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. John Gower also uses the story, with some alteration, as a cautionary tale in his Confessio Amantis, while Amoryus and Cleopes is a 15th century version.
Romeo and Juliet
The "Pyramus and Thisbe" plot appears twice in Shakespeare's works. Most famously, the plot of Romeo and Juliet, in which the titular characters, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, fall in love at a party the Capulet family hosts, but they cannot be together because the two families hold "an ancient grudge" (which the young lovers' deaths eventually quash), and because Juliet has been engaged by her parents to a man named Paris. Romeo and Juliet may draw either from Ovid's Latin retelling in the Metamorphoses, or from Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of that work. Most modern tales of "forbidden love" are seen as having been based on Shakespeare's play, rather than "Pyramus and Thisbe."
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A comic recapitulation of "Pyramus and Thisbe" appears in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act V, sc 1), enacted by a group of "mechanicals". Their production is crude and, for the most part, badly done until the final monologue of Nick Bottom as Pyramus and the final monologue of Francis Flute as Thisbe. The theme of forbidden love is also present in A Midsummer Night's Dream (albeit a less tragic and dark representation) in that a girl, Hermia, is not able to marry the man she loves, Lysander, because her father Egeus despises him and wishes for her to marry Demetrius, and meanwhile Hermia and Lysander are confident, Helena, is in love with Demetrius.
François Francoeur and François Rebel composed Pirame et Thisbée, a liric tragedy in 5 acts and a prologue, with libretto by Jean-Louis-Ignace de la Serre; it was played at the Académie royale de musique, on October 17, 1726. The story was adapted by John Frederick Lampe as a "Mock Opera" in 1745, containing a singing "Wall" which was described as "the most musical partition that was ever heard." In 1768 in Vienna, Johann Adolph Hasse composed a serious opera on the tale, titled 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.
In Edith Wharton's short story "The House of the Dead Hand", the romance between Sybilla and Count Ottoviano is seen as "a new Pyramus and Thisbe."
In Willa Cather's O Pioneers!, two of the story's lovers are killed under a Mulberry Tree.
In La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas (1499) Calisto talks briefly about the unfortunate Pyramus and Thisbe.
- Virginia Brown's translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, pp. 27-30; Harvard University Press 2001; ISBN 0-674-01130-9
- Recorded on Hyperion Records, CDA66759
- Ovid, Metamorphoses iv.55-166
- Bulfinch, Thomas, The Age of Fable; Or, Stories of Gods and Heroes (2nd ed.), Sanborn, Carter, and Bazin, 1856
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Pyramus and Thisbe|
- Pyramus and Thisbe performed by The Beatles
- Carlos Paraga, Greek Mythology link: Pyramus and Thisbe
- pXt A visual novel adaptation of the story from A Midsummer Night's Dream