Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Palace of Pleasure
William Painter (1540?–1594)
Palace of Pleasure, The, by William Painter. This famous collection of tales was first published in 1566; and its great popularity is proved by the fact that six editions were issued within twenty years after its first appearance. ‘The Palace of Pleasure’ was the first English story-book that had for its object purely the amusement of readers, and it aroused to life imaginations which had been starved on theological discussions. The stories are translated, some from Livy’s Latin or Plutarch’s Greek, others from French translations of the original tongues; still others from the Italian collections of Boccaccio, Bandello, and Marguerite of Valois. They are admirably selected to represent the higher class of stories current at the time of the Italian Renaissance. They are simply told, without much of the morbidness of the Italian originals, and with all their beauty. There is no attempt at the conciseness which is now considered essential in a short story, but rather a tendency to dwell on details,—to make the sweetness long drawn out. The style has a delicate prettiness which does not take away from it sincerity and clearness.  1
  Despite the great charm of the tales in themselves, the chief interest in them lies in the fact that the collection was used as a storehouse of plots by the Elizabethan dramatists. Shakespeare took from it the stories of ‘Timon of Athens,’ ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘The Rape of Lucrece,’ and ‘Giletta of Narbonne’ (from which he gained the main plot of ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’). Webster found here the plot of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’; and Marston, Shirley, and Peele, all took plots from these tales. Painter is responsible for many of the Italian scenes and names that fill the early plays, and for many of the fantastic situations. For these two reasons, then, Painter’s book is interesting: for itself, as the first English story-book, and for its influence on others, as the source of many plots.  2

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