William Shakespeare's memorable tragedy Romeo and Juliet has defined many of the ways in which we can think of romantic love.
In writing the play, Shakespeare responded to many romantic conventions of his own time.
However, Romeo and Juliet was a legend popular in Italy from the 15th century.
In addition to Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet was raw material for many prose fictions by Luigi de Porto, Matteo Bandello and Pierre Boaistuau.
In England Arthur Brooke turned it into a narrative poem entitled The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet in 1562. The poem is supposed to be Shakespeare's immediate source for his play.
I had the fortune of visiting the place where legendary Romeo and Juliet committed suicide. According to the play Romeo swallows poison and dies.
Discovering his body, Juliet stabs herself to death.
Today the place where the tragedy occurred is a regular haunt of lovers. Despite the freezing cold they visit the place popularly known as Verona. Juliet is supposed to have lived in the upper floor of the old building that exists even today.
It has become a ritual for lovers to bring padlocks and keys when they visit Verona.
They click the padlocks on the iron gate and throw away the keys as a symbol of eternal love.
Some lovers touch the bronze image of Juliet and pray for lasting love. It is a touching scene for anyone to see.
At first the play was classified as a comedy in the First Folio. In the 19th century it was viewed as a tragedy.
However, modern scholars treat The Merchant of Venice as a tragicomedy or problem play.
In the 16th century Venice was one of Europe's great mercantile sectors.
The play is remembered today because of three leading characters: Portia, Antonio and Shylock who was a ruthless moneylender. Even today, Venice is a popular trade hub in Europe. Merchants can be seen using boats for transport.
The high-rise buildings have been built in the sea. As a result, the only means of transport is boats.
People use different types of boats depending on their wealth and social standing. At night, Venice becomes a city of lights. People can be seen singing and dancing on the streets.
However, Venice has earned a reputation for glassware today.
The shops are full of glassware and jewellery. What is more, the city is a haven for artists who sell their paintings to visitors.On an invitation of Kapila Livera, a Sri Lankan living in Italy, I held an exhibition of my paintings at a private art gallery in Padoa.
I was perhaps the first Sri Lankan to hold an exhibition of paintings in Padoa.
The large number of Sri Lankans living in Italy and foreigners were impressed by the exhibition. They probably viewed some paintings which are quite different from Italian art popularised by Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Courtesy - Sunday Observer by Kalasuri JAYASIRI SEMAGE