End of Europe's Middle Ages
The Italian vendettas, or blood-feuds, were a long-standing tradition that most cities and towns tried to break. It was a difficult task since, by Italian standards, the honour of a family required that adequate vengeance be sought for the injury or death of a family member. The act of vengeance placed a similar burden on the newly bereaved family and the feud was perpetuated. Unfortunately, innocent bystanders could often be killed or injured and many laws were enacted in an attempt to reduce the violence of vendettas. Funerals, often held at night throughout the Middle Ages, were restricted to daylight hours in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The gathering of large family groups and the cover of darkness were too convenient for the perpetuation of feuds. Lorenzo de Medici was himself injured and his brother, Giuliano, was killed in an attack by a rival family in fifteenth century Florence. The vendettas and family feuds of Italy were well-known throughout Europe. Shakespeare used two feuding families in Verona, the Montecchi and Cappelo families, as the models for the Montague and Capulet families of his tragic play, Romeo and Juliet.
Two households, both alike in dignity,
The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary