Last week, Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast arrived in cinemas. While most of the world saw the movie release on March 17, Australia was one week behind with a March 23 release date. Regardless, the movie celebrates reading and books through avid-reader, and protagonist, Belle.
This post is a comprehensive list of the books and writing referenced in the new, live action film.
1. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare – 1623 folio
In the initial opening song, Belle tells a surprised gentleman about a book she just finished reading. The red and gold volume she carries is about “two lovers in fair Verona”. This may be a small anachronism. Romeo and Juliet would have been a key show performed by acting troupes, but not published yet since Belle lives in early 1700’s and as a result. History may be on the side of the producers, however. A folio version of the Shakespeare play was available from around 1623 onward.
A second reference to the works of William Shakespeare appears when Belle recites a quote from A Midsummer Nights Dream:
“Love can transpose to form and dignity. Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind”
2. A Crystal Forest – William Sharp – 1913
While definitely an anachronism, the poem Belle selects to describe the ice and snow cloaking Beast’s garden could is definitely evocative and descriptive. William Sharp published a book of poems in 1913 that contained A Crystal Forest. Belle does not complete the poem, but the last line of the poem from where Belle leaves the reading ties up the sense of winter cold:
Each branch, each twig, each blade of
Seems clad miraculously with glass:
Above the ice-bound streamlet bends.
Each frozen fern with crystal ends.
3. Vulgate Cycle – Prose Lancelot – 1210 – 1230
Belle and the Beast share a connection over reading and stories. The Beast slowly warms to the idea of connection with another person after long-term isolation from the world at the hands of the enchantment.
As part of this process of reconnecting, he finds the story of Lancelot and Guinevere. This version is likely a collection of stories from a legendary text called the Vulgate Cycle. This cycle consists of five volumes telling the story of King Arthur and Camelot.
Lancelot and Guinevere’s romance takes place in one of these volumes.
The Prose Lancelot collects several of the five together. Beast most likely reads from the collected edition Prose Lancelot.
Another interesting point – The Vulgate Cycle contains the stories of Merlin, King Arthur, and the sword Excalibur. These stories form the basis of another Disney film The Sword in the Stone.
4. Sleeping Beauty – 1697
This one is not explicitly stated. While no confirmation that Sleeping Beauty features as Belle’s favourite book, there are some hints that Belle is describing Sleeping Beauty when she sings “here’s where she meets prince charming…”.
Reddit user comatoseduck identified some evidence for this theory:
Far off places: … a different kingdom.
Daring Sword Fights: Prince Phillip fights Maleficent (who had turned into a dragon) with a sword.
Magic Spells: Maleficent, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather all do magic in the movie.
A Prince in Disguise: When Aurora meets Phillip, she doesn’t know he’s a prince.
Four resources where useful for gathering this information:
- The Genius.com article on Romeo and Juliet.
- The TimelessMyths.com article on The Vulgate Cycle.
- The Internet Archive copy of Poems, by William Sharp.
- The Fan Theories sub-Reddit page.
This post was written by Joe at The Wallflyer. You can find more posts here at The Wallflyer, and you can follow me on Twitter for more updates.