Category Archives: Arrigo Boito

When I Saw You I Fell in Love, and You Smiled Because You Knew

William Shakespeare? Arrigo Boito? Jeane Westin? Anonymous?

arrigo02Dear Quote Investigator: I have a question about a quotation depicting communication between lovers. The following words are often ascribed to William Shakespeare:

When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.

Sometimes the play Romeo and Juliet is named as the source, but I have not been able to find this line in the famous story of star-crossed lovers. I performed a comprehensive computer search to look through the entire corpus of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets and was unable to find this quote. Did the Bard write this statement?

Quote Investigator: In 1893 the Italian-language opera Falstaff with music by the influential Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi was first performed. The work was a lyrical comedy in three acts with a libretto by Arrigo Boito that was based on The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare plus some material from King Henry IV. 1

In Act 2, Part 2 of the opera the character Fenton says the following to the character Nannetta: 2

Come ti vidi
E tu sorridi
Perchè lo sai.

These Italian words can be translated into English in several different ways. This version is popular today:

When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.

The confusion between attributing the statement to William Shakespeare and Arrigo Boito is understandable because the opera Falstaff was derived from Shakespeare’s oeuvre, but QI has not found the line above in the original plays by the Bard.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 2006 (Online Version 2008), The Grove Book of Operas, Edited by Stanley Sadie and Laura Macy, Second edition, Entry: Falstaff, Oxford University Press. (Oxford Reference Online; accessed May 29 2013)
  2. 1893, Falstaff: Commedia Lirica in Tre Atti, (Lyrical comedy in three acts), (This work was written in Italian), Music by Giuseppe Verdi, Libretto by Arrigo Boito, (Character Fenton speaking), Quote Page 77, Column 1, Edizioni Ricordi: G. Ricordi & Co., Milano, Italy. (Google Books full view) link