Piramus and Thisbe is preserved in a large number of manuscripts, twenty-two in all, only three of which are independent: (i) Paris, BNF, fr. 837; (ii) Paris, BNF, fr. 19152; (iii) Berlin, Staatsbibliotek, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Hamilton 257. The other nineteen are manuscripts of the fourteenth-century Ovide moralisé, including Rouen, Bibliothèque Municipale 1044 (0.4). This manuscript, in the edition by Penny Eley, serves as the basis for our translation. Along with Narcisus and Dané, Piramus and Thisbe is often classified as a ‘classical’ lay.
In the city of Babylon, two noble families live in adjacent palaces. Their children, Piramus and Thisbe, are both superior in beauty. They play together constantly and before the age of seven are smitten by Love's arrow. A servant notices how close they are and reports this to Thisbe's mother, who is afraid of what this might lead to. So, in order to prevent her from seeing Piramus, she confines Thisbe to their palace. A dispute then arises between the two families, dashing any hopes of an eventual marriage between the two children, who are unable to contact one another. As they reach adolescence, they endure the torments of frustrated love, until one day Thisbe notices a crack in the partition wall separating the two houses. To alert Piramus to this, she pushes a belt through the crack, and once he sees it they are able to talk to each other and reaffirm their undying love. Thisbe informs Piramus that she has had a dream in which the gods have told her that they should each leave the city under cover of darkness and meet under a mulberry tree. Thisbe escapes from the palace first, but when she reaches the tree she is frightened by a lion that has just eaten a flock of sheep and come to drink at the nearby stream. Afraid, she runs away to hide in a bush, dropping her wimple as she goes. The lion tramples on it, leaves blood on it and disappears. When Piramus arrives and sees the bloodied wimple and the lion's tracks, he assumes that Thisbe has been killed and eaten by it.