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1 Shakespeare: There! It's done. Just the closing sentence to add.
2 Hermione: It's amazing, Will. A work of genius. I'm sure when you finish it the universe will restart.
2 Shakespeare: Here goes then...
3 [typing]: And they all lived happily ever after.
3 Mercutio: No, no, no!!! Totally unrealistic...
4 [sound]: FWACKOOOM!
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Has there been a story written more recently than 400 years ago that ended with "And they all lived happily ever after," and that was serious about it?
The Oxford English Dictionary cites the earliest appearance in a 1702 English translation of Bocaccio's Il Decamerone:
Paganino, hearing the News, married the Widow, and as they were very well acquainted, so they lived very lovingly, and happily, ever after.
There are similar precursor phrases, including "happy ever after" and "lived ever after". "Happy ever after" is apparently an abbreviation for "happy in the ever after", where the "ever after" refers to Heaven, where (of course) people would end up happy forever. An early citation from The Phrase Finder, from A Catholike exposition vpon the Reuelation of Sainct John (1574):
Moreouer John had commended faith sufficiently when he sayde, that the dead whiche dye in the Lord are happie ever after.
And a well-researched respondent on StackExchange provides this citation for "lived ever after" from Here begynneth the treatys of Nycodemus gospell (1507):
And so they leuyd euer after in our lordys seruyce.
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