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The Winter's TALE was first published in the collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, 1623, where it closes the series of Comedies. It is printed with relative accuracy, furnished with a list of dramatis personæ at the end, and divided into scenes as well
The date of The Winter's Tale can be determined within narrow limits. There is little doubt that Shakespeare put the last strokes to his manuscript some time between September 1610 and May 1611. On 15th May in the latter year the play was performed at the Globe, and it had previously been 'allowed' by the Master of the Revels, Sir George Buck, who had succeeded to that office in October 1610.1 The Globe performance is known to us from a description of it left by the notorious astrologer, Dr. Simon Forman, which makes it clear that the play, whether new or otherwise, was new to him.2
On the following 5th November it was performed before the Court, at Whitehall, by Shakespeare's company.1
The internal evidence entirely confirms the presumption that The Winter's Tale was, in fact, new when it was 'allowed,' and that it was therefore written either in 1610 or in the early months of 1611. Its qualities of form connect it altogether with the group of 'Romances.' Hardly anywhere is the subtle rhythmic instinct of Shakespeare's later maturity, which disintegrates the line in order to build up a richer music in the paragraph, so perfectly shown as in half-a-dozen speeches of Florizel and Perdita. 'Light' and 'weak' endings abound, and rhyme, except in the songs, is completely absent. It shares with Cymbeline, Pericles, and Henry VIII. the tragedy of slandered womanhood; with Cymbeline, Pericles, and The Tempest, the tender glow suffused over the reunion of lost kindred; with Cymbeline and The Tempest, the final forgiveness of the evil-doers, and the delight in portraying the untaught children of nature; with Cymbeline, the carelessness in smaller points of dramatic technique, the easy mastery of what is great, the Märchen-like motif and treatment, and the seemingly capricious disarray of place and time.
The Winter's Tale was founded upon Robert Greene's romance Pandosto; a work very famous in its day, for it went through fourteen editions, and was dramatised in France and Holland 2 when The Winter's Tale was still completely unknown in either. It was first published in 1588, with the
1 This is known from the entry recorded by the same Sir George Buck under this date: A play called the Winters Nightes Tayle.
2 Jean Puget de la Serre's Pandoste, ou la Princesse malheureuse, 1631, and Voskuyl's Dorastus en Fauniaas, Amsterdam, 1637 (Bolte, Shakspere Jahrbuch, xxvi. 90).
title: 'Pandosto, The Triumph of Time. Wherein is Discovered by a pleasant Historie, that although by the meanes of sinister fortune, Truth may be concealed, yet by Time in spight of fortune it is most manifestly revealed. Pleasant for age to avoyde drowsie thoughts, profitable for youth to eschue other wanton pastimes, and bringing to both a desired content. Temporis filia veritas.
By Robert Greene, Maister of Artes in Cambridge. Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci. In the numerous subsequent editions the title Pandosto was replaced by Dorastus and Fawnia.
The germ of the romance was probably an actual incident in the fourteenth-century annals of Poland and Bohemia.1 A king, Siemowitsch, conceived suspicions of his wife, a lady of the Bohemian court, threw her into prison, where she bore a son, then caused her to be strangled, and the child sent away. The child was finally restored to Siemowitsch, who died, deeply repentant, in 1381-the year in which Anne of Bohemia, a kinswoman of the murdered wife, gave her hand to Richard II. The lively intercourse with Bohemia which ensued upon that marriage may well have set the tradition of this bit of criminal history afloat in England. That such a tradition did exist is made probable by the undoubted survival of another fragment from the same source in The Tempest. A faint trace of the original locality perhaps survives in Greene's Bohemian king and court. But his execution was evidently controlled by the purest spirit of romance, according to the Sidneian and Lylyan model fashionable in 1588. The Arcadia served as model for the matter, the
1 Cf. Caro's article in Englische Studien, 1878; and Boyle's 'Shakespeare's The
Winter's Tale and The Tempest, 1885.
Euphues for the speech. In the tragic story he framed a pastoral idyll, even outbidding Sidney's pseudo-classic mise-en-scène by permitting his injured Bohemian queen to appeal, with success, to the oracle of Delphi; while the personages throughout express their passions and their hesitancies with an oppressive appetency, like Lyly's, for the symmetries of speech and the analogies of nature. His story is briefly this Pandosto, king of Bohemia, conceives suspicions against his wife Bellaria and his guest Egistus, king of Sicily; their imprudent familiarity and real attachment give some colour to his doubt.
Bellaria (who in her time was the flower of curtesie) willing to show how unfaynedly shee loved her husband by his friends intertainment, used him likewise so familiarly that her countenance bewraied how her minde was affected towardes him; oftentimes comming her selfe into his bed chamber, to see that nothing should be amis to mislike him. This honest familiarity increased dayly more and more betwixt them; for Bellaria, noting in Egistus a princely and bountifull mind, adorned with sundrie and excellent qualities, and Egistus, finding in her a vertuous and curteous disposition, there grew such a secret uniting of their affections, that the one could not well be without the other (Hazlitt-Collier, Shakspere's Library, iv. 25).
Pandosto, after long deliberation, instructs his cupbearer, Franion, to poison Egistus, who, warned by Franion, hastily makes his escape to his own country. Furious at losing his prey, and not venturing openly to attack Egistus, who had 'married the Emperour's daughter of Russia,' Pandosto throws Bellaria into prison. There, after several months, she bears a child, which Pandosto causes to be cast adrift in an open boat, while she herself is brought to trial for her life. All her pleading proving vain,
She fell downe upon her knees, and desired the king that . . . hee would graunt her a request; which was this, that it would please his majestie to send sixe of his noble men whome he
best trusted to the Isle of Delphos, there to inquire of the oracle of Apollo whether she had committed adultery with Egistus, or conspired to poyson him with Franion; and if the god Apollo, who by his devine essence knew al secrets, gave answere that she was guiltie, she were content to suffer any torment were it never so terrible. The request was so reasonable that Pandosto could not for fame deny it, unless he would bee counted of all his subjects more wilfull than wise.
The oracle is brought, and its contents, acquitting Bellaria, openly read; whereupon Pandosto forthwith repents, seeks his wife's pardon, and promises to reconcile himself also with Egistus and Franion. But it is too late. News is brought of the sudden death of his son Garintes; whereupon Bellaria, overpowered by the reaction from joy to grief, 'fell down presently dead.' In the meantime the babe, in its open boat, after tossing for two days in storm, had been driven on to the shore of Sicily. There it is discovered by the old shepherd Porrus, who brings the child up. At a meeting of all the farmers' daughters in Sicilia' Fawnia encounters Dorastus, the son of Egistus. Their love is described not without charm. Fearing her betrayal, Porrus and his wife plot to inform the king. Dorastus forestalls him, however, by secretly embarking with Fawnia; and his servant Capnio, meeting Porrus on his way to the palace, forces him on board the same ship. A storm drives them upon the coast of Bohemia. Brought before Pandosto, Dorastus represents himself as a knight, one Meleagrus, and Fawnia as an Italian lady, betrothed to him. But Pandosto is captivated by her beauty, thrusts Dorastus into prison, and openly wooes her. At length Egistus learns of his son's captivity, and sends ambassadors to entreat that he may be released, and Fawnia, Porrus, and Capnio put to death. The sentence is already pronounced when Porrus, disburdening his conscience before his