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LEONTES, King of Sicilia.
HERMIONE, Queen to Lcontes.
Lords, Ladies, and Attendants ; Satyrs for a Dance;
Shepherds, Shepherdesses, Guards, fic.
SCENE,--sometimes in SICILIA, sometimes in BOLIEMIA.
We have no edition of the Winter's Tale' prior to that of the folio of 1623; nor was it entered upon the registers of the Stationers' Company previous to the entry by the proprietors of the folio. The original text, which is divided into acts and scenes, is remarkably correct; and although the involved construction which is peculiar to Shakspere's later writings, and the freedom of versification which contrasts with the regularity of his earlier works, have occasionally tempted the commentators to try their hands at emendation, the ordinary text is upon the whole pretty accurate. We have endeavoured, as in all other instances, completely to restore the original text, wherever possible.
Chalmers has assigned the “Winter's Tale' to 1601. contains this
“ If I could find example
“ These lines,” says Chalmers, “ were called forth by the occasion of the conspiracy of Essex.” “No," says Malone, “ these lines could never have been intended for the ear of her who had deprived the Queen of Scots of her life. To the son of Mary they could not but have been agreeable.” Upon this ground he assigned the comedy to 1604. There is a third critic, of much higher acuteness than the greater number of those who have given us speculations on the chronology of Shakspere's plays,—we mean Horace Walpole, whose conjecture is so ingenious and amusing that we copy it without abridgment:
“ The “Winter's Tale' may be ranked among the historic plays of Shakspere, though not one of his numerous critics and commentators have discovered the drist of it. It was certainly intended (in compliment to Queen Elizabeth) as an indirect apology for her mother, Anne Boleyn. The address of the poet appears nowhere to more advantage. The subject was too delicate to be exhibited on the stage without a veil; and it was too recent, and touched the queen too nearly, for the bard to have ventured so home an allusion on any other ground than compliment. The unreasonable jealousy of Leontes, and his violent conduct in consequence, form a true portrait of Henry VIII., who generally made the law the engine of his boisterous passions. Not only the general plan of the story is most applicable, but several passages are so marked that they touch the real history nearer than the fable. Hermione, on her trial, says,
- For honour, T is a derivative from me to mine,
And only that I stand for.' “ This seems to be taken from the very letter of Anne Boleyn to the king before her execution, where she pleads for the infant princess his daughter. Mamillius, the young prince, an unnecessary character, dies in his infancy; but it confirms the allusion, as Queen Anne, before Elizabeth, bore a still-bom son. But the most striking passage, and which had nothing to do in the tragedy but as it pictured Elizabeth, is where Paulina, describing the new-born princess, and her likeness to her father, says, “ She has the very trick of his frown.' There is one sentence, indeed, so applicable both to Elizabeth and her father, that I should suspect the poet inserted it after her death. Paulina, speaking of the child, tells the king
"'Tis yours ;
And might we lay the old proverb to your charge,
So like you, 't is the worse.' The 'Winter's Tale' was therefore iu reality a Second Part of · Henry VIII.'' Plausible as this may appear, the conjecture falls to the ground when we consider that Shakspere adopted all that part of the plot of this comedy which relates to the "unreasonable jealousy of Leontes” from a novel of which we have an edition as early as 1588. Robert Greene, the author of Pandosto,' could scarcely have intended his stoi a compliment to Queen Elizabeth
and a trait of Henry VIII., " for he makes the jealous king of his novel terminate his career with suicide. In truth, as we have already
66 true por
inferred, questions such as this are very pretty conundrums, and worthy to be cherished as the amusement of elderly gentlemen who have outlived their relish for early sports, and leave to others who are less careful of their dignity to
“ Play at push-pin with the boys." Beyond this they are for the most part worthless.
In the absence of any satisfactory internal evidence of the date of this comedy, beyond that furnished by the general character of the language and versification, it was at length pointed out by Malone that an entry in the office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels in 1623, mentions “ an old play called “Winter's Tale,' formerly allowed of by Sir George Bucke and likewise by me.” Sir George Bucke first exercised the office of Master of the Revels in 1610. The play, therefore, could not have been earlier than this year; and Mr. Collier has produced conclusive evidence that it was acted in 1611. In our Introductory Notice to “Richard II.' mention will be found of 66 a book of plays, and notes thereof, for common policy” kept by Dr. Symon Forman, and discovered some few years ago in the Bodleian Library. Forman saw the “Winter's Tale' acted on the 15th of May, 1611, at Shakspere's theatre, the Globe. It was most probably then a new play; for he is very minute in his description of the plot.
“ Observe there how Leontes, King of Sicilia, was overcome with jealousy of his wife with the King of Bohemia, his friend that came to see him; and how he contrived his death, and would have had his cupbearer to have poisoned him, who gave the King of Bohemia warning thereof, and fled with him to Bohemia.
“ Remember, also, how he sent to the oracle of Apollo, and the answer of Apollo that she was guiltless, and that the king was jealous, &c., and how, except the child was found again that was lost, the king should die without issue; for the child was carried into Bohemia, and there laid in a forest, and brought up by a shepherd. And the King of Bohemia's son married that wench, and how they fled into Sicilia to Leontes; and the shepherd having showed the letter of the nobleman whom Leontes sent, it was that child, and by the jewels found about her she was known to be Leontes' daughter, and was then sixteen years old.
“ Remember, also, the rogue that came in all tattered, like Coll Pipin, and how he feigned him sick and to have been robbed of all he had, and how he cozened the poor man of all bis money, and after came to the sheep-shear with a pedlar's pack, and there cozened them again of all their money. And how he changed apparel with the King of Bohemia's son, and then how he turned courtier, &c. “ Beware of trusting feigned beggars or fawning fellows."*
* New Particulars, p. 20.
SUPPOSED SOURCE OF THE PLOT.
The novel of Robert Greene, called “Pandosto,' and · The History of Dorastus and Fawnia,' which Shakspere undoubtedly followed, with very few important deviations, in the construction of the plot of his “Winter's Tale,' is a small book, occupying fifty-nine pages in the reprint lately published, with an Introductory Notice by Mr. Collier.* It was a work of extraordinary popularity, there being fourteen editions known to exist. Of the nature of Shakspere's obligations to this work, Mr. Collier thus justly speaks :
“ Robert Greene was a man who possessed all the advantages of education : he was a graduate of both Universities-he was skilled in ancient learning and in modern languages—he hail, besides, a prolific imagination, a lively and elegant fancy, and a grace of expression rarely exceeded; yet, let any person well acquainted with the “ Winter's Tale' read the novel of · Pandosto,' upon which it was founded, and he will be struck at ouce with the vast pre-eminence of Shakespeare, and with the admirable manner in which he has converted materials supplied by another to his
The bare outline of the story (with the exception of Shakespeare's miraculous conclusion) is nearly the same in both; but this is all they have in commo?), and Shakespeare may be said to have scarcely adopted a single hint for his descriptious, or a line for his dialogue; while in point of passion and sentiment Greene is cold, formal, and artificial —the very opposite of everything in Shakespeare."
Without wearying the reader with any very extensive comparisons of the novel and the drama, we shall run through the production of Greene, to which our great poet has incidentally imparted a real interest; and in doing so we shall take occasion so to analyse the action and characterisation of the “ Winter's Tale' as to supersede the necessity for a Supplementary Notice.
“ In the country of Bohemia," says the novel, “there reigned a king called Pandosto." The · Leontes' of Shakspere is the · Pandosto’ of Greene. The Polixenes of the play is Egistus in the novel :
“ It so happened that Egistus, King of Sicilia, who in his youth had been brought up with Pandosto, desirous to show that neither tract of time nor distance of place could diminish their former friendship, provided a wavy of ships, and sailed into Bohemia to visit his old friend and companion.” Here, then, we have the scene of the action reversed. The jealous king is of Bohemia,-his injured friend of Sicilia. But the visitor sails into Bohemia. We have noticed this point under the head Costume, and shall be content to refer the reader to what we have there said. The wife of Pandosto is Bellaria ; and they have a young son called Garinter. Pandosto becomes jealous, slowly, and
Shakespeare's Library, Part I.