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Little doubt can be entertained, that “The Winter's Tale” was produced at the Globe, very soon after that theatre had been opened for what might be called the su ner sea n in 1611. In the winter, as has been well ascertained, the king's players performed at "the private house in the Black-friars," and they usually removed to the Globe, which was open to the sky, late in the spring.
Three pieces of evidence tend to the conclusion, that Winter's Tale” was brought out early in 1611: the first of these has never until now been adduced, and it consists of the following entry in the account of the Master of the Revels, Sir George Buc, from the 31st of October, 1611, to the same day, 1612 :“The 5th of November : A play called the winters nightes The second piece of evidence on this point has also recently come to light. It is contained in a MS. Diary, or Note-book, kept by Dr. Simon Forman, (MSS. Ashm. 208.) in which, under date of the 15th May, 1611, he states that he saw " The Winter's Tale" at the Globe Theatre : this was the May preceding the representation of it at Court on the 5th November. He gives the following brief account of the plot, which ingeniously includes all the main incidents :
Tayle." No author's name is mentioned, but the piece was represented at Whitehall, by “the king's players,” as we find stated in the margin, and there can be no hesitation in deciding that “ The Winter's Night's Tayle" was Shakespeare's “Winter's Tale." The fact of its performance has been established by Mr. Peter Cunningham, in his valuable work, entitled, “Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” 8vo, 1842, printed for the Shakespeare Society'. “The Winter's Tale” was probably selected on account of its novelty and popularity
1 From the Introduction to the same work, we find that “ The Winter's Tale” was also represented at court on Easter Tuesday, 1618.
2 The expenses of eleven other plays are included in the same account, viz. “ The Tenipest," “ King and no King," “ The City Gallant,” “ The Almanack,” “ The Twins' Tragedy,” “ Cupid's Revenge,” “ The Silver Age,” “Lucretia," “ The Nobleman,” “ Hymen's Holiday,” and “The Maid's Tragedy.” At most, only one of these had been printed before they were thus acted, and some of them never came from the press. “ The Nobleman,” by Cyril Tourneur, was entered at Stationers' Hall for publication on 15th February, 1611. “Lucretia” may have been a different play from Heywood's “ Rape of Lucrece," which bears date in 1608 : if so, there is no exception, and all that came from the press at any period were printed subsequently to 1611-12, the earliest in 1613, and the latest in 1655. Hence a strong inference may be drawn, that they were all dramas which had been recommended for court-performance by their novelty and popularity.
“ 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 cup-bearer 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 Pipci, and how he feigned him sick, and to have been robbed of all he had ; and how he cozened the poor man of all his money, and after came to the sheep-sheer with a pedlar's packe, 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."
We have reason to think that “ The Winter's Tale" was in its first run on the 15th May, 1611, and that the Globe Theatre had not then been long opened for the season.
The opinion that the play was then a novelty, is strongly confirmed by the third piece of evidence, which Malone discovered late in life, and wbich induced him to relinquish his earlier opinion, that “ The Winter's Tale" was written in 1604. He found a memorandum in the office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, dated the 19th August, 1623, in which it was stated that “ The Winter's Tale” was an old play formerly allowed of by Sir George Buc." Sir George Buc was Master of the Revels from October, 1610, until May, 1622. Sir George Buc must, therefore, , have licensed “ The Winter's Tale" between October, 1610, when he was appointed to his office, and May, 1611, when Forman saw it at the Globe.
It might have been composed by Shakespeare in the autumn and winter of 1610-11, with a view to its production on the Bank-side, as soon as the usual performances by the King's players commenced there. Sir Henry Herbert informs us, that when he gave permission to revive "The Winter's Tale" in August, 1623, “the allowed book” (that to which Sir George Buc had appended his signature) missing.” It had no doubt been destroyed when the Globe Theatre was consumed by fire on 29th June, 1613.
We have seen that “The Tempest” and “The Winter's Tale" were both acted at Whitehall, and included in Sir George Buc's account of the expenses of the Revels from October, 1611, to October, 1612'. How much older “ The Tempest" might be than “ The Winter's Tale,” we have no means of determining ; but there is a circumstance which shows that the composition of “ The Tempest” was anterior to that of “ The Winter's Tale ;” and this brings us to speak of the novel upon which the latter is founded.
As early as the year 1588, Robert Greene printed a tract called “ Pandosto : The Triumph of Time," better known as The History of Dorastus and Fawnia,” the title it bore in some of the later copies. As far as we now know, it was not reprinted until 1607, and a third impression appeared in 1609 : it afterwards went through many editions * ; but it seems not unlikely that Shakespeare was directed to it, as a proper subject for dramatic representation, by the third impression which came out the year before we suppose him to have commenced writing his “ Winter's Tales." In many respects our great dramatist follows Greene's story very closely, as may be seen by some of the notes in the course of the play, and by the recent republication of “Pandosto” from the unique copy of 1588, in “Shakespeare's Library." There is, however, one remarkable variation, which it is necessary to point out. Greene says :
3 The circumstance that “The Tempest” and “ The Winter's Tale” were both acted at court at this period, and that they might belong to nearly the same date of composition, seems to give great additional probability to the opinion, that Ben Jonson alluded to them in the following passage in the Induction to his “Bartholomew Fair,” which was acted in 1614, while Shakespeare's two plays were still high in popular favour :-“If there be never a Sercant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, he says ? nor a nest of Anticks ? He is loth to make nature afraid in his Playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries.” The Italic type and the capitals are as they stand in the original edition in folio, 1631. Gifford (Ben Jonson’s Works, Vol. iv. p. 370) could not be brought to acknowledge that the words “Servant-monster,” “ Anticks," “ Tales,” and “ Tempests,” applied to Shakespeare, but with our present information the fact seems hardly disputable.
• How long it continued popular, may be judged from the fact that it was printed as a chap-book as recently as the year 1735, when it was called “ The Fortunate Lovers; or the History of Dorastus, Prince of Sicily, and of Fawnia, only daughter and heir to the King of Bohenia," 12mo.
5 In a note upon a passage in Act iii. sc. 2, a reason is assigned for thinking that Shakespeare did not employ the first edition of Greene's novel, but in all probability that of 1609.
“The guard left her" (the Queen) “in this perplexitie, and carried the child to the king, who, quite devoide of pity, commanded that without delay it should be put in the boat, having neither sail nor rudder to guide it, and so to be carried into the midst of the sea, and there left to the wind and wave, as the destinies please to appoint,"
The child thus “ left to the wind and wave is the Perdita of Shakespeare, who describes the way in which the infant was exposed very differently, and probably for this reason :—that in “The Tempest” he had previously (perhaps not long before) represented Prospero and Miranda turned adrift at sea in the same manner as Greene had stated his heroine to have been disposed of. When, therefore, Shakespeare came to write “ The Winter's Tale," instead of following Greene, as he had usually done in other minor circumstances, he varied from the original narrative, in order to avoid an objectionable similarity of incident in his two dramas. It is true, that in the conclusion Shakespeare has also made important and most judicious changes in the story ; since nothing could well be
nore revolting than for Pandosto (who answers to Leontes) first to fall dotingly in love with his own daughter, and afterwards to commit suicide. The termination to which our great dramatist brings the incidents is at once striking, natural, and beautiful, and is an equal triumph of judgment and power.
It is, perhaps, singular that Malone, who observed upon the “involved parenthetical sentences” prevailing in " The Winter's Tale," did not in that very peculiarity find a proof that it must have been one of Shakespeare's later productions. In the Stationers' Registers there is no earlier entry of it than that of Nov. 8, 1623, when the publication of the first folio was contemplated by Blount and Jaggard : it originally appeared in that volume, where it is regularly divided into Acts and Scenes: the “Wynter's Nighte's Pastime," noticed in the registers under date of May 22, 1594, must have been a different work. If any proof of the kind were wanted, we learn from two lines in “Dido, Queen of Carthage,” by Marlowe and Nash, 1594, 4to, that “a winter's tale” was a then current phrase :
“Who would not undergoe all kind of toyle
To be well stor'd with such a winter's tale ?"
Sign. D 3 b.
In representing Bohemia to be a maritime country, Shakespeare adopted the popular notion, as it had been encouraged since 1588 by Greene's “Pandosto.” With regard to the prevailing ignorance of geography, the subsequent passage from John Taylor's "Travels to Prague in Bohemia,” a journey performed by him in 1620, shows that the satirical writer did not consider it strange that an alderman of London was not aware that a fleet of ships could not arrive at a port of Bohemia :—"I am no sooner eased of him, but Gregory Gandergoose, an Alderman of Gotham, catches me by the goll, demanding if Bohemia be a great town, and whether there be any meat in it, and whether the last fleet of ships be arrived there.” It is to be observed, that Shakespeare reverses the scene of “ Pandosto," and represents, as passing in Sicily, what Greene had made to occur in Bohemia. In several places he more verbally followed Greene in this play than he did even Lodge in “As You Like It;" but the general variations are greater from “ Pandosto" than from “ Rosalynde.” Shakespeare does not adopt one of the appellations given by Greene ; and it may be noticed that, just anterior to the time of our poet, the name he assigns to the Queen of Leontes had been employed as that of a male character: in “ The rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune," acted at court in 1581-2, and printed in 1589, Hermione is the lover of the heroine.
“ The idea of this delightful drama" (says Coleridge in his Lit. Rem. vol. ii. p. 250) is a genuine jealousy of disposition, and it should be immediately followed by the perusal of Othello,' which is the direct contrast of it in every particular. For jealousy is a vice of the mind, a culpable tendency of temper, having certain well known and well defined effects and concomitants, all of which are visible in Leontes, and, I boldly say, not one of which marks its presence in Othello :such as, first, an excitability by the most inadequate causes, and an eagerness to snatch at proofs ; secondly, a grossness of conception, and a disposition to degrade the object of the passion by sensual fancies and images ; thirdly, a sense of shame of his own feelings exhibited in a solitary moodiness of humour, and yet from the violence of the passion forced to utter itself, and therefore catching occasions to ease the mind by ambiguities, equivoques, by talking to those who cannot, and who are known not to be able to understand what is said to them ; in short, by soliloquy in the form of dialogue, and hence a confused, broken, and fragmentary manner ; fourthly, a dread of vulgar ridicule, as distinct from a high sense of honour, or a mistaken sense of duty; and lastly, and immediately consequent on this, a spirit of selfish vindictiveness."
In his lectures in 1815, Coleridge dwelt on the "not easily jealous" frame of Othello's mind, and on the art of the great poet in working upon his generous and unsuspecting nature: he contrasted the characters of Othello and Leontes in this respect, the latter from predisposition requiring no such malignant instigator as Iago.