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This edition of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale reprints the Bevington edition of the play accompanied by five sets of thematically arranged primary documents and illustrations designed to facilitate many different approaches to Shakespeare. The text includes tracts on childbirth, jealousy, women's speech, rural festivities, and bears; royal proclamations and statutes about vagabonds and peddlers; popular ballads on marriage and monsters; treatises about monarchy, Catholic and Protestant theological debates, farm labor, and art collecting; a transcription of the trial of Anne Boleyn; and accounts of performances of the statue scene since the 19th century. The primary documents contextualize the dramatic genres of romance and tragicomedy; gender and family relations; political authority and resistance; country work and play; and the social, religious, and erotic uses of art.
[I] would love to see a rep company do The Winter’s Tale and King Lear together, same actors, same costumes, because I think Shakespeare wrote The Winter’s Tale to answer King Lear’s tragedy with hope. The crucial difference between Leontes and Lear is that Leontes lives to regret and rethink his early selfish definition of love . . . and to accept the miracle of Hermione’s revival. The play redefines love as a miracle and a gift, which, once accepted, allows all things, not only reappearances and resurrections, but even total forgiveness.1
Love, miracle, gift, resurrection, forgiveness. In three sentences, Jane Smiley, the author of A Thousand Acres, the 1991 novel derived from King Lear, provides a snapshot of key issues and themes that have dominated the critical and performance afterlife of The Winter’s Tale, a late play and one of Shakespeare’s most theatrically self-conscious and emotionally exhausting. To say that Leontes lives to regret and rethink his earlier selfishness is to address the question of genre and the concept of time that determines in no small measure the narrative and affective contours of each generic type.2 Theproverbial wheel of fortune is allowed in the later text to enter into a new, upward phase, compatible with hope. Leontes has time to get it right – not perfect but certainly better – and to enjoy the fruits of a long and painful journey of self-discovery, something denied Lear. The description of The Winter’s Tale as the hopeful complement to Shakespeare’s great tragedy acknowledges a practice not uncommon among artists, particularly those who leave behind sizeable bodies of work: i.e., the revisiting of themes, situations, and characters explored earlier, the rewrite often appearing more mellow and benign.
The most significant connection between the two dramas, however, may be the one that Smiley only hints at, namely, the sheer ‘bigness’ of each, or, copiousness.3 Lear features a cosmic storm; The Winter’s Tale emphasizes that most cosmic of themes, time. In Shakespeare’s only tragedy with a fully developed subplot, there are, as critics often point out, two of almost everything,4 and all expressed in a language marked by a preponderance of hyphenated words and the ‘out’ prefix as though to say that one word alone will not do to express the old king’s folly and what he suffers as a consequence. Similarly,5 The Winter’s Tale –framed by the words ‘vast’ (1.1.25) and ‘wide gap’ (5.3.154), informed by ‘a deal of wonder’ (5.2.20), and marked by a style given to extensive hyperbole and syntactic amplification – requires a stretching of the imagination. The play’s governing aesthetic of multiplicity is evident in the tripartite spatial movement from Sicilia to Bohemia and back to Sicilia, in the temporal passage of sixteen years at the beginning of Act 4, and in the separate plot lines involving the triangle of Leontes, Hermione, and Polixenes, the young love of Perdita and Florizel, and the antics of Autolycus.
The critical commentary that follows is intended to guide the reader through the labyrinthine ways of The Winter’s Tale without presuming to exhaust the vastness and wonder essential to its ‘winter’s-taleness’. After an initial focus on genre, title, and iterative patterns, I turn to specific elements such as Leontes’ jealousy, the bear episode, the figure of Time, the meaning(s) of Act 5, and the play’s sense of an ending. Informing much of the selection of topics is Nevill Coghill’s now classic essay defending the play against the charge of ‘creaking dramaturgy’.6 The points Coghill raises are especially useful because they encourage a dovetailing of literary analysis and performance history, thus demonstrating the now widely accepted symbiotic relationship between Shakespeare in the study and Shakespeare on the stage. Sections on the play’s date and sources round out the introduction.
Genre and title
[The Winter’s Tale] is a fairy tale – it is fact. It is romantic – it is realistic. It is tragic – it is comic. It is Christian – it is pagan. It is harsh and crabbed – it is simple and idyllic. It is this – it is that. It is a welter of anachronisms. Its geography is in spots fantastic. It has not only gods, but a bear, a storm, and a yacht, from the machine.7
Harold Goddard’s description of the play’s heterogeneity, cited here, implicitly raises the genre question: What exactly do we call The Winter’s Tale? Judging from the classification assigned in the First Folio, Shakespeare’s contemporaries saw it as a comedy, perhaps primarily because of an ending celebratory of spousal reunion (Leontes and Hermione) and of the pending nuptials of one young couple (Florizel and Perdita) and one not so young (Camillo and Paulina). Some critics continue to favour the rubric of comedy but with various modifiers to indicate a subgenre. The least helpful, though possibly the safest, is something along the lines of ‘late comedy’, suggesting only a chronological difference from what came before. R. G. Hunter’s choice, ‘comedy of forgiveness’, is more attractive because it recognizes comic conventions but specifies a moral, even spiritual, meaning that distinguishes The Winter’s Tale from earlier comedies like The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That difference, however, is arguably one of kind, thereby militating against facile sub-genre status.8 The story itself is filled with events not typically found in comic works (e.g., the sudden death of a child and the fatal savaging of a man by a bear); likewise, the value system of the first three acts and the fifth extends beyond the social concerns that are the usual purview of comedy to include the ethical and metaphysical assumptions informing tragedy. Such factors, among others, may be responsible for the rivalry between two terms that for over a century have vied for preeminence in the matter of the play’s classification: romance and tragicomedy.9
ROMANCE, TRAGICOMEDY, TRAGICOMIC ROMANCE
In the late nineteenth century Edward Dowden became the first to classify The Winter’s Tale and those final plays usually grouped with it (Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Tempest) as romances.10 What Dowden seems to have had in mind were stories of exotic adventure and travel, shipwrecks, spiritual and/or moral quests, romantic love, reunions of lovers and families long separated, virtue tested and proved triumphant, and nobility hidden and then discovered – all unfolding in a world familiar with supernatural forces, wide-ranging marvels, magic, and enchantment. This romance tradition, primarily available to Shakespeare in narrative form,11also included the dramatic as in the medieval saint’s play of trial and conversion, a genre replete with one marvel after another.12 If Shakespeare’s final dramas are understood as spiritual journeys ending in self-discovery by the central character,13 then the saint’s play (or miracle play, as it is sometimes called), ‘popularly performed late
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The miracle of Theophilus, from a fourteenth-century Book of Hours (permanent collection, Walters Museum, Baltimore, Maryland). ‘Significant here is the presence of the Virgin as both sculpture and vision, underscoring the medieval belief in the power of prayer to gain access to the spiritual realm represented by the image’ (from the leaflet guide to the exhibit ‘Images of Devotion: Personal Piety in Medieval Manuscripts and Ivories’, Walters Museum, 1999).into the sixteenth century above and beyond the biblical mystery cycles’ (Felperin, 13), may constitute the most significant influence on The Winter’s Tale and its companion pieces in the Shakespeare canon.
While Dowden’s choice has by and large become the norm, many critics since the early twentieth century have inclined toward ‘tragicomedy’, a classification well known in Shakespeare’s time but not used by the Folio editors. In the preface to The Faithful Shepherdess (first performed c. 1608), John Fletcher defined the genre as ‘want[ing] deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy, which must be a representation of familiar people . . . A god is as lawful in [tragicomedy] as in a tragedy, and mean [i.e. ordinary] people as in a comedy’.14 But typical of the tragicomedies by Beaumont and Fletcher written in 1608–12, which likely contributed to Shakespeare’s foray into the genre, is an absence of the miraculous wonders and transformative journeys (whether actual or figurative) that mark Shakespeare’s late plays. Even critics who manifest an affinity for the term assert essential differences between Shakespeare’s final creative burst and such works as The Faithful Shepherdess, Philaster, and A King and No King.15
The title of the play tilts the debate in favour of ‘romance’ for, by definition, winter’s tales were strange and fanciful oral narratives intended to while away the long, cold hours of the dark nights of winter and, therefore, not meant to be taken seriously or to withstand the rigours of logical interrogation.16Mamillius himself specifies a story of ‘sprites and goblins’ suitable for idle pastime (2.1.25–6). That the play’s first reference to such a tale occurs in the domestic company of women (see illustration 2, p. 6) and is put in the mouth of the androgynous Mamillius – still ‘unbreeched’ (1.2.154) and whose name etymologically denotes ‘breasts’ – is significant, for this type of narrative in the patriarchal culture of the early modern period was traditionally gendered female.17 Unlike the more serious and disciplined classical works learned in the grammar schools, where boys began the process of sharply defining their masculine identity, effeminate oral tales were considered trivial and inferior and, therefore, properly left behind in the nursery.18
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2.1.22–32: Mamillius tells his ‘winter’s tale’ in the domestic company of women. Olivia Birkelund (Hermione), James Bonilla (Mamillius), and Diana LaMar (Lady/Emilia), from Irene Lewis’s 2002 production for Center Stage, Baltimore, Maryland. Richard Anderson, photographer.
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2.1.32 SD–60: Leontes invades the female domain that has nurtured Mamillius. Cliff Chamberlain (Leontes), Becky Peters (Hermione), and Kelli Holsopple (Mamillius), from Ralph Cohen’s 2002 production for Shenandoah Shakespeare’s American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, Virginia. Tommy Thompson, photographer.
But Mamillius’ choice of a ‘sad’ tale as best for winter, like the seasonal reference itself to a barren time of year, complicates the surface meaning of such stories as idle and fanciful, suggesting instead something serious and consequential, i.e., something potentially tragic. Its placement, quickly followed by one of the play’s most disturbing moments – the abrupt, violent severing of Mamillius from the comfort of the female domain he has known – reinforces this sense.19Certainly the figure of Time confirms a deeper signification of ‘tale’ (4.1.14) when he says: ‘I, that please some, try all – both joy and terror / Of good and bad, that makes and unfolds error’ (4.1.1–2); ‘error’ here implies not just ‘a mistake’ but ‘moral transgression’ (OED 5). By Act 5, where the words ‘wonder’, ‘marvel’, ‘admirable’, and ‘amazement’ – along with references to an old tale, i.e. old-fashioned and farfetched – proliferate,20 an overlay is in place that encourages an understanding of the title as a fantastic ‘old tale’ of serious, moral things. The use of the definite article in the play’s title furthers the sense that what is being dramatized is not only the quintessential concentration of romantic fancy but also ‘the essential story of winter itself’.21 The ‘tale’ of the text as we have it need not necessarily correspond to the actual story Mamillius starts to tell about a man who dwelt by a churchyard,22 but a looser relation is probable: the sad wintry tale of the first part (tragedy) completed by the (overall) joyous spring-like tale of the second (comedy).
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An emblematic depiction of the play’s generic division between tragedy and comedy articulated at 3.3.101–2, ‘Thou met’st with things dying, I with things newborn.’ From Andrea Alciati, . . . Emblemata . . . , 1661 (Folger Shakespeare Library).
The passage perhaps most relevant to the genre question seems unequivocally to identify the play as tragicomedy, although not in the conventional mould of avoiding death. After several acts of jealous rage, vile accusations, a state trial, a blasphemous rejection of Apollo’s oracle, and the demise of several characters, the genial and kindly Shepherd who enters at 3.3.57 italicizes the shift from tragedy to comedy. Having discovered an abandoned baby girl, he announces to his son, the Clown, fresh from his own grim discoveries: ‘Thou met’st with things dying, I with things newborn’ (3.3.101–2).23 Brian Bedford’s staging of the end of 3.3 at Stratford, Ontario in 1998 typifies the generic sea-change as conceived by directors: the clouds lifted and the sun broke through to bathe the stage in a golden light.24 But just when it seems that the play has declared how it should be called, the Shepherd heralds Fortune’s newly benevolent phase as he and his son celebrate not only the baby, but the riches found with her: ‘This is fairy gold, boy, and ’twill prove so. . . . Home, home, the next way. We are lucky, boy . . . ’Tis a lucky day, boy, and we’ll do good deeds on ’t’ (3.3.109–10, 120). In an instant, with the reference to fairies and magic, we are brought back to the genre of romance.25
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The lyrical and metamorphic opening to the second half of Irene Lewis’ 2002 production for Center Stage, Baltimore, Maryland. Laurence O’Dwyer (Old Shepherd/Time), David Steinberg (Bohemian servant), and Warren ‘Wawa’ Snipe (Bear) carrying Karen Hansen (Dorcas). Richard Anderson, photographer.
Rather than restricting the naming question to an ‘either/or’ solution, Barbara Mowat persuasively argues for an inherited generic DNA that renders both romance and tragicomedy ‘truly useful names for Shakespeare’s late plays’, especially when taken in combination (Mowat, 138). Looking to such sixteenth-century dramatized romances as Sir Clyomon and Clamydes, Mucedorus, and The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune,26 she detects an earlier tradition of tragicomedy compatible with romance. While Sidney may have had foremost in mind something like Cambyses when he coined the phrase ‘mongrel tragi-comedy’ for plays given to the gross absurdity of mixing tragic and comic elements,27 works such as the three cited above might also qualify in their to and fro between comic and tragic forces and between the impulses of Eros and Fortune. The Winter’s Tale explicitly invokes the Cambyses model in the Clown’s love of ‘a ballad but even too well, if it be doleful matter merrily set down, or a very pleasant thing indeed and sung lamentably’ (4.4.188–90). In the end, however, by making quests, family reunions, and improbable events central, ‘mouldy tales’ (Ben Jonson’s phrase for old-fashioned, far-fetched stories) project a fundamental ‘romance’ ethos. The syntax of Mowat’s proffered hybrid, tragicomic romance, effects a helpful rapprochement between the rival terms and perfectly embraces a play whose very title foregrounds ‘romance’.
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Act 1, scene 2 staged in the private, domestic setting of a nursery: Judi Dench (Hermione), Barry Ingham (Leontes), and Jeremy Richardson (Mamillius), from Trevor Nunn’s 1969 RSC production, Stratford-upon-Avon. Tom Holte Theatre Photographic Collection, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Adding to the play’s generic copiousness is the infusion of pastoral, a literary tradition bipartite in meaning and often tripartite in design; it is also a genre that easily coexists with both romance (e.g., the classical Daphnis and Chloe and Sidney’s Arcadia) and tragicomedy (e.g. Guarini’s Pastor Fido and Fletcher’s The Faithful Shepherdess). At the heart of pastoral, etymologically derived from the Latin word for shepherd (pastor), is a basic contrast between the ways and means of the court (or city) and those of the country, with the latter typically idealized. Distinctions are cast in terms of sterility vs. fecundity, sophistication vs. simplicity, and artifice vs. naturalness. The trajectory of pastoral involves a journey from the court to the country (or a similarly remote world like Prospero’s island), with movement back to the court either promised (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, As You Like It, and The Tempest) or actualized (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). The journey to the other world, Northrop Frye’s ‘green world’,28 proves therapeutic in solving problems, repairing fractured relationships, and clearing true love’s obstacle course of all its hurdles. The Winter’s Tale, after almost three acts in the court of Sicilia and an act-long sojourn in the country setting of Bohemia, follows the spatial dynamic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But in contrast to traditional pastoral, the character most in need of healing, Leontes, never makes the journey to Bohemia; instead, Bohemia comes to him, in the revitalizing presence of Perdita and Florizel (see 5.1.122 SD n. and 150–1) and in the welcome arrivals of Polixenes, Camillo, and Perdita’s foster family (as reported in 5.2).
|Plan of the Work||ix|
|The Winter's Tale: Text, Textual Notes, and Commentary||1|
|Irregular, Doubtful, and Emended Accidentals in F1||567|
|The 1623 Version of The Winter's Tale||586|
|The F1 Copy||590|
|The Printer's Reliability||601|
|Subsequent Early Editions||601|
|The Date of Composition|
|Shakespeare's Use of Pandosto||656|
|Robert Greene's Cony-Catching Pamphlets||672|
|The Second and last Part of Conny-catching||673|
|The Thirde and last Part of Conny-catching||673|
|Francis Sabie's Poems||674|
|The Fissher-mans Tale||674|
|Possible Sources, Analogues, and Imitations||680|
|Themes and Significance||728|
|Nature (and Art)||730|
|Repentance and Renewal||738|
|Drame a Clef||742|
|Language and Style||753|
|Shepherd and Clown||797|
|The Winter's Tale on the Stage|
|Staging the Bear and Time||816|
|Screen and Sound Recordings||818|
|The Text on the Stage||819|
|Reshaping the Text||826|
|Substitutions, Transpositions, and Additions||840|
|Music in the Winter's Tale||851|
POLIXENES, King of BOHEMIA
FLORIZELL, his son
CAMILLO, a courtier, friend to Leontes and then to Polixenes ANTIGONUS, a Sicilian courtier
PAULINA, his wife and lady-in-waiting to Hermione
CLEOMENES courtier in Sicilia
DION courtier in Sicilia
EMILIA, a lady-in-waiting to Hermione
SHEPHERD, foster father to Perdita
AUTOLYCUS, former servant to Florizell, now a rogue ARCHIDAMUS, a Bohemian courtier
TIME, as Chorus
TWO LADIES attending on Hermione
LORDS, SERVANTS, and GENTLEMEN attending on Leontes
An OFFICER of the court
MOPSA shepherdess in Bohemia
DORCAS shepherdess in Bohemia
SERVANT to the Shepherd
SHEPHERDS and SHEPHERDESSES
Twelve COUNTRYMEN disguised as satyrs
Enter Camillo and Archidamus.
ARCHIDAMUS If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.
CAMILLO I think this coming summer the King of Sicilia means to pay Bohemia the visitation which he justly owes him.
ARCHIDAMUS Wherein our entertainment shall shame us; we will be justified in our loves. For indeed --
CAMILLO Beseech you --
ARCHIDAMUS Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge. We cannot with such magnificence -- in so rare -- I know not what to say. We will give you sleepy drinks, that your senses, unintelligent of our insufficience, may, though they cannot praise us, as little accuse us.
CAMILLO You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.
ARCHIDAMUS Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.
CAMILLO Sicilia cannot show himself over kind to Bohemia. They were trained together in their childhoods, and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection which cannot choose but branch now. Since their more mature dignities and royal necessities made separation of their society, their encounters, though not personal, hath been royally attorneyed with interchange of gifts, letters, loving embassies, that they have seemed to be together though absent, shook hands as over a vast, and embraced as it were from the ends of opposed winds. The heavens continue their loves.
ARCHIDAMUS I think there is not in the world either malice or matter to alter it. You have an unspeakable comfort of your young Prince Mamillius. It is a gentleman of the greatest promise that ever came into my note.
CAMILLO I very well agree with you in the hopes of him. It is a gallant child -- one that indeed physics the subject, makes old hearts fresh. They that went on crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to see him a man.
ARCHIDAMUS Would they else be content to die?
CAMILLO Yes, if there were no other excuse why they should desire to live.
ARCHIDAMUS If the King had no son, they would desire to five on crutches till he had one.