Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale"

Autolycus (1836) by Charles Robert Leslie
‘A Winter’s Tale’ was seen by Dr. Forman at the Globe on May 15, 1611, and it appears to p. 251have been acted at court on November 5 following. [251a]  It is based upon Greene’s popular romance which was called ‘Pandosto’ in the first edition of 1588, and in numerous later editions, but was ultimately in 1648 re-christened ‘Dorastus and Fawnia.’  Shakespeare followed Greene, his early foe, in allotting a seashore to Bohemia—an error over which Ben Jonson and many later critics have made merry. [251b]  A few lines were obviously drawn from that story of Boccaccio with which Shakespeare had dealt just before in ‘Cymbeline.’ [251c]  But Shakespeare created the high-spirited Paulina and the thievish pedlar Autolycus, whose seductive roguery has become proverbial, and he invented the reconciliation of Leontes, the irrationally jealous husband, with Hermione, his wife, whose dignified resignation and forbearance lend the story its intense pathos.  In the boy Mamilius, the poet depicted childhood in its most attractive guise, while the courtship of Florizel and Perdita is the perfection of gentle romance.  The freshness of the pastoral incident surpasses that of all Shakespeare’s presentations of country life.

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