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awakened, and fell into the companie of his acquaintance, being asked where he had bene; he answered that he had bene asleepe, and had the pleasantest dream that ever he had in his life; and told them all that passed, thinking that it had bene nothing but a dreame."
This frolick seems better suited to the gaiety of the gallant Francis, or to the revelry of the boisterous Henry, than to the cold and distant manners of the reserved Charles; of whose private character, however, historians have taken but slight notice. H. White.
From this play, The Tatler formed a story, Vol. IV, No. 231. It cannot but seem strange that Shakspeare should be so little known to the author of The Tatler, that he should suffer this story to be obtruded upon him; or so little known to the publick, that he could hope to make it pass upon his readers as a real narrative of a transaction in Lincolnshire; yet it is apparent, that he was deceived, or intended to deceive, that he knew not himself whence the story was taken, or hoped that he might rob so obscure a writer without detection.
Of this play the two plots are so well united, that they can hardly be called two without injury to the art with which they are interwoven. The attention is entertained with all the variety of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconnected incidents.
The part between Katharine and Petruchio is eminently sprightly and diverting. At the marriage of Bianca the arrival of the real father, perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure. The whole play is very popular and diverting. Johnson.
THIS play, throughout, is written in the very spirit of its author. And in telling this homely and simple, though agreeable, country tale,
Our sweetest Shakspeare, fancy's child,
Warbles his native wood-notes wild.
This was necessary to observe in mere justice to the play; as the meanness of the fable, and the extravagant conduct of it, had misled some of great name into a wrong judgment of its merit; which, as far as it regards sentiment and character, is scarce inferior to any in the whole collection. Warburton.
The story of this play is taken from The Pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia, written by Robert Greene. Johnson. In this novel, the King of Sicilia, whom Shakspeare names Leontes, is called
Polixenes K. of Bohemia
Mamillius P. of Sicilia
Florizel P. of Bohemia
The parts of Antigonus, Paulina, and Autolycus, are of the poet's own invention; but many circumstances of the novel are omitted in the play.
Dr. Warburton, by "some of great name," means Dryden and Pope. See the Essay at the end of the Second Part of The Conquest of Granada.
None of our author's plays has been more censured for the breach of dramatick rules than The Winter's Tale. In confirmation of what Mr. Steevens has remarked in another place-"that Shakspeare was not ignorant of these rules, but disregarded them," it may be observed, that the laws of the drama are clearly laid down by a writer once universally read and admired, Sir Philip Sidney, who, in his Defence of Poesy, 1595, has pointed out the very improprieties into which our author has fallen in this play. After mentioning the defects of the tragedy of Gorboduc, he adds: "But if it be so in Gorboducke, how much more in all the rest, where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Affricke, of the other, and so manie other under kingdomes, that the player when he comes in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived.-Now of time. they are much more liberal. For ordinarie it is, that two young princes fall in love, after many traverses she is got with childe, delivered of a faire boy: he is lost, groweth a man, falleth in love, and is readie to get another childe, and all this in two houres space: which how absurd it is in sence, even sence may imagine."
The Winter's Tale, is sneered at by B. Jonson, in the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, 1614: "If there be never a servantmonster in the fair, who can help it, nor a nest of antiques? He is loth to make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget TALES, Tempests, and such like drolleries." By the nest of an
tiques, the twelve satyrs who are introduced at the sheep-shearing festival, are alluded to.
Sir Thomas Hanmer gave himself much needless concern that Shakspeare should consider Bohemia as a maritime country. He would have us read Bythinia: but our author implicitly copied the novel before him. Dr. Grey, indeed, was apt to believe that Dorastus and Faunia might rather be borrowed from the play; but I have met with a copy of it, which was printed in 1588.-Cervantes ridicules these geographical mistakes, when he makes the princess Micomicona land at Ossuna.-Corporal Trim's king of Bohemia "delighted in navigation, and had never a sea-port in his dominions ;" and my Lord Herbert tells us, that De Luines, the prime minister of France, when he was embassador there, demanded, whether Bohemia was an inland country, or lay "upon the sea?". -There is a similar mistake in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, relative to that city and Milan. Farmer.
The Winter's Tale may be ranked among the historic plays of Shakspeare, though not one of his numerous criticks and commentators have discovered the drift 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 no where 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 the Eighth, 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,
"'Tis a derivative from me to mine,
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-born 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:
"And might we lay the old proverb to your charge,
The Winter's Tale was therefore in reality a second part of Henry the Eighth. Walpole.
Another Sicilian lord.
Rogero, a Sicilian gentleman.
An attendant on the young prince Mamillius.
Polixenes, king of Bohemia:
Florizel, his son.
Archidamus, a Bohemian lord.
An old shepherd, reputed father of Perdita:
Servant to the old shepherd.
Autolycus, a rogue.
Time, as Chorus.
Hermione, Queen to Leontes.
Perdita, daughter to Leontes and Hermione.
Paulina, wife to Antigonus.
Emelia, a lady,
Two other ladies, attending the queen.
Lords, ladies, and attendants; satyrs for a dance; shepherds, shepherdesses, guards, &c.
Sometimes in Sicilia, sometimes in Bohemia.