The Winter's Tale (Folger Shakespeare Library)
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The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s very late plays, is filled with improbabilities. Before the conclusion, one character comments that what we are about to see, “Were it but told you, should be hooted at / Like an old tale.”
It includes murderous passions, man-eating bears, princes and princesses in disguise, death by drowning and by grief, oracles, betrayal, and unexpected joy. Yet the play, which draws much of its power from Greek myth, is grounded in the everyday.
A “winter’s tale” is one told or read on a long winter’s night. Paradoxically, this winter’s tale is ideally seen rather than read—though the imagination can transform words into vivid action. Its shift from tragedy to comedy, disguises, and startling exits and transformations seem addressed to theater audiences.
The authoritative edition of The Winter’s Tale from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:
-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books
-An annotated guide to further reading
Essay by Stephen Orgel
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
others and we understand, again without thinking about it, that he or she is not heard by the figures on the stage (the aside); a character alone on the stage may speak (the soliloquy), and we do not take the character to be unhinged; in a realistic (box) set, the fourth wall, which allows us to see what is going on, is miraculously missing. The no-nonsense view, then, is that the boy actor was an accepted convention, accepted unthinkingly—just as today we know that Kenneth Branagh is not Hamlet,
sixteen inches, and in width from eight to eleven; the pages in the 1623 edition of Shakespeare, commonly called the First Folio, are approximately thirteen inches tall and eight inches wide.) The eighteen plays published during Shakespeare’s lifetime had been issued one play per volume in small formats called quartos. (Each sheet in a quarto has been folded twice, making four leaves, or eight pages, each page being about nine inches tall and seven inches wide, roughly the size of a large
Polixenes. What is the news i’ th’ court? Camillo. None rare, my lord. Polixenes. The King hath on him such a countenance, As he had lost some province, and a region Loved as he loves himself; even now I met him With customary compliment, when he, Wafting his eyes to th’ contrary,° and falling A lip of much contempt, speed from me, and So leaves me to consider what is breeding That changes thus his manners. Camillo. I dare not know, my lord. Polixenes. How, dare not? Do not? Do you
perform it first.° Hermione. That’s true enough, Though ’tis a saying, sir, not due to me. Leontes. You will not own it. Hermione. More than mistress of Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not At all acknowledge.° For Polixenes, With whom I am accused, I do confess I loved him, as in honor he required;° With such a kind of love, as might become A lady like me; with a love, even such, So, and no other, as yourself commanded; Which not to have done, I think had been in me Both
especially The Second Part of Conny-catching (1591), useful for describing the tricks of Autolycus (especially the cheating of the Clown in 4.3); and although he rejected Greene’s personal names, he replaced “Garinter” by “Mamillius,” perhaps remembering Greene’s “looking glass for the ladies of England,” Mamillia (1583). Shakespeare treats Pandosto in his usual way, freely changing it but often echoing its language and incidents. The following very brief summary uses the names Shakespeare gave