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.
good deal of truth to this statement, but some of the quarto versions are better than others; some are in fact preferable to the Folio text. Whoever was assigned to prepare the texts for publication in the first Folio seems to have taken the job seriously and yet not to have performed it with uniform care. The sources of the texts seem to have been, in general, good unpublished copies or the best published copies. The first play in the collection, The Tempest, is divided into acts and scenes,
at some stage Shakespeare made the momentous decision to keep Hermione alive, and invented the motif of the statue. It is possible that he did so in the course of writing; as Coleridge early pointed out, it would have been simple enough to provide for her survival by some ambiguity in the oracle, but Shakespeare does not do so, and it is a remarkable instance, the only one in Shakespeare or perhaps in the whole drama of the period, of the playwright’s concealing so material a circumstance from
next way with your findings, I’ll go see if the bear be gone from the gentleman, and how much he hath eaten. They are never curst° but when they are hungry. If there be any of him left, I’ll bury it. Shepherd. That’s a good deed. If thou mayest discern by that which is left of him what he is, fetch me to th’ sight of him. Clown. Marry° will I; and you shall help to put him i’ th’ ground. Shepherd. ’Tis a lucky day, boy, and we’ll do good deeds on ’t. Exeunt. 109-10 charity . . . footing
must make an exchange; therefore discase° thee instantly—thou must think there’s a necessity in ’t —and change garments with this gentleman; though the pennyworth on his side be the worst, yet hold thee, there’s some boot.° [Giving money.] Autolycus. I am a poor fellow, sir. [Aside] I know ye well enough. Camillo. Nay, prithee dispatch; the gentleman is half flayed° already. Autolycus. Are you in earnest, sir? [Aside] I smell the trick on ’t. Florizel. Dispatch, I prithee. Autolycus. Indeed,
pastorals: Dis may be classical, but his “wagon” is as real as a wagon in Hardy. See, too, how classical legend and folklore coalesce in the primroses and “bright Phoebus in his strength,” a phrase pointing the natural poetic association of sun fire and mature love (as in Antony and Cleopatra): the sun corresponding, as it were, to physical fruition (as the moon to the more operatic business of wooing) and accordingly raising in Perdita, whose poetry is strongly impregnated with fertility