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.
Shakespeare held a one-tenth interest. Other Elizabethan dramatists are known to have acted, but no other is known also to have been entitled to a share of the profits. Shakespeare’s first eight published plays did not have his name on them, but this is not remarkable; the most popular play of the period, Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, went through many editions without naming Kyd, and Kyd’s authorship is known only because a book on the profession of acting happens to quote (and attribute to
prerogative Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness Imparts this;° which, if you, or stupefied, Or seeming so, in skill,° cannot, or will not, Relish a truth like us, inform yourselves, We need no more of your advice. The matter, The loss, the gain, the ord’ring on ’t, Is all properly ours. Antigonus. And I wish, my liege, You had only in your silent judgment tried it, Without more overture. 148 false generations illegitimate children 149 glib castrate 152-54 but I do see . .
bagpipe could not move you. He sings several tunes faster than you’ll tell° money; he utters them as he had eaten ballads,° and all men’s ears grew to his tunes. Clown. He could never come better; he shall come in; I love a ballad but even too well, if it be doleful matter merrily set down; or a very pleasant thing indeed, and sung lamentably. Servant. He hath songs for man or woman of all sizes; no milliner can so fit his customers with gloves. He has the prettiest love songs for maids, so
installment, “deposit” 652 prophecy (the prophecy is the form of address, “Fortunate mistress!”) 656-57 disliken . . . seeming (a complicated way of saying “alter your usual appearance,” which may indicate Shakespeare’s obsessive interest in problems related to “truth” and “seeming”) (For I do fear eyes over°) to shipboard Get undescried. Perdita. I see the play so lies That I must bear a part. Camillo. No remedy. Have you done there? Florizel. Should I now meet my father, He would not
the Signe of the Bible, neere vnto the North doore of Paules, 1588. The Short Title Catalogue records only one copy of this edition, in the British Museum; and that is imperfect. There were subsequent editions in 1592, 1595, 1607, and later. But although there was so recent an edition available, Shakespeare appears to have used the first. He seems for some reason to have been interested in Greene at this time, for he also drew on the pamphleteer’s popular studies of the London underworld,