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En five Acts.
BY WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,
To which are added,
DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME,-CAST OF THE CHARACTERS,
As now performed at the
THEATRES ROYAL, LONDON.
EMBELLISHED WITH A PORTRAIT OF MRS. BUNN,
graved on Steel by MR. WOOLNOTH, from an original Drawing
JOHN CUMBERLAND, 6, BRECKNOCK PLACE,
The Winter's Tale.
THAT Shakspeare adhered to the dramatic unities, or departed from them, as best suited his convenience, and that it would be unjust to impute the one to chance, and the other to ignorance, is evident from his having produced dramas that the Stagyrite himself would have pronounced perfect, and upon which criticism would be a waste of words to point out their nicety of construction, and the studious art displayed in the conduct and development of their plots. Without, then, reviving the controversy regarding the learning of Shakspeare-a question that the ingenious essay of Dr. Farmer has not entirely set at rest-we may remark, that Shakspeare never sins through ignorance; for it is impossible to suppose that he who was so familiar with the literature of his day, could have passed over the writings of George Whetstone, the author of Promos and Cassandra, from which the plan of Measure for Measure is in part borrowed, and of Sir Philip Sydney, both of whom descant with particular freedom on the very extravagances that belong to The Winter's Tale. The example of scholars may be quoted in justification of Shakspeare; the Witie, comicall, Facetiously-Quicke, and unparalleled John Lilly makes forty years elapse in two acts of his Endymion; and Green, who was a master of arts, and a great pedant, is guilty of more anachronisms in his "Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay," than are to be found in any one play of Shakspeare's.
Certain critics have questioned if The Winter's Tale be really the work of Shakspeare. For ourselves, we should as soon think of depriving him of Hamlet or Lear, as of this fine drama. Mr. Malone has given loose to conjecture in assigning the date of its production to the years 1594, 1002, 1604, and 1613. It was acted at court during the latter year. Dr. Drake's reasons are more tenable for fixing the period to the close of 1610, and its licence and perform. ance to the following year.
The plot is in the highest degree incong uons ;-the spectator must imagine a lapse of more than sixteen years during a representation of two hours; and behold a young lady, who is not even born at the commencement of the drama, married before the close. this trespass, Time, as the Chorus, makes the following appeal :
Impute it not a crime
To me, or my swift passage, that slide
O'er sixteen years, and leave the growth untry'd
Of that wide gap; since it is in my power
To o'erthrow law, and in one self-born hour
The anachronisins are numerous and waimsical: Whitsun Pastorals, Christian Burial, an Emperor of Russia, and an Italian painter of the 15th century! The story is borrowed from Robert Greenęs Pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia; though many circum
stances in the novel are omitted in the play. There is a pensive sadness in this simple village tale. Hence the applicability of its name.
For, "round about our coal fire," our ancestors delighted to sit and listen to tales of sorrow and amazement; a custom to which the following pathetic allusion is made in the tragedy of Richard II. :
"King. In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire,
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
And, ere thou bid good night, to quit their grief,
And send the hearers weeping to their beds."
This play is said to contain certain political allusions to the time. Walpole styles it neither more nor less than the second part of Henry VIII. His reasons are plausible, though not convincing. He argues that the Winter's Tale was intended (in compliment to Queen Elizabeth) as an indirect apology for her mother, Anne Boleyn; and that the unreasonable jealousy of Leontes, and his violent conduct, form a true portrait of Henry VIII. He quotes several passages which certainly favour the assumption; and one in particular, where Paulina, describing the new-born princess, and her likeness to her father, says "She has the very trick of his frown." Independent of her political glory, Elizabeth had many claims on the gratitude and admiration of Shakspeare. She was his avowed patroness, and learned and accomplished beyond any woman of her time. One of the most elegant compliments ever paid to a sovereign is in Archbishop Cranmer's prophecy in the play of Henry VIII.; and it is not improbable, though we consider the fact far from proved, that Shakspeare, in gratitude to Elizabeth's memory, might pay her this posthumous compliment;-for, if we fix the chronology of the Winter's Tale at 1013, she had been dead ten years when it was written.
Blackstone would discover an allusion to the death of the Queen of Scots in the following lines :
"If I could find example
Of thousands, that had struck anointed kings
And flourish'd after, I'd not do't; but, since
Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment, bear not one,
There can be no doubt that Shakspeare, in common with every ingenuous mind, contemplated with deep shame and abhorence that foul regicide, over which the splendour of Elizabeth's character, and her personal kindness to himself, might barely cast a shade. But it is incredible to suppose that he would have paid court to her successor, by so severe a reflection on the memory of his royal patroness. Besides, it bears a contradiction upon the face of it: for, as Mr. Douce justly remarks, the perpetrator of that atrocious murder did flourish many years afterwards. It more probably alludes (to pursue the argument of the same elegant critic) to King James's escape from the Gourie Conspiracy; which, according to Osborne, brought a new holyday into the Church of England-wherein God had