« AnteriorContinuar »
Dutch dramas, an imitation of The Winter's Tale, and in any case gives no clue to its source. It is briefly noticed in the next section.
The resemblance in the entire situation to the climax of Euripides' Alcestis is very striking, even in some slight details. In both, as has been well noticed, the injured wife does not speak to her husband. Hermione's few words of exquisite tenderness are bestowed upon Perdita, almost the only words in Shakespeare which render the deep and tender relation between mother and daughter. That he knew Euripides' play itself is an untenable view, but he may well have known the story.
This solution of Hermione's fate perhaps suggested the admirable figure of its contriver and executant, Paulina. The overmastering energy of goodness is embodied in her, as prudence and craft in Camillo; and these two play the chief part in guiding the action to its benign end. Camillo furthers the fortunes first of Polixenes, then of Florizel; Paulina is a rough-tongued conscience to Leontes, whose constant presence, as Mr. Watkiss Lloyd has finely said, is necessary to make it intelligible 'how such a mind as that of Leontes could have the force and freshness of feeling, after sixteen years elapsed, that are required to give interest to the recognition, and to satisfy our sympathies with the honour of Hermione.'
The Winter's Tale seems to have at once established itself in the favour of the London public, and particularly of the Court. Played at Whitehall in November 1611, it was one of the Shakespearean plays chosen, two years later, for performance during the festivities of the Princess Elizabeth's marriage.1 Jonson's somewhat ill-tempered allusion in his Bartholomew Fair (Induction) to 'those that beget 1 Lord Treasurer Stanhope's Accounts.
Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries,' must also be taken as an involuntary tribute to its fame. In 1623 and in 1633 we hear of other performances at Court, and that it was 'likt' there; while the Censor's renewed 'allowance' of the play to Heminge, already quoted, in August 1623, shows that it was still in request on the popular stage. The unhappy prominence of Bohemia and its 'sinner king and queen' in contemporary European politics probably stimulated the vogue of the play at Whitehall; while the nation at large acquired a rudimentary conception of the geographical bearings of the focus of the war, and unlettered watermen like John Taylor, as well as scholars like Jonson,2 could twit Shakespeare with its 'sea-coast.'
To the Restoration age these Romantic eccentricities were naturally still less intelligible than to his own. Dryden in his most petulant mood singled out The Winter's Tale with Love's Labour's Lost and Measure for Measure as examples of plays which were 'either grounded on impossibilities or at least so meanly written that the comedy neither caus'd your mirth nor the serious parts your concernment.' 8
Almost simultaneously with this disparaging dictum, The Winter's Tale had, to all appearance, found admiring imitation in Holland. Hendrik de Graeff's play Alcinea (1671) seems to combine motifs from Cymbeline with the great recognition-scene of The Winter's Tale. Alcinea, queen of Alba, is accused of infidelity to her absent husband, Karismont.
1 'I am no sooner eased of him, but Gregorie Gandergoose, an Alderman of Gotham, catches me by the goll, demanding if Bohemia be a great Towne, and whether there be any meat in it, and whether the last fleet of
ships be arrived there' (Taylor, Travels to Prague in Bohemia, 1630).
2 Drummond's Conversations. 3 Preface to The Conquest of Granada, 1672 (quot. Cent. of Shakespeare's Praise, p. 351).
sends a servant with orders to slay her.
The deed is no sooner performed than the slanderer, Klarimeen, confesses his guilt and her innocence. The husband, in despair, returns to offer sacrifice at his wife's grave. Klarimeen's betrothed, Polimia, has, however, contrived to save Alcinea, and is keeping her in hiding as a shepherdess. Polimia causes Alcinea to stand like a statue upon the grave. The king kneels, and addresses her in a long impassioned prayer. As he is about to kiss the image for Alcinea,' it takes his hand and speaks. He is lost in
O heaven, what is this? The image holds my hand!
Explanations follow, and the play closes with forgiveness of the slanderer and profuse compliments to the steadfast chastity of the queen.1
Lastly, it is only necessary to mention the graceful romantic drama in which Coleridge, like Graeff, interwove the kindred motives of Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale.
1 Bolte, in Shakspere Jahrbuch, xxvi. 87.
THE WINTER'S TALE
SCENE I. Antechamber in LEONTES' palace.
Enter CAMILLO and ARCHIDAMUS.
Arch. If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.
Cam. I think, this coming summer, the King of Sicilia means to pay Bohemia the visitation which he justly owes him.
Arch. Wherein our entertainment shall shame us we will be justified in our loves; for indeed
Cam. Beseech you,—
Arch. Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge: we cannot with such magnificence-in so rare-I know not what to say. We will give you sleepy drinks, that your senses, unintelligent of our insufficience, may, though they cannot praise us, as little accuse us.
Cam. You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.
7. Bohemia, the King of Bohemia.