For this play I'm using the edition by the University Tutorial Press, edited with notes by William J. Rolfe, Litt.D. Harper & Brothers, 1876. And why not? This has now served five generations in my family. We'll refer to the editor as WJR, and provide relevant excerpts. He begins his Introduction this way:


The Winter's Tale, so far as we have any knowledge, was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it is the last of the 'Comedies,' occupying pages 277 to 303 inclusive.

Malone found a memorandum in the Office Book of Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, which he gives... as follows:

'For the king's players. An olde playe called Winter's Tale, formerly allowed of by Sir George Bucke, and likewyse by mee on Mr. Hemmings his worde that there was nothing profane added or reformed, thogh the allowed booke was missinge, and therefore I returned it without a fee, this 19 of August, 1623.'

Malone also discovered that Sir George Buck did not obtain full possession of his office as Master of the Revels until August, 1610 and he therefore conjectured that The Winter's Tale was originally licensed in the latter part of that year or the beginning of the next. The Stationers' Registers show, however, that he had practically the control of the office from the year 1607. This date (1610) is confirmed by the MS. Diary of Dr. Simon Forman... which contains the following reference to the acting of 'the Winters Talle at the glob, 1611, the 15 of maye.'

The following entry in the Accounts of the Revels, quoted by most of the editors, has been proved to be a forgery, like the similar entries concerning The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, and other of Shakespeare's plays, but it is based upon correct information.

The 5th of November [1611], The Kings players

A play called ye winters nightes Tayle.

The internal tests, metrical, aesthetic, and other, all tend to show that the play was one of the poet's last productions....The tone and feeling of The Winter's Tale place it in the same period with The Tempest and Cymbeline...It may be noted here that Ben Jonson has a little fling at The Winter's Tale in the Induction of his Bartholomew Fair, published in 1614: 'If there be never a Servant-Monster i'the fayre, who can helpe it, he sayes; nor a nest of Antiques? He is loth to make nature afraid in his playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries.' The 'antiques' or 'antics' are evidently the dancing Satyrs of iv.4. as the 'servant-monster' is the Caliban of The Tempest.

My comment

What intrigues me about Jonson's typically snide remark is that he doesn't say 'like he (or him or one) that begets Tales..'.Ben Jonson knew perfectly well who Shakespeare the poet/dramatist was, but here he seems to be implying plural authorship.. If so, who was the second participating author, and why?

WJR continues:

The Winter's Tale is one of the most carefully printed plays in the folio, even the punctuation being exceptionally accurate. The style presents unusual difficulties, being more elliptical, involved, and perplexing than that of any other work of Shakespeare's. ...As White remarks 'it is rather surprising that the text has come down to us in so pure a state; and the absolute incomprehensibility of one or two passages may safely be attributed to the attempt, on the part of the printers, to correct that which they thought corrupt in their copy, but which was only obscure.'

My comments

Following on from Ben Jonson's remark, where we have 'those' as authors of the play; here we have an accurately written manuscript - unusual for Shakespeare; we have a different style, elliptical, involved, perplexing; we have incomprehensible passages, blamed on the printers. I suggest that all this points one way, to another hand in the play. What we must do now is, first, to bear this in mind as we review the play, to see if there's any supportive evidence for this supposition. And next, we must look at the contemporary scene to see if there is an actual likely candidate for this second author. Finally, we need to have a logical reason why there is another author involved. Presumably it would not be just with The Winter's Tale, but with at least The Tempest as well, and possibly with the other 'late plays;' Cymbeline and Pericles. This is only a possibility at present, although Ben Jonson's wording was quite clearly plural, but as the conclusion is suppositious we'll just have to bear it in mind as we go along. It's most likely that if there were two authors involved, Ben Jonson would have made it his business to find out about it, and know who the other author was. But back to WJR.


The story of The Winter's Tale is taken from Robert Greene's History of Dorastus and Fawnia, which appeared first in 1588, under the title of Pandosto, and passed through several editions. Shakespeare follows the novel in most particulars, but varies from it in a few of some importance. For instance, in the story as told by Greene, Bellaria (Hermione in Shakespeare) dies upon hearing of the loss of her son; and Pandosto (Leontes) falls in love with his own daughter. and is finally seized with a kind of melancholy or madness, in which he kills himself. The poet appears to have changed the dénouement because he was writing a comedy, not a tragedy.

WJR quotes White:

'..Greene's a good tale of its sort and its time... In Characterization of personages the tale is notably coarse and commonplace...whereas there are few more remarkable creations in all literature than Hermione, Perdita, Autolycus, Paulina, not to notice minor characters; and its teeming wealth of wisdom and the daring and dainty beauty of its poetry, give the play a high place in the second rank of Shakespeare's works.'


WJR quotes from Gervinus's Shakespeare Commentaries:

'Shakespeare has treated Greene's narrative in the way he has usually dealt with his bad originals- he has done away with some indelicacy in the matter, and some unnatural things in the form; ... but... the wildness of the fiction, the improbability and contingency of the events, the gap in the time which divides the two actions between two generations, could not be repaired by any art. Shakespeare, therefore, began upon his theme in quite an opposite direction. He increased still more the marvellous and miraculous in the given subject, he disregarded more and more the requirements of the real and probable, and treated time, place, and circumstances with the utmost arbitrariness. He added the character of Antigonus and his death by the bear, Paulina and her second marriage in old age, the pretended death and the long forbearance and preservation of Hermione, Autolycus and his cunning tricks, and he increased thereby the improbable circumstances and strange incidents, He over-leaped all limits, mixing up together Russian emperors and the Delphic oracle and Julio Romano, chivalry and heathendom, ancient forms of religion and Whitsuntide pastorals. Greene had already taught him to pay no attention to probability with regard to place, since in his narrative reference had already been made to the 'sea-shore' in Bohemia and to the 'island' of Delphos. Added to this, there are mistakes in the style of those of Cervantes, where the theft of Sancho Panza's ass is forgotten. Prince Florizel, who (iv.4) appears in 'shepherd's clothes,' exchanges immediately afterwards his 'court garments' with Autolycus in the same scene; the old shepherd (iii.3) knows at once, but whence does not appear, that the slaughtered Antigonus was an old man. Jonson and Dryden have made all this of far too much consequence, even while laughing at it. Pope has even doubted the genuineness of the play.'

My comments:

These remarks seem to suggest that Shakespeare left an unfinished play, or at least one not revised to tidy it up, and Pope's doubts about authorship again indicate a possible dual authorship. In peripheral reading I found Stratfordians who argued that de Vere could not be Shakespeare because he would have known from his travels that Bohemia did not have a sea shore, and from his classical training that Delphos was not an island but a temple to Apollo at Delphi on the slopes of Mount Parnassus in what is now Greece. They fail to mention 'Shakespeare' was merely following his source, which he usually did in a plot, right or wrong.

WJR continues with his quotation from Gervinus:

'...Shakespeare has written little that can compare with the fourth act of The Winter's Tale for variety, liveliness, and beauty. But the fifth act rises still higher...'

WJR next quotes from Mrs. Jameson's Characteristics of Women (American edition, Boston, 1857) from which we take this excerpt:

Perdita does not appear till the fourth act, and the whole of the character is developed in the course of a single scene (the fourth)...She is first introduced in the dialogue between herself and Florizel, where she compares her own lowly state to his princely rank, and expresses her fears of the issue of their unequal attachment... The impression of her perfect beauty and airy elegance of demeanour is conveyed in two exquisite passages ... Her natural loftiness of spirit breaks out where she is menaced and reviled by the King, as one whom his son has degraded himself by merely looking on. She bears the royal frown without quailing... Perdita has another characteristic... that sense of truth and rectitude, that upright simplicity of mind, which disdains all crooked and indirect means, which would not stoop for an instant to dissemblance, and is mingled with a noble confidence in her love and in her lover... This love of truth, this conscientiousness, which forms so distinct a feature in the character of Perdita, and mingles with its picturesque delicacy a certain firmness and dignity, is maintained consistently to the last.

My comments:

'Shakespeare' usually gives us a clue in a name as to what is the story relating to a character in his plays, and Perdita is no exception. From the French 'perdu' = lost (perdue for feminine), deriving from the Latin 'perdo' = to destroy or ruin. It fits the tale of an infant princess cast away and lost, to be found and raised to teenage by a lowly shepherd, then meeting a prince, who falls in love with her, and her true lineage is finally discovered.

Strange as it may seem, this sequence of events has a parallel in the life of de Vere. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, on the death of her mother, was with her two younger sisters taken away by Burghley at the age of 11 or 12 and brought up in his household as a Cecil. However, as fate would have it, she seems to have fallen in love with William Stanley, the second son of the Earl of Derby. This was not a suitable marriage for the daughter of the Earl of Oxford, also a Burghley granddaughter. In quick succession first the Earl of Derby died, succeeded by Ferdinando, his elder son, but then a Popish plot swirled around him, (in which he was not interested) and this probably resulted in his premature death, most likely by poisoning. William then became the succeeding Earl, and the looked-for marriage could now go ahead. It was a gaudy Court affair which took place in 1595, when Elizabeth was about 20 years old, and this real life plot takes another strange turn.

There are a few dedicated believers that William, 6th Earl of Derby, was actually Shakespeare. There is a web site devoted to this cause. But when you read it, and French Professor Abel Lefranc's 2 volume work expounding this argument, (translated by Cecil Cragg, Merlin Books, 1988) it seems to me the evidence cited applies equally to de Vere (Note 1). In fact, the only evidence that William Stanley wrote any plays is from two letters sent by a Jesuit spy, George Fenner, who wrote in 1599 that the Earl of Derby was busying himself in penning comedies for the common players.

Another piece of this puzzle is that B. M. Ward, in his biography of de Vere, devotes a chapter to the friendship between these two men, as William Stanley was now the son-in-law of de Vere, and there is factual evidence that they each stayed for some time at one another's residences (Note 2). As de Vere had married Elizabeth Trentham in about 1591-2, and she was a gracious lady, it seems there would have been a rapprochement between father and daughter perhaps partly due to Elizabeth Trentham and partly to William Stanley. That, I think is the origin of the character of a grown up Perdita in The Winter's Tale, if de Vere is Shakespeare. And I suggest William Stanley was probably writing comedies, but not his own. I think he was helping de Vere put together the last 4 plays: Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Stanley himself could not have been Shakespeare because the 1623 first folio indicates Shakespeare was then dead, but Stanley lived until 1642. ( See Note 3 for a sample of his handwriting in 1607).

Now we can, I suggest, put in better context this excerpt from WJR's quotation from Mrs. Jameson:

This love of truth, this conscientiousness, which forms so distinct a feature in the character of Perdita, and mingles with its picturesque delicacy a certain firmness and dignity, is maintained consistently to the last.

A further excerpt from the same source:

The character of Hermione exhibits... dignity without pride, love without passion, and tenderness without weakness. ...and out of this exterior calm (to) produce the most profound pathos, the most vivid impression of life and internal power- it is this which renders the character of Hermione one of Shakespeare's masterpieces. Hermione is a queen, a matron, and a mother; she is good and beautiful, and royally descended. A majestic sweetness, a grand and gracious simplicity, an easy, unforced, yet dignified self-possession, are all in her deportment, and in every word she utters. ... The expressions 'most sacred lady,' 'dread mistress,' 'sovereign,' with which she is addressed or alluded to, the boundless devotion and respect of those around her, and their confidence in her goodness and innocence, are so many additional strokes to the portrait...

When she is brought to trial for supposed crimes, called on to defend herself, 'standing to prate and talk for life and honour, before who please to come and hear,' the sense of her ignominious situation - all its shame and all its horror press upon her, and would apparently crush even her magnanimous spirit but for the consciousness of her own worth and innocence, and the necessity that exists for asserting and defending both...

WJR next quotes Dowden's Shakespere from which this excerpt is taken:

Hermione is, I suppose, the most magnanimous and noble of Shakespeare's women; without a fault, she suffers, and for sixteen years, as if for the greatest fault. If we contrast her noble defence of herself against the shameless imputation on her honour, with the conduct of earlier women in like case, the faltering words and swoon of Hero, the few ill-starrd sentences of Desdemona, ... the pathetic appeal and yet submission of Imogen, we see how splendidly Shakespere has developt in his last great creation.

My comments

This may be pertinent for a scholar thinking the man from Stratford on Avon was Shakespeare, a man about whose personal life virtually nothing is known. But if de Vere is Shakespeare we can pin down what is going on here much more accurately. De Vere made use of the women in his life in his plays. The common thread in the heroines cited is a falsely accusing husband. That man throughout is de Vere, as he behaved to Anne Cecil, and it took a lifetime to work his way through the problem. Both Hero and Desdemona were replicas of Anne Cecil. I have suggested Imogen was mostly drawn from Elizabeth Trentham. And I suggest that the trial of Mary Queen of Scots had a profound impression on de Vere. Unfortunately I cannot actually prove he was present by being so named in the documentary evidence available to me, but he probably was, as, according to Tanner (Tudor Constitutional Documents, quoting excerpts from State Trials, 1, p.1161-1228) those present at her 1586 trial included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Burghley as Lord Treasurer and 43 others, including 29 peers, of which the Earl of Oxford was presumably one.

Just to give you a sense of this, here is how she began after having had a letter from Queen Elizabeth presented to her at the trial:

...As for this letter, it seemeth strange to me that the Queen should command me as a subject to appear personally in judgement. I am an absolute queen, and will do nothing which may prejudice either mine own royal majesty, or other princes of my place and rank, or my son ... The laws and statutes of England are to me most unknown; I am destitute of counsellors, and who shall be my peers I am utterly ignorant. My papers and notes are taken from me, and no man dareth step forth to be my advocate. I am clear from all crime against the Queen; I have excited no man against her; and I am not to be charged but by mine own word or writing, which cannot be produced against me. ...

The excerpt by Tanner does not give the precise method of determining guilt, but if the procedure was the same as at the trial of the Earl of Essex, then each peer was required to stand and in turn state 'guilty' or 'not guilty,' and of course every one said 'guilty.' I believe the verdict was passed on to the Star Chamber (a Supreme Court) for sentencing. This trial and its progression to an inevitable conclusion would have made an indelible impression on the sensitive de Vere. (See also chapter 7).

For these reasons I see no 'development' by Shakespeare in his 'women' but find instead he was throughout his life haunted by the problem of unjustly accusing his wife Anne Cecil of adultery, and the various male characters were personifications of some parts of his own character, for example, Posthumus Leonatus in Cymbeline and in The Winter's Tale, Leontes. Both names refer to a lion, (leo) and de Vere's Bolebec crest included a lion.

We're ready now to provide our own summary of the play. But first I want to mention that In The Winter's Tale 4.4.724 the Clown says:

Advocate's the court-word for a pheasant...

There is a fairly long note on this in the edition I'm using. Here it is in full:

A pheasant. "As he was a suitor from the country, the clown supposes his father should have brought a present of 'game,' and therefore imagines, when Autolycus asks him what 'advocate' he has, that by the word 'advocate' he means a 'pheasant' (Steevens). Reed says: "In the time of Queen Elizabeth there were Justices of the Peace called 'Basket Justices,' who would do nothing without a present; yet, as a member of the House of Commons expressed himself, 'for half a dozen of 'chickens' would dispense with a whole dozen of penal statutes,'" Halliwell gives this apt illustration from the Journal of the Rev. Giles Moore, 1665: "I gave to Mr. Cripps, solicitor, for acting for me in obtaining my qualification, and effecting it, £1. 10 s., and I allowed my brother Luxford for going to London thereupon, and presenting my lord with two brase of pheasants, 10s.," etc. The patron to whom he sent the game was "Charles, Lord Goring. Earl of Norwich.'

Some editors needlessly change 'pheasant' to 'present.'

But I came across this comment in a mid 20th c. volume devoted to the Earl of Oxford:

The allusion is to a distinguished family of advocates named Pheasant, very much in evidence at Gray's Inn and in the courts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Peter Phesant was a Reader at Gray's in 1582.

(EF note: a Reader is a higher grade of lecturer at a university.)

I have avoided such references which occur frequently in writings on Shakespeare, because they generally seem to be unprovable and mere supposition. But this is different because of the juxtaposition of advocate and pheasant. I for one am convinced here is the right explanation of the line in the play. Further, it shows us how a long line of literary editors of Shakespeare had no idea what the dramatist really meant. Their man for Shakespeare, from Stratford on Avon, had no connection with Gray's Inn, and so the editors were grasping at straws to explain the textual meaning. But de Vere attended Gray's Inn, he had excellent legal training, and it shows everywhere in Shakespeare's work, although I will not be finally convinced that de Vere was Shakespeare unless he successfully passes the hurdles of dating The Tempest and the First Folio evidence. What this 'pheasant' reference means, though, is that the nobleman who was Shakespeare, and probably also had legal training as many of them did, was making this court reference for the amusement of his educated (Court) audience. We know Hamlet told the players that clowns should stick to their texts, and not mouth off more than was set down for them. Here we see why. What it further means is that there are several layers of composition in these plays.

At the first level, or deepest layer, the dramatist chose a plot which from his reading of various 'source' books attracted his attention. If it's de Vere we can ask ourselves why did he choose this or that plot to make into a play, and I think get a reasonable answer. He began in his early youth being a courtier and observing all the petty by-play between the young maids of honour and courtiers, and the intrigues and factions among the older and more senior officials, jockeying for position and competing with one another for the Queen's favour and attention. That's how he came to write the clever comedies with which he began his meteoric literary career. But Love's Labour's Lost was not his first work, it's much too polished. He had many earlier comedies, now regarded by scholars as earlier plays by others of little literary merit, yet having strange cadences of resonance with Shakespeare's mature comedies. Of course. They were by the same playwright.

Next, he turned to history plays, while still at Court. This fitted the national mood at the time, under stress from potential attack by the superpower, Spain. But there was more to it. If by de Vere, he was the 17th earl. The line stretched back to before the Norman Conquest. His ancestors were a part of this history. They were courtiers and fought with their king in many a battle. So de Vere had personal motivation in writing the history plays, and also personal information handed down through his line of descent. He did not over-emphasize previous Oxford parts for this would have been unseemly before a Court audience. And not all their involvement was glorious anyway. But eventually he worked his way through the history phase to as near the present as he safely could.

Next came the tragedies. He had by now suffered many blows from evil fortune, and, if de Vere, we can see how they emerged in his tragic plays. Hamlet, because there was this dichotomy in himself. He found he could not qualify as a man of action in the northern rebellion, when he attended Sussex in charge there, nor in the Low Countries, where he attended on Leicester in charge there. He was more a reflective, observant academic than a man of action, and did not know how to take appropriate action when need arose, as Hamlet did not. Lear gave his kingdom to his daughters and became friendless and penniless, as did de Vere. Othello: de Vere learned too late to forgive Anne Cecil as innocent, after her death, as did Othello with Desdemona. Macbeth; de Vere saw Leicester murder his wife to open the way to a marriage with the Queen, only to be defeated in war and fail in his attempt at the throne. Antony and Cleopatra: de Vere had experienced an all consuming passionate love, with Anne Vavasour, casting away a world for a few sexual embraces, as did Antony. In the last group of four plays, de Vere is working through his retirement experiences. He has abandoned the Court life, he mixes with commoners, playwrights, writes for the common stage, not for Court. But he still writes only of kings, princes, princesses, queens and courtiers. For that was the only world he really knew. But now he has a happy marital life. The tragedies are over. He may have lost his physical health, but he has a loving, intelligent, cultivated wife, he has enough means for his now less extravagant needs, he has at last a son. By marriage his eldest daughter which was lost to him has returned to recognize through her husband what a great man her father is in his own world. What more could he ask. He has learnt that if you stay true to yourself, and your ideals, time heals everything. But all this is just the first deep layer of composition.

The next layer is how he peopled his plays. His characters are real to us, as all the editors comment. But this is for good reason. It's not just imagination by a genius. It's showing how people he knew would react in situations he concocted from his plots, and often he added real-life touches to bring the obvious parallels home to his audience. This is where he so amused the Queen, who sat above it all, while the various courtiers, even senior officials like Hatton and Burghley, were being skewered. And they didn't forget and forgive. Hamlet, for example, is peopled with de Vere's family and courtiers of Elizabeth.

As far back as the Merchant of Venice, Shylock a money lender in Venice demanded his three thousand ducats from Antonio who had posted a bond for that amount for a friend, secured by a pound of his flesh to Shylock. Antonio expected 3 ships to return with wealthy cargoes, but unluckily for him all 3 failed to return and he could not pay the 3000 ducats. De Vere pledged his bond for £3000 to invest in a Frobisher voyage. (chapter 7) The ships returned without gold or other wealth. The enterprise was bankrupt and the man who had sold most of the shares including a large part to de Vere, ended up in prison for fraud. His name was Michael Lok. The word 'shy' is still today a somewhat colloquial word for short of money or cash. In that sense "shy' would probably have meant 'short-changed' and so Shylock would be understood to mean 'Short-change-Lok.' Editors have not apparently found any source for this name, it seems it was coined by Shakespeare. I think here we have the reason for the name - if de Vere is Shakespeare. There is another twist to it. De Vere kept asking Burghley for more cash while he was in Venice, and eventually had to borrow 500 crowns from the Paduan banker Baptista Nigrone. Finally money arrived from England through the Venetian banker Pasquino Spinola. Now that we know the origin of the 'pheasant' reference, I think we can acknowledge that these two names are conflated in the name of Baptista Minola who comments favourably on Padua and says he will add 20,000 crowns to someone's losses. That's in Act 5 scene 2 of The Taming of the Shrew, another early play.

The third layer, or superficial undercurrent in the plays is revealed to us by the references to 'Pheasant' and Julio Romano (See Note 2 to Chapter 12). These tell us that there were allusions in the plays to topical items which the two examples given indicate were meant for an intelligent and educated audience. There may also have been some laughter-provoking mimicry using the sayings, habits, and mannerisms of well known people at the time. Unfortunately for us, as they're extraneous and were probably changed from time to time to retain topicality, these contemporary references don't help us to date the plays.

If these three undercurrents were going on in the plays, which I think our examples show us they were, then it can easily be seen why some plays were not published at all, and others only appeared anonymously. So, now to our summary of the play.


Leontes, King of Sicilia

Mamillius, young prince of Sicilia

Camillo, Antigonus, Cleomenes, Dion; four Lords of Sicilia

Polixenes, King of Bohemia

Florizel, Prince of Bohemia

Archidamus, a Lord of Bohemia

Old Shepherd, reputed father of Perdita

Clown, his son

Autolycus, a rogue

A mariner

A gaoler

Hermione, Queen to Leontes

Perdita, daughter to Leontes and Hermione

Paulina, wife to Antigonus

Emilia, a lady attending Hermione

Mopsa, Dorcas; shepherdesses

Time, as Chorus

Scene: Sicilia and Bohemia.

My comments:

Mamillius: a young prince. This name is reminiscent of the mammary glands which secrete milk in mammals in breast feeding, and subliminally tells us the Prince is very young. If de Vere was Shakespeare this child may have been modelled on his young son Henry, later 18th Earl of Oxford.

Mopsa: clearly an association with 'mops' placing her in the servant class, as does the name of her companion Dorcas (doorkeeper?).

ACT 1 SCENE 1 (1.1)

Antechamber in the palace of Leontes.

Archidamus tells Camillo there is a great difference between our Bohemia and your Sicilia. Each side promises abundant hospitality to the other.

We learn the two kings were trained together in their childhood and have deep personal friendship.

Young prince Mamillius of Sicilia has great promise.

My comment: I find this scene to be 43 lines of very unnecessary, boring prose. I don't think Shakespeare wrote this. It's no way to grab attention at the beginning of a play. Shakespeare habitually starts off with electrifying events.


Room of state in the palace of Leontes.

Enter Leontes, Hermione, Mamillius, Polixenes, Camillo and attendants.

Polixenes must return home tomorrow. Leontes and Hermione try to persuade him to stay longer. Leontes fails, but eventually Hermione talks him into staying.

Leontes in an aside thinks Hermione and Polixenes are too friendly. He's suspicious. He tells Hermione to show Polixenes welcome; they leave. Leontes (to Mamillius) 'go, play, boy, play,' and the boy leaves. Leontes then soliloquizes and mentions cuckolds; he's leading Hermione on. He gives a kind of deranged speech, more a loose association of ideas than direct thought.

He questions Camillo as to the close relationship between Hermione and Polixenes, then accuses Camillo of dishonesty.

Camillo says he may be negligent, foolish, and fearful, but never anything intentionally.

be plainer with me; let me know my trespass....

Leontes: ha' not you seen my wife is slippery...

Camillo: you never spoke what did become you less...

Leontes: Is whispering nothing! Is leaning cheek to cheek? Is meeting noses? (and so on).

Camillo calls it a 'diseas'd opinion.'

Leontes want him to poison 'Bohemia,' and finally Camillo says he'll do it.

Leontes leaves.

Camillo soloquizes ...I must forsake the Court.

Polixenes enters. Camillo eventually tells him he's been appointed to murder him. Polixenes By whom? Camillo: The king. Polixenes: For what?

Camillo: ...he swears...

...that you have touched his Queen


Polixenes: How should this grow?

Camillo: I know not.

Camillo promises to help him and his men escape from the city and that he will serve Polixenes.


I do believe thee....

My ships are ready...

They leave together.

My comments:

This has the force, power and plot of Shakespeare, although it takes 450 lines to complete it, which I've summarized in 31 lines. The scene seems to be composed of Shakespeare's jottings or notes padded out by someone else.


A room in the palace of Leontes

Enter Hermione, Mamillius and ladies

Hermione: Take the boy to you, he so troubles me,

'Tis past enduring.

The boy has some bantering repartee with 2 ladies.

The ladies discuss Hermione's being big with child.

Hermione asks the boy to tell her a story. He says it will be of sprites and goblins. She says do your best 'to fright me with your sprites.'

Leontes enters with Antigones and other lords.

Antigones saw Polixenes, his train and Camillo 'even to their ships.'

Leontes says how right then his suspicions were. He tells Hermione to give him the boy. then says of the boy 'you (Hermione) Have too much blood in him.'

Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;

Away with him.

Leontes says Hermione is an adultress.

Hermione: If a villain should say so

He were as much more villain; you, my lord,

Do but mistake

Leontes says she knew Polixenes was escaping, which she denies: 'no, by my life.'

Hermione: How will this grieve you,

When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that

You thus have publish'd me!

Leontes: Away with her! to prison!

Antigonus warns him to be careful of what he's doing; it may result in violence to him, his queen, his son.

A lord says 'I dare my life lay down... but the queen is spotless.'

They try to talk him out of it, but he's adamant.

Leontes tells them he's sent to the oracle at sacred Delphos. 'Now from the oracle They will bring all' 'Have I done well?' The lords agree.

They all leave.


A prison

Paulina wants to see the Queen. The gaoler says he cannot allow it. He goes to fetch Emilia to speak with Paulina and warns he must be present when they talk.

Emilia comes, says the Queen holds together but her fright and grief have caused a premature birth of a daughter.

Paulina says she'll tell the king. It may soften his attitude. Emilia says Paulina is 'so meet for this great errand.'

The gaoler doesn't know whether he should permit Paulina to take the babe to the king. Paulina says

upon my honour I

Will stand betwixt you and danger.


A room in the palace of Leontes

Enter Leontes, Antigonus, lords, etc.

Leontes sayd Polixenes is beyond reach, but not the Queen.

The boy has lost his spirit, sleep, and appetite.

Paulina comes in with the babe. A lord says she mustn't enter. Leontes had a sleepless night. She gets to Leontes who is infuriated with her. She tells him the Queen is good, lays down the little princess. He calls her a bawd, calls

Traitors, will you not push her out. Give

Her the bastard...

Paulina tells him he's mad.

Leontes: This brat is none of mine

It is the issue of Polixenes ...

I'll ha' thee burnt,

Paulina: ...I care not;

It is an heretic that makes the fire,...

Leontes tells Antigonus

Thou, traitor, has set on thy wife to this...

Antigonus denies it and the lords back him up.

Leontes: you're liars all. (to Antigonus)

... what will you adventure

To save this brat's life?

Antigonus:... anything my lord

Leontes makes him 'swear by this sword,' and he does.

Antigonus is to carry 'this female bastard hence...

To some remote and desert place quite out

Of our dominions...

He is to leave it there, unprotected against the weather to take its chance of life or death.

Antigonus: I swear to do this.

He leaves with the babe.

A servant enters, announces the posts have come from the Oracle.

Leontes ... 23 days

They have been absent: 't is good speed...

They are to prepare for a just and open trial of 'our most disloyal lady...'

My comment: A minor practical point, how is Antigonus to feed a new-born? This scene has relatively short speeches but repetition in thought. I suspect it was worked up by someone else from notes by Shakespeare.


A seaport in Sicilia

Enter Cleomenes and Dion

The ear-deafening voice of the oracle is mentioned

They hope the result will be successful for the Queen.

My comment

This pedestrian scene is unnecessary.


A Court of Justice

Enter Leontes, Lords and officers


This sessions, to our great grief we pronounce,

...the party tried,

The daughter of a king, our wife...

An officer says his highness' pleasure for the Queen to appear in person.

Hermione appears, guarded, Paulina and ladies attending.

Leontes instructs: read the indictment

Officer (reads): Hermione, Queen to the worthy Leontes... thou art here accused and arraigned of high treason, in committing adultery with Polixenes ... and conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign Lord... didst counsel and aid them, for their better safety, to fly away by night.'

Hermione responds in part by saying 'not guilty' will not help me 'mine integrity being counted falsehood'

...For behold me,

A fellow of the royal bed, which owe

A moiety of the throne, a great king's daughter,

The mother to a hopeful prince, here standing,

To prate and talk for life and honour fore

Who please to come and hear

Leontes comments bolder vices don't lack impudence to deny what they did

Hermione responds that's true enough, but doesn't apply to her. She says she only loved Polixenes as her husband's best friend and to the extent 'yourself commanded.' She doesn't know why Camillo left.

Leontes: you had a bastard by Polixenes.

Hermione: ...The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,

I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,

But know not how it went. My second joy

...from his presence I am barr'd... My third comfort

The innocent milk in it most innocent mouth,

Hal'd out to murther; myself on every post

Proclaim'd a strumpet,...Now, my liege,

Tell me what blessings I have here alive,

That I should fear to die? Therefore proceed

But yet hear this... If I shall be condemn'd

Upon surmises... But what your jealousies awake,

I tell you

'Tis rigour and not law...

I do refer me to the oracle,

Apollo be my judge!

Leontes: break up the seals and read

Officer (reads): Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless,

Camillo a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant:

his innocent babe truly begotten and the king shall live

without an heir, if that which is lost be not found!

Leontes: There is no truth at all i'th' oracle

The sessions shall proceed; this is mere falsehood.

Servant enters: The prince your son is gone

Leontes: how! gone!

Servant: dead.

Hermione swoons

Leontes:Take her hence..She will recover

Paulina and the ladies leave, taking Hermione with them

Leontes: I have too much believ'd mine own suspicion

The king apologizes to Apollo, he'll reconcile with Polixenes, recall the good Camillo. He admits he chose Camillo to poison Polixenes.

Paulina comes back, calls him a tyrant plotting to kill Polixenes, casting his baby daughter to the crows,

'What studied torments , tyrant, hast for me?

What wheels? racks? fires? what flaying? boiling

In lead or oils? ...

...The Queen,

The sweet'st dear'st creature's dead and vengeance for't

Not dropp'd down yet.

Leontes is remorseful, once a day he'll visit the chapel where his wife and son will lie.


Bohemia - a desert country near the sea.

Enter Antigonus with a child and a Mariner

The Mariner tells Antigonus they're in the desert of Bohemia. He says the sky looks threatening. Antigonus says get back to the ship, I won't be long.

A long speech by Antigonus. He think's it may be the child of Polixenes and is now in his country.

Exits, pursued by a bear.

My comments

Almost all these 58 lines could be excised. Antigonus describes a dream of Hermione's appearing, telling him the babe is to be called Perdita, counted lost for ever. He will never see his wife again. 'And with shrieks she melted into thin air.' I don't think this is Shakespeare. It's more like an old Miracle play. But the scene continues:

Enter a Shepherd. He finds the 'barne', 'a very pretty barne.' He calls for his son.

Enter Clown, who tells the shepherd he saw a ship on the storm-tossed sea; sea and sky merging and poor souls roaring. On land a man crying his name was Antigonus was being ripped apart by a bear.

They open the box with the babe and find gold.

The shepherd will go home with his find, the Clown to bury what's left of the gentleman.


Enter Time, the Chorus.

I slide o'er 16 years...

Leontes is still grieving, The king of Bohemia has a son, Florizel. Perdita now grown in grace, is a shepherd's daughter.

My Comment:

I doubt that Shakespeare wrote this. It's unnecessary; the dramatist tells us all we need to know at the beginning of the next scene. Who wrote this then? In rhyming couplets? I note that Ben Jonson's most famous play, Every Man in his Humour, has a Prologue, also in rhyming couplets, about the same length, and also in iambic pentameters. It's possible he added this 'scene' for the First Folio edition.


Bohemia. The palace of Polixenes

Enter Polixenes and Camillo

Polixenes tells Camillo, don't keep asking me, ' 'T is a sickness denying thee anything, a death to grant this.'

Camillo: It is 15 years since I saw my country... I desire to lay my bones there. Besides, the penitent king, my master, hath sent for me.

Polixenes doesn't want to be reminded of what happened in Sicilia. He asks where is his son, Prince Florizel.

Camillo hasn't seen him in 3 days, 'he is of late much retired from court'

Polixenes also has noticed this. And hears that the prince is 'seldom from the house of a most homely shepherd...'

Camillo adds that the shepherd has a daughter 'of most rare note.'

Polixenes has heard this also. They'll both go there where the king 'will have some question with the shepherd' They must disguise themselves.

My comment: This entire scene is in prose.


A road near the shepherd's cottage

Enter Autolycus, singing

He sings five 4-line verses.

Here's the 4th:

But shall I go mourn for that, my dear?

The pale moon shines by night;

And when I wander here and there,

I then do most go right.

This is Shakespeare?

He says he's served Florizel, but is now out of service. His father 'was likewise a snapper up of unconsidered trifles.'

Enter Clown. 'What am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast?' He begins to recite a list

Autolycus grovels on the ground calling for help, says he's been robbed and beaten. The Clown tries to help. Autolycus picks his pocket. Clown asks 'who robbed you'. Autolycus says 'One called Autolycus who was whipped out of the court.' Clown leaves. Autolycus says he'll go to the sheep-shearing and see if the shearers prove sheep. He leaves, singing.

My comment

Another prose scene. This is just slapstick comedy, there's no cleverness behind it.


The shepherd's cottage

Enter Florizel and Perdita

He says she's to be Queen of the sheep-shearing.

She says she's just a poor lowly maid 'prank'd up,' but

your high self... you have obscured

With a swain's wearing...

He found her when his falcon

made her flight across thy father's ground.

Perdita asks what would his father say if he saw you

to see his work so noble

Vilely bound up?

Florizel: Thou dearest Perdita... Or I'll be thine, my fair,

Or not my father's.

He says be cheerful it were the day

Of celebration of that nuptial which

We two have sworn shall come.

Enter Shepherd, Clown, Mopsa, Dorcas, and others with Polixenes and Camillo disguised

The shepherd tells Perdita to act as hostess, she gives specific flowers to Polixenes and Camillo, and welcomes them.

Polixenes is clearly impressed and in their discussion says

You see, sweet maid, we marry

A gentler scion to the wildest stock,

And make conceive a bark of baser kind

By bud of nobler race. This is an art

Which does mend nature - change it rather, but

The art is nature.

Perdita:... Methinks I play as I have seen them do

In Whitsun pastorals...

Polixenes says she's very pretty... 'too noble for this place.'

Music. Here a dance of shepherds and shepherdesses.

Polixenes asks the shepherd

...what fair swain is this

Which dances with your daughter?

Shepherd: They call him Doricles...

...he says he loves my daughter:...

...and, to be plain,

I think there is not half a kiss to choose

Who loves another best.

All this is in blank verse.

A servant comes in, speaking prose and praises the abilities of Autolycus who is asked in and comes singing

Clown is in love with Mopsa and talks of buying from Autolycus for her. Autolycus offers ballads for sale to the shepherds and shepherdesses. They sing one.

Groups of carters, shepherds, neat-herds, and swine-herds are invited in to leap and dance - one group has danced before the king.

The stage directions say 'Here a dance of 12 Satyrs.'

My comments:

The Whitsun pastorals reference is out of context. But in the literature relating to William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, suggested as Shakespeare, it's mentioned that coming from the west country in England the family 'seat' was close to Chester, famous for its Whitsun pastorals, and that Derby wrote material for them. This raises the unanswerable question as to whether Derby had anything to do with the Time-Chorus scene, and this entrance of 12 'Satyrs' which is redundant, since the shepherds and shepherdesses on stage have already danced. Personally, I don't believe that 'Shakespeare' had the Satyrs in his original manuscript.

But to continue with the play:

Polixenes questions Florizel who states his love for Perdita unequivocally.

The shepherd asks Perdita

Say you the like of him?

She says she can't speak as well as Florizel

By the pattern of mine own thoughts I cut out

The purity of his

Shepherd: take hands, a bargain...

Polixenes: Soft, swain, abide, beseech you;

Have you a father?

Florizel: I have, but what of him?

Ploixenes: Knows he of this?

Florizel: He neither knows nor shall

Polixenes Methinks a father

Is at the nuptial of his son a guest...

Florizel says no. They argue back and forth. Florizel is adamant. His father

shall not know, ..he must not

Mark our contract.

Polixenes: Mark your divorce, young sir, (discovering himself)

Whom son I dare not call; thou art too base

...Follow us to the Court..

...Thou churl....

He promises Perdita if she ever

... these rural latches to his entrance open,

..I will devise a death as cruel for thee

as thou art tender to't.

He leaves

Perdita says she was about to speak and tell him plainly that the same sun

shines on this cottage as the court.

Camillo tells the shepherd 'speak ere thou diest.'

The shepherd says he is 'fourscore three' (is 83), leaves.

Florizel to Camillo

Why look you so upon me?

I am but sorry, not afeard; delay'd,

But nothing alter'd. What I was, I am....

Perdita tells him

how often have I told you 't would be thus...

Florizel: Lift up thy looks:

From my succession wipe me, father: I

Am heir to my affection

...Not for Bohemia,,, will I break my oath

To this my fair belov'd...

Camillo says I see you're determined, so, marry her, and I'll try to bring your father 'up to liking.'

Florizel says tell my father we've taken ship elsewhere.

Camillo suggests Sicilia, and present yourselves to Leontes. Camillo will write down for Florizel what he should say to convince Leontes he's representing his father's wishes. Camillo says his fortunes 'do all lie there' so he can equip them royally.

All this is in blank verse.

Autolycus comes in, speaking prose

I have sold all my trumpery....I picked and cut most of their festival purses

Florizel and Autolycus (who has recognized Camillo) exchange garments.

Autolycus: the prince himself is about a piece of iniquity, stealing away from his father with his clog at his heels....

Clown and Shepherd enter, Clown tells him to advise the king that there were 'secret things' found with the babe.

Autolycus takes off his disguise beard and is now treated as a gentleman. He says to the shepherd: I command thee to open thy affair

Shepherd: My business sir, is to the king

Autolycus: What advocate hast thou to him

Shepherd: I know not, an't like you

Clown: advocate's the court word for a pheasant; say you have none...

Autolycus (to the shepherd) he's gone aboard a new ship to purge melancholy... the king is full of grief....

(because of) 'an old sheep-whistling rogue' ... 'some say he shall be stoned...

Clown: Has the old man a son?...

Autolycus: he has a son, who shall be flayed alive... (he gives the description quoted earlier by WJR)

Autolycus says he'll take them where the king is aboard

The shepherd offers him gold to lead them there. They leave.

Autolycus says he'll lead them to his (former) master (the Prince) 'there may be matter in it.'


A room in the palace of Leontes

Enter Leontes, Cleomenes, Dion, Paulina and servants

They tell the king he's

...done enough and have perform'd

A saint-like sorrow...

Paulina: ...if my lord will marry,...

...give me the office

To choose you a queen... she shall be such

As walk'd your first queen's ghost...

Gentleman: ...Prince Florizel,

Son of Polixenes, with his princess,- she the

The fairest I have yet beheld - desire access

To your high presence.

Leontes: So out of circumstance and sudden, tells us

'Tis ... forc'd

by need and accident. What train?

Gentleman: But few

and those but mean.

The king says 'bring them to our embracement'

Florizel and Perdita enter. He says his princess came from Libya and he's sent his best train back to Bohemia.

A lord comes in, says: Bohemia greets you from himself by me;

Desires you to attach his son, who has

... fled from his father,... and with a shepherd's daughter.

Bohemia himself is 'Here in your city..'

Bohemia has the shepherd and his son also.

Leontes (to Florizel) You are married?

Florizel: We are not, sir, nor are we like to be,

but if the king would intercede for them with Bohemia he will be successful.

Leontes says he will do so.


Before the palace of Leontes

Enter Autolycus and a Gentleman

Autolycus asks him what happened. The Gentleman says the old shepherd opened his fardel (bundle) and told the king and Camillo he'd found it with the babe; they were amazed.

A second Gentleman enters, says the king's lost daughter is found, the oracle is fulfilled.

A third Gentleman enters. The Queen Hermione's mantle and jewel were found, they know it's the king's daughter - 'did you see the meeting of the two kings?'

What happened to Antigonus who took the babe to Bohemia - torn to pieces by a bear. The Clown has a handkerchief and rings that Paulina knows. His ship was wrecked and all hands lost, seen by the shepherd.

The Princess, as she now is, hearing of her mother's statue. kept by Paulina, ... a piece many years in doing and now newly performed by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano (see chapter 12 note 2).

Enter Shepherd and Clown, now dressed as gentlemen born, they converse with Autolycus.

My comments:

This last part is 'comic relief'. The whole scene could have been eliminated. It's just another Chorus-type scene. The main points could have been woven into the conversation in a few lines in the next scene. Personally I don't think it's by Shakespeare, but some informational notes might be, e.g. on Julio Romano.


A chapel in Paulina's house

Enter Leontes, Polixenes, Florizel, Perdita, Camillo, Paulina, lords and attendants

Leontes thanks Paulina, says we haven't seen the statue of our Queen 'which my daughter came to look upon'

Paulina draws the curtain and Hermione is seen standing like a statue.

Leontes: But yet, Paulina,

Hermione was not so much wrinkled, nothing

So aged as this seems

Paulina: So much the more our carver's excellence

Which lets go by some 16 years,...

Leontes is filled with shame

Perdita kneels and wants to hold Hermione's hand, but Paulina says

the statue is but newly fix'd, the colour's

Not dry...

Leontes asks her not to draw the curtain over the statue again

Paulina says you can't gaze on it any longer

lest your fancy

May think anon it moves.

Leontes wants to kiss the statue, Paulina says the oily painting on it is still wet.

Paulina then says either forbear and quit the chapel now, or be prepared for more amazement,.

If you can behold it,

I'll make the statue move, indeed, descend,

and take you by the hand...

Leontes: proceed, no foot shall stir

Paulina calls for music

'Tis time, descend, be stone no more; approach:

Strike all that look upon with marvel... (etc.)

Hermione comes down: Paulina says her spell was lawful.

Hermione embraces Leontes.

Leontes tells Camillo to take Paulina by the hand for an honourable husband as her husband is dead, and Paulina to lead them to where they may ask and answer what has happened to them 'in this wide gap of time.'

They all leave.

My comments:

What I find lacking in most of this play is the power of the mind of Shakespeare. The fact that it's written in the language of an educated Elizabethan doesn't mean that Shakespeare wrote it. We found nothing in the editorial Introduction to provide a firm date as to when this play was written, and therefore no reason to suppose it was written after de Vere's death. It's quite possible that it was left in fragmentary form without 'tidying up' which was done by William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby, de Vere's son-in-law, either during or after de Vere's lifetime. This would account for the unusually accurate printing in the First Folio. The play's source appeared in print when de Vere was about 38 years old. There is nothing in the play itself to indicate it was written after de Vere's death. No reason has been found in the editorial commentary or the play to disprove de Vere as author. The conventional dating of all the 'posthumous' plays which we have now so far considered, and for none of which there is a supportable date of composition: Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Cymbeline, and The Winter's Tale, must therefore depend on an accurate and firm dating of composition for The Tempest, which we'll investigate in the next chapter.


William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby and

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Here's my summary of the basic arguments in Abel Lefranc's book for Stanley

as 'Shakespeare':

1. Noble family

2. Educated at Oxford

3. Was entered into one of the 4 Inns of Court ( for legal training)

4. Friend of John Dee

5. European travel

6. Knowledge of foreign languages

7. Said to be writing comedies

8. Financial distress (family lawsuits)

9. Competent in music

10. Good handwriting

11. Became reclusive

12. Marital problems

13. Accused of squandering his patrimony

14. Had an acting company.

All this evidence also applies to de Vere, with the additional recommendation that de Vere was 'best for comedy.'

We could add one more item as a parallel. De Vere's wife Anne Cecil was alleged to have had an affair resulting in his first daughter's not being his child. This caused a breakdown in the marriage.

Stanley's wife Elizabeth Vere was alleged to have had an affair with the Earl of Essex. This caused a breakdown in the marriage.

Both husbands reconciled with their wives later.

Some 'evidence' does tend to favour Stanley (whose sphere of influence apparently was the area bordering north Wales, centred on the city of Chester).

1. Much of Cymbeline is set in Wales. (But this is Milford Haven, south Wales.)

2. The Merry Wives of Windsor has the Order of the Garter Induction ceremony. Stanley was inducted in 1601, the year the play is generally dated. De Vere was never inducted but was present during the proceedings of 18th June 1572 on the occasion of the installation of the Duc de Montmorenci as a Knight of the Garter.

3. The 9 Worthies pageant was held at Chester. This is also referred to in Love's Labour's Lost. Richard Lloyd's work on the 9 Worthies was printed in 1581, apparently used by Shakespeare in the play. Lloyd was Stanley's tutor.

4. Pentecost pageants referred to in the plays were held at Chester.

5. Belleforest (source) has Hamlet's father killed 'by a hand weapon.' Shakespeare has him poisoned, as was (probably) Stanley's elder brother.

None of this seems to me to be overwhelming evidence for Stanley as Shakespeare, who in any case cannot be Shakespeare as he was alive long after the 1623 First Folio which stated Shakespeare was dead.



1. January 26, 1595 William Stanley and Elizabeth Vere, de Vere's eldest daughter, married with de Vere's approval.

2. August 7th, 1595 de Vere wrote to Burghley 'On my coming to Byfleet from Cannon Row.' Stanley had a house in Cannon Row.

3. September 1596, written evidence de Vere staying with his son-in-law at Cannon Row..

4. January 1599. Lady Oxford being entertained by the Derbys at Thistleworth.

5. January 28, 1599, Stanley wrote to Burghley 'from Hackney' where de Vere had a house.

6. November 1599, Derby and his wife staying at King's Place with the Oxfords.


Here's a letter written by William Stanley in 1607:

Professor Lefranc quotes a long paragraph of the main points of an analysis of this writing by the President of the Society of Graphology (presumably French, and in Paris)

here are some excerpts:

Superb type of writing...Much imagination... High distinction of a very superior mind...Writing of a literate: certain letters have a Greek inspiration. Man very learned for his time... surprising intelligence. Emotional temperament...Hand that of a man doing much writing.

To Chapter 32 To Chapter 34

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