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Polixenes, where, having safely deposited the infant, he is torn to pieces by a bear as he endeavours to return to the ship. Shakspeare's shepherd is attracted to the “ sea-side” in search of his sheep which he hoped to find “ browzing on ivy.” In both cases the infant is found by the shepherd, and reared up as his own.
The interval between the infancy of the child, and her growth into the prime of youth and beauty, is easily passed over in narration ; but it was a serious difficulty in the play. The dramas of his predecessors and contemporaries furnished Shakspeare with abundance of precedents for the expedient he adopted, — that of personifying Time, and in that character soliciting the spectators to imagine the lapse of six
In the simple occupation of a shepherdess, the exiled princess had advanced from infancy to womanhood, and she now appears as the lovely Perdita,
6 A creature,
It was the fortune of Florizel, the son of Polixenes, to meet her as he returned from
hawking; and so deeply did he become ena. moured of Perdita's beauty, that, for the sake of her society, he cast aside his princely robes, and assumed the habit of a shepherd :
“ The heavenly gods have sometime earthly thought;
Neptune became a ram, Jupiter a bull,
Dorastus and Farnia.
“The gods themselves,
The discovery of Florizel in his degrading metamorphosis by Polixenes is superadded by the. dramatist to the story of the novel ; whence, however, the trifling particular of Perdita being “ mistress of the feast” is borrowed.
Detected in his disguise, Florizel fled from his father's dominions with the lovely object of his choice; and they safely land in Sicily. Dorastus is not discovered by his father, but still he fies, and, with his beautiful shepherdess, carries her reputed father : they are driven by
a storm upon the coast of Bohemia.* Florizel goes at once to the court of the king of Sicily, declares himself the son and ambassador of Polixenes, and presents Perdita as his wife.
Dorastus, remembering the existing enmity between the king of Bohemia and his father, conceals his name and rank: he is thrown into prison by the king of Bohemia, who attempts the corruption of Fawnia's virtue. Leontes receives Florizel with every demonstration of kindness and affection. Shakspeare forbears from the representation of so revolting a spectacle as a father, seeking the seduction of his child, but he was not able wholly to divest his mind of the influence of his original :
" At your request, My father will grant precious things as trifles.
Leontes. Would he do so, I'd beg your precious mistress, - Which he counts but a trifle. Paulina.
Sir, my liege, Your
hath too much youth in't : not a month Fore your queen died, she was more worth such gazes Than what
look on now.”
* If critics on Shakspeare had read the novel, they would have been spared the trouble of writing their air-drawn speculations on Shakspeare's taste in causing a shipwreck on the coast of Bohemia.
In the novel, the king of Sicily sends ambassadors to demand the release of his son, and the death of Fawnia. In the play, the father of Florizel himself follows the fugitives, and prevents the marriage.
To bring the plot, at this crisis, to a conclusion, the presence of the shepherd who had found the infant princess, and who could alone furnish proofs of her identity, was absolutely necessary, and it is contrived both in the play and the novel, though by means somewhat different, to transport him from his native country in the vessel with the lovers. Subsequent explanation is easy ; the prediction of the oracle is fulfilled; in the person of Perdita “ that which is lost, is found ;” and the king no longer lives “ without
The lovers are united, and the kings reconciled.
The novel narrates that reflection upon the injustice and cruelty of his former conduct fixed a deep melancholy in the mind of the Bohemian monarch, and that in a paroxysm of madness he put a period to his life.
If not a more natural, Shakspeare has certainly substituted a more agreeable conclusion to his drama. Indeed, few scenes of greater interest, and none managed with a more consummate knowledge of stage effect, are to be met with
than that which closes the Winter's Tale. With the exception of this striking scene, Shakspeare has done little towards the improvement of the story that he worked from ; but he was more successful in his delineation of its principal characters. Nothing that is seen of Egisthus in the novel, can at all compare with the masterly display of the jealousy of Leontes in the second scene of the first act. For dignity and eloquence, Bellaria cannot, for a moment, be put in competition with Hermione. When the dramatist deviated from the novel by sending the infant, born of the queen, to a remote and desert place, he was obliged to create a character for the execution of the important commission : hence Antigonus; whose part is short indeed, for a bear devours him in the third act. The plot for the restoration of Hermione, also, required an agent, not to be met with in the novel ; and such an one was supplied in Paulina, the wife of Antigonus. Paulina is not one of Shakspeare's happiest female portraits : however good her heart and her intentions, her manners are not well adapted for a court; her candour is ill-bred bluntness, and her vehemence vulgar passion. The intrinsic worth of Florizel is not very superior to that of Dorastus, but the air of refined sentiment which Shakspeare has thrown over