The Winter’s Tale: The Pack of Autolycus The first half of The Winter’s Tale, we said, is like a tragedy, or, well, like a Winter’s tale: • “You have an unspeakable comfort of your young Prince Mamillius” (Arch., 1.1.35-38) • “A sad tale’s best for winter.” (Mam, 2.1.25) • “There was a man . . . / Dwelt by a churchyard.” (Mam, 2.1.28-31) • “Commend it [this brat] strangely to some place, / Where chance may nurse or end it.” (Leontes, 2.3.160, 181) • “The Prince, your son . . . / Is dead.” (Servant, 3.2.140-143) • “This news is mortal to the Queen.” (Paulina, 3.2.144) When Camillo defends Hermione to Leontes, saying it were “sin” to accuse her of adultery, Leontes offers the following “proofs”: p. 16, 1.2.284-296 What is the significance of Leontes’s repetition of the word “nothing” (repeated nine times) in this speech? What does “nothing” here mean? A) B) C) D) E) Everything The female genital Without substance A and C All of the above Leontes rather ironically asks Camillo, Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled, To appoint myself in this vexation? Sully The purity and whiteness of my sheets— . . . .? Would I do this? (1.2.325-332) The answer is, of course, yes. The tragedy of The Winter’s Tale is that it is like a sad tale or fictional story: • Like such fictions, it is made up out of “nothing” –made up out of Leontes’s unfounded “jealousy” (1.2.452) and his deep-seated suspicion of open or frank female sexuality (O) that together make him imagine dirty sexuality everywhere and in everything. • The tragedy here is akin to a re-enacting or re-discovering out of “nothing” the fact of original sin. • It’s precedent is a previous fiction of a prelapsarian world of boyhood innocence, imagined in pastoral terms. • Polixenes to Hermione, 1.2.66-71: We were as twinn’d lambs that did frisk I’th’sun, And bleat the one at th’other: what we chang’d Was innocence for innocence: we knew not The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream’d That any did. Like Eve in the garden, women in this very male pre-lapsarian vision are accused of being at fault for man’s fall from innocence: Hermione: By this we gather You have tripped since. Polixenes: O my most sacred lady, Temptations have since then been born to’s, for In those unfledged days was my wife a girl: Your precious self had then not crossed the eyes Of my young playfellow. (1.2.75-79) This even though Hermione speaks with dignity in her defense, and another court woman, Paulina, dares to speak freely in accusing the king of a “tyrannous passion” (2.3.26), and even threatens with violence those that would silence her: Leontes: “Force her hence.” Paulina: “Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes First hand me.” (p. 36; 2.3.60-62). Death is literally the result of man’s original sin. Who does NOT die or is thought to be dead as a result of Leontes’s fall into sin? A) B) C) D) E) Hermione Mamillius Archidamus Antigonus Perdita Gesturing toward Comedy • Stage Direction: Exit, pursued by a bear (3.3.57) • Antigonus: “I’ll pawn the little blood which I have left, / To save the innocent.” (2.3.1645) • Shepherd [to his son, the Clown]: “. . . thou met’st with things dying, I with things new born.” (3.3.111-113) “’Tis a lucky day, boy, and we’ll do good deeds on‘t.” (3.3.137-138) Enter Time as Chorus: pp. 57-584.2.1-32 Shakespeare’s source for his play was Robert Greene’s Pandosto (1588), titled in full: Pandosto. The Triumph of Time. Wherein is discovered by a pleasant History, that although by the means of sinister fortune, Truth may be concealed, yet by Time, in spite of fortune it is most manifestly revealed. Why does Shakespeare make Time a character in his play? Shakespeare also adds another character to his play not in his source: Autolycus. Who is Autolycus? A) A former servant to Florizel B) A stealer of sheets C) A peddler of trinkets and ballad singer D) B and C E) All of the above Why does Autolycus get so much stage time in Act 4 of the play? • Autolycus’s first set of songs are “When Daffodils begin to peer” and “But shall I go Mourn?” (pp. 60-61; 4.3; #69 and #8 on CD) • Though a rogue, he enters like a breath of fresh air, singing of “the sweet of the year” (spring, the time of rebirth after winter) How is it significant that, Autolycus steals sheets: “My traffic is sheets” (p. 61; 4.3.22)? Autolycus as “innocent” rogue produced by the court but vital to the countryside (and court): • Autolycus has been born of the court world inhabited by the likes of Leontes and even Polixenes and Florizel, whom Autolycus once served (p. 61; 4.3.13-14). • But he is now “out of service” like so many retainers of the 17th century – let go in cost-saving measures, creating a growing population of itinerant wagelaborers, men and women who necessarily moved from job to job, place to place, fitting their work to the needs of the moment, sometimes working, sometimes stealing, sometimes begging. These are make-shift men, shifting with the changing times. • Later in this same scene (4.3), when Autolycus pretends to the shepherd Clown that he has been robbed, he describes the robber as himself, as “once a servant of the Prince. . . . since an ape-bearer, then a process-server, a bailiff: then he compassed a motion [puppet show] of the Prodigal Son, and married a tinker’s wife within a mile where my land and living lies; and, having flown over many knavish professions, he settled only in rogue. Some call him Autolycus.” (4.3.88-102) • So the court world has quite literally, in letting Autolycus go, produced the shape-shifting trickster of this play, a man who lives in a fallen condition, but who turns it creatively to his profit. • And, quite significantly, one of the ways Autolycus profits is through stealing sheets— reminding us of the bed sheets Leontes wrongly imagined had been sullied by the guilty “stolen” sex of his wife and friend. • Those wild imaginings by Leontes of sullied sheets, one might say, produce real sheets that get stolen by Autolycus. The Ballad Sheet • And they produce another kind of sheet Autolycus traffics in—ballad broadsheets, which Autolycus, in his guise of peddler, sells along with other tantalizing trinkets: “ribbon, glass, pomander, brooch, tablebook, ballad, knife, tape, glove, shoe-tie, bracelet, horn-ring,” etc. etc. (4.4.602-04) • The shepherds in their innocence think all these trashy trinkets are wondrous valuables, especially the ballads: pp. 75; 4.4.260-320) • Ballads belong with the other trinkets Autolycus sells because they were equally cheap—sold only for a penny—and were pretty artifacts that could be pasted up on cottage walls. • Their art was crude but decorative, like the swirling letter of the black-letter or gothic font their texts were printed in. • And they were sung to familiar tunes that invited everyone to join in and enjoy the song, whether it told of some sensational happening, such as a monstrous birth, or other topical event, or simply tales of marriage, love, and sex. • All were eagerly listened to, bought, and sung by their audiences (e.g. “Get you Hence” CD #28) • Autolycus’s claim that he has a ballad “to a very doleful tune of how a usurer’s wife was brought to bed of twenty money-bags at a burden” (p. 75; 44.263-265) is but a slight exaggeration of some of the sensational news stories that circulated in ballad form as “true.” • see Pepys 1.44-45, “The Lamenting Lady” • Many such ballads also sing of bawdy love, i.e., sex, with frank and exuberant embrace, even if such sex occurs outside of the marriage bond. • See “A Pleasant Jigg Betwixt Jack and his Mistress” (Pepys 3.14) • Autolycus exults in how he captivates the senses of his listeners when he sings such ballads and can thus filtch their purses: My clown, who wants but something to be a reasonable man, grew so in love with the wenches’ song, that he would not stir his pettitoes till he had both tune and words, which so drew the rest of the herd to me that all their other senses stuck in ears: you might have pinched a placket, it was senseless; ‘twas nothing to geld a codpiece of a purse; I would have filed keys off that hung in chains. No hearing, no feeling, but my sir’s song, and admiring the nothing of it (p. 88; 4.4. 609-618) Why the focus on such ballad sheets with their imaginative, vibrant—even sexually vibrant—fictions that steal the senses of the listeners with their art, their stories, and their songs? • Ballads recover for the audience and the world of the play what has been tainted and thrown out of the court of Leontes: false imaginings or “nothings” • Ballads show the power of the imagination to create fictions that may not be true—may belong to a fallen world of chicanery and deception—but which have value in their very ability to stimulate the imagination in ways that don’t provoke guilt but rather entertain, enliven, and bring people together. • This is the value of Autolycus, trickster, peddler, and ballad seller, and it is no coincidence that it is Autolycus who functions in the play as the intermediary between people, between the lower order world of the country, where homespun people live, and the world of the courts in both Bohemia and Sicilia. • Like his ballad songs, Autolycus brings people of all shapes and sizes together.