13Sources and Cultural Context

Robert Greene's Pandosto

Pandosto's characters The Winter's Tale characters
Pandosto Leontes
Bellaria Hermione
Garinter Mamillius
Fawnia Perdita
Franion Camillo
Egistus Polixenes
Dorastus Florizel
Capnio Autolycus
No correspondence Antigonus, Paulina, Emilia, Clown, Dorcas,Mopsa

14Major characters

While Robert Greene's 1588 Pandosto. The Triumph of Time provides us with the basic characters (see chart above), essential pastoral and romance elements and narrative structure for The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare's adoption and manipulation of the narrative elements reveal his ingenuity in choosing sources and synthesizing those sources with the vast storehouse of personal readings and dramatic influences that were available to him. Greene's novel –with different names for its major characters and a reversal of kingdoms, Bohemia for Pandosto and Sicilia for Egisthus—outlines King Pandosto's emerging jealousy over his wife Bellaria's presumed trysts with his lifelong friend, Egisthus (TLN 360ff). Though the essential ingredients are provided, Greene's novel constructs a narrative that is straightforward and predicated on a reader's engagement with a story that is lurid and devoid of the enigma of motivation and spiritual aura found in Shakespeare's play. As in The Winter's Tale, Pandosto's jealousy leads to both the death of Bellaria (Hermione) (TLN 1388ff)—in this instance an actual death-- and their son, Garinter (Mamillius) (TLN 1326ff). Like The Winter's Tale's Camillo, the cupbearer Franion spirits away Egithus to his home in Sicilia –not Bohemia, which Pandosto rules in Greene's prose narrative. Pandosto's wrath, once the king discovers Egisthus and Franion's departure (TLN 643), is now trained on Bellaria, whom Pandosto conjectures committed her adultery with Franion's assistance. Pandosto's jealousy is prompted by an extended narrative in which Bellaria's involvement with Egisthus becomes more intimate and more "familiar": Bellaria's desire to please her husband extends to her visiting Egisthus in his bedroom.

15Bellaria, like Hermione, is imprisoned and discovers her nascent pregnancy only after she has endured time in prison (TLN 724). The birth of Perdita—in Greene named Fawnia—similarly elicits Pandosto's enraged jealousy and suspicion that the child is not his, and after pledging to have the girl burned to death, retreats in his anger thanks to his advisors' intercession. Despite this reprieve, Pandosto still orders that the daughter be set adrift on the ocean and left subject to Fortune's whimsical treatment (TLN 1105ff).

16Greene's narrative also provided Shakespeare with the public trial of Bellaria's guilt and the embassy sent to Delphos to receive Apollo's oracle—which Pandosto agrees to after Bellaria's suggestion (TLN 803ff). The prophecy is duplicated almost verbatim in The Winter's Tale: "Suspition is no proofe: Iealousie is an vnequall Iudge: Bellaria is chast: Egistus blamelesse: Franion a true subject: Pandosto treacherous: his Babe an innocent, and the King shal liue without an heire: if that which is lost be not founde" (C2r ). Unlike the audience of The Winter's Tale, the readers of Pandosto are given this oracle account before the trial scene and are thus deprived of dramatic tension. The trial scene merely repeats the reading of the oracle. Given this short reprieve, Bellaria is allowed a moment of joy, Pandosto a period of self-recrimination, self loathing, and public plea for forgiveness before the announcement comes that their young son Garinter has died (TLN 1326ff). Garinter's death leads to the subsequent tragedy: "as Bellaria heard, surcharged before with extreame ioy, and now suppressed with heauie sorrowe, her vitall spirites were so stopped, that she fell downe presently dead, and could neuer be reuived" (C3r) Pandosto's self-loathing replicates Leontes's:

17my innocent Babe I haue drowned in the Seas: my louing wife I haue slaine with slaunderous suspition: my trusty friend I haue sought to betray, and yet the Gods are slacke to plague such offences. Ah vniust Apollo, Pandosto is the man that hath committed the faulte: why should Garinter, seely childe, abide the paine: Well, sith the Gods meane to prolong my dayes, to increase my dolour, I will offer my guiltie bloud a sacrifice to those sacklesse soules, whose lives are lost by my rigorous folly (C3v).

Despite the desire to commit suicide—which he fulfills by the end of the narrative—Pandosto persists, as does Leontes.

18Greene, like Shakespeare, transports the narrative across the sea, where the infant Fawnia floats ashore in Sicilia and is discovered by a shepherd, Porrus, who raises her, not without a contentious debate, with his wife Mopsa (TLN 1501ff). As with Perdita, Fawnia matures in her beauty and wit with tremendous modesty, qualities that ultimately draw to her side at a chance encounter the young prince, Dorastus, son of Egisthus. Greene meditates on the pangs of love felt by Dorastus and Fawnia: Dorastus loves beneath his social station while his father is attempting to arrange a royal marriage: Fawnia falls for someone well above her peasant status. Greene's attention to these star-crossed lovers is so extensive that in its 1635 printing, Pandosto was retitled The Pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia.

19Greene's melodramatic recounting of the burgeoning love and Dorastus's peasant disguise—drawn from Apollo's lascivious dissembling in Ovid's Metamorphoses —allows the two young lovers to plan their departure by ship, aided by Capnio, a trickster figure who pulls an oblivious Porrus into the plot (TLN 2496ff). Dorastus's departure from court propels his father into a melancholic state; Greene's narrative glowers at Dorastus's indifference to his father, yet he delivers the crew to Bohemia's safe shores following a tempest. The melodrama becomes heightened as Pandosto re-enters the narrative: using spies, he abducts Dorastus and Fawnia, to whom Pandosto finds himself physically drawn. Attempting to hide his identity as the son of Egisthus, Dorastus identifies himself as a Trapolonian named Meleagrus and Fawnia as his Paduan betrothed (TLN 2831). Pandosto rejects Dorastus's story and has him imprisoned while he furthers his attempts to seduce Fawnia during Dorastus's imprisonment: "Hauing thus hardly handled the supposed Trapalonians: Pandosto contrarie to his aged yeares began to bee somewhat tickled with the beauty of Fawnia, insomuch that hee could take no rest, but cast in his old head a thousand new devises: at last he fell into these thoughtes" (F4v).

20While Shakespeare brings Polixenes and Leontes together in Sicilia for their emotional reunion, Egisthus sends a message to Pandosto asking that his son be released and Fawnia executed; Pandosto agrees to this request, supplementing the death warrant with the names of Porrus and Capnio. Porrus, however, provides the denouement by revealing Fawnia's orphan past:

21For so it hapned that I being a poore sheepherd in Sycilia, living by keeping other mens flockes: one of my sheepe straying downe to the sea side, as I went to seeke her, I saw a little boate driven vpon the shoare, wherein I found a babe of sixe daies old, wrapped in a mantle of scarlet, hauing about the necke this chaine: I pittying the child, and desirous of the treasure, carried it home to my wife, who with great care nursed it vp, and set it to keepe sheep. Here is the chaine and the iewels, and this Fawnia is the child whom I found in the boat. What she is, or of what parentage, I know not, but this I am assured of that she is none of mine (G3v).

22This reversal overturns the potential tragedy that has been building: Pandosto apologizes for his lust, knights the peasant Porrus, and sails with Dorastus, Fawnia, and Porrus to Sicilia toper his friend Egisthus. Overwhelmed by grief for his suspicious treatment of Egisthus, for his role in bringing on Bellaria's death, and for his incestuous feelings towards his daughter, Pandosto commits suicide and is returned posthumously by Dorastus and Fawnia. Green characterizes this suicide as a "tragical stratagem" to "close up the comedy."

23Besides the obvious reversal of kingdoms, Pandosto's Bohemia becomes Leontes's Siclia and Egistus's Sicilia, Polixenes's Bohemia, Shakespeare invests the play with two dramatic alterations to Greene's novel, both of which give the lie to Greene's moral-- "the Triumph of Time"—and the presence of "Fortune" as a blind impetus for the novel's tragedies. As critic Inga-Stina Ewbak has astutely observed, Shakespeare's "triumph" of time is a regenerative force that restores Hermione after sixteen years, provides Leontes with a penitential opportunity to atone for a violence that sends his wife into isolation, his son to an early grave, and his daughter abandoned to the wilds. Greene's novel, which concludes with Pandosto's suicide, his wife's and son's concomitant deaths, and a conclusion that promotes no opportunity for providential intervention, provides only the aftertaste of satisfaction. Shakespeare's decision to provide for Hermione's restoration as a statue affords the play a redemptive turn:

Leontes: Her natural posture.
Chide me, dear stone, that I may say indeed
Thou art Hermione; or rather, thou art she
In thy not chiding, for she was as tender
As infancy and grace. But yet, Paulina,
Hermione was not so much wrinkled, nothing
So aged as this seems.
(5.3.23-29, TLN 3212-18)

24For Phebe Jensen, this moment "makes [Hermione] miraculously present, in a ceremony performed under the direction of a Pauline practioner, during which stone is transformed into flesh, just as bread and wine become body and blood in the Catholic Mass" (304). The theatre that makes this moment possible is aligned with the performance of ritual that transforms lives and provides for rebirth. Such a conclusion would have been irrelevant for Greene's novel, which celebrates melodramatic situations that prompt emotional excesses and Pandosto's anti-climactic, seemingly appropriate suicide. The logical, linear movement provided by Greene, in which narrative heaps situation upon situation, outcome upon outcome, is given a cyclical, sacramental dimension by Shakespeare, in which Leontes's precipitous jealousy and Mamillius's premature demise are bound up by a gracious Hermione and a banished daughter restored. This would have been beyond Greene's novel and outside of his authorial capacity.