Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2010
No Quarto edition of this play has been discovered; and we must therefore rely on the First Folio for our authoritative text. Most fortunately it happens to be a good one, excellent among its companions in the volume, in details which the Textual Editor will indicate and discuss.
The date of the play, as we have it, can be fixed with, fair exactitude. Three lines of external evidence converge upon the year 1611.
(a) Dr Simon Forman—a somewhatnotorious character in his day, who combined medicine with clairvoyance—in a MS Booke of Plates and Notes Thereof…for Common Pollicie (Ashmole MSS 208) records that he witnessed a performance of The Winter's Tale at the Globe Theatre on May 15, 1611. The entry runs:
In the Winters Talle at the glob 1611 the 15 of maye g
Observe ther howe Lyontes the kinge of Cicillia was overcom with Jelosy of his wife with the kinge of Bohemia his frind that came to see him, and howe he contriued his death and wold haue had his cup berer to haue poisoned, who gaue the king of Bohemia warning therof & fled with him to Bohemia. (…)