What was an astrologer’s verdict of The Winter’s Tale in 1611?
Simon Forman was an Elizabethan astrologer and mathematician who promoted himself as a medical practitioner in early modern England. He was also an enthusiastic playgoer and made detailed notes on the performances he had seen at the Globe and other playhouses around London. On 15 May 1611 he saw The Winter’s Tale and wrote:
Remember also the rogue that came in all tattered like colt pixie, and how he feigned him sick and to have been robbed of all that he had and how he cozened the poor man of all his money, and after came to the sheep-shearer with a pedlar’s pack and there cozened them again of all their money. And how he changed apparel with the king of Bohemia his son, and then how he turned courtier, etc. Beware of trusting feigned beggars or fawning felons.
Forman was particularly struck by the tricks of the thievish pedlar Autolycus and made a note to himself to ‘beware of trusting feigned beggars or fawning fellows’. He also wrote:
Observe there how Leontes the king of Sicilia was overcome with jealousy of his wife with the king of Bohemia, his friend that came to see him; and how he contrived his death and would have had his cupbearer to have poisoned, who gave the king of Bohemia warning thereof and fled with him to Bohemia. Remember also how he sent to the Oracle of Apollo and the answer of Apollo, that she was guiltless and that the king was jealous[…]and how except the child was found again that was lost, the king should die without issue.
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