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Bandello's "Timbreo and Fenicia" and The Winter's Tale THOMAS E. MUSSIO Several critics have noticed die similarities in theme, character, and setting between MuchAdoAboutNothingand The Winter's Tale,1 and since Bandello's novella ofTimbreo and Fenicia (1, 22) hasbeen accepted as one of the sources of Much Ado, they have intimated a link between this same novella and The Winter's Tale. Yet not until Martin Mueller's recent study has Bandello's tale been clearly signaled as the imaginative tissue binding the two plays togetiier. Focusing his analysis on the theme of the persecuted and "resurrected" heroine, Mueller argues that Shakespeare's contact with the Bandellian text was decisive, as it triggered an interest that was reiterated throughout the playwright's career, for "Bandello's Fenicia turns up as Hero, Desdemona, Cordelia, and Hermione."2 He concludes that these repetitions show that Shakespeare was involved in a"process ofimaginative and economic revision"ofearlier themes and that The Winter's Tale"results from Shakespeare reading Greene'sPandosto with a strongsense ofunfinished business in Bandello's story."3 Mueller gives a general account ofseveral ofthe striking parallels between the Bandello story and The Winter's Tale: die prominent image of the accused woman as statue in both, the prominence of the theme oftime felt both in Hermione's aging and Fenicia's development, and the cathartic and confessional actions of the penitent Leontes and 211 212Comparative Drama Timbreo. Yet because he is primarily interested in tracing the trajectory ofShakespeare's career, Muelleronlynods to theseparallels, barelyspending three pages on their implications. My purpose is to show with more specificity and depth the nature ofShakespeare's "return" to Bandello in writing The Winter's Tale. In order to do this, I examine The Winter's Tale in comparison with its four primary source texts: Bandello's TimbreoFenicia tale (1554), Belleforest's translation of Bandello's tale (1571), Robert Greene's Pandosto (1588), and Much Ado AboutNothing (15981600 ).4 This comparison reveals that, in re-exploring the situation of Much Ado, Shakespeare draws from Bandello's treatment of important themes in The Winter's Talelike rivalry, honor, repentance, regeneration, and forgiveness more often than from Belleforest's or Greene's handling of these themes. It also suggests the ways in which Shakespeare forged new ideas on these tiiemes through a complex process of imitation and innovation. Since the Bandello taleis much less known to megeneral reader than the others, let me summarize it.The tale is set in Messina, Italy, in roughly the fourteenth century.Timbreo, a soldier,woos Fenicia, the daughter of Lionato, a poor nobleman tied to the court of Messina. When he finds that he cannot possess Fenicia outside ofmarriage, he asks for her hand. When Girondo, another soldier and Timbreo's friend, hears of their engagement , he despairs because he secretly loves Fenicia. Therefore, he devises a plot to destroytheir relationship. Girondo arranges forTimbreo to witness a man disguised as Fenicia's secret lover climb through her window one night. Enraged at her supposed infidelity, Timbreo calls off the marriage and publicly accuses Fenicia of immoral behavior. Fenicia faints at the harsh accusation, revives to defend herself, but then wastes away until she dies. While her mother and aunt wash her presumably dead body, it is discovered that she is not really dead. Rather than announcing the news, Lionato has her sent off secretly to her aunt and uncle's countryhomewhere she remains until she is older and no longer recognizable. Her sister, Belfine, is sent awaywith her.After Fenicia's public (feigned) funeral, both Timbreo and Girondo begin to repent their se parate actions. Girondo confesses his plot to Timbreo, and Timbreo forgives him. They go together to confess to Lionato and pledge their servitude toward him. Lionato accepts and asks Timbreo ifhe would marry a Thomas E. Mussio213 woman of his choosing, and Timbreo willfully agrees. On the wedding day about a year later, Timbreo and Girondo are led outside the court to the country where Timbreo will see his new bride for the first time. Stunned bythelikeness ofthe newbride to Fenicia, Timbreo marries her happily but does not yet recognize her. Belfine is given...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 211-244
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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