The Winter's Tale

This article is about Shakespeare's play. For other uses, see The Winter's Tale (disambiguation).

The Winter's Tale, a very late one of William Shakespeare's plays, is filled with improbabilities. Before the conclusion, one character comments that what we are about to see, "Were it but told you, should be hooted at / Like an old tale."

It includes murderous passions, man-eating bears, princes and princesses in disguise, death by drowning and by grief, oracles, betrayal, and unexpected joy. Yet the play, which draws much of its power from Greek myth, is grounded in the everyday.

A "winter's tale" is one told or read on a long winter's night. Paradoxically, this winter's tale is ideally seen rather than read—though the imagination can transform words into vivid action. Its shift from tragedy to comedy, disguises, and startling exits and transformations seem addressed to theater audiences.

Shakespeare is thought to have written The Winter’s Tale in 1609–11; it was performed at the Globe in May 1611 and at court that November. It was published in the 1623 First Folio. The chief source is Robert Greene’s Pandosto, or the Triumph of Time.[1]

Productions at the Folger

Helen Hayes Awards
Nominations: "Outstanding Supporting Actress, Resident Play" for Naomi Jacobson

Early editions

First Folio

LUNA: First Folio: 2a1r - 2c2r
Hamnet: STC 22273 Fo. 1 no. 68

Second Folio

LUNA: Second Folio: 2a1r - 2c2v
Hamnet: STC 22274 Fo. 2 no. 07

Modern editions

Winter's Tale Folger Edition.jpg

The Winter's Tale can be read online with Folger Digital Texts and purchased from Simon and Schuster.

Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M6 2003 copy 2 v.37

In popular culture


The Folger owns roughly 20 stand-alone translations of The Winter's Tale in various languages (not including collected works). Cataloging of these works is ongoing as of early 2015, and many have full-level catalog records, but some works still have only partial records. Translations can be found Hamnet in by searching for "Translations"in the Genre/Form Term field, or by searching the Call Number (Left-Anchored) field for call numbers starting with PR2796 (see the list of Sh.Col. translations call numbers for specific language call numbers). Since not all translations are fully cataloged, some items may only turn up in one of these searches.

Performance materials

Other media


Listen to Sarah Beckwith, professor of English at Duke University, discuss inheritance, innocence, and doubt, in the podcast "What Mamillius Knew: Ceremonies of Initiation in The Winter’s Tale."

<audio src="" controls="" preload=""></audio>

Image Group

Explore the curated image group for The Winter's Tale in the Folger digital image collection.


  1. Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1998 Folger Shakespeare Library.