On 15 May 1611, the Elizabethan doctor Simon Forman went to a performance of The Winter’s Tale at the Globe theatre. He described the performance in some detail in his diary, concentrating mostly on the events of the plot: Leontes’ jealousy, the abandonment and discovery of the infant Perdita, and so forth. Forman’s account concluded with a description of Autolycus’ tricks and a moral: ‘Beware of trusting feigned beggars or fawning fellows’. We should note, with Andrew Gurr, that descriptions like Forman’s ‘reflect the convention of describing plays much more exactly than they indicate the writer’s complete response to the experience’ (2004: 138). Clearly, Forman’s experience of the performance must have exceeded the few details he chose to record. What is striking, though, is that in composing his aphorism about the perils of ‘trusting feigned beggars or fawning fellows’, Forman was making a conscious effort to derive an articulable meaning from the performance.
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