The main source for Shakespeare’s play is Robert Greene’s prose romance, Pandosto, the Triumph of Time. Subtitled The History of Dorastus and Fawnia, it was published in 1588 and proved the most popular of all Greene’s works, appearing in six editions by 1609, and reprinted frequently thereafter. Shakespeare relies heavily on Greene’s story for the first half of his play, adopting wholesale Greene’s account of the King’s behaviour — his unfounded jealousy, fear of being poisoned, sleeplessness, and murderous intent towards both his wife and the person he regards as his rival. Greene is also the origin of some striking phrases, for example ‘rigour and not law’ and ‘refer myself to the divine oracle’ in Hermione’s speeches to the court (cf, III.i.113–14). But the differences are also illuminating. Shakespeare swaps around Bohemia and Sicily (see below pp. 90–4); his king denies the truth of the oracle; his queen becomes pregnant much earlier in the story, and does not die. Rather than continuing the narrative of the baby girl’s upbringing, he skips over those sixteen years, settling into a succession of different modes of story telling for the Bohemia scenes and the subsequent return to Sicily.
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