The only early version of the text of The Winter’s Tale is that printed seven years after Shakespeare’s death in the 1623 First Folio of his works. Certain features of this text, including the heavy, ‘literary’ style of its punctuation, suggest that the manuscript from which it was printed was not in Shakespeare’s hand, but had been copied, probably by the scribe Ralph Crane. Shakespeare, in common with many poets, probably punctuated quite lightly. Heavy punctuation can sometimes break up rhetorical patterns and therefore get in the way of actors’ performances. There are few overt problems with the words of the play, however, and those that have a bearing on the sense or on performance are considered in the Commentary section below as they occur.
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