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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: March 2007

Mistress Tale Porter and the Triumph of Time: Slander and Old Wives’ Tales in The Winter’s Tale


Would some God unveil all lives to us, Slander would retire discomfited to the bottomless pit; for the illumination of truth would be over all.

Lucian, ‘Slander, a Warning’, lines 33–6.

The main source for The Winter’s Tale is, as is well known, Robert Greene’s romance Pandosto, first published in 1588. The title page of the first edition of Pandosto reads as follows:

Pandosto. The Triumph of Time. Wherein is discovered by a pleasant History, that although by the means of sinister fortune Truth may be concealed, yet by Time, in spite of fortune, it is most manifestly revealed . . . Temporis filia veritas.

This motto – Truth is the Daughter of Time – had a good deal of cultural currency during the Renaissance, as is sufficiently illustrated by the fact that it forms the basis of important pageants in both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s coronation processions. Importantly for my purposes here it also became associated with the Renaissance allegory of the classical Calumny of Apelles, based on Lucian’s essay on slander cited above. An early and important instance of this association shows up, as Fritz Saxl has shown, in the woodcut of an edition of the Cinque Messe dedicated to Alessandro de Medici by the Venetian publisher Marcolino in 1536. This woodcut bears the legend Veritas Filia Temporis, and shows Truth emerging with the aid of Saturn (as Father Time) from the clouds of obscurity even as she is beaten back by the winged monster identified by Saxl as Calumnia. Geoffrey Whitney, in his sixteenth-century book of emblems, illustrates veritas filia temporis with verses in which Slander is one of the causes of the disappearance of Truth. The motto thus gradually came to be associated specifically with the suppression of truth through slander.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Online ISBN: 9781139052771
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