Strictly speaking, the Bohemian Forest had come to an end some way upstream. The old Kingdom of Bohemia, which had belonged to the Empire for the last three centuries, vanished when it became part of Czechoslovakia in 1919. It had always been landlocked by surrounding states. How could the famous stage-direction—“The Coast of Bohemia”—have ever slipped from Shakespeare’s pen? When he introduced it in The Winter’s Tale, Bohemia wasn’t a half-mythical country, like ‘Illyria’ in Twelfth Night. Its whereabouts and its character were as well known as Navarre in Love’s Labour’s Lost, or Scotland in Macbeth. In fact, as an important Protestant stronghold, it was particularly famous at the time. The Elector Palatine—the Protestant champion of Europe—was married to Princess Elizabeth, and three years after Shakespeare’s death he was elected to the throne of Bohemia. (The Winter Queen again! Shakespeare must have known her well and, according to some, the bridal masque in The Tempest was written for their betrothal.) How could Shakespeare have thought that her Kingdom was on the sea? As I marched downstream, inspiration struck. ‘Coast’ must originally have meant ‘side’ or ‘edge,’ not necessarily connected with ‘sea’ at all! Perhaps this very path was the Coast of Bohemia - at any rate, the Coast of the Forest: near enough!

Let us run quickly through the relevant part of the story. The King of Sicily is unjustly convinced that Perdita, his infant daughter, is the bastard offspring of his Queen Hermione by his former friend and guest, the King of Bohemia. Antigonus, a faithful old courtier determined to save Perdita from her father’s anger, flees from the court with the baby under his cloak, and takes ship for Bohemia. By what route? Shakespeare doesn’t say. He would scarcely have gone via the Black Sea. I saw him sailing from Palermo, landing at Trieste, travelling overland, then embarking in Vienna in a vessel sailing upstream. The ship, running into a terrible storm, probably among the Grein whirlpools, founders. Antigonus, the old courtier, scrambles ashore—perhaps just under the castle of Werfenstein!—and then, amid thunder and lightning, he just has time to perch the swaddled Perdita in a safe place when the second of Shakespeare’s most famous stage-directions—‘Exit pursued by bear’—comes into force. (Bears have died out in the Austrian mountains, but there were plenty then.) While the beast in question devours Antigonus in the wings, enter an old shepherd. He sees Perdita and carries the little bundle home, and, finally brings her up as his daughter, Sixteen years later comes the marvellous sheep-ahearing feast, with its promise of recognition and a happy ending and its magical speeches. It was probably celebrated in one of those upland farms...

Patrick Leigh Fermor - "A Time of Gifts" (1977)

@темы: shakespeare, s, fermor, patrick leigh, f, english-british, art, 16