The Winter's Tale

From Academic Kids

This article is about the play by Shakespeare. For the novel by Mark Helprin, see Winter's Tale (Helprin).

The Winter's Tale is a comedy by William Shakespeare. This play is one of Shakepeare's later efforts, probably written in 1610 or 1611, and is commonly classified with Shakespeare's other late romances. Some critics, among them W.W. Lawrence and R.A. Foakes, also consider it to be one of the "problem plays", because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, but the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending.

Synopsis

Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, is concluding a nine-month visit with his lifelong friend, Leontes, King of Sicilia. Leontes inexplicably suspects that his pregnant wife Hermione has been having an affair with Polixenes and that the child is a bastard. Leontes orders his servant Camillo to poison Polixenes.

When Camillo instead warns Polixenes and they both flee to Bohemia, Leontes arrests Hermione on charges of audultery and conspiracy against his life. She gives birth to her daughter Perdita in prison, and Leontes orders Antigonus, a Sicilian courtier, to dispose of the infant. At Hermione's trial The Oracle at Delphi pronounces her innocent, but Leontes defies the oracle; he immediately receives word that his young son, Mamillius has died of grief. Hermione faints and is reported to have died. Leontes laments his poor judgement.

Meanwhile Antigonus abandons the infant Perdita on the seacoast of Bohemia and is instantly eaten by a bear. Perdita is found and adopted by shepherds.

Missing image
Perdita_Anthony_Frederick_Augustus_Sandys.jpg

Father Time enters and announces the passage of sixteen years. Leontes has spent the sixteen years mourning his wife and children. In Bohemia, Polixenes and Camillo attend a sheep-shearing festival (in disguise) only to discover that the young Prince Florizel (Polixenes' son) plans to marry a beautiful young shepherd's daughter (Perdita, who knows nothing of her royal heritage). Polixenes objects to the marriage and threatens the young couple, so they flee to Sicilia with the help of Camillo. Polixenes pursues them. Eventually, with a bit of help from a comical rogue named Autolycus, Perdita's heritage is revealed and she reunites with her father. The kings are reconciled and both approve of Florizel and Perdita's marriage. They all go to see a statue of Hermione kept by Paulina, a lady of Hermione's court and her most ardent defender in life and death. The statue comes to life and they are one big happy family again (except for Mamillius who is still dead).

Controversies

The question of whether Hermione is genuinely brought back to life by magical means or whether the "resurrection" is some kind of trick is left unanswered in the text. She says to Perdita, "thou shalt hear that I, / Knowing by Paulina that the oracle / Gave hope thou wast in being, have preserved / Myself to see the issue."

In reality Bohemia roughly corresponds to the modern-day Czech Republic and had neither a coast (being landlocked) nor a desert. Shakespeare's fellow playwright Ben Jonson ridiculed the play for this, but the pastoral genre is not generally known for precise verisimilitude, and like the mixed references to ancient religion and contemporary figures and customs, this apparent inaccuracy may have been included to underscore the fantastical quality.

External links

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Template:Shakespearede:Ein Wintermärchen no:The Winter's Tale

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