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The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale

Overview

The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, originally published in the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

. Some critics, among them W. W. Lawrence, consider it to be one of Shakespeare's "problem plays
Problem plays (Shakespeare)
In Shakespeare studies, the term problem plays normally refers to three plays that William Shakespeare wrote between the late 1590s and the first years of the seventeenth century: All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida, although some critics would extend the term to...

", because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending
Happy ending
A happy ending is an ending of the plot of a work of fiction in which almost everything turns out for the best for the protagonists, their sidekicks, and almost everyone except the villains....

.

Nevertheless, the play has been intermittently popular, revived in productions in various forms and adaptations by some of the leading theatre practitioners in Shakespearean performance history, beginning after a long interval with David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

 in his adaptation called Florizel and Perdita (first performed in 1754 and published in 1756.
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Quotations

Camillo: You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.Archidamus: Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me, and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.

Scene i

You put me off with limber vows; but I,Though you would seek to unsphere the stars with oaths,Should yet say, Sir, no going. Verily,You shall not go; a lady's verily'sAs potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?Force me to keep you as a prisoner,Not like a guest; so you shall pay your feesWhen you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?My prisoner or my guest? by your dread verily,One of them you shall be.

Hermione, scene ii

We were, fair queen,Two lads that thought there was no more behind,But such a day to-morrow as to-day,And to be boy eternal.

Polixenes, scene ii

What we chang'dWas innocence for innocence; we knew notThe doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'dThat any did.

Polixenes, scene ii

Of this make no conclusion, lest you sayYour queen and I are devils: yet, go on;The offences we have made you do, we'll answer,If you first sinn'd with us, and that with usYou did continue fault, and that you slipp'd notWith any but with us.

Hermione, scene ii

My last good deed was to entreat his stay;What was my first? it has an elder sister,Or I mistake you: O, would her name were Grace!But once before I spoke to the purpose: when?Nay, let me have't; I long.

Hermione, scene ii

They say we areAlmost as like as eggs.

Leontes, scene ii

You may as wellForbid the sea for to obey the moon,As, or by oath remove, or counsel shakeThe fabric of his folly, whose foundationIs pil'd upon his faith, and will continueThe standing of his body.

Camillo, scene ii
Encyclopedia

The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, originally published in the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

. Some critics, among them W. W. Lawrence, consider it to be one of Shakespeare's "problem plays
Problem plays (Shakespeare)
In Shakespeare studies, the term problem plays normally refers to three plays that William Shakespeare wrote between the late 1590s and the first years of the seventeenth century: All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida, although some critics would extend the term to...

", because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending
Happy ending
A happy ending is an ending of the plot of a work of fiction in which almost everything turns out for the best for the protagonists, their sidekicks, and almost everyone except the villains....

.

Nevertheless, the play has been intermittently popular, revived in productions in various forms and adaptations by some of the leading theatre practitioners in Shakespearean performance history, beginning after a long interval with David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

 in his adaptation called Florizel and Perdita (first performed in 1754 and published in 1756. The Winter's Tale was revived again in the 19th century, when the third "pastoral" act was widely popular). In the second half of the 20th century The Winter's Tale in its entirety, and drawn largely from the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 text, was often performed, with varying degrees of success.

Synopsis



Following a brief setup scene the play begins with the appearance of two childhood friends: Leontes, King of Sicilia
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

. Polixenes is visiting the kingdom of Sicilia, and is enjoying catching up with his old friend. However, after nine months, Polixenes yearns to return to his own kingdom to tend to affairs and see his son. Leontes desperately attempts to get Polixenes to stay longer, but is unsuccessful. Leontes then sends his wife, Queen Hermione, to try to persuade Polixenes. Hermione agrees and with three short speeches is successful. Leontes is puzzled as to how Hermione convinced Polixenes so easily, and is suddenly consumed with an insane paranoia that his pregnant wife has been having an affair with Polixenes and that the child is a bastard. Leontes orders Camillo, a Sicilian Lord, to poison Polixenes.

When Camillo instead warns Polixenes and they both flee to Bohemia, Leontes arrests Hermione on charges of adultery and conspiracy against his life. Paulina, a woman of the court and an ardent friend to Hermione, attempts to visit Hermione but must settle with seeing her handmaid, who reports Hermione has prematurely given birth to a daughter in prison. Paulina, hoping the sight of his child will convince him where words have not, takes the child to Leontes. Leontes angrily dismisses all attempts to convince him he is wrong and he believes Antigonus, a Sicilian courtier and Paulina's husband, has conspired against him alongside Paulina. Paulina having gone, Leontes considers killing this child—which he believes to be the bastard of Polixenes and Hermione—before ordering Antigonus, instead, to abandon the infant far away.

At her trial for treason, Hermione delivers a heart-rending speech that fails to move Leontes. A report from the Oracle on the Isle of Delphos pronounces her innocence, but Leontes defies the oracle. But he then immediately receives word that his young son, Mamillius, has died of grief, a fulfilment of another of the Oracle's prophecies. Hermione faints and is reported to have died. Leontes laments his poor judgment and promises to grieve for his dead wife and son every day for the rest of his life.

Antigonus, unaware of Leontes' change of heart, follows Leontes' earlier instructions to abandon Hermione's newborn daughter on the seacoast of Bohemia. Antigonus recalls a vision the night before of Hermione, who told him to name the child "Perdita" (Latin: 'lost'). He wishes to take pity on the child, but Antigonus is then suddenly pursued and eaten by a bear. Fortunately, Perdita
Perdita (The Winter's Tale)
Perdita is one of the heroines of William Shakespeare's play, The Winter's Tale. She is the daughter of Leontes, King of Sicilia, and his wife Hermione....

 is rescued by a shepherd and his simpleton son also known as "Clown." There is a large amount of money with the baby and the shepherd is now very rich.

Time
Father Time
Father Time is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man, somewhat worse for wear, dressed in a robe, carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device...

 enters and announces the passage of sixteen years. Leontes has spent the sixteen years mourning his wife and children. In Bohemia, Polixenes and Camillo become aware that Florizel (Polixenes' son) has become infatuated with a shepherdess. They attend a sheep-shearing festival (in disguise) and confirm that the young Prince Florizel plans to marry a shepherd's beautiful young daughter (Perdita, who knows nothing of her royal heritage). Polixenes objects to the marriage and threatens the young couple. Quickly, the lovers flee to Sicilia with the help of Camillo, and Polixenes pursues them. Eventually, with a bit of help from a comical rogue/pickpocket named Autolycus, Perdita's heritage is revealed and she reunites with her father Leontes. The kings are reconciled and both approve of Florizel and Perdita's marriage. They all go to visit a statue of Hermione kept by Paulina. Miraculously, the statue comes to life and speaks, appearing to be the real Hermione, who went into hiding to await the fulfilment of the oracle's prophecy and be reunited with her daughter.

Sources



The main plot of The Winter's Tale is taken from Robert Greene
Robert Greene (16th century)
Robert Greene was an English author best known for a posthumous pamphlet attributed to him, Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit, widely believed to contain a polemic attack on William Shakespeare. He was born in Norwich and attended Cambridge University, receiving a B.A. in 1580, and an M.A...

's pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

 Pandosto
Pandosto
Pandosto: The Triumph of Time is a prose romance written by the English author Robert Greene, first published in 1588. A later edition of 1607 was re-titled Dorastus and Fawnia. Popular during the time of William Shakespeare, the work's plot was an inspiration for that of Shakespeare's play The...

, published in 1588. Shakespeare's changes to the plot are uncharacteristically slight, especially in light of the romance's undramatic nature, and Shakespeare's fidelity to it gives The Winter's Tale its most distinctive feature: the sixteen-year gap between the third and fourth acts.

There are minor changes in names, places, and minor plot details, but the largest changes lie in the survival and reconciliation of Hermione and Leontes (Greene's Pandosto) at the end of the play. The character equivalent to Hermione in Pandosto dies after being accused of adultery, while Leontes' equivalent looks back upon his deeds (including an incestuous fondness for his daughter) and slays himself. The survival of Hermione, while presumably intended to create the last scene's coup de théâtre involving the statue, creates a distinctive thematic divergence from Pandosto. Greene follows the usual ethos
Ethos
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its hearer's emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Early Greek stories of...

 of Hellenistic romance, in which the return of a lost prince or princess restores order and provides a sense of closure that evokes Providence
Divine Providence
In Christian theology, divine providence, or simply providence, is God's activity in the world. " Providence" is also used as a title of God exercising His providence, and then the word are usually capitalized...

's control. Shakespeare, by contrast, sets in the foreground the restoration of the older, indeed aged, generation, in the reunion of Leontes and Hermione. Leontes not only lives, but seems to insist on the happy ending of the play.

It has been suggested that the use of a pastoral romance from the 1590s indicates that at the end of his career, Shakespeare felt a renewed interest in the dramatic contexts of his youth. Minor influences also suggest such an interest. As in Pericles
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

, he uses a chorus
Greek chorus
A Greek chorus is a homogenous, non-individualised group of performers in the plays of classical Greece, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action....

 to advance the action in the manner of the naive dramatic tradition; the use of a bear in the scene on the Bohemian seashore is almost certainly indebted to Mucedorus
Mucedorus
Mucedorus is an Elizabethan play, performed up until the Restoration and surviving in seventeen quartos, making it the most widely printed extant play from the time...

, a chivalric romance revived at court around 1610.

Eric Ives
Eric Ives
Eric William Ives, OBE is a British historian and an expert on the Tudor period. He is Emeritus Professor of English History at the University of Birmingham...

, the biographer of Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn ;c.1501/1507 – 19 May 1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of Henry VIII of England and Marquess of Pembroke in her own right. Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the...

 (1986), believes that the play is really a parallel of the fall of the queen, who was beheaded on false charges of adultery
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

 on the orders of her husband Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 in 1536. There are numerous parallels between the two stories – including the fact that one of Henry's closest friends, Sir Henry Norreys, was beheaded as one of Anne's supposed lovers and he refused to confess in order to save his life  claiming that everyone knew the Queen was innocent. If this theory is followed then Perdita
Perdita (The Winter's Tale)
Perdita is one of the heroines of William Shakespeare's play, The Winter's Tale. She is the daughter of Leontes, King of Sicilia, and his wife Hermione....

 becomes a dramatic presentation of Anne's only daughter, Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

. Referring to more recent events, Edward Chaney suggested that Pandosto (and therefore Winter's Tale) at least echoed the Earl of Oxford's
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, lyric poet, sportsman and patron of the arts, and is currently the most popular alternative candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare's works....

 suspicions about the paternity of his daughter (grand-daughter of Lord Burghley) and that a Sicilian connection (which is at least a literary one) would have rendered a conscious echo more likely. According to Edward Webbe's Rare and Wonderfull Things, published in 1590, Oxford travelled as far as Sicily on his proto-Grand Tour
Grand Tour
The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage...

.

Date and text



The play was not published until the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623. In spite of tentative early datings (see below), most critics believe the play is one of Shakespeare's later works, possibly written in 1610 or 1611. A 1611 date is suggested by an apparent connection with Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

's Masque of Oberon
Oberon, the Faery Prince
Oberon, the Faery Prince was a masque written by Ben Jonson, with costumes, sets and stage effects designed by Inigo Jones, and music by Alfonso Ferrabosco and Robert Johnson...

, performed at Court 1 January 1611, in which appears a dance of ten or twelve satyrs; The Winter's Tale includes a dance of twelve satyrs, and the servant announcing their entry says "one three of them, by their own report, sir, hath danc'd before the King." (IV.iv.337-38). Arden Shakespeare
Arden Shakespeare
The Arden Shakespeare is a long-running series of scholarly editions of the works of William Shakespeare. It presents fully edited modern-spelling editions of the plays and poems, with lengthy introductions and full commentaries...

 editor J.H.P. Pafford
John Henry Pyle Pafford
John Henry Pyle Pafford was Librarian of the University of London Library from 1945 to 1967.He acted as an editor of The Year's Work in Librarianship from 1939-1950...

 found that "the language, style, and spirit of the play all point to a late date. The tangled speech, the packed sentences, speeches which begin and end in the middle of a line, and the high percentage of light and weak endings are all marks of Shakespeare's writing at the end of his career. But of more importance than a verse test is the similarity of the last plays in spirit and themes."

In the late 18th century, Edmund Malone suggested that a "book" listed in the Stationers' Register
Stationers' Register
The Stationers' Register was a record book maintained by the Stationers' Company of London. The company is a trade guild given a royal charter in 1557 to regulate the various professions associated with the publishing industry, including printers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers in England...

 on 22 May 1594, under the title "a Wynters nightes pastime" might have been Shakespeare's, though no copy of it is known. In 1933, Dr. Samuel A. Tannenbaum wrote that Malone subsequently "seems to have assigned it to 1604; later still, to 1613; and finally he settled on 1610–11. Hunter
Joseph Hunter (antiquarian)
Joseph Hunter was a Unitarian Minister and antiquarian best known for his publications Hallamshire. The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield in the County of York and the two-volume South Yorkshire , still considered among the best works written on the history of Sheffield and South...

 assigned it to about 1605."

Performance


The earliest recorded performance of the play was recorded by Simon Forman
Simon Forman
Simon Forman was arguably the most popular Elizabethan astrologer, occultist and herbalist active in London during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and James I of England. His reputation, however, was severely tarnished after his death when he was implicated in the plot to kill Sir Thomas Overbury...

, the Elizabethan "figure caster" or astrologer, who noted in his journal on 11 May 1611 that he saw The Winter's Tale at the Globe playhouse
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

. The play was then performed in front of King James at Court on 5 November 1611. The play was also acted at Whitehall during the festivities preceding Princess Elizabeth's
Elizabeth of Bohemia
Elizabeth of Bohemia was the eldest daughter of King James VI and I, King of Scotland, England, Ireland, and Anne of Denmark. As the wife of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, she was Electress Palatine and briefly Queen of Bohemia...

 marriage to Frederick V, Elector Palatine, on 14 February 1613. Later Court performances occurred on 7 April 1618, 18 January 1623, and 16 January 1634.

The Winter's Tale was not revived during the Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

, unlike many other Shakespearean plays. It was performed in 1741 at Goodman's Fields Theatre
Goodman's Fields Theatre
Two 18th century theatres bearing the name Goodman's Fields Theatre were located on Ayliffe Street, Whitechapel, London. The first opened on 31 October 1727 in a small shop by Thomas Odell, deputy Licenser of Plays. The first play performed was George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer. Henry...

 and in 1742 at Covent Garden
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

. Adaptations, titled The Sheep-Shearing and Florizal and Perdita, were acted at Covent Garden in 1754 and at Drury Lane
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a West End theatre in Covent Garden, in the City of Westminster, a borough of London. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building standing today is the most recent in a line of four theatres at the same location dating back to 1663,...

 in 1756.

One of the most famous modern productions was staged by Peter Brook
Peter Brook
Peter Stephen Paul Brook CH, CBE is an English theatre and film director and innovator, who has been based in France since the early 1970s.-Life:...

 in London in 1951 and starred John Gielgud
John Gielgud
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937...

 as Leontes. Other notable stagings featured John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble was an English actor. He was born into a theatrical family as the eldest son of Roger Kemble, actor-manager of a touring troupe. His elder sister Sarah Siddons achieved fame with him on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane...

 in 1811, Samuel Phelps
Samuel Phelps
Samuel Phelps was an English actor and theatre manager...

 in 1845, and Charles Kean
Charles Kean
Charles John Kean , was born at Waterford, Ireland, the son of the actor Edmund Kean.After preparatory education at Worplesdon and at Greenford, near Harrow, he was sent to Eton College, where he remained three years...

 in an 1856 production that was famous for its elaborate sets and costumes. Johnston Forbes-Robertson
Johnston Forbes-Robertson
Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson was an English actor and theatre manager. He was considered the finest Hamlet of the nineteenth century and one of the finest actors of his time, despite his dislike of the job and his lifelong belief that he was temperamentally unsuited to acting.-Early life:Born in...

 played Leontes memorably in 1887, and Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was an English actor and theatre manager.Tree began performing in the 1870s. By 1887, he was managing the Haymarket Theatre, winning praise for adventurous programming and lavish productions, and starring in many of its productions. In 1899, he helped fund the...

 took on the role in 1906. The longest-running Broadway production starred Henry Daniell
Henry Daniell
Henry Daniell was an English actor, best known for his villainous movie roles, but who had a long and prestigious career on stage as well as in films....

 and Jessie Royce Landis
Jessie Royce Landis
Jessie Royce Landis was an American actress.-Career:She was born Jessie Royce Medbury in Chicago, Illinois. Landis was a stage actress for much of her career...

 and ran for 39 performances in 1946. In 1980, David Jones (director)
David Jones (director)
David Hugh Jones was a British stage, television, and film director.-Personal history:Jones was born in Poole, Dorset, the son of John David Jones and his wife Gwendolen Agnes Langworthy...

, former Associate Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 chose to launch his new theatre company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music is a major performing arts venue in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, United States, known as a center for progressive and avant garde performance....

 (BAM) with The Winter's Tale starring Brian Murray supported by Jones' new company at BAM In 1983, the Riverside Shakespeare Company
Riverside Shakespeare Company
The Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City was founded in 1977 as a professional theatre company on the Upper West Side of New York City, by W. Stuart McDowell and Gloria Skurski...

 mounted a production based on the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 text at The Shakespeare Center
The Shakespeare Center
The Shakespeare Center was the home of the Riverside Shakespeare Company, an Equity professional theatre company in New York City, beginning in 1982, when the then six-year-old theatre company established its center of theatre production and advanced actor training at the 90 year-old West Park...

 in Manhattan. In 1993 Adrian Noble
Adrian Noble
Adrian Keith Noble is a theatre director, and was also the artistic director and chief executive of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1990 to 2003.-Education and career:...

 won a Globe Award for Best Director for his Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 adaptation, which then was successfully brought to the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music is a major performing arts venue in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, United States, known as a center for progressive and avant garde performance....

 in 1994.

In 2009, three separate productions were staged. Sam Mendes
Sam Mendes
Samuel Alexander "Sam" Mendes, CBE is an English stage and film director. He is best known for his Academy Award-winning work on his debut film American Beauty and his dark re-inventions of the stage musicals Cabaret , Oliver! , Company and Gypsy . He's currently working on the 23rd James Bond...

 inaugurated his transatlantic "Bridge Project" directing The Winter's Tale with a cast featuring Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale, CBE is an English actor. He has been described by The Independent as "the greatest stage actor of his generation."-Early years:...

 (Leontes), Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Maria Hall is an English actress.In 2003, Hall won the Ian Charleson Award for her debut stage performance in a production of Mrs. Warren's Profession...

 (Hermione), Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke
Ethan Green Hawke is an American actor, writer and director. He made his feature film debut in 1985 with the science fiction movie Explorers, before making a supporting appearance in the 1989 drama Dead Poets Society which is considered his breakthrough role...

 (Autolycus), Sinéad Cusack
Sinéad Cusack
Sinéad Moira Cusack is an Irish stage, television and film actress. She has received two Tony Award nominations: once for Best Leading Actress in Much Ado About Nothing , and again for Best Featured Actress in Rock 'n' Roll .-Background:...

 (Paulina), and Morven Christie
Morven Christie
-Life and career:Morven Christie grew up in Glasgow and Aviemore. She studied acting at the Drama Centre London, under Reuven Adiv, an associate of Lee Strasberg. She graduated in 2003. Christie has worked on stage, film and television drama since...

 (Perdita). The Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 and Theatre Delicatessen
Theatre Delicatessen
Theatre Delicatessen is a theatre company founded by Jessica Brewster, Frances Loy, Mauricio Preciado Awad and Roland Smith in 2007. The company has taken residency of Cavendish Gate, 295 Regent Street due to their sponsors the Property Merchant Group who own the building...

 also staged productions of The Winter's Tale in 2009. The play is in the repertory of the Stratford Festival of Canada and was seen at the New York Shakespeare Festival
New York Shakespeare Festival
New York Shakespeare Festival is the previous name of the New York City theatrical producing organization now known as the Public Theater. The Festival produced shows at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, as part of its free Shakespeare in the Park series, at the Public Theatre near Astor Place...

, Central Park, in 2010.

Characters

  • Leontes
    Leontes
    King Leontes is the father of Perdita and husband to Queen Hermione in Shakespeare's play The Winter's Tale. He becomes obsessed with the belief that his wife has been having an affair with Polixenes, his childhood friend and King of Bohemia. Because of this, he tries to have his friend poisoned,...

    – The King of Sicilia, and the childhood friend of the Bohemian King Polixenes. He is gripped by jealous fantasies, which convince him that Polixenes has been having an affair with his wife, Hermione; his jealousy leads to the destruction of his family.
  • Hermione – The virtuous and beautiful Queen of Sicilia. Falsely accused of infidelity by her husband, Leontes, she apparently dies of grief just after being vindicated by the Oracle of Delphos, but is restored to life at the play's close.
  • Perdita
    Perdita (The Winter's Tale)
    Perdita is one of the heroines of William Shakespeare's play, The Winter's Tale. She is the daughter of Leontes, King of Sicilia, and his wife Hermione....

    – The daughter of Leontes and Hermione. Because her father believes her to be illegitimate, she is abandoned as a baby on the coast of Bohemia, and brought up by a Shepherd. Unaware of her royal lineage, she falls in love with the Bohemian Prince Florizel.
  • Polixenes – The King of Bohemia, and Leontes's boyhood friend. He is falsely accused of having an affair with Leontes's wife, and barely escapes Sicilia with his life. Much later in life, he sees his only son fall in love with a lovely Shepherd's daughter—who is, in fact, a Sicilian princess.
  • Florizel
    Florizel (The Winter's Tale)
    Florizel is a fictional character in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.Florizel is the son of Polixenes – King of Bohemia. He falls in love with Perdita, and wishes to marry her. His father objects to the marriage, however, and warns Florizel that his inheritance will be revoked if he ever seeks...

    – Polixenes's only son and heir; he falls in love with Perdita, unaware of her royal ancestry, and defies his father by eloping with her.
  • Camillo – An honest Sicilian nobleman, he refuses to follow Leontes's order to poison Polixenes, deciding instead to flee Sicily and enter the Bohemian King's service.
  • Paulina – A noblewoman of Sicilia, she is fierce in her defence of Hermione's virtue, and unrelenting in her condemnation of Leontes after Hermione's death. She is also the agent of the (apparently) dead Queen's resurrection.
  • Autolycus – A roguish peddler, vagabond, and pickpocket; he steals the Clown's purse and does a great deal of pilfering at the Shepherds' sheepshearing, but ends by assisting in Perdita and Florizel's escape.
  • Shepherd – An old and honourable sheep-tender, he finds Perdita as a baby and raises her as his own daughter.
  • Antigonus – Paulina's husband, and also a loyal defender of Hermione. He is given the unfortunate task of abandoning the baby Perdita on the Bohemian coast. He inevitably meets his doom (as ascribed to him through a dream) upon abandoning the newborn baby on the island.
  • Clown – The Shepherd's buffoonish son, and Perdita's adopted brother.
  • Mamillius (or Mamillus) – The young prince of Sicilia, Leontes and Hermione's son. He dies, perhaps of grief, after his father wrongly imprisons his mother.
  • Cleomenes – A lord of Sicilia, sent to Delphos to ask the Oracle about Hermione's guilt.
  • Dion – A Sicilian lord, he accompanies Cleomenes to Delphos.
  • Emilia – One of Hermione's ladies-in-waiting.
  • Archidamus – A lord of Bohemia.
  • Mopsa – A 'loose' shepherdess enthralled with Clown.
  • Dorcas – Another 'loose' shepherdess fighting over Clown.
  • A Bear – Kills Antigonus when he abandons Perdita in Bohemia.

Title of the play


A play called "The Winter's Tale" would immediately indicate to contemporary audiences that the work would present an "idle tale", an old wives' tale
Old wives' tale
An old wives' tale is a type of urban legend, similar to a proverb, which is generally passed down by old wives to a younger generation. Such "tales" usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details. Today old wives' tales are still common among...

 not intended to be realistic and offering the promise of a happy ending. The title may have been inspired by George Peele
George Peele
George Peele , was an English dramatist.-Life:Peele was christened on 25 July 1556. His father, who appears to have belonged to a Devonshire family, was clerk of Christ's Hospital, and wrote two treatises on bookkeeping...

's play The Old Wives' Tale of 1590, in which a storyteller tells "a merry winter's tale" of a missing daughter. However early in The Winter's Tale the royal heir, Mamillius, warns that "a sad tale's best for winter". Indeed, his mother is soon put on trial for treason and adultery and his death is announced seconds after she is shown to have been faithful.

Debates



The statue


While the language Paulina uses in the final scene evokes the sense of a magical ritual, one often-overlooked moment in 5.2 shows the far likelier case – that Paulina hid Hermione at a remote location to protect her from Leontes' wrath and that the re-animation of Hermione does not derive from any magic. When the Third Gentleman announces that the members of the court have gone to Paulina's dwelling to see the statue, the Second Gentleman offers this exposition: "I thought she had some great matter there in hand, for she [Paulina] hath privately twice or thrice a day, ever since the death of Hermione, visited that removed house" (5.2. 94-96). What's more, Leontes is surprised that the statue is wrinkled, unlike the Hermione he remembers. Paulina answers his concern by claiming that the age-progression attests to the "carver's excellence", which makes her look "as [if] she lived now." Hermione later asserts that her desire to see her daughter allowed her to endure 16 years of separation: "thou shalt hear that I, / Knowing by Paulina that the oracle / Gave hope thou wast in being, have preserved / Myself to see the issue" (5.3.126–129).

However, the action of 3.2 calls into question the "rational" explanation that Hermione was spirited away and sequestered for 16 years. Hermione swoons upon the news of Mamilius' death, and is rushed from the room. Paulina returns after a short monologue from Leontes, bearing the news of Hermione's death. After some discussion, Leontes demands to be led toward the bodies of his wife and son: "Prithee, bring me / To the dead bodies of my queen and son: / One grave shall be for both: upon them shall / The causes of their death appear, unto / Our shame perpetual" (3.2) Paulina seems convinced of Hermione's death, and Leontes' order to visit both bodies and see them interred is never called into question by later events in the play.

Such contradictory (or vague) evidence renders any definitive answer about the nature of the statue elusive.

The seacoast of Bohemia



Shakespeare's fellow playwright Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

 ridiculed the presence in the play of a seacoast and a desert in Bohemia, since the kingdom of Bohemia (which roughly corresponds to the modern-day Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

) had neither a coast (being landlocked) nor a desert. Shakespeare followed his source (Robert Greene's Pandosto) in giving Bohemia a coast, though he switched the location of people and events between Sicily and Bohemia. In Support of Greene and Shakespeare, it has been pointed out that in the 13th century under Ottokar II of Bohemia the kingdom of Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 did stretch to the Adriatic, and it was, in fact, possible to sail from a kingdom of Sicily to the seacoast of Bohemia. Moreover, in Shakespeare's time, Rudolph
Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
Rudolf II was Holy Roman Emperor , King of Hungary and Croatia , King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria...

, king of Bohemia, also was Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 and ruled over the Adriatic coast neighbouring the Venetian Republic, a fact noted by some Oxfordian scholars [See: authorship], who find it significant that the Earl of Oxford was travelling in the Adriatic region during this brief span of time. Jonathan Bate offers the simple explanation that the court of King James was politically allied with that of Rudolph, and the characters and dramatic roles of the rulers of Sicily and Bohemia were reversed for reasons of political sensitivity. Indeed, had not Shakespeare made this departure from his sources the play's performance at the wedding celebrations of Princess Elizabeth, a future queen of Bohemia, could not have taken place.

In 1891, Edmund O. von Lippmann pointed out that "Bohemia" was also a rare name for Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

 in southern Italy. However, Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

 was at this time a province of the Kingdom of Sicily. More influential was Thomas Hanmer
Thomas Hanmer
Thomas Hanmer may refer to:*Sir Thomas Hanmer, 2nd Baronet , Member of Parliament for Flint 1640 and Flintshire 1669–1678*Sir Thomas Hanmer, 4th Baronet , 4th baronet of Hanmer and Speaker of the House of Commons, MP for Flint 1701–1702, Flintshire 1702–1705, Thetford 1705–1708, Suffolk 1708–1727*...

's 1744 argument that Bohemia is a printed error for Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

, an ancient nation in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

; this theory was adopted in Charles Kean
Charles Kean
Charles John Kean , was born at Waterford, Ireland, the son of the actor Edmund Kean.After preparatory education at Worplesdon and at Greenford, near Harrow, he was sent to Eton College, where he remained three years...

's influential 19th century production of the play, which featured a resplendent Bythinian court. At the time of the Kingdom of Sicily, however, Bithynia was long extinct and its territories were controlled by the Byzantine Empire.

The pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 is not known for precise verisimilitude, and, like the assortment of mixed references to ancient religion and contemporary religious figures and customs, this possible inaccuracy may have been included to underscore the play's fantastical and chimeric quality. As Andrew Gurr puts it, Bohemia may have been given a seacoast "to flout geographical realism, and to underline the unreality of place in the play".

Another theory explaining the existence of the seacoast in Bohemia is suggested in Shakespeare's chosen title of the play. A winter's tale is something associated with parents telling children stories of legends around a fireside: by using this title, it implies to the audience that these details should not be taken too seriously.

The Isle of Delphos


Likewise, Shakespeare's apparent mistake of placing the Oracle of Delphi on a small island has been used as evidence of Shakespeare's limited education. However, Shakespeare again copied this locale directly from "Pandosto". Moreover, the erudite Robert Greene was not in error, as the Isle of Delphos does not refer to Delphi, but to the Cycladic
Cyclades
The Cyclades is a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece; and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos...

 island of Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

, the mythical birth place of Apollo, which from the 15th to the late 17th century in England was known as "Delphos". Greene's source for an Apollonian oracle on this island likely was the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

, in which Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 wrote that Priam
Priam
Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".- Marriage and issue :...

 consulted the Oracle of Delos before the outbreak of the Trojan War and that Aeneas
Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 after escaping from Troy consulted the same Delian oracle regarding his future.

The Bear


The play contains one of the most famous Shakespearean stage directions: Exit, pursued by a bear, presaging the offstage death of Antigonus. It is not known whether Shakespeare used a real bear from the London bear-pits, or an actor in bear costume. The Royal Shakespeare Company, in one production of this play, used a large sheet of silk which moved and created shapes, to symbolise both the bear and the gale in which Antigonus is travelling.

Dildos


One comic moment in the play deals with a servant not realising that poetry featuring references to dildo
Dildo
A dildo is a sex toy, often explicitly phallic in appearance, intended for bodily penetration during masturbation or sex with partners.- Description and uses :...

s is vulgar, presumably from not knowing what the word means. This play and Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

's play The Alchemist
The Alchemist (play)
The Alchemist is a comedy by English playwright Ben Jonson. First performed in 1610 by the King's Men, it is generally considered Jonson's best and most characteristic comedy; Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed that it had one of the three most perfect plots in literature...

(1610) are typically cited as the first usage of the word in publication. The Alchemist was printed first, but the debate about the date of the play's composition makes it unclear which was the first scripted use of the word, which is much older.

Film/Television adaptions


There have been two film versions, one silent version in 1910 and a 1967 version starring Laurence Harvey
Laurence Harvey
Laurence Harvey was a Lithuanian-born actor who achieved fame in British and American films.- Early life :Harvey maintained throughout his life that his birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne. However, his legal name was Zvi Mosheh Skikne. He was the youngest of three boys born to Ber "Boris" and...

 as Leontes.

An "orthodox" BBC production was televised in 1981. It was produced by Jonathan Miller
Jonathan Miller
Sir Jonathan Wolfe Miller CBE is a British theatre and opera director, author, physician, television presenter, humorist and sculptor. Trained as a physician in the late 1950s, he first came to prominence in the 1960s with his role in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe with fellow writers and...

, directed by Jane Howell and starred Robert Stephens
Robert Stephens
Sir Robert Stephens was a leading English actor in the early years of England's Royal National Theatre.-Early life and career:...

 as Polixenes and Jeremy Kemp
Jeremy Kemp
Jeremy Kemp is an English actor. He is known for his roles in the miniseries The Winds of War, The Blue Max and Z-Cars....

 as Leontes. There have been several other BBC versions televised as well.

Sources

  • Brooke, C. F. Tucker. 1908. The Shakespeare Apocrypha, Oxford, Clarendon press, 1908; pp. 103–26.
  • Chaney, Edward, The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance 2nd ed.(Routledge, 2000).
  • Gurr, Andrew. 1983. "The Bear, the Statue, and Hysteria in The Winter's Tale", Shakespeare Quarterly 34 (1983), p. 422.
  • Halliday, F. E. 1964. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; p. 532.
  • Hanmer, Thomas. 1743. The Works of Shakespeare (Oxford, 1743–4), vol. 2.
  • Isenberg, Seymour. 1983. "Sunny Winter", The New York Shakespeare Society Bulletin, (Dr. Bernard Beckerman, Chairman; Columbia University
    Columbia University
    Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

    ) March 1983, pp. 25–26.
  • Jonson, Ben. "Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden", in Herford and Simpson, ed. Ben Jonson, vol. 1, p. 139.
  • Kalem, T. E. 1980. "Brooklyn Bets on Rep", Time Magazine, 3 March 1980.
  • Von Lippmann, Edmund O. 1891. "Shakespeare's Ignorance?", New Review 4 (1891), 250–4.
  • McDowell, W. Stuart. 1983. Director's note in the program for the Riverside Shakespeare Company production of The Winter's Tale, New York City, 25 February 1983.
  • Pafford, John Henry Pyle. 1962, ed. The Winter's Tale, Arden Edition, 1962, p. 66.
  • Tannenbaum, Dr. Samuel A. 1933. " Shakespearean Scraps", chapter: "The Forman Notes" (1933).
  • Verzella, Massimo, "Iconografia femminile in The Winter's Tale", Merope, XII, 31 (settembre 2001), pp. 49–68;
  • Verzella, Massimo,"Petrarchism and anti-Petrarchism in The Winter's Tale" in Merope, numero speciale dedicato agli Studi di Shakespeare in Italia, a cura di Michael Hattaway e Clara Mucci, XVII, 46–47 (Set. 2005– Gen. 2006), pp. 161–179.

External links