THE WINTER'S TALE

By William Shakespeare
Written 1623

Comments by Bob Corbett
February 2011

General Note: In January 2009 I decided that Iíd like to go back and read all the plays of William Shakespeare, perhaps one a month if that works out. I hadnít read a Shakespeare play since 1959, 50 years ago! But I had read nearly all of them in college. I wanted to go back, start with something not too serious or challenging, and work my way through the whole corpus. Thus I began with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. At this time I have no idea how the project will go, nor if it will actually lead me through the entire corpus of Shakespeareís plays. However, I will keep a separate page listing each play Iíve read with links to any comments I would make of that particular play. See: List of Shakespeareís playís Iíve read and commented on

COMMENTS ON
THE WINTER'S TALE

Alas, this has to be one of my least favorite of the plays Iíve read in these two years now. The story was simply to fantastic for me to be able to sustain any suspension of disbelief. I tried, but just couldnít muster what it took. In the early part of the play in which King Leontes of Sicily is with his beloved wife and dear royal friends from Bohemia, there was such love and kindness, lightness and joy, that I thought I was in for something light and joyful. Sounded fun. But, in the blink of any eye, with virtually no reason whatsoever, the king is reduced to a raging jealous husband, blind beyond belief. I was just pulled up short. Can this really be? And then in short fashion all sort of grief comes crashing down on the kingdom and major players. His young son dies, he wife dies and his newly born daughter is lost.

Well, okay, the king sort of deserved what he got. But I wasnít in any way convinced by Shakespeareís treatment of the shift in the king, nor, all of a sudden, his great grief and misery at what he had done.

Then, in the next scene, now about half way through the play, we are ushered into what seemed to be a new play. But, we now discovered his young daughter, now 16 is alive and well, living with a shepherd, her adopted father, and his son. The noble men of Bohemia are back in Italy at least (but seemingly not Sicilia) and discover the child, not knowing who she is, and one of the princes of Bohemia falls in love with her upon sight. She has, we are assured, a sort of royal look and way about her. I guess Shakespeare still brought into the notion of royal birth actually made people different from the rest of us.

In a mad rush of confusion all gets resolved in ways that involve even more challenges to my ability to hang with the play. I found it just too over the top for me.

Scene by scene at the very beginning and at the end, when all in coming together, there was a lot of joy and lightness and very pleasant writing, but the play as a unit just didnít work well for me.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu

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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu