All posts by Bill Walthall

After graduating from UCLA with a degree in English and a teaching credential, Bill Walthall returned to his hometown in Ventura County, California, to teach English and drama at Oxnard and Hueneme High Schools. Having spent a decade in the classroom, he took a year off to recharge his batteries, but was pulled into the private-sector rat race as a technology consultant. In the last handful of years, however, he has rekindled his passion for literature and education. He launched his blog, The Bill / Shakespeare Project, where he brings not only a fun, accessible yet still scholarly approach to a play-by-play analysis of Shakespeare’s works, but also the latest and greatest in Willy Shakespeare headlines every week in his “This Week in Shakespeare” podcast.

The Winter’s Tale – Act Five plot synopsis: it’s a miracle (maybe)

Previously… on The Winter’s Tale:

In the court of King Leontes of Sicilia, his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia readies to return to his own country after a nine-month stay in Sicilia. While Leontes is unsuccessful to convince his friend to say, Leontes’ pregnant wife Hermione is. This convinces Leontes that he’s been cuckolded by his friend. His lord Camillo is incredulous, but in an attempt to calm down the king, Camillo tells the king that he will poison Polixenes that night. Leontes leaves, and Camillo bemoans his state. Polixenes joins Camillo on stage, and a tormented Camillo explains the situation to Polixenes, urging him to flee the country. Polixenes agrees.

Leontes, after learning that Polixenes has left the country, taking Camillo with him, tells Hermione that he knows she’s carrying Polixenes’ baby, and orders her to prison. She denies this, but heads off to prison with her ladies, as her pregnancy, her “plight requires it” (II.i.118). In her absence, the lords, led by Antigonus, attempt to reason with Leontes who will have none of it, telling them that he’s dispatched two men to the oracle of Apollo’s temple in Delphos. Outside the prison, Paulina, wife to Antigonus, learns that Hermione’s given birth prematurely to a “daughter, and a goodly babe” (II.ii.26). Paulina presents the baby to Leontes. Leontes says he will allow Antigonus to take the child to “some remote and desert place quite out / Of our dominion” (II.iii.175-6), and abandon it, leaving its fate to Fate. Reluctantly, Antigonus agrees.

At Hermione’s trial, she speaks eloquently in her own defense, proclaiming her innocence. Leontes announces that the newborn, the “brat hath been cast out” (III.ii.86), and that she’ll feel the same justice. Cleomenes and Dion enter, and the oracle’s message is read: it tells the truth on all counts, but Leontes refuses to accept the news, and then a servant enters with news: Prince Mamillius has died. And in that instant, Leontes realizes his error, and Hermione swoons. Paulina and the ladies-in-waiting take Hermione offstage to tend to her. Leontes prays to Apollo to pardon him; he says he’ll reconcile with Polixenes, make up with Hermione. Then Paulina returns to announce that Hermione, too, is dead. Leontes asks to be brought to the bodies, which he says he will bury in a single grave, which he will visit every day as his “recreation” (III.ii.238). On the sea coast of Bohemia, Antigonus arrives with the baby to abandon it. He puts down the baby, and some gold to help pay for its raising, and then is chased off by a bear. A shepherd comes along and finds the baby; his grown son–known only as “Clown”–arrives with descriptions of two sights: a ship off-shore sinking in the storm, and a bear eating a man. The father and son then find the gold, and decide to raise the baby.

The very long fourth act of The Winter’s Tale begins with the choric figure of Time bringing us up to date. We just jumped sixteen years. Leontes “shuts himself up” (IV.i.19), and Perdita grows up in Bohemia, and Polixenes’ son, Florizel grows up, too. We then go to the palace of King Polixenes of Bohemia, where he meets with Camillo. Polixenes is concerned about Florizel, who has been seen mostly at the house of a shepherd, “who hath a daughter of most rare note” (IV.ii.42). The two decide to don disguises and check this out. We meet Autolycus, con-man and pickpocket. When Clown, the son of the shepherd, enters on an errand to purchase items for the sheep shearing feast, Autolycus asks for assistance, saying he’s been robbed. As the “good-faced” (IV.iii.111) Clown attempts to help, Autolycus picks the fool’s pocket. After Clown leaves to go buy spices (without money), Autolycus reveals that he will be attending that sheep shearing to see if he can fleece any of the attendees. We go to the festival, where we meet Florizel and Perdita, young and in love. She knows who (and more importantly, what) Florizel is (even though he’s dressed like a shepherd rather than prince)…of course, she has no idea who she is. The guests come in and she welcomes the disguised Polixenes and Camillo. Florizel gives her high praise in everything from speaking, singing, dancing: everything thing she does. Polixenes is impressed: she “smacks of something greater than herself, / Too noble for this place” (IV.iv.158-9). Gotta love irony. There is more dancing. And Autolycus. In a disguise of his own, he sings a song, and convinces the guests to buy his wares. There’s another song, another dance. At this point, the disguised king asks his disguised son his intentions with Perdita: marriage is the answer. The shepherd wants to start the wedding, but the disguised king asks the disguised prince if he has secured his father’s blessing. Florizel admits that he hasn’t and doesn’t plan to. The shepherd says that the father should know, and when Florizel again refuses, Polixenes takes off his disguise and goes off the deep-end, refusing to call Florizel his son, threatening to hang the shepherd and accusing Perdita of using witchcraft. And telling her that if she attempts to tempt his son again she shall face death as well, he leaves. Perdita is devastated, telling her love to leave, as she knew it would come to this. Camillo asks the shepherd what he thinks, and he says she knew he was a prince, and she should have known better, and now they’ll all be punished for it. And the second father figure leaves. Florizel says that none of this bothers him; he still wants Perdita. Camillo warns him of his father’s anger, but it doesn’t faze the prince in the least. He asks for the old man’s counsel. And after some thought, Camillo comes up with a plan: take Perdita across the sea to Sicilia, where Camillo envisions Leontes will welcome his old friend’s son. The lovers and the old man go off to put the plan into motion.

If the entirety of Act Four of The Winter’s Tale took us to Bohemia, Act Five returns us to Sicilia. Continue reading The Winter’s Tale – Act Five plot synopsis: it’s a miracle (maybe)

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 17th, 2017

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast includes novelties, homesteading, Anne Hathaway (no, the other one), and a bunch of reviews. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 17th, 2017

Doctor Who?

OK, so you may or may not know that I’m a Whovian, a fan of Doctor Who. I’ve liked all the docs since the reboot over 10 years ago (though I didn’t start watching until five years ago), but I’ve really liked this latest Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor…especially after they dispensed with the whole Clara storyline.

Don’t get me started…

Continue reading Doctor Who?

The Winter’s Tale – Act Four plot synopsis: Boho party goes south

Previously… on The Winter’s Tale:

In the court of King Leontes of Sicilia, his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia readies to return to his own country after a nine-month stay in Sicilia. While Leontes is unsuccessful to convince his friend to say, Leontes’ pregnant wife Hermione is able to convince him. This spurs suspicions in Leontes’ mind, worrying him about being cuckolded by his friend. His lord Camillo admits that Polixenes has bowed to the “good queen’s entreaty” (I.ii.220). Leontes lays out his argument for his own cuckolding. The lord is incredulous, but in an attempt to calm down the king, Camillo tells the king that he will poison Polixenes that night. Leontes leaves, and Camillo bemoans his state. Polixenes joins Camillo on stage, and a tormented Camillo explains the situation to Polixenes, urging him to flee the country. Polixenes agrees.

Leontes, after learning that Polixenes has left the country, taking Camillo with him. feels vindicated, and tells Hermione that he knows she’s carrying Polixenes’ baby, that “‘tis Polixenes [who] / Has made [her] swell such” (II.i.61-2). She denies this, and Leontes rants on how he knows she’s “an adulteress” (II.i.78) and orders her “to prison!” (II.i.103). She continues to deny the accusation, but finally heads off to prison, with her ladies, as her pregnancy, her “plight requires it” (II.i.118). In her absence, the lords, led by Antigonus, attempt to calm, then reason with Leontes, even saying they’ll sterilize their daughters if this turns out to be true. Leontes has none of it, telling them that he’s dispatched two men to the oracle of Apollo’s temple in Delphos; Leontes believes the accusation, and the oracle is to prove it to other people. Outside the prison, Paulina, wife to Antigonus, learns that Hermione’s given birth prematurely to a “daughter, and a goodly babe” (II.ii.26). Paulina decides that Leontes must be called out on his dangerous accusations. In the next scene, she presents the baby to Leontes. Leontes orders the lords to force her away, but she stands her ground, laying the newborn baby at his feet. She leaves the baby with Leontes. Leontes berates Antigonus and demands of him what he would do to save the bastard’s life. “Anything possible” (II.iii.166) is his response. To save the child’s life from Leontes’ justice, the king allows Antigonus an option: take the child to “some remote and desert place quite out / Of our dominion” (II.iii.175-6), and abandon it, leaving its fate to Fate. Reluctantly, Antigonus agrees.

Act Three of The Winter’s Tale begins with the two servants Cleomenes and Dion as they discuss their trip to and return back from the oracle at Delphos. We next see Leontes readying the lords for Hermione’s trial. She enters and the accusation is read. Polixenes’ crime has expanded from mere adultery to adultery and conspiracy with Camillo of take the king’s life. Hermione’s crime is “counsel[ing] and aid[ing]” (III.ii.19) them. Hermione speaks eloquently in her own defense, proclaiming her innocence. He announces that the newborn, the “brat hath been cast out” (III.ii.86), and that she’ll feel the same justice. Cleomenes and Dion enter, and the oracle’s message is read: it tells the truth on all counts, but Leontes refuses to accept the news and calls for the trial to continue, but it can’t because a servant enters with news: Prince Mamillius has died. And in that instant, Leontes realizes, “Apollo’s angry, and the heavens themselves / Do strike at my injustice” (III.ii.144-5), and Hermione swoons. Paulina and the ladies-in-waiting take Hermione offstage to tend to her. Leontes prays to Apollo to pardon him; he says he’ll reconcile with Polixenes, make up with Hermione, call back the good Camillo (even praising how Camillo never wanted to kill Polixenes. Then Paulina returns to announce that Hermione, too, is dead. From there, she verbally punishes him, with Leontes calling for more, for his just deserts. Leontes asks to be brought to the bodies, which he says he will bury in a single grave, which he will visit every day as his “recreation” (III.ii.238).

The last scene of Act Three takes us to the sea coast of Bohemia, where Antigonus has arrived with the baby to abandon it; the ship that brought him awaits his return, but is in the midst of a storm so bad that it seems “The heavens with that we have in hand are angry / And frown upon us” (III.iii.5-6). Antigonus puts down the baby, and some gold to help pay for its raising, and then is chased off by a bear. A shepherd comes along and finds the baby; his grown son–known only as “Clown”–arrives with descriptions of two sights: a ship off-shore sinking in the storm, and a bear eating a man. The first sight is described in horror, the second more comically. The father and son then find the gold, and decide to raise the baby. But first they go to bury what remains of Antigonus.

And with that pivot from tragedy to comedy, Act Three of The Winter’s Tale ends.

The very long fourth act of The Winter’s Tale begins with Continue reading The Winter’s Tale – Act Four plot synopsis: Boho party goes south

Theater review: Love’s Labor’s Lost by Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival

Last night, Lisa and I caught Love’s Labor’s Lost by Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival at the start of its closing weekend on the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. Now, those of you who have been around since (near) the beginning of this project probably know how I feel a out Love’s Labor’s Lost. Not a huge fan (it ranks down in the lower quarter of my favorite plays). People who’ve been around nearly as long also know how I feel about Kingsmen. A big fan.

So which wins out?

Continue reading Theater review: Love’s Labor’s Lost by Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival

The Winter’s Tale – Act Three plot synopsis: death[s] just offstage…

Previously… on The Winter’s Tale:

In the court of King Leontes of Sicilia, his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia readies to return to his own country after a nine-month stay in Sicilia. While Leontes is unsuccessful to convince his friend to say, Leontes’ pregnant wife Hermione is able to convince him. This spurs suspicions in Leontes’ mind, worrying him about being cuckolded by his friend. His lord Camillo admits that Polixenes has bowed to the “good queen’s entreaty” (I.ii.220). Leontes lays out his argument for his own cuckolding. The lord is incredulous, but in an attempt to calm down the king, Camillo tells the king that he will poison Polixenes that night. Leontes leaves, and Camillo bemoans his state. Polixenes joins Camillo on stage, and a tormented Camillo explains the situation to Polixenes, urging him to flee the country. Polixenes agrees.

The second act begins with Hermione, her ladies, and the boy Mamillius, about to tell them a story. As he begins his story, Leontes enters with Antigonus and other lords, learning that Polixenes has left the country, taking Camillo with him. Of course, this vindicates the king’s suspicions, especially since it was Camillo that tipped off Polixenes. Leontes tells Hermione that he knows she’s carrying Polixenes’ baby, that “‘tis Polixenes [who] / Has made [her] swell such” (II.i.61-2). She denies this, and Leontes rants on how he knows she’s “an adulteress” (II.i.78). They go back and forth, accusation and denial, with him ordering her “to prison!” (II.i.103). She continues to deny the accusation, but finally heads off to prison, with her ladies, as her pregnancy, her “plight requires it” (II.i.118). In her absence, the lords, led by Antigonus, attempt to calm, then reason with Leontes, even saying they’ll sterilize their daughters if this turns out to be true. Leontes has none of it, telling them that he’s dispatched two men to the oracle of Apollo’s temple in Delphos; Leontes believes the accusation, and the oracle is to prove it to other people. Outside the prison, Paulina, wife to Antigonus, learns that Hermione’s given birth prematurely to a “daughter, and a goodly babe” (II.ii.26). Paulina decides that Leontes must be called out on his dangerous accusations. Meanwhile, Leontes hasn’t been able to sleep since the accusation. It seems that Mamillius has taken ill as well. In walks Paulina with the baby. When she demands to see the king, her husband tries to stop her…to no avail. She calls herself Leontes’ subordinate, then calls Hermione, “Good queen” to the king’s disbelief. Leontes orders the men to force her away, but she stands her ground, laying the newborn baby at his feet. He calls her witch; she denies. He calls the men traitors for not forcing her out; Antigonus denies. He claims the child is Polixenes’; she shows him his likeness in the baby’s features. She leaves the baby with Leontes. Leontes berates Antigonus and demands of him what he would do to save the bastard’s life. “Anything possible” (II.iii.166) is his response. To save the child’s life from Leontes’ justice, the king allows Antigonus an option: take the child to “some remote and desert place quite out / Of our dominion” (II.iii.175-6), and abandon it, leaving its fate to Fate. Reluctantly, Antigonus agrees, and exits with the child. News arrives of the servants’ return from the oracle.

Act Three of The Winter’s Tale begins with Continue reading The Winter’s Tale – Act Three plot synopsis: death[s] just offstage…

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 10th, 2017

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NOTE: This week’s news digest is text-only (no podcast)… 

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast includes shocks, solace, season announcements, and reviews. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, July 10th, 2017

History of The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale had its first referenced performance in May of 1611 in the diary of Simon Forman (yup, the same guy who gave us “Innogen” in his review of Cymbeline). Later in that same year, it was performed at court.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed during the Restoration…but for some reason, not The Winter’s Tale. So Continue reading History of The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale – Act Two plot synopsis: a baby delivered and news delayed

Previously… on The Winter’s Tale:
In the court of King Leontes of Sicilia, Camillo and Archidamus, lords from Sicilia and Bohemia, respectively, converse in exposition-filled speeches. We also get some background on these two kings, Leontes of Sicilia and Polixenes of Bohemia, “trained together in their childhoods” (I.i.22), who have a friendship that “[n]either malice [n]or matter [could] alter” (I.i.33). If you’re suspicious like me, this seems ominous. Doubling down on this possibly bad future vibe, they speak of Sicilia’s young prince Mamillius, a boy who makes “old hearts fresh” (I.i.38), and makes the old want to live until they see him become a man.
We get the state entrance of some major players: King Leontes, his pregnant wife Hermione, their son Mamillius, King Polixenes, and assorted lords, including the previous scene’s Camillo. Polixenes talks of the nine months (“Nine changes of the watery star” [I.ii.1]) he has been in Sicilia, and speaks glowingly of his love and friendship with Leontes. But he has decided to head home the next day. Polixenes repeats his decision to leave, staying not even “one sev’night longer” (I.ii.18), despite the urging of Leontes. The Bohemian king begins to say his farewells, and Leontes calls upon his wife to speak. Much to Leontes’ surprise, Hermione talks with Polixenes, and announces, “He’ll stay, my lord” (I.ii.88); even though we really haven’t him say this. When Hermione and Polixenes walk off to continue their conversation, Leontes, in an aside, states concerns and suspicions: “Too hot, too hot! … paddling palms and pinching fingers … that is entertainment / My bosom likes not, nor my brows” (I.ii.109, 116, 119-20). He fears being cuckolded (the horn reference). Leontes sends Mamillius off, then questions Camillo if the lord has seen what he has: Polixenes bowing to the “good queen’s entreaty” (I.ii.220). And over the course of the next hundred or so lines, Leontes lays out his argument for his own cuckolding. The lord is incredulous, but in an attempt to calm down the king, Camillo tells the king that he will poison Polixenes that night. Leontes leaves, and Camillo bemoans his state. Polixenes joins Camillo on stage, and the final hundred lines of the scene are spent with Camillo explaining the situation to Polixenes, urging him to flee the country. Polixenes agrees.

 

The second act of The Winter’s Tale begins with Continue reading The Winter’s Tale – Act Two plot synopsis: a baby delivered and news delayed