Category Archives: The Winter’s Tale

Indoor/Outdoor and out of my head

Yesterday, I talked a bit (and a bit scatteredly) on some of the dualities and opposites in The Winter’s Tale. One such subject was the idea that the first half of the play (save for the last, pivotal scene on the Bohemian seacoast) was in the Sicilian palace, and the fourth act (save for a first interlude in the Bohemian palace) was completely outdoors in the Bohemian midsummer, with the final act taking place back in Leontes’ palace. Civilization vs. Nature, court vs. rural. But I also noted that there was a fly in that particular ointment.

Here’s the fly…

Continue reading Indoor/Outdoor and out of my head

The Winter’s Tale: scattered opposites

In Shakespeare, you’re always going to find dichotomies, oppositions (you know, to be OR NOT to be), that’s not a question. Now, Macbeth is filled with verbal oppositions (so fair and foul a day, etc.). The Winter’s Tale, however, contains some incredible situational oppositions as well.

  • Court/Rural (civilization/nature || Sicilia/Bohemia)
  • Leontes/Polixenes
  • Death/Life
  • Artifice/Art

Continue reading The Winter’s Tale: scattered opposites

[EXPLICIT] Bawdiness in Winter: BYOD


Eric Partridge, in his study of and dictionary for the bawdy in the Bard, Shakespeare’s Bawdy, has this to say about our play: “Cymbeline in many ways resembles The Winter’s Tale, which is slightly less bawdy but rather more sexual. They are of much the same quantitative order as All’s Well.” (Shakespeare’s Bawdy, Partridge, Eric. New York: Routledge Classics, 2001; page 58).

Well, All’s Well’s got some dirt, but isn’t that dirty. Cymbeline, pretty much the same…let’s see if Partridge is right.

Continue reading [EXPLICIT] Bawdiness in Winter: BYOD

Genre, pivots, and order: The Winter’s Tale

Now, I don’t know how long it’s been, but as long as I can remember, I’ve thought/been told that the order of the last few plays by Shakespeare, all romances, goes Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest (with the fourth romance, Pericles, preceding Cymbeline’s predecessor, Coriolanus). But now I’m discovering that there are some dissenting views.

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Polixenes and Leontes: fear and loathing in Sicilia

In The Winter’s Tale, we get another male lover who fears cuckoldry. Leontes follows a line of others: Ford (Merry Wives, completely comic), Claudio (Much Ado, comic with tragic tinges), Othello (just plain tragic), and Posthumus (Cymbeline, ditto). A couple of months back, I wrote a paper on military homosociality and the fear of cuckoldry in Much Ado and Othello. Tomorrow, I deliver a talk on it at the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Wooden O Symposium (and nervous as hell, to be completely honest with you…but that’s besides the point).

So the timing’s right to take a look at this concept (briefly before I catch my flight)…

Continue reading Polixenes and Leontes: fear and loathing in Sicilia

The Winter’s Tale — Staging: the bear

The Winter’s Tale has, arguably, the most famous stage direction in history: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Now, I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s day, but legend has it that bear-baiting bears were used, or possibly a man in one of the deceased bear-baiting animal skins. Now, in a film, you could actually have him pursued by a bear (though that BBC version opts for the man-in-a-bear-suit route…with one of the most ridiculously fake bear suits I’ve ever seen). But in a theater? With real-life audience members (who you would like not to become late audience members)?

Now, as part of a BBC Radio show, actor David Tennant discussed the problem for “Just a Minute”…pretty entertaining and a great summing up of the issue:

But the question remains, how do you stage it?

Continue reading The Winter’s Tale — Staging: the bear

Friday Film Focus: The Winter’s Tale (1981; BBC)

It’s now August and a Friday, which means a new summer blockbuster is being released: The Dark Tower which might be cool (dig Idris Elba, but man, those early reviews have been BRU-tal…anyways…)…but that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today, we take a look at one of the only widely released films of The Winter’s Tale, the BBC Complete Works entry from 1981.

Leontes is not a happy camper

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: The Winter’s Tale (1981; BBC)

The Winter’s Tale: Hamlet and fardels and bears, oh my

As I’m re-reading The Winter’s Tale (while in my final days in Ashland, watching some really good Shakespeare, and while attempting to write a paper on King Lear with a medical diagnosis of narcissism–the former successfully and happily; the latter…not so much), I’m noticing some words coming up with more frequency than I expected: “fardel” and “bear.”

Oh, my.

Continue reading The Winter’s Tale: Hamlet and fardels and bears, oh my

Podcast 157: The Winter’s Tale — plot synopsis and introduction


This week’s podcast kicks off our two-month discussion of The Winter’s Tale. We’re going to start off with a jumbo, econo-sized plot synopsis, and a bit of an introduction (and a cry for help).

Continue reading Podcast 157: The Winter’s Tale — plot synopsis and introduction

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)