Category Archives: The Winter’s Tale

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…

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

Friday Film Focus: The Winter’s Tale YouTube update

It’s July and a Friday, which means a new summer blockbuster is being released. A new Spiderman. Excuse me while I yawn. To ditch the boredom, I’ve updated the Bill / Shakespeare Project YouTube channel to include a playlist for The Winter’s Tale

The playlist includes:

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: The Winter’s Tale YouTube update

The Winter’s Tale – Act One plot synopsis: twin lambs torn asunder

The Winter’s Tale begins in the court of King Leontes of Sicilia, as Camillo and Archidamus, lords from Sicilia and Bohemia, respectively, bring us–the audience–up to date. Think the two numbered gentlemen at the beginning of Cymbeline, or Kent and Gloucester in King Lear. Archidamus urges Camillo to visit Bohemia, where he’d find a “great difference” (I.i.3) from Sicilia, and Camillo says this may happen “this coming summer” (I.i.5) when the Sicilian king repays the Bohemian king for his kindness in his current visit to Sicilia.

Continue reading The Winter’s Tale – Act One plot synopsis: twin lambs torn asunder

Live Cinema Broadcast Review: The Winter’s Tale by the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company

Earlier this week, I had a chance to catch the cinema broadcast of the London production of The Winter’s Tale, from the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, starring Kenneth Branagh, and directed by Rob Ashford and–you guessed it–Kenneth Branagh. I’m not sure if he took the tickets and showed the live audience to their seats or not.

Continue reading Live Cinema Broadcast Review: The Winter’s Tale by the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company

Upcoming: Sweet Tea Shakespeare and The Winter’s Tale

Just want to give a little shout-out to our friends at the Shakespeare Standard, whose Editor-in-Chief, Jeremy Fiebig, is Artistic Director of Sweet Tea Shakespeare in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare will be presenting The Winter’s Tale later this month at the Capitol Encore Academy.

They open this weekend, so… Break a leg!