Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at The Winter’s Tale.
There are 2977 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1489, or at Act Four, Scene Three, line 39. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint–or within twenty lines either way–a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play (the 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions).
In most cases, it’s worked pretty well.
But here, I’m not so sure.
Act Four, Scene Three comes in the longest act of the play and the longest Act Four of the Canon. But if you think this midpoint occurs in the sheep-shearing feast scene…you’d be sorely mistaken. Instead, it occurs in our introduction to the con-man Autolycus. The midpoint comes just as Clown enters to be conned by Autolycus. And for the life of me, I can’t see how this works as being central. I mean, there is no major character here. No bit of the conflict. Yes, I could stretch to the twenty lines before, and see how the seasons of “winter” and “summer” both appear in the con-man’s song. Passage of time, maybe. But it feels pretty thin.
Not much better is any attempt to somehow tie the clown’s catalog of different things he needs to buy into some kind of global theme.
I was really hoping for it to fall around the Best. Stage. Direction. Ever. But alas, not so much. That’s nearly 160 lines earlier. Or the choric Act Four, Scene One, appearance by Time…nope, that one’s too early as well.
Instead we’re stuck with the funny but thematically challenged Autolycus.
Maybe the theory doesn’t work for every play…damn.