on July 21, 2001
For me The Winter's Tale is the most satisfying of Shakespeare's plays. And why? It may not be Hamlet for tragedy, it may not be Twelfth Night for comedy -- indeed, perhaps in the great objective sense this is not nearly his best; but as a coherent work this has them all beat. Here we find all sides of Shakespeare's genius on display: Leontes shares his intense sexual jealousy with Othello, and Florizel and Perdita take their light-hearted romantic comedy interplay (complete with disguises and recogntions) from the best of Shakespeare's comedies, before his sense of the romantic soured into the bitter genius of the problem plays. Add that to the eerily lyrical poetry of Act IV, and you've got a masterpiece. The Winter's Tale is laugh-out-loud funny at times; it's ribald; it's profoundly tragic; and in the end, it's a look at the craft of theater, the craft of literature and ultimately the craft of living. Unjustly ignored, The Winter's Tale is easily as good as its immediate successor, The Tempest -- and that's high praise indeed.
The Winter's Tale is a lot of things: heart-breaking, exhilerating, funny, beautiful, romantic, profound, etc. Yeah, it's all here. This is one of the bard's best plays, and I can't believe they don't teach this in schools. Of course, the ones they teach are excellent, but I can see high school kids enjoying this one a lot more than some of those others (Othello, King Lear).
The story is, of course, brilliant. King Leontes goes into a jealous rage at the beginning against his wife Hermione. Leontes is very mistaken in his actions, and the result is tragic. Shakespeare picks the story back up sixteen years later with the children, and the story works to a really, really surprising end of bittersweet redemption.
This is one of Shakespeare's bests. The first half is a penetrating and devestating, but the second half shows a capacity for salvation from the depths of despair. Also, this being Shakespeare, the blank verse is gorgeous and the characters are well drawn, and the ending is a surprise unparalleled in the rest of his plays. The Winter's Tale is a truly profound and entertaining read.
on July 15, 2005
Early compilers of Shakespeare's plays classified this a comedy, but there is much tragedy in it. Later it was called a romance. Through irrational jealousy a king is apparently responsible for the deaths of his entire family -- wife, son and daughter -- by mid-play. Time is a character in the play and at his one appearance summarizes the passage of sixteen years. If you have an overy high regard for realism, you may not much enjoy this play, but that will be true of more of Shakespeare than just this one tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I look forward to seeing it. I've ordered the BBC DVD and it's being performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2006. These Cambridge School editions have the play's text on right-hand pages; they have summary, commentary and exercises, and vocabulary on the facing left-hand pages. As I read through the play, I'd read the summary, read the play text paying attention to vocabulary, and then read the commentary and exercises. Some additional, unusual vocabulary was only explained in the commentary. I felt I got a deeper understanding of the play than if I had just read the play proper.mmary, commentary and exercises, and vocabulary on the facing left-hand pages. As I read through the play, I'd read the summary, read the play text paying attention to vocabulary, and then read the commentary and exercises. Some additional, unusual vocabulary was only explained in the commentary. I felt I got a deeper understanding of the play than if I had just read the play proper.
The Winter's Tale contains some of the most technically difficult solutions to telling a story that have ever appeared in a play. If you think you know all about how a play must be constructed, read The Winter's Tale. It will greatly expand your mind.
The play opens near the end of a long visit by Polixenes, the king of Bohemia, to the court of his childhood friend, Leontes, the king of Sicily. Leontes wants his friend to stay one more day. His friend declines. Leontes prevails upon his wife, Hermione, to persuade Polixenes. Hermione does her husband's bidding, having been silent before then. Rather than be pleased that she has succeeded, Leontes goes into a jealous rage in which he doubts her faithfulness. As his jealousy grows, he takes actions to defend his misconceptions of his "abused" honor that in fact abuse all those who have loved him. Unable to control himself, Leontes continues to pursue his folly even when evidence grows that he is wrong. To his great regret, these impulsive acts cost him dearly.
Three particular aspects of the play deserve special mention. The first is the way that Shakespeare ties together actions set 16 years apart in time. Although that sounds like crossing the Grand Canyon in a motorcycle jump, Shakespeare pulls off the jump rather well so that it is not so big a leap. The second is that Shakespeare captures entirely different moods from hilarious good humor to deep depression and remorse closely adjacent to one another. As a result, the audience is able to experience many more emotions than normally are evoked in a single play. Third, the play's final scene is as remarkable a bit of writing as you can imagine. Read it, and marvel!
After you finish reading this play, think about where your own loss of temper has had bad consequences. How can you give yourself time to get under control before acting rashly? How can you learn to be more open to positive interpretations of events, rather than dark and disturbing ones?
Love first, second, and always!
on August 17, 2013
The ignorance of Amazon to think that all publications of "The Winter's Tale" is astounding. The Kindle version of this book is not the Arden version. The fact that they lump all versions together means that customer's don't even have the option of voting or requesting that the publisher put this in kindle format, because Amazon says that it already is.
Very lazy Amazon and it really shows your lack of knowledge of book or at least Shakespeare. Please get it straight and stop misleading people. And Amazon, in case you missed this concept, all versions are not the same. Arden version has a wealth of commentary, your cheap Kindle version has none. Two totally different books.
The actual Arden version of this is fantastic though. I highly recommend the book. Too bad they don't actually offer it in Kindle format.
on June 8, 2011
The Modern Library/RSC Shakespeare series IS a very valuable addition. Inexpensive edition of the plays, helpful scene-by-scene summaries of the action, etc. But by far the most valuable part of the half dozen volumes I have studied is the "In Performance" sections. This is what sets this series apart from most others. Here, are performance histories detailing a variety of historic interpretations, interviews with contemporary directors and actors, revealing how they interpreted the text, and turned it into a stage drama.
on November 15, 2009
Very informative edition of this difficult play. The notes helped clarify Leontes' extreme switch in behavior toward his wife Hermione - from love and trust to suspicion and ruthlessness. Would recommend this Arden Shakespeare edition to people encountering 'The Winter's Tale' for the first time(as I was) for edification and clarification.
on February 20, 2015
In the Winter's Tale Shakespeare "rewrites" the tragedy of Anne Boleyn. In the play Sicilia's Queen Hermione is accused of adultry just as Queen Anne was in England a generation before. Like Boleyn, this queen too is imprisoned, tried in public and found guilty. Then the king's son by Hermione dies depriving the king of his male heir. (In Anne Boleyn's case the son was stillborn.) Hermione is now pregnant with a second child, a daughter that the king disavows is his and sends the child to her death. (In real life Anne Boleyn's daughter was Elizabeth who lived in the shadow of her younger half-brother Edward and in fear of her older half-sister Mary.) But there is a twist in Shakespeare's telling of this familiar-to-his-audience family tragedy. In the play, Hermione, the queen, is not executed but goes into hiding. 16 years later the Sicilian King repents his behavior. Their abandoned daughter, Perdita, is found to be alive after all, living in Bohemia and is reunited with her father. But that's not the best reunion.The play is worth it for the final scene, when Hermione, pretending to be her own statue, being admired by the King and daughter Perdita, suddenly "comes to life" and steps off the pedestal. In the end mother and daughter are reunited, a magical ending that death had denied to Queen Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn. The irony of history is that the legacy of Henry VIII was carried on not by his son by Jane Seymour, not by his catholic daughter Mary, but by the daughter of executed Anne Boleyn, the feisty Queen Elizabeth I. In the Winter's Tale, Shakespeare is giving Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth the last laugh.
on August 18, 2014
It's just bare bones but it's free and helpful for those of us who spend a ton of money on school books. I loved it on kindle since we can change font, spacing, margins and even my 8 year old can follow along then. We do Shakespeare as a family subject.
on February 11, 2011
THIS REVIEW APPLIES TO THE KINDLE VERSION ONLY
This is another example of lazy publishers dumping text into a Kindle "book" and foisting it on the public without so much as a 10 second skimming of the text to see if it is worthy of release. It isn't. The text of the play is paginated so poorly that footnotes are now interspersed in the text (footnotes are helpful for reading older plays) and line numbers are now embedded in the text and the indication of who is speaking what lines are often jammed together.
As I said before, a supremely lazy effort that makes the kindle and e-book concept look bad.