The Winter’s Tale

What is there to say about Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale?  Not much actually.  It’s a revenge plot that just fizzles at the end.  Shakespeare pretty much stole plot points from several of his other plays to create this one.  I found the characters to be flat, contradicting, and well…stupid.

Leontes, a king, flies into a jealous rage (plot point straight from Othello) when he is unable to convince his friend to visit/stay longer, but his very pregnant wife is able to convince him to stay.  Coincidentally, Polinxes has been visiting for 9 months and well…Hermione just happens to be 9 months pregnant, therefore Polinxes must be the father and not him (sounds like a overly dramatic soap opera to me).  That night Hermione gives birth to a girl.

The sharp tongued Paulina tries to make Leontes see his daughter.  He says no, kill it.  Paulina doesn’t have the heart to, so she tells Leontes his wife died in childbirth and oh by the way, your son died of heartache upon hearing of her death.  Paulina sends her husband to take the girl to Bohemia.  He puts her down in a meadow and then leaves to go back to his boat…only he gets mauled by a bear and dies.  So much for karma.  Or perhaps that is karma punishing the husband for Leontes choice.

Then, Father Time has an interlude where he says some stuff about time passing which is Shakespeare’s version of overlay text on the screen that says “Sixteen Years Later”.

The daughter’s name is Perdita (how original, Shakespeare, use the Spanish word for lost, and an endearing “ita” on it and call her little lost one) has grown up under the loving care of a shepherd.  She frolicks around during the “sheep-shearing” festival and meets a guy, who just happens to be a prince in disguise (a little Measure for Measure?).  They instantly fall in love, but Florizel’s father has a problem with his son marrying a shepherdess.  Oh and guess who is father is?  None other than Polinxes (and no, Perdita is not his daughter so it’s not any crazy half-sibling thing going on).  They run away to elope secretly (Romeo & Juliet, anyone?) and this vagabond guy who just ripped everyone off at the festival then decides to help them, because he picked up some courtier’s clothes and felt noble.  And somehow they get to Sicilia, where poof! Perdita is restored to being a princess.

Paulina then decides she’ll make a “statue” of the queen.  Leontes sees it, thinks its so life-like, almost convinces himself he sees it move and breath.  With the magic words, poof! the statue comes alive.  Hermione had been alive the past 16 years, kept secluded by Paulina, waiting for Leontes to repent and the oracle fulfilled that Leontes has an heir (because the son truly did die – but its okay, no one really cared about him anyway).  And then the story ends.

The plot is rather simple, slow moving, and uninteresting.  Paulina’s sharp tongue can be entertaining at times, but most of the dialogue is superfluous and fluffy.

I wouldn’t give this play higher than a C.  It has all the right elements, but it just…has no oomph.  It’s not unique, special, entertaining, or quotable.  It just exists as one of Shakespeare’s more average works.  It’s alright Shakespeare, not every play can be a bestseller.  Perhaps you were trying a new direction, were feeling sick, or distracted when you wrote it.  Because I can’t even fathom that after some of your best plays you’d write something so…average…and think highly of it.  It was one of your last two plays you wrote yourself.  But we’ll never know.  Oh and PS: you’re epitaph is awesome . Modern Spelling courtesy of Wikipedia.

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he who moves my bones.”

The next, and final Shakespeare play for this course is The Tempest, the last play Shakespeare wrote by himself.  Hopefully it’ll have a bit more oomph.  I’d like to think Shakespeare went out with a bang/fanfare.