on 27 May 2010
This is a superb edition of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale". The comprehensive introduction gives a good overview of the history of the play, and critical approaches to it. The notes - set out on the same page as the text - elucidate difficult passages, give glosses on words no longer current in the English language, and list possible variant readings. The appendices include the full text of Shakespeare's main source.
The play is a masterpiece of Shakespeare's final period, full of moving poetry and effective drama. It is probably easier to appreciate today than it was a few decades ago, because we have become used to modern plays which do not follow the conventions of realism.
The text of the play itself is in an easy to read format. Some may find the typeface for the notes a little on the small side, though the font is clear: but having them on the same page as the text is convenient.
on 22 June 2015
One of my most favourite plays of all time!
The ending is just sublime. Yes I didn't particularly enjoy Act IV as much as the rest, but it still contains a deeply romantic speech by Florizel to Perdita, 'When you speak, I'd have you do it ever... when you do dance, I'd wish you a wave o'th'sea so that you might ever do nothing but that.' And Paulina is my most favourite Shakespearean character of all time! She shatters the female archetype of the time and demonstrates the moral and intellectual superiority of women. She is the director of the final scene and orchestrates the reunion between the repented Leontes and Hermione. Furthermore, Leontes' shocking spiral into jealousy is even more emotional and powerful than Othello's as there is no Iago-like figure or any form of 'ocular proof'...
The tragedy is defined by the hostility of the Sicilian courts, before they give way to the colourful society in the fields of Bohemia almost two decades later, and the sea is a potent force of both change, destruction, and regeneration. Its eternal movement ultimately embodies not only the tragicomic genre, but the very nature of the human condition itself. It has all the makings of a revenge tragedy, but instead results in romance and reconciliation. The vividly contrasting halves climax with a dramatic denouement steeped in magic and mystery. Once again the unrelenting tide of the sea conveys the impossibility of a fully reconciled ending. It will never end. The setting, therefore, dictates the moral journeys of the characters as it shatters the Aristotelian unities of action, place and time, so portraying the power of time in bridging the unbridgeable and curing the incurable...
Ultimately, Shakespeare tells us that people can be forgiven, even after seemingly unforgivable crimes. Time is the healing force in the play, along with innocence and youth. It makes and unfolds, destroys and creates, and ultimately, re-creates, delivering a triple miracle of rebirth: Leontes’ moral growth over the “wide gap of time”, Hermione’s resurrection, and the restoration of their marriage.
As the sea is perpetually moved by the tide, as it is hurled into tempests and lulled into glassy calms, so human consciousness eternally moves. This is why tragicomedies come the closest to the complexities of reality. The transition from deaths, losses, and separations to marriages, reconciliations and reunions leaves tragedy behind, perfectly summarised by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe as when “things fall apart”, and plunges into comedy and romance, when “things come together.” This is where its power lies.
The characters are left with all the hurts and betrayals they have inflicted and that have been inflicted against them, forced to come to terms with what they have done, to live with the damage, and to endure. It is the most mature lens through which to look at the world.
One of Shakespeare's late plays, this is a strange mix of tragedy, romance and a kind of comedy. As others have said, the linguistic sub-structure is complex and calls up various classical myths which are played out here but with a twist: Proserpina and the return of Spring; Pygmalion; the changeling/foundling myth which is used, for example, in Oedipus; and also hints and echoes of many of Shakespeare's own plays especially Othella, King Lear and Hamlet, as well as references to Henry VIII's marriage problems.
It's useful to have Greene's original Pandosto to see what Shakespeare does with this specific source and, especially, the way he writes out the incest theme.
So a more difficult and sophisticated play that it at first appears to be, and the ostensible happy ending doesn't quite succeed in wiping out the darkness at its heart.
on 3 January 2014
I like Shakespeare, I really, really do. At school, I was one of the few who actively was quite joyful when we went to see his works acted out, or read them in class, so I don't want people to think I just "don't get him". But, I struggled a bit to see this as one story. The first act was excellent, dark and intense and a certain character was delightfully hateable. However, after the first act, it just all went very down hill for me. I know I'm not expecting realism here, but the whole plot just became a little too far fetched by the final scene, especially the very ending (you'll know what I mean if you've read it).
On the whole, it's worth a read, but it definitely isn't my favourite Shakespeare, by a long way. Aside from "Exit, pursued by a bear", of course.
on 19 July 2015
like all Arden copies of Shakespeare's plays I have bought I cannot fault its content and all the information collated for the reader.I have not found any other editions of the plays which are so consistently useful.
"The Winter's Tale" is one of Shakespeare's most underrated works, probably because it can't be easily classified as a romance or a comedy. That's a shame, because this lush, emotionally-wrenching little play displays Shakespeare's powerful writing and fine grasp of human nature. It's just incredibly moving and exquisitely written.
Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, has been visiting his pal King Leontes in Sicilia, and eventually he wants to go home. But after Queen Hermione convinces him to stay awhile, Leontes suddenly goes nuts and decides that Polixenes and Hermione have been having an affair, and that her unborn child must be his old friend's. Polixenes flees back to his own land, and Hermione dies soon after her newborn daughter is abandoned in the wilderness.
Of course, Leontes soon finds out that he was off his gourd, and that poor Hermione was completely innocent. Charming, isn't he? Sixteen years later, Polixenes' son Florizel falls in love with a mysterious young shepherdess, who is actually Leontes' daughter Perdita (of course!). But with royal opposition to their marriage, the young couple must overcome many obstacles before everything is settled happily.
"A Winter's Tale" is a curious hybrid of Shakespeare's different theatrical "types" -- there's some gentle comedy, some mellow tragedy, and a hefty dose of romance. The first three acts are basically one long disaster, with Leontes' crazy paranoia destroying his friendships, marriage and children's lives, until it seems that there's no happy ending for anybody.
But the last few acts are very different. Shakespeare's writing takes on a more romantic, sweet tone, particularly when Florizel and Perdita are lavishing lovers' praise on each other ("My prettiest Perdita!/But O, the thorns we stand upon!"). Having worked up a massive tragedy in the first parts of the play, Shakespeare spends the latter half repairing all the cracks in the characters' lives.
If there's a flaw in the story, it's that Hermione is so in love with a crazy belfry-bat like Leontes, but I suppose his story is meant to show the folly of letting suspicions rule your actions. Florizel and Perdita are charmingly earnest young lovers who initially know nothing of their parents' tragic past, and there are solid supporting characters like the thief Autolycus and the steadfast Camillo.
"The Winter's Tale" is an emotionally wrenching but eventually uplifting story, and a roller-coaster ride that plunges you down into tragedy before hoisting you back up.
on 29 October 2012
It is a clearly laid-out, well-punctuated edition with an extensive introduction and three useful appendices, including the full text of the original story on which the play is based and some admirably precise musical material related to the songs within the play. Explanation of obscure locutions in the text is generally concise, although not always comprehensive. The frame of reference is wide and pertinent.
My only disappointment with this edition, but it is a significant one given that the text of the play itself is easily obtainable at no expense, lies in the tone, rather than the content of the editor's introduction and notes. It seems to me that he is more concerned with proving previous commentators wrong than he is with enlarging on useful work that has gone before. The slight whiff of justification mars an otherwise excellent piece of work. Sometimes you have to accept that Shakespeare was an ambiguous writer and seeking to define a single meaning at the expense of other readings can reduce the scope of interpretation unnecessarily.
on 17 January 2013
A lover of Shakespeare will surely enjoy this read, has all you'd expect from Shakespeare, disguises, hate, love and death. An epic tale spanning a long length of time. If you're new to Shakespeare, maybe this is a little bit too much for a first go, but if storytelling to concentrate and preserve then give It a go! A luscious and indulgent read.
on 28 January 2013
Larg print fine enough but no references on the pages, e.g. Act and scene, making it harder to cross refer if others using a different edition. Also no lone numbers so again pretty unhelpful. Very interesting inside front cover list of other publications by Loki, not ones I can print here!
on 16 February 2013
I had never read or seen 'The Winter's Tale' but downloaded it to read before a performance at the RSC at Stratford. It was well worth the pre-read (and post read) and, although it is a slight and unlikely story, Shakespeare keeps you engaged and reading on.
I liked it a lot.