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The Winter's Tale: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 17 Apr 2008
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One of Shakespeare's most haunting and enigmatic late plays, The Winter's Tale is a fine example of Shakespeare's fascination with the dramatic genre of "romance": the portrayal of magical lands, familial conflict and exile, and final reunion and reconciliation. Drawing on Robert Green's story Pandosto, Shakespeare play tells the story of the middle-aged Leontes, king of Sicilia, and his childhood friend Polixenes, the king of Bohemia. Leontes mistakenly believes that his friend is having an affair with his wife, Hermione. In his jealousy, and consumed by "tremor cordis", he tries to murder Polixenes, who flees, and accuses his wife of adultery. Hermione gives birth to a baby girl, Perdita, who Leontes denounces as illegitimate, and casts her out into the wilderness. Hermione is ultimately proved innocent, but her son, Mamillius, dies of grief. Hermione collapses, apparently dead, and Leontes is left to pick up the tragic consequences of his actions. Time passes, and the action moves to Bohemia, where the lost child Perdita has grown up a shepherdess in the midst of "great creating nature". The final scenes of the play draw towards resolution and reconciliation between Leontes, Hermione and their lost daughter, culminating in one of Shakespeare's most moving final scenes. One of Shakespeare's most consummate plays, The Winter's Tale is a fascinating study of male insecurity and the relations between art and nature. --Jerry Brotton. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
a valuable edition of The Winter's Tale. ... this is a well-focused and helpful edition. (Paul Hammond, Review of English Studies)See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
Needed to read it because I was going to a production of The Winters Tale at the Lyceum in Edinburgh. Brilliant production and now I am awakened to Shakespeare after 50 years Read Romeo and Juliet for O level and Othello for A level
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.
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.
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.