The Winters Tale
Published 16 Jun 2017
The Winters Tale, written by William Shakespeare discusses aspects of life in England during his time, with certain fantastic elements added to the tale which gives the play the strength and the capacity to teach lessons to the masses and be characteristically important as a tale.
The Winters Tale has several themes incorporated within itself, of romance between the King, Polixenes and Queen, Hermione; of comedy and even a significant amount of study of human psychology. The paper is going to explain the various critical elements in the play backed by a number of quotes from the play.
The play by Shakespeare has attracted a significant amount of critical interest primarily due to its nature and the themes it depicts. The play has an air of both a tragedy as well as a comedy. The play starts off pretty simply, where the King of Bohemia meets up with his friend, the King of Sicilia.
However, situation worsens from then on as suspicion and hatred are rooted during this visit when the King feels the Sicilian King and the Queen of Bohemia have plotted against him and are having an illicit relationship. The entire play is based on this hatred and misunderstanding which strengthens with each step during the sequence of the play.
The main flaw in this entire play however, is that sixteen years pass in the entire play, when the King had believed and realized his wrongs in the first part of the play. Even after this realization, Shakespeare decidedly let sixteen years pass before the phase of restoration where the King and Queen reunite.
The tale is of a tragic nature for the first three Acts, while the next two acts restore the mood and bring a comedy tone to the entire play by restoring the Queen back to her original state while bringing the entire family together.
The disparity between the two themes breaks the entire play into two separate entities creating a rift between the first three acts and the next two. However, it also sets the mood of restoration and amalgamation as the two sets of acts are based in two different weathers, and two different set of circumstances as well.
The first three acts show a dark, gloomy and extremely harsh winter while the next two acts are more seasonal, with spring in the air, which sets a natural mood for the entire duration of the play.
As with all other plays of Shakespeare, this play also has a king with a nature that causes destruction and disruption in the lives of many people who are near and dear to the king. And then there is the Sicilian King who turns out to be the main hero of the entire play when he says about the Queen of Bohemia:
Is for a precious creature; as she’s rare,
Must it be great; and, as his person’s mighty,
Must it be violent: and as he does conceive
He is dishonour’d by a man which ever
Profess’d to him, why, his revenges must
In that be made more bitter. Fear o’ershades me.
(Polixenes, Act I, Scene II)
The king is overwhelmed and upset by the plausible betrayal of his wife, the Queen, however, he fails to notice that overall, his mind is just being destructive and has created problems for his own being and for his family as he does not get any definitive answers to his jealousy, and has only circumstantial evidence that leads him to falsified conclusions:
I have tremor cordis on me; my heart dances, / But not for joy, not joy
(Leontes, Act I, Scene II)
Hermione on the other hand, is a refreshing change from the chivalrous King of Cecilia and the brooding and moody King of Bohemia. She is a paragon of sweetness, grace and patience which helps to clean up the charged up air between the King and the Queen. She herself portrays her nature when she says:
Thereâs some ill planet reigns:
I must be patient till the heavens look
With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords,
I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have
That honourable grief lodgâd here, which burns
Worse than tears drown. Beseech you all, my lords,
With thoughts so qualified as your charities
Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
The kingâs will be performâd!
(Hermione, Act II, Scene 1)
The entire play ends with Perdita, the breath of fresh air, the daughter of the King and Queen of Bohemia to clear up the air and be the binding substance and sustenance of the entire play. She is the one who helps in setting up the entire theme straight in the play while others have their demons to kill. Overall, disconnect between the two sets of acts is gelled by Perdita who helps to connect the King and Queen together and keep the play from become disconnected and disoriented.