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This has to be the best series of Shakespeare's plays. Erudite, well laid out and comprehensive - this is far better than what my uni wanted me to buy. I will continue to buy this series going forward.
(This review is for the talking book version of this play on compact disc by the "Complete Arkangel Shakespeare" and published by BBC Audiobooks America.)
"Too hot, too hot! To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods. I have tremor cordis on me,--my heart dances; But not for joy,--not joy.--This entertainment May a free face put on; derive a liberty From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom, And well become the agent: `t may, I grant: But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers, As now they are; and making practis'd smiles, As in a looking glass; and then to sigh, as `twere The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment My bosom likes not, nor my brows."
The above is said as an aside by the King of Sicilia as he observes his Queen with his good friend (who he has known since childhood), the King of Bohemia. This is the occurrence that sparks the King of Sicilia's jealousy and forms the basis of this play (written circa 1611) by William Shakespeare (1564 to 1616).
(Note that this play is traditionally classified as a comedy but is more accurately known as a tragicomedy or romance.)
Having this play recorded on compact disc is a treat. This play (of five acts or fifteen scenes) is presented as uncut, fully dramatized, and accompanied by original music. This recording aids in comprehension by bringing the play to life using the voices of distinguished actors.
Included with the compact disc are liner notes that include among other things a complete cast list and a synopsis of each scene. What I did was before each scene, I paused the recording, read a particular scene's synopsis, and then listened to that scene. Doing it this way resulted in (for me anyway) complete comprehension of this play, something not easily obtainable when you simply read the play.
With respect to the play itself, it should be remembered that in most cases, the characters are not realistic. Jealousy appears with little motivation; characters perform actions that are symbolic rather than believable in terms of everyday life; common sense seems frequently to be lacking. (In fact, this is why many 17TH and 18TH century critics dismissed this play as absurd and totally lacking in reason.)
However, it seems to me Shakespeare deliberately made most of these characters symbolic rather than realistic. The themes of the play (evil, repentance, and reconciliation) are of such a universal scope that they must be represented clearly in its characters.
This play is famous for the stage direction that Shakespeare gives in Act 3 Scene 3: "Exit, pursued by a bear."
Finally, for those playing this compact disc on their computer compact disc player, beware that a "cookie" of 0.1 KB size is stored on your computer's hard drive. A "cookie" is just a small piece of text and is NOT a virus. It can do no harm but for those that don't want it, it can be easily erased.
In conclusion, this compact disc brings this tragicomic or romance play to life aiding in its comprehension and thus enjoyment!!
Ask anyone to name a play by Shakespeare and it most likely will be Romeo and Juliet, or Hamlet, or Macbeth or even Othello. Rarely will you ever hear anyone say The Winter's tale, but is its lack of popularity due to it being any lesser than Shakespeare's other works? Unfortunately I would have to say yes. The play is taken from Greene's Pandosto and follows it quite closely in most parts. The plot is fairly simple, Leontes, the King of Sicilia gets into a jealous rage over his what he believes is his wife's infidelity with his friend. This causes him to break off a close relationship with his childhood friend the King of Bohemia and his servant Camillo. He also banishes his daughter, and kills his wife and son by flouting Apollo's judgement that Hermione, his wife, is innocent. The second part of the play is concerned with the reunion of his banished daughter and her newly acquired husband with Leontes. There is a surprise at the ending which I will not spoil for those who have not yet had the opportunity to read the play. If you've read Othello, you will find similarities between Othello and Leontes and also between Desdemona and Hermione. The only major difference is that there is no Iago in this play; Leontes is his own Iago. Shakespeare in Othello develops the reasons for Othello's suspicion of Desdemona, unfortunately this is lacking in The Winter's Tale. There is not much of a motive and the reader (or audience) is asked to believe that Leontes develops his jealous rage over one minor incident and almost immediately. Another problem I have with this play is with the surprise ending. Here again, there is not much of a clue as to how this happens, it is just assumed that we will accept it unquestioningly as fact. Apart from these minor 'faults' the play is still an interesting read, and as always the inclusion of the clowns and Autolycus give it some lightness which balances the tragedies. If you'd like to dive deeper into the play, I'd suggest the commentary by Fitzroy Pyle (1969) which I found to be quite helpful.
In my opinion, this does not quite reach the level of a masterpiece. Leontes' initial rage is too sudden and abrupt. Furthermore, there is something too artificial about the happy ending when Shakespeare makes it clear that Camillo will marry Antigonus' widow Paulina. Antigonus is too awkwardly dealt with. Remember, Leontes threatened to kill him and his wife if he did not agree to leave the infant girl in the wilderness. But all of that aside, the play is an excellent piece of literature. Leontes' rages are frightening and effective. Furthermore, his regret and repentance is touching and convincing. Antigonus is memorable as the martyr who offers us some comical touches. Hermione is fine as the forgiving queen. Perdita and Florizel are pretty good as the determined young lovers. Camillo deserves special notice as one of the few level headed characters. First he protects Polixenes from Leontes' fury, and then he protects Perdita and Florizel from Polixenes. But the most memorable character could very well be Autolycus, who in my opinion is a literary reincarnation of Falstaff. This play does have its weaknesses, but it also has good poetry, drama, comedy, moments of suspense, interesting surprises, and well developed characters.
Find Shakespeare quite a challenge but after reading it several times I really was engrossed and enjoyed it. 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
5.0 out of 5 starsMore of the same but in the best way possible
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 19, 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.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 16, 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.