Book Review: The Winter’s Tale

The Winter's Tale
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is all over the place, but I loved the random plot and the clueless characters! I can’t figure out if it’s a hilarious tragedy or a dark comedy, but I was certainly never bored.

In this play, King Leontes is suddenly struck with the erroneous belief that his wife, Hermione, is cheating on him with his childhood friend, King Polixenes. He descends into a form of madness, trying to assassinate his friend, publicly accusing his wife of being unfaithful, and sentencing his actual child (who he believes to be illegitimate) to death by exposure in the wilderness. And of course, all sorts of trouble ensues, because he has angered the god Apollo, who predicts that he will never have an heir to his throne until he finds his lost daughter again, who did not die of exposure.

This play has the famous stage direction “Exit, pursued by a bear”, and I had to read that twice and then read the next few paragraphs, and then go back and read it again before I could really take it in. Yes, this guy was mauled by bear. He is dead. From a bear attack. So, that happened. Off stage, but it happened.

I loved how Queen Hermione is so upright and full of the fire of wronged innocence. Her speeches at her trial were quite moving.

Leontes was nutso for the entire play. Whether he was imagining traitors and assassins around every corner, or whether he was mourning the loss of his family and repenting, he was just crazy. He has a line where he laments that he is a feather blown about on every wind, and that is definitely a good description. That guy has no clue what is going on or what he is doing. He either won’t listen to good council and does whatever fool thing he wants to do, or he lets people boss him around. Apparently, there is no middle ground and no logic to it.

Paulina, the Queen’s noblewoman friend, is a formidable woman. She strides right in and takes control and bosses everyone to within an inch of their lives! Oh, I loved her! haha! She has some really strong dialogue, and I could just see in my mind this tall commanding woman with a look of fierce pride in her eye. She is a delight.

I wish that Perdita, the little lost princess, had more dialogue. She mostly opens her mouth to agree with something her princely sweetheart has said. Other than that, she appears to stand around looking pretty and talking about flowers. Ah well, we can’t all be Paulinas, I suppose.

I was disappointed that most of the action at the end takes place off-stage, and is then reported to the audience via dialogue. Boring! I wanted the action; I wanted to see the actual reunion moment that I was waiting for the entire play!

And then there was the statue thing. A statue magically comes to life, or was it just a person disguised as a statue when actually they had been hiding out for years pretending to be dead? Either way, it’s pretty messed up, because why would you wait 16 years and torture your family members who are grieving over you?! And if you really are a statue magically come to life, that’s just creepy. Shakespeare leaves it as a mystery.

Autolycus is a con-man peddler who is prominent in the middle of the play, sticking his nose into other people’s business while picking their pockets. Usually this is the type of character that people love, because of the comedic funny lines, but I hate this kind of character. He gets on my nerves, and even though his meddling turned out well in the end, I hate those rascally knaves with their non-existent morals and self-centered plotting.

A wonderful play with lots of different aspects, moods, and a jumping plot!

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