The Winter's Tale

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The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies,[1] some modern editors have relabeled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics, among them W. W. Lawrence,[2] consider it to be one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending.

Nevertheless, the play has been intermittently popular, revived in productions in various forms and adaptations by some of the leading theatre practitioners in Shakespearean performance history, beginning after a long interval with David Garrick in his adaptation called Florizel and Perdita (first performed in 1754 and published in 1756. The Winter's Tale was revived again in the 19th century, when the third "pastoral" act was widely popular). In the second half of the 20th century The Winter's Tale in its entirety, and drawn largely from the First Folio text, was often performed, with varying degrees of success.

Contents

Synopsis

Following a brief setup scene the play begins with the appearance of two childhood friends: Leontes, King of Sicilia, and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. Polixenes is visiting the kingdom of Sicilia, and is enjoying catching up with his old friend. However, after nine months, Polixenes yearns to return to his own kingdom to tend to affairs and see his son. Leontes desperately attempts to get Polixenes to stay longer, but is unsuccessful. Leontes then sends his wife, Queen Hermione, to try to persuade Polixenes. Hermione agrees and with three short speeches is successful. Leontes is puzzled as to how Hermione convinced Polixenes so easily, and is suddenly consumed with an insane paranoia that his pregnant wife has been having an affair with Polixenes and that the child is a bastard. Leontes orders Camillo, a Sicilian Lord, to poison Polixenes.

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