The Winter’s Tale
The Winter’s Tale is another one of William Shakespeare’s “problem plays.” Much of Shakespearean tradition has classified it as a comedy, but there are strong elements of romance and psychological drama that precede the happy ending. Although not published until 1623, the play may have been written in 1610 or 1611, marking it as one of Shakespeare’s later works.
The play was first performed at the Globe Theater in May 1611. A performance for King James I took place in November of that year. Royal performances in 1613, 1618, 1623 and 1634 mark The Winter’s Tale as one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays, although it was not revived during the Restoration period.
Leontes, the King of Sicilia and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, childhood friends, are visiting each other. Leontes wants Polixenes to stay, and asks his wife, Hermione, to convince him to do so. Suddenly, Leontes goes mad and accuses his wife of having an affair with Polixenes. An oracle tells the king that they are innocent, but Leontes refuses to believe it, and orders Hermione’s daughter to be exposed.
Sixteen years later, and Prince Florizel is in love with a shepherd girl, Perdita, the daughter of Hermione and Leontes. Eventually, father and daughter are reunited, the two kings are reconciled, and a statue of Hermione comes to life. The plot was taken from a Renaissance romance, Pandosto, written by Robert Greene on 1588.