The Winter's Tale Study Guide

The Winter's Tale Study Guide

Original title:
The Winter's Tale

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare is one of his several “problem plays”. It starts as a classical tragedy, but ends in a comedic and light-hearted way, despite even this can undo the death of the innocent at the beginning. The main plot turns were borrowed from Robert Greene’s pastoral novel Pandosto. The names of characters and places are changed, but the storyline stays the same, only with an additional happy ending that looks like deus ex machina revival of the seemingly dead.

Some of the critics see in the play the allegorical depiction of the fate of Anne Boleyn, accused of adultery and beheaded, despite everyone claimed she was innocent. Her story, transferred to the seemingly ancient Greek environment and completed with a happу ending, is safe enough to present the point of view of the author without being accused by the people with opposite opinion.

Interesting that the real historical events may be easily presented as an ancient Greek tragedy, still being completely plausible in this genre. Shakespeare skillfully shows the rivalry of the two former best friends and the intense jealousy that leads to the disrupted lives in the way that could make Sophocles proud.

The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare features both the classical plot turns and unusual ones never used by the author before or after this play. This makes it one of the most interesting ones in his writing career. The sudden turn from tragedy to comedy leaves us puzzled, because the shadow of the ominous events of the past is still covering the joys of the present. The theme of the omnipotent Fate that was so popular in the ancient Greek tragedies is laughed off by the resurrection of one of the key characters, but we still feel that other deaths are something that can’t be undone.

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