The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare, early 1600s, read in The Riverside Shakespeare, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974. Play is 38 pp.
Summary from Goodreads:
One of Shakespeare's later plays, best described as a tragic-comedy, the play falls into two distinct parts. In the first Leontes is thrown into a jealous rage by his suspicions of his wife Hermione and his best-friend, and imprisons her and orders that her new born daughter be left to perish. The second half is a pastoral comedy with the "lost" daughter Perdita having been rescued by shepherds and now in love with a young prince. The play ends with former lovers and friends reunited after the apparently miraculous resurrection of Hermione.
My reading friends know me as a Shakespeare hater. When I've had a drink or two I can come across that way. In reality I am a Shakespeare wimp. Reading his plays are just too much work. But I was planning to read and professionally review The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson's retelling of The Winter's Tale. Her novel is the first in a series of retellings of Shakespeare plays planned by the Hogarth Press.
So I hunkered down on Halloween weekend with my friend's Riverside Shakespeare and one of those plot summaries you can find on the internet and I made my way through, footnotes and all. I have read that this is considered one of his "lesser" plays. I liked it, but what do I know?
The theme is jealousy, specifically male jealousy. King Leontes observes his best friend King Polixenes being overly nice to Leontes's pregnant wife and spirals down into insane and violent jealousy. Everyone is harmed: the friend, the wife, the young son and heir, and the newborn baby.
The rest of the play trails through a complicated maze of secrets, mistaken identities, comedy, and madness. It's a mess and ends with some things made right though the damage cannot be undone. Jealousy + Power = Bad.
I was made to read Othello and maybe a couple others in high school and college. All I remember is "the quality of mercy is not strained" and "to be or not to be." As an adult I have read A Midsummer Night's Dream and liked it. The Tempest was also not bad.
I know the Bard has influenced literature as much as, if not more than, the Bible and folk tales. Having read The Winter's Tale surely did enrich my enjoyment of The Gap of Time which I finished last night.
Have I made a breakthrough as a reader? Have I grown up enough? Do you read Shakespeare?
(The Winter's Tale is available in many paperback editions with summaries and footnotes by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)