Summer Shakespeare II

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2016: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 15 - Aug. 10

June 15:
The Comedy of Errors
Shakespeare's Sources

June 22:
Coriolanus
Rhetoric

June 29:
NONE

July 6:
The Winter’s Tale
Dramatic Unities

July 13:
Antony and Cleopatra
Characterization and Time

July 20:
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Shared Characters

July 27:
Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3
History and Politics

August 3:
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Theatricality

August 10:
All’s Well That Ends Well
The Problem Comedies

The Winter’s Tale

Things to consider while reading The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale is indisputably one of the oddest of Shakespeare’s plays. I have always seen it as a kind of foil to Romeo and Juliet, which effectively starts off in a comic mode, and takes a sharp turn for the tragic about halfway through — at the death of Mercutio. This one works the other way around. It begins in a bleak, oppressive tragedy, and by the end of the third act things are grim and dark. Then, suddenly everything is reversed, almost whimsically, and the result is what is sometimes labeled as a comedy, but sometimes as a romance.

A narrative retelling of The Winter’s Tale from Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb is linked here at the Eldritch Press Site.

Here is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s page on The Winter’s Tale, containing a brief synopsis of the play and the production history with the company.

Here’s a summary of The Winter’s Tale on film.


The Winter’s Tale and what has come before

The Winter’s Tale clearly differs markedly from a work like The Comedy of Errors, in that it is rooted in the soil of genuine tragedy, and draws very little of its humor from farce or comical misunderstandings.


The Dramatic Unities

Aristotle in his Poetics laid down a concept that plays should be controlled by three unities: unity of plot, unity of time, and unity of place. The unity of plot merely means that the story should be about one thing, rather than many. Unity of time means that it happens “in real time” — without intervening gaps taking place. Unity of place refers to the idea that the play takes place in a single location.


Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)


Symmetries in the play


Problems in the play