Considered one of Shakespeare’s most haunting tragic-comedies, The Winter’s Tale is an in-depth analysis of the psychology of family and friendship, jealousy and love, art and nature, all illustrated in rich poetry.
Based on Robert Greene’s story Pandosto, the play tells the story of Leontes, king of Sicilia, and his childhood friend, Polixenes, king of Bohemia. In a jealous rage, Leontes mistakenly accuses Polixenes and his own his wife, Hermione, of adultery and her newborn daughter as illegitimate, casting her into the wilderness, causing their son to die of grief and Hermione to seemingly follow suit. With his family dead or believed dead, Leontes must face the tragic consequences of his actions. With unbridled honesty and the pain of love, the final act is one of Shakespeare’s most moving reconciliation scenes.
The setting is Sicily, and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, is visiting his childhood friend, Sicily’s King, Leontes. Leontes suspects that his wife Hermione and Polixenes are having an affair and he becomes murderously jealous. Leontes tells Camillo, one of his lords, that he wants him to poison Polixenes. Camillo, however, informs Polixenes of the plan, and the two men quickly depart for Bohemia.
Shakespeare took much of the story from Pondasto, A Triumph of Time by Robert Greene, a contemporary of his who had little admiration for the playwright. Shakespeare changed the story by giving it a happy ending.
This annotated edition includes a biography and critical essay.
Known as “The Bard of Avon,” William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest English-language writer known. Enormously popular during his life, Shakespeare’s works continue to resonate more than three centuries after his death, as has his influence on theatre and literature. Shakespeare’s innovative use of character, language, and experimentation with romance as tragedy served as a foundation for later playwrights and dramatists, and some of his most famous lines of dialogue have become part of everyday speech.
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