Winter’s Tale (The)

By William Shakespeare
June 1 2005
directed by Cynthia Croot

Polixenes, King of Bohemia, is nearing the end of his nine-month visit to Sicilia, the country of his boyhood friend, King Leontes. When Leontes' pregnant wife, the charming Queen Hermione, convinces Polixenes to extend his stay, Leontes is suddenly overwhelmed by jealousy. Thinking that Hermione has been unfaithful to him with the Bohemian king, Leontes solicits Camillo, a lord, to poison Polixenes. Camillo instead ushers Polixenes to safety in Bohemia. Interpreting this sudden flight as proof of the clandestine relationship, Leontes imprisons Hermione, keeping her from their son, young Prince Mamillius. Hermione gives birth to a baby girl, which Paulina, a lady of the court, brings before Leontes, hoping the sight of his child will melt his rage. Leontes instead orders Paulina's husband Antigonus to abandon the baby on a far-off shore. Hermione is put on trial, where she must plead her case, and two messengers, who were sent to inquire of the Delphic Oracle, return to announce Hermione's innocence. They also inform the king that he will have no successor to the throne if "that which is lost be not found. " A furious Leontes condemns the oracle, and insists on Hermione's guilt. Word is brought to the courtroom that the young Mamillius, overcome with worry over his mother's imprisonment, has died. At this, Hermione collapses and is carried offstage. As Leontes begins to regret his actions, Paulina returns to announce that Hermione is dead. Meanwhile, the boat that carries Antigonus and the baby, whom he names Perdita, arrives by chance at the shores of Bohemia in a terrible storm. After abandoning Perdita with a few valuables and a letter, Antigonus meets his untimely end after one of Shakespeare's most celebrated stage directions: "exit pursued by a bear. "Perdita is found by a shepherd and raised as his daughter. Sixteen years pass, and Perdita falls in love with Prince Florizel, the son of Polixenes. Polixenes and Camillo arrive in disguise at a sheep-shearing party held by Perdita, and amidst the merriment of the servant-turned thief Autolycus, who arrives to sing his songs and sell his stolen wares, Florizel and Perdita reveal their intent to marry. Polixenes is enraged that his son wants to marry the shepherdess. Camillo, who has long desired to return to his homeland, concocts a plan to bring Florizel and Perdita to Sicilia. They are followed by Polixenes, the shepherd, the shepherd's son and Autolycus the thief. Leontes, who has been grieving over his lost queen, prince and princess for the past sixteen years, welcomes the entourage from Bohemia. Perdita's identity is discovered, Polixenes and Leontes are reconciled, and Florizel and Perdita are given their fathers' blessings to marry. The citizens of Sicilia recount the miracle of the reunion between the friends and family, and they are amazed that what was lost has been restored. However, there is one more miracle that Paulina has to share, a miracle that only belongs in fairy tales.

Date Time
Wednesday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

Dramaturg: Amanda Holden Bridgit Antoinette Evans as Paulina; Aimee Phelan-Deconinck as Hermione; Kyle K. Lewis as Mamillius; Stephen Weitz as Leontes According to JRR Tolkien, quoted in Bruno Bettleheim's classic book The Uses of Enchantment, every good fairy tale needs a few specific elements: "fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation - recovery from deep despair, escape from some great danger, but, most of all, consolation [in the form of] a sudden joyous 'turn'. However fantastic or terrible the adventure, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the 'turn' comes, a catch of breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to tears." This is one aspect of the powerful potential in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale - not just to movingly render tragic events, but to provide the time and space to discover the "sudden joyous turn" we often find in fairy tales. In fact, one of the early inspirations for our production of The Winter's Tale came from studying children's book illustrators from the early 1900's. In particular, we were drawn to illustrator Kay Nielsen. Nielsen's dramatic depictions of stories like East of the Sun and West of the Moon conjure an exotic fantasy realm, incorporating the oriental and art nouveau elements that dominated the art of his time. In the months leading up to production, our fascination with Nielsen's elegant, evocative work became the foundation for much of our set and costume design. In the same chapter where he discusses that "sudden joyous turn," Bettleheim suggests yet another element common to many fairy tales - "a threat to the hero's physical or moral existence." He posits that "...deep concentration is required for personal growth. This is typically symbolized in fairy tales by years devoid of overt events, suggesting inner, silent developments - a period of growing, of finding themselves, an era of recovery." In the structure of The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare has also given us that "era of recovery." The events in the first third of the play threaten the very existence of Sicilia - they are so dark as to be almost overwhelming. Then Shakespeare relieves us with a bucolic caesura called Bohemia - a place where youthful love and hope for the future grow unspoiled. He knows that we need time to prepare for our return to Sicilia. He hasn't merely given us a simplistic, consoling fairy tale - he's woven a complex narrative where characters return home, but it is not the place we left, and where they reconcile but they are forever changed. A leap of fury - a leap of time - and a leap of faith. The possibility for forgiveness grows during that passage of time, and this is the great gift at the heart of The Winter's Tale - not just Shakespeare's profound closure, but the opportunity we are each given as spectators to reckon with our own mistakes, to look inside our hearts as individuals (and as society as a whole) and to ask ourselves - What do we need to do in order to be worthy of forgiveness? And how would our lives be transformed if we, in turn, could truly forgive?

Polixenes, King of Bohemia, is nearing the end of his nine-month visit to Sicilia, the country of his boyhood friend, King Leontes. When Leontes' pregnant wife, the charming Queen Hermione, convinces Polixenes to extend his stay, Leontes is suddenly overwhelmed by jealousy. Thinking that Hermione has been unfaithful to him with the Bohemian king, Leontes solicits Camillo, a lord, to poison Polixenes. Camillo instead ushers Polixenes to safety in Bohemia. Interpreting this sudden flight as proof of the clandestine relationship, Leontes imprisons Hermione, keeping her from their son, young Prince Mamillius. Hermione gives birth to a baby girl, which Paulina, a lady of the court, brings before Leontes, hoping the sight of his child will melt his rage. Leontes instead orders Paulina's husband Antigonus to abandon the baby on a far-off shore. Hermione is put on trial, where she must plead her case, and two messengers, who were sent to inquire of the Delphic Oracle, return to announce Hermione's innocence. They also inform the king that he will have no successor to the throne if "that which is lost be not found. " A furious Leontes condemns the oracle, and insists on Hermione's guilt. Word is brought to the courtroom that the young Mamillius, overcome with worry over his mother's imprisonment, has died. At this, Hermione collapses and is carried offstage. As Leontes begins to regret his actions, Paulina returns to announce that Hermione is dead. Meanwhile, the boat that carries Antigonus and the baby, whom he names Perdita, arrives by chance at the shores of Bohemia in a terrible storm. After abandoning Perdita with a few valuables and a letter, Antigonus meets his untimely end after one of Shakespeare's most celebrated stage directions: "exit pursued by a bear. "Perdita is found by a shepherd and raised as his daughter. Sixteen years pass, and Perdita falls in love with Prince Florizel, the son of Polixenes. Polixenes and Camillo arrive in disguise at a sheep-shearing party held by Perdita, and amidst the merriment of the servant-turned thief Autolycus, who arrives to sing his songs and sell his stolen wares, Florizel and Perdita reveal their intent to marry. Polixenes is enraged that his son wants to marry the shepherdess. Camillo, who has long desired to return to his homeland, concocts a plan to bring Florizel and Perdita to Sicilia. They are followed by Polixenes, the shepherd, the shepherd's son and Autolycus the thief. Leontes, who has been grieving over his lost queen, prince and princess for the past sixteen years, welcomes the entourage from Bohemia. Perdita's identity is discovered, Polixenes and Leontes are reconciled, and Florizel and Perdita are given their fathers' blessings to marry. The citizens of Sicilia recount the miracle of the reunion between the friends and family, and they are amazed that what was lost has been restored. However, there is one more miracle that Paulina has to share, a miracle that only belongs in fairy tales.

The World of the Play The Winter's Tale relates a family's journey to forgiveness. The play opens in Sicilia where a perfect family is destroyed by infectious jealousy. The passage of sixteen years and the transition to Bohemia offers the audience a respite from the tragic events. Like a breath of fresh air, a harvest festival marks the possibility of rejuvenation. The journey concludes with a return to Sicilia and the reconciliation of king, queen and their long-lost daughter. To forgive is not to forget, however, and Hermione's return does not erase the story's tragic beginning. True loss has been incurred: a young prince and a husband are dead, and a mother has missed sixteen years of her daughter's life. This play teaches us that time can bring healing change and peace: as in ancient mythology and Medieval fairy tales, a return home is always possible but there is a price to be paid for the journey. This sprawling plot evokes a fusion of ancient myth, fairy tale and epic poetry. Inspired by Medieval fairy tales, director Cynthia Croot's production blends an Eastern aesthetic with the illustrations of early 20th-century artist Kay Nielson. This fusion of styles reflects the far-flung story itself-the production will not be tied down to a single era but will explore the power of myth in a magical setting. David Barber's scene design creates a world of myth-inspired otherness. Hung from an iron arch wrought like the "tree of life," a curtain follows the family's journey as it changes from grandiose backdrop to ragged and water-stained reminder of better times. Deb Sivigny's costume designs use dark, lush materials to evoke the Kingdom of Sicilia while gossamers, lightweight sheers and shapeless tunics express the summery freedom of the Bohemian harvest festival.

I'll Take Romance: Shakespeare's Final Genre The Winter's Tale is a tricky play. If it is a comedy, as Shakespeare's colleagues Heminges and Condell claim in the 1623 First Folio, why are there so many deaths? If it is a tragedy, as the first three acts would have audiences believe, how does one justify the miraculous happy ending? Since it doesn't slide neatly into the familiar genres of comedy or tragedy, the play is assigned to the enigmatic category of Shakespeare's later "romance plays". Shakespeare's romances mingle the comic with the tragic, the mysterious with the mundane, the courtly with the provincial, and they are all linked by their use of magic as a tool of resolution. In addition to this cornucopia of styles, Shakespeare leaves audiences wondering at his ceaseless supply of theatrical devices in this play. A bear?A live statue? An abandoned baby? Containing elements of Greek tragedy, ancient mythology, Roman comedy and Warwickshire daily life, The Winter's Tale, written ca. 1611, came towards the end of Shakespeare's twenty-five-year writing career. Perhaps we should see it as Shakespeare's proclamation that life doesn't fit neatly into any one category and neither should theatre. The play contains some factual discrepancies. Act IV takes place in Bohemia, which is part of the modern-day Czech Republic. This region is landlocked yet Antigonus sails from Sicilia to Bohemia, an impossible feat. The play is not without anachronisms, either: Leontes consults the oracle at Delphi in Greece. The Delphic oracle, first settled in 1400 BCE, was considered insignificant after Constantine's conversion to Christianity in the 4th century CE. However, the sculptor of Hermione's statue is Julio Romano, a contemporary of Shakespeare's. How could a 16th century Renaissance artist coexist in the same play with the Delphic Oracle? These inconsistencies highlight the ethereal world of the play. Time, place and action all blur, diverge and commingle, leaving audiences scrambling to determine what it all means. Shakespeare often elaborated on well-known stories. His inspiration for The Winter's Tale was the 1588 story Pandosto by Robert Greene, a contemporary of Shakespeare who famously identified the popular young playwright as an "upstart crow" (a name taken by a well-known Boulder theatre company, by the way). Shakespeare used Greene's novel to form the basic premise of The Winter's Tale. In Greene's version, however, there is neither magical reconciliation nor bear, the comic character of Autolycus does not exist, and the story ends with the king's suicide. Perhaps to show that he could write a better Pandosto than the man who had insulted him, Shakespeare began with Greene's tragic story then stretched and bent it in all the right places to utilize a variety of genres, character types and stage gimmicks. Paulina tells Leontes "it is requir'd you do awake your faith", and audiences must do the same. Shakespeare throws anachronisms, contradictions and plot twists at us faster than we can say "too hot, too hot!" Perhaps in this play, one of his last, Shakespeare wanted us to loosen our strict expectations about theatre, and let this story roam. In this imaginary world where human-eating bears roam the forest, rogues swindle shepherds, and kings disguise themselves, we find a little bit of fantasy, and a little bit of truth. We find a little bit of laughter, and some tears as well. We find a tiny bit of winter and a little more of spring. This "upstart crow" grown old shows us, after all, how to appreciate a little bit of everything.