The Winter’s Tale: Country into Court

  • Graham Holderness
  • Nick Potter
  • John Turner
Part of the Contemporary Interpretations of Shakespeare book series (CIS)

Abstract

The two-part structure of The Winter’s Tale, with its shift from courtly Sicilia to pastoral Bohemia, isolates and defines its image of court society with an unmistakable clarity.

The Winter’s Tale has hatred in the first part and love, where there was hatred, in the last … Not only does the middle part stir the mind and heart of itself, but by the contrast of its beauty, love, youth, confidence, happiness, country life, and venial roguery, it intensifies the dramatic effect of the ugliness, the oppressive adult madness, hatred and murderous crime at court in the first part.31

Within the starkly-distinguished antitheses of pastoral convention, the Sicilian court is represented as the scene of suspicion, mistrust, surveillance, conspiracy, injustice, and tyranny; while the Arcadian simplicity of rural Bohemia reveals a society of freedom, openness, community and love. The two antagonistic stage-worlds of the play revolve around the polar axis of the famous sixteen-year gap, with its fill-in Chorus from a personified Time, and throw off a series of ancillary and subordinate oppositions: art versus nature; class-division against communal solidarity; tragedy confronted by comedy. As always in pastoral discourse the locus amoenus of the bucolic paradise provides a constant point of reference by which the constraints, inhibitions, corruptions and injustices of the court society may be measured.

Keywords

Assure Defend Lost Poss Metaphor 

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Copyright information

© Graham Holderness, Nick Potter and John Turner 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Holderness
  • Nick Potter
  • John Turner

There are no affiliations available

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