AD's English Literature : How To Learn William Shakespeare's "The Winter’s Tale" Better Than Anyone Else: Huge Diversity of Critical Responses

How To Learn William Shakespeare's "The Winter’s Tale" Better Than Anyone Else: Huge Diversity of Critical Responses


The Winter’s Tale has, for some reason, attracted a huge diversity of critical response. Some early critics see the play as the product of Shakespeare’s ‘serene retirement’ in Stratford. In fact, Shakespeare was not so old when he wrote the play, and by definition was not ‘retired if he was still writing play’s we do not know if he was serene at that time in his life, and even if we did it is always dangerous to draw too close links between an another’s life and his writing. Despite this, the view that the play was written by a man in the autumn of his years has some value. It point to the role of time in the play, and the belief that, given basic goodwill, all things can be resolved by time. There a desire for reconciliation and forgiveness above all things, and this could be side to be typical of the thought patterns of an older man. Another early critic saw the play as sowing Shakespeare bored with life, bored with drama, and bored with everything except poetry. Any view that operates with a total disregard of known facts and it rude about a great another is attractive, but the poetry in the play, although different from much of Shakespeare writing is not particularly remarkable, and for a bored man Shakespeare packs a remarkable amount of excitement and action into the play.

William Shakespeare
Other authors were writing exciting but improbable plays in the latter years of Shakespeare’s life most notably the duet of Francis Beaumont (1584 – 1616) and john Fletcher (1579 – 1625). It is possible that Shakespeare wrote the winter’s Tale to match the plays of his contemporaries; it is also possible that they wrote in emulation of Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s later years his company moved to the indoor Black friars Theatre; possibly The Winter’s Tale was written for the more luxurious stage effects of this theatre, but Forman saw the plays at the Globe, and it must have been designed, as were all Shakespeare’s plays, to be acted in a variety of settings.

Some critics have suggested a major religious conversion on Shakespeare’s part in the later years of his life, and that this is reflected in his later plays. A new set of moral principles does tend to emerge from the later plays, but that need not tie in with any religious conversion. More modern critics have suggested that the play were written by Shakespeare in his dotage, as consolation for the harshness of an old man’s lot. This would seem to like in with the earlier theory that Shakespeare wrote the play at a nadir of boredom, but again the theory relies too much on unproven biographical fact to be totally, reliable. It is, however , appropriate to the dream – like quality of the plays ending, and the increasing level of improbability as the play progresses. A final view that the play is part of an experiment, although it is not always clear from critics who support this view what the experiment is in aid of. One attractive solution is that the late plays seek combine the thoughts and outlooks of the histories, the comedies and the tragedies, in an attempt to product a composite blend of experience that partakes of all views and outlooks.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert,      
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
      3. Microsoft Students’ Encarta

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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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