Not one of the Bard's best efforts

The Winter's Tale (The New Cambridge Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare

Some people have suggested that when it comes to very old, or even ancient literature, the fact that we still have it is testimony to the lasting quality of that work, and as such it should not be rated, or more aptly receive a low rating, because of that. Okay, I agree that this is certainly the case when it comes to a lot of the ancient literature that we have, but I also suggest that maybe some rubbish has also come down to us. Then there is also the question of taste, meaning that while one may appreciate [author:Homer], one may also believe that [author:Virgil] is just a load of propaganderous rubbish that should never have been preserved (though that is not necessarily my opinion).


The thing with Shakespeare is that most of his works were preserved (though there is some debate over the exact nature of the allegedly lost play Loves Labour's Found), which means that not only do we have his timeless classics (such as [book:Hamlet]) we also have his rubbish, such as this play. Okay, I may be burnt at the stake by the Shakespearian Appreciation Society for suggesting that one of Shakespeare's plays was rubbish (though if they did that then they would have to burn every high school student who hates Shakespeare simply because they are forced to read him in school), but in the case of A Winter's Tale, I have to say that this is pretty much the case.


Okay, we have some confusion with geography, considering there is a scene set on a beach in Bohemia. Yes, that's right, a beach in Bohemia. If you are wondering what is so bad about a beach in Bohemia, well, here is a map of Bohemia:




Yep, that's right, it is land locked, and okay, you may suggest that it could be on a lake, or even a river, but since the main characters jumped on a ship and sailed to Bohemia, I get the impression that maybe, just maybe, the intention was to suggest that they were going across the sea. Okay, it would not be the first time that a major production company is a little (or a lot) loose with the truth – Hollywood does it all the time – and the audience probably didn't care, or didn't even realise (since a bulk of the audience were probably uneducated and illiterate), but because of this many of us have come to the conclusion that Shakespeare was not all that good with geography.


Then there is the other aspect of the play that seemed to come right out of nowhere. Here we are, watching some guy deliver a speech (on a beach in Bohemia) and then put a baby in a chest, when all of the sudden, completely out of left field, comes this:




Who proceeds to chase the character off stage, at which point a clown (or a fool, probably a fool, considering what he did) steps back onto the stage to tell the audience that he watched a bear run down the poor character and begin to rip him to pieces.




Nope, no photo of a bear ripping a human to pieces.

(show spoiler)





Seriously, there are plays that maybe such an event would make sense, but then I have read a lot of Shakespearian comedies and having a bear come in from off stage to rip somebody apart off stage does not seem to work. In fact, this is a comedy (or is supposed to be one) which means nobody is supposed to die. However, in a way the play doesn't seem to know what it is, and nor does the writer. The play begins with a king fuming with rage over the perception that maybe his wife has cheated on him, and he gets angrier and angrier until he reaches a point where he has effectively alienated everybody that he knows and loves. Then the play takes a dramatic shift from this very dark and tragic atmosphere and throws it into the idyllic atmosphere of the common person, and takes the different theme of the person of royal blood growing up among the common people and having no idea of their heritage, until it is suddenly revealed to them later on in the play. Finally, you have the last scene, which simply seems to be tacked on, where the wife, who we first thought was dead, turns out not to be dead, but is in fact a statue, and after the whole scene of the king moaning over how bad he had been and how unfair he had treated his wife, boom, suddenly she is no longer a statue, but back to her former self.


As I said at the beginning, not one of his best plays.