Ah, Sicilia. Or, if you’re not Italian, Sicily. It’s a beautiful place from what I’ve read, although, I’ve never seen it in person. Anywhere that has canyons like the one pictured below is somewhere I’d like to visit.
I think an island just off the coast of Italy is just the right setting for one of Shakespeare’s romances with a supernatural twist, The Winter’s Tale.
King Leontes of Sicilia is enjoying the visit of his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia. Leontes’ wife, Hermione is pregnant with their second child. Polixenes feels that he must return to Bohemia, but Leontes pleads with him to stay. As a last resort, Leontes asks Hermione to persuade his dear friend to remain with them a little while longer. Hermione successfully convinces Polixenes to continue his visit, but Leontes is suspicious of how quickly his friend gave in to his wife’s request. He has no doubt that his wife has been unfaithful to him with his best friend. He confides this belief in his most trusted servant, who tells him that he is being foolish. The servant warns Polixenes, and the two flee. Hermione, however, is thrown in jail, where she delivers her child, a daughter. Leontes will not believe the child is his and sends to the oracle for the truth. As the truth is revealed and his family disappears around him, Leontes realizes his mistake and searches for a way to absolve himself.
I’ve often been told that I have a soothing voice, perfect for narrating storybooks. I often think that I should make a career for myself by narrating boring tales in a both soothing and dramatic manner. The Winter’s Tale certainly needs such a narration. Not that it was particularly bad… I just happen to particularly dislike it. The majority of the characters were irritating and unrelatable (with the exception of Hermione, who isn’t around much). The plot has its good points, but I think this is a case when it could have been better executed without blank verse. On the whole, my classmates agreed with me. There was little good they had to say about this romance. I think that perhaps this had something to do with the fact that we had six Shakespeare plays previous to this; we were tired of the Bard.
It did not help that the ending to The Winter’s Tale was almost entirely unbelievable. Yes, I understand that you have to suspend your disbelief, but in this case… I couldn’t get myself to suspend it. Hermione dies at her trial, but in the end she magically comes back to life through a statue of herself. It was really too much. Part of the problem is that the reader doesn’t know if she really comes back to life or if Paulina (a lady in waiting/noblewoman) has been hiding her all this time. One is entirely unbelievable, and the other is really rather boring. Neither make for a satisfying ending.
A silent film version of The Winter’s Tale was made in 1910. It is only twelve minutes long, so I’d say it’s worth a watch. Plus, it’s rather humorous. An entire Shakespeare play done silently in twelve minutes? I suppose if you take the blank verse out, it could be quite a bit shorter…
In my opinion, Shakespeare has many better plays out there. Skip The Winter’s Tale and try Macbeth instead if you want some supernatural activity.