The Winter’s Tale is a perfect tragic comedy.
It is set in an imaginary world were Bohemia is on the coast and Greeks oracles coexist with renaissance sculptures.
It is split into three acts of tragedy followed by two acts of restorative comedy and resolution.
Between these acts sixteen years have passed, this has been considered a flaw by many critics as the lapse in time seems hasty and unnecessary.
This lapse of time highlights the disparity of theme setting and action between the two halves.
One half is set in the winter and illuminates the destruction of jealously and mistrust. This jealously controls and destroys the main family in the play.
The second half is set in spring and the spring intervenes and all the damage the king has created is undone, through coincidence, goodwill and miracle, as the statue of Hermione regains life and embraces her husband.
The force behind the tragedy stems from Leonte’s disbelief. As a result Leontes has attracted more critical interest than any other.
Leontes acts as an Othello who is his own Iago, he is a perfect paranoiac.
Leontes is convinced he has all the facts and is ready to twist them at any length.
Leontes madness is a terrifying thing: when he is told there is nothing between his wife and he responds friend "Is this nothing? / Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing, / The covering sky's nothing, Bohemia nothing, / My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings, / If this be nothing"(I.ii.292-296).
The roots of his jealousy seem to run deep and there are hints of insecurity and an inability to be truly separate from Polixenes. The only answer for Leontes is his own – in one of Shakespeare’s finer images “I have drunk, and seen the spider"(II.i.45).
In order to contrast with Leonte’s morbid and brooding nihilism and jealously Shakespeare creates Perdita , an epitome of spring, rebirth and revitalisation. Her lover Florizel is as constant and generous as Leontes is suspicious and cruel.
When Perdita appears covered in flowers and hands them out she symbolises Proserpina, the Roman goddess of spring. As Leontes is a tragic hero Prediata is a classic fairy tale heroine.
Perdita is a princess reared amongst civilians – who falls for a prince – and lives happily ever after.
Leontes casts Perdita out as an infant in Act III whilst truly consumed by his darkness. In Act V she returns and restores him.
The miracle of Hermione is closely linked to Perdita ’s energy as a saviour who brings life. Perdita allows the main characters in the play to be reborn.
This play is notable for its fantastic and rich group of supporting actors.
Hermione is exemplary character despite the fact she spends most her time defending herself. Whilst her friends Paulina acts as the voice of reason.
Leontes acts initially as the voice of madness and then the voice of penance once he realises his regret.
The shepherd and Camillo are both sympathetic characters.
Autolycus the peddler thief and minstrel who is a harmless and humorous villain. He is so harmless that he warms the hearts of the audience as they applaud him as he sings, dances and robs his way through the play.