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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: August ::
The Ending of the Winter's Tale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0469  Monday, 31 August 2009

[1] From:   Martin Mueller <
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     Date:   Friday, 28 Aug 2009 13:51:35 -0500
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

[2] From:   Bruce Young <
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     Date:   Friday, 28 Aug 2009 12:59:13 -0600
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

[3] From:   Anna Kamaralli <
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     Date:   Saturday, 29 Aug 2009 01:34:27 +0000 (GMT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0459 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

[4] From:   Alan Dessen <
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     Date:   Friday, 28 Aug 2009 16:20:35 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

[5] From:   Joseph Egert <
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     Date:   Sunday, 30 Aug 2009 14:39:30 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0459 The Ending of the Winter's Tale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Martin Mueller <
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Date:       Friday, 28 Aug 2009 13:51:35 -0500
Subject: 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

I have always thought of the ending of the _Winter's Tale_ as an 
extravagant experiment that makes up for the equally extravagant 
experiment in _King Lear_. In the latter play, Shakespeare went against 
all the authorities of his sources and killed off Cordelia. In the 
former, he brought Hermione back to Life, against the explicit authority 
of Greene's _Pandosto_, his major source for the play.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Bruce Young <
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Date:       Friday, 28 Aug 2009 12:59:13 -0600
Subject: 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

Resurrection, the "miraculous restoration of life": yes, a universal 
longing. But aren't cynicism and hard-nosed "rationalism" in fact ways 
of dealing with the nagging worry that our deepest longings are only 
fantasies?

I think Shakespeare is playing with that when he has Paulina say:

Is't not the tenor of his oracle,
That King Leontes shall not have an heir
Till his lost child be found? which that it shall,
Is all as monstrous to our human reason
As my Antigonus to break his grave
And come again to me.

Of course, within a few minutes, Perdita returns -- but Antigonus 
doesn't. Even Hermione's return isn't a resurrection in the fullest and 
most literal sense. The New Testament reminds us that the doctrine of 
resurrection was considered "foolishness" by the Greeks; even the 
apostles themselves called the women's first report of Jesus' 
resurrection "idle tales" (Luke 24:11) -- a phrase I suspect Shakespeare 
had in mind in the play's references to "old tales."

The play thus allows us the possibility of taking a dismissive attitude. 
Still, in part with a happy ending that seems unlikely but that 
surprises us into belief, the play suggests that just because something 
is "monstrous to our human reason" doesn't mean it is impossible.

Bruce Young

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Anna Kamaralli <
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Date:       Saturday, 29 Aug 2009 01:34:27 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 20.0459 The Ending of the Winter's Tale
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0459 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

David has identified my favourite theatrical moment to use as a lens 
through which to examine our attitudes to a few perrenials (endings, 
happiness/sorrow, parent/child relationships, husband/wife 
relationships, regret, forgiveness, death, hope).

There has been a trend in performance in recent years for the closing 
scene to be melancholic in tone, and there has been an accompanying 
tendency to increase the role or presence of Mamillius (Hytner in 2001 
and Donnellan in 1999, for example, as well as the Hall production Lynn 
describes). I think this is simply a manifestation of our current 
enamouredness with ambiguity, ambivalence, and the dark side of the 
human journey. We think it's cooler these days to not be too hopeful, or 
too obviously into happy endings.

I don't think Adrian's assessment precludes a moving scene in the 
theatre, but I have an objection that lies elsewhere. Calling it a "male 
heterosexual fantasy", even as a criticism, makes the scene all about 
Leontes (as does Harold Bloom in his odious _Invention of the Human_, as 
did Hall's production, as did Declan Donnellan in his Russian 
production), when there are other people present who are just as 
important. It seems a perversion of the exquisite centering of that most 
rare thing, a mother-daughter relationship in Shakespeare, to speak of 
the scene as if it is there to serve Leontes, or to stage it thus.

Remember, Hermione's only words are to her daughter, expressly stating 
that it was in the hope of seeing Perdita that she "preserved myself", 
and including an injunction for her to speak with her own voice. I came 
to similar conclusions to Lynn about Hall's production, though for 
slightly different reasons: I hated seeing Perdita obliterated from the 
concluding image. This play shows men trying and failing to silence 
women or control their voices. In this last scene Shakespeare not only 
shows their goal to be futile, he shows the men in question growing to 
the point where it is no longer what they want. The men are offered the 
perfect woman, the silent, pedestal-enthroned object of worship, and 
they actively reject this as an option, making clear their preference 
for a real woman who moves and is warm -- and who speaks. "Let her speak 
too." It seems to me the only way to do this theatrical justice is to 
ensure that in the final moments the men and women share the stage together.

Regards,
Anna Kamaralli

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Alan Dessen <
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Date:       Friday, 28 Aug 2009 16:20:35 -0400
Subject: 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0463 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

One question has not emerged in this discussion: to whom does Paulina 
address "It is requir'd / You do awake your faith"?  To Leontes alone? 
To all onstage? To the playgoer (or reader or critic of the last twenty 
years)?

And why the verb "awake"?

Alan Dessen

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Joseph Egert <
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Date:       Sunday, 30 Aug 2009 14:39:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0459 The Ending of the Winter's Tale
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0459 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

Lynn Brenner writes:

 >The Winter's Tale is a play about redemption. (As Paulina
 >says, "First, you must have faith.")

Is Shakespeare here making a theological point, after Marlowe, that Paul 
was a juggler, and his Saviour's resurrection a sham?

Curious,
Joe Egert

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