The True Comedy In The Winter's Tale

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William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is ambiguous in nature, defying traditional genre criteria in the fact that deciding its true genre is dubious, and ultimately is to be determined by the readers. Moreover, an abundance of critics are intent on categorizing it to the ‘tragic’ genre, rather than a true comedy, due to the extent of misfortune that transpires. Despite this, Shakespeare himself placed it alongside the other comedies, hence, why this opposition prompts it to be regarded as a ‘problem’ play. A true comedy is considered a “drama written in a light, amusing, or satirical style and having a happy or conciliatory ending.” (Dictionary, Oxford English.), yet The Winter’s Tale is written with a somber tone and features callous acts,…show more content…
Shakespeare maintains this harrowing perspective for the first three acts, until the end of the third, which features the beginning of few comic moments, perhaps to distract the readers from the insensitive acts and dismal atmosphere that began the play. Orsino and Olivia in his festive comedy, Twelfth Night, demonstrate the norm for Shakespeare’s comedies; where experiences reveal the true personalities of characters; although the reader is already aware of this, and the lack of self-knowledge, as well as the eventual exposure, is humorous and adds to the enjoyment of the play. Evidently, The Winter’s Tale opposes this notion entirely as it becomes clear that the moment of awareness in the play arises with dismay; “the queen, / The sweet 'st, dear 'st creature 's dead, / and vengeance for 't / Not dropp 'd down yet.” (3.2.197-199). In any case, the emphasis in these comedies is on the ridiculousness of the character; yet, unlike the other comedies, the ludicrous behaviour of Leontes results in tragedy, not comedy. Productions of The Winter’s Tale demonstrate how this notion occurs through self-understanding of the play; be it through stage set-up or the portrayal of characters. The Royal Opera House’s musical version of the trial…show more content…
All tragedy aside, there is a reason for Shakespeare’s placing of The Winter’s Tale within the genre of comedies, and it is possible to say that the end of the third acts marks the beginning of a more light-hearted approach to the play. Akin to his other plays, a ‘pastoral world’ or ‘green world’ emerges, bringing with it, peace and harmony, where issues become resolved. The introduction of the bear distracts from the seriousness of Leontes’ jealousy and tragic mistakes, allowing a moment of euphoria when it almost ‘chases away’ the tragedy that occurred in the ‘city’. It can be said that the discovery of the lost Perdita illustrates the end of the “winter’s tale” and the arrival of the “spring to th’earth” (5.1.150); bringing with her, renewal and revival for the old shepherd. Despite her upbringing as a shepherdess, her innate nobility shines through, providing relief to the play. Moreover, parallels with the other comedies reoccur with the presentation of the Clown, instead of the traditional fool, highlighting his kind heart, but foolish ways. Relief accompanies him, as humour ensues with his naïveté and the role he plays to counter the sophistication of the courtiers in the play. Nonetheless, these are only minor incidents that display the characteristics of a comedy, and the ending provides a powerful epiphany that completely counteracts the initial tragedy. The ‘resurrection’ of Hermione brings to mind the word “Tale” from the title, as the imitation of life

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