Monday, September 5, 2011

A Winter's Tale

I've never liked A Winter's Tale. It infuriates me the same way Othello does, in that there would be no problems if this man who is jealous for no reason at all would just talk to his wife and listen to what she says. I understand that were that to happen, there would be no plot. I'm willing to give Othello a pass and see it as a rich commentary on the impossibility of communication across genders, though, and I just can't do that with A Winter's Tale, for several reasons:
  • Genre - This is a tragicomedy that supposedly transitions from tragedy to comedy when A MAN GETS BRUTALLY MAULED BY A BEAR (If you've heard the famous phrase "Exit, pursued by a bear," this is where it comes from). I do not agree that this is the height of hilarity. I am much more willing to admit that the play is at its funniest during scenes when Jacobean nobility's hypocritical fondness for the pastoral is poked fun at.
  • Chronology - I'm no stickler for the Neoclassical Unities, but the only reason at all that sixteen years need to pass is for small children to grow into marriageable teenagers. Even if it wasn't based on something Robert Greene already wrote, it'd be horribly telegraphed and obvious. I know it's pastoral and fantasy and all that, but COME ON.
  • Gender (obviously) - SO MANY PROBLEMS HERE. Hermione is imprisoned even though she's truthful the whole time, but Leontes is allowed to change the rules of her trial whenever he wants. Paulina is the only person in the whole play willing to call Leontes on his nonsense, and she gets rewarded with disgrace at court and a dead husband (see note on bear above). When she gets remarried at the end, it's to Camillo, who is basically just standing there and also a liar and a spy. Not my kind of happy ending, no siree. That's not even talking about the whole Hermione-as-a-statue plot, which is obviously problematic from a feminist perspective. How does Leontes finally recognize he was a jerk to his wife? He LITERALLY objectifies her. Gross. I also have issues with the fact that Perdita radiates natural high-class vibes or something. How is that a thing?
I do not like this play. Blurgh. Tomorrow, I will be smart and formal again, maybe.

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