One of Shakespeare’s later plays, best described as a tragic-comedy, the play falls into two distinct parts. In the first Leontes is thrown into a jealous rage by his suspicions of his wife Hermione and his best-friend, and imprisons her and orders that her new born daughter be left to perish. The second half is a pastoral comedy with the “lost” daughter Perdita having been rescued by shepherds and now in love with a young prince. The play ends with former lovers and friends reunited after the apparently miraculous resurrection of Hermione.
John Pitcher’s lively introduction and commentary explores the extraordinary merging of theatrical forms in the play and its success in performance. As the recent Sam Mendes production at the Old Vic shows, this is a play that can work a kind of magic in the theatre.
About the Authors
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born in Stratford-upon-Avon where his father was a prosperous glover. His early life is obscure, but he married Anne Hathaway in 1682 with whom he had two children. By 1592 he was establishing himself in London, and over the next twenty years he wrote thirty-seven plays-and contributed to many more-was a prolific poet, and was taken up by several influential patrons. His Sonnets were first printed in 1609 by George Eld for Thomas Thorpe. The identity of Mr. W.H. to whom the Sonnets are dedicated remains a mystery, as does the identity of the aristocratic youth in the Sonnets and the enigmatic Dark Lady.
John Pitcher is Professor of English at St John's College, Oxford.
One of Shakespeare's more problematic romances gets a picture-book treatment in Coville's new rendition. Jealous King Leontes suspects without reason that his wife and best friend are having an affair. Despite the protests of his most trusted advisors, he sentences his wife to death and demands that her newborn babe be cast into the wilderness. There the child is discovered by a kindly shepherd and raised as a peasant until the day a wayfaring prince falls in love with her. In true Shakespearean fashion, all works out well in the end with true identities discovered, families reunited and multiple weddings to boot. For a tale of suspected infidelity and death, author and artist do as much as they can for what boils down to a fairly adult story. Some judicious editing of the text would not have been out of place - the character of Autolycus weighs down an otherwise succinct narrative. Yet the cleverly selected direct quotes and theatrical watercolor and gouache images make this a more than adequate companion to the original play. (Picture book/play. 7-10) (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: The Arden Shakespeare
For Ages: 18+ years old
Number Of Pages: 464
Published: 1st August 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 20.7 x 13.3
Weight (kg): 0.55
Edition Number: 3