September 18th, 2007

Tea-drinker par excellence

And thereby hangs a tale

I finished the Winter's Tale this morning. And then I read the intro which includes a summary of everything that happens, saving the bacon of many a lazy student. But not me. No, I slogged through the whole thing including Act IV Scene 4 which seems as long as the rest of the play put together.

So the hard-hearted, and headed, Sicily sends his favourite courtier off with his daughter, to expose her on the coast of Bohemia. He is also told that his wife and son are dead, from grief, or perhaps the silliness they had so far endur'd.

So far the play has been all tragedy, pretty much everyone is dead except the brooding King and the Queen's handmaiden Paulina. But now, we come to the comedy part in which Mr S kills off the entire crew that took the babe to Bohemia and the trusty courtier. Oh, how we laughed as he was torn limb from limb by a bear. Given that a bear pit was just down the road from the Globe, I can imagine that they might even have had a chained bear on stage. Perdita is taken in by a passing shepherd and his idiot son.

Then 16 years pass, which enables the baby, Perdita, to come of age, even if nobody else gets visibly any older or wiser. There's a long scene at a pastoral fete in which Bohemia discovers that his son has promised his hand to Perdita, the peasant girl. She is pretty in that way only the nobility can be (q.v. most of the Royal Family) but no prince can marry a commoner. Cursed by the King, they elope to Sicily. There's some roguish sort hanging around who manages to cheat the shepherd of his money three times and prolong the agony so that Bohemia not learn of his putative d-i-l's heritage.

Now everyone turns up in Sicily and to keep things on a roll, this whole act is shorter than the previous scene. There's a half-hearted attempt at mistaken identity comedy but the reunion scene is described by some present nobles rather than played, cutting out any of that pointless emotion and bringing closure. And then, at the very end, the statue of Hermione, Sicily's dead wife, turns out to be Hermione herself, magically preserved. And how came about this miracle, "Knowing by Paulina that the oracle | Gave hope thou wast in being, have preserved | Myself to see the issue."

I pickled myself to see how it turns out. Would that I had done the same, and not had to read the whole silly thing.

PS. I was just going to post my blog entries to Penguin for my review but my 6,648 characters (including spaces) does not fit in their 2,000 character box. Perhaps I'll just replace very second syllable with an apostrophe, to match the play.