“The Winter’s Tale” Overview (02:07)
Actor Simon Russell Beale introduces this "desperate, haunting tale" written by William Shakespeare. The story revolves around King Leontes whose obsession leads him to destroy his family. It was written five years before Shakespeare’s death.
Shakespeare's Portrayal of Jealousy (03:32)
Beale recalls playing Leontes in 2009, saying the character still haunts him. Beale and author Andrew Dickson discuss the “bleak and shocking” story told in "The Winter's Tale."
Opening Scene of "The Winter's Tale" (08:32)
King Leontes is happily married and his wife is expecting a second child. His friend Polixenes has been visiting, and Leontes’s wife, Hermione, convinces him to stay. Little does she suspect the irrational jealousy stirring in the King.
"The Winter's Tale": Escalates (02:09)
Camillo refuses to murder Polixenes, and the two escape together. Hermione’s son, Mamillius, starts to tell her a ghost story, but Leontes storms in with an outrageous accusation.
Parallels With Real Life (03:10)
Despite its portrayal of an unhinged monarch, “The Winter’s Tale” was performed at the wedding of King James’s daughter. Beale joins Paulina Kewes of Jesus College to discuss the occasion and historical scandals that provide context for the story.
“The Winter’s Tale”: Confronts Leontes (02:55)
Leontes imprisons Hermione, and his wife gives birth in captivity. Noblewoman Paulina insists that the king accept his newborn daughter. Instead, the deranged monarch orders the child to be killed.
“The Winter’s Tale”: Hermione Stands Trial (04:18)
Leontes orders Antigonus to abandon the newborn. He puts Hermione on trial but seeks the advice of the Oracle of Delphi, attempting to seem fair. The oracle judges Hermione to be innocent, but Leontes won’t accept the verdict. The proceedings are interrupted by news that Mamillius has died.
“The Winter’s Tale”: Hermione's Death (04:12)
An enraged Paulina delivers news that the queen has also died; but presently, she takes pity on him. Beale meets with vicar Sam Wells to discuss one of the play’s themes: forgiveness.
“The Winter’s Tale”: “Exits, Pursued by a Bear.” (03:33)
Antigonus washes up on the coast of Bohemia with the baby princess before being chased offstage by one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions. A shepherd and his son discover the infant and gold that have been left behind.
“The Winter’s Tale”: Bohemia (06:35)
The abandoned princess, Perdita, has grown up as the shepherd’s daughter and fallen in love with Polixenes’s son, Florizel. Polixenes and Camillo meet the kids while in disguise. Beale meets with composer Simon Slater to discuss the character Autolycus and music that is integral to the story’s shift in tone.
“The Winter’s Tale”: Leontes Reunites With Daughter (03:12)
Leontes visits his wife’s grave daily, with Paulina reminding him of his guilt. Florizel and Perdita visit, and the king initially has no idea he is looking at his long-lost daughter.
“The Winter’s Tale”: Hermione Returns (08:40)
Leontes is overwhelmed by a strangely lifelike statue of Hermione that Paulina has recently added to her gallery. He is further stunned as it comes to life. Experts comment on themes explored in the play.
Credits: The Winter's Tale with Simon Russell Beale (01:02)
Credits: The Winter's Tale with Simon Russell Beale
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