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This is not particularly funny as comedies go (just as Cymbeline is not particularly tragic). The King of Sicilia becomes obsessed with his wife's relationship with the King of Bohemia; he hounds her to death (apparently) and has their baby daughter cast into the wilderness. Fortunately the girl survives, brought up by shepherds, to fall in love with the Bohemian prince. After some confusion (with a number of comedic moments) all is resolved happily; the dead queen is brought back to life, having been a statue (we are told) for fifteen years.

As with Cymbeline, there is a musical and dancing extravaganza, this time at the Bohemian sheep-shearing. I wonder if Shakespeare was under some semi-contractual obligation to include a spectacular musical scene? It depends a bit on the humorous character Autolycus, who dominates the relatively few scenes he is in.

And as for the ending, I'm totally convinced that Paulina has faked Hermione's death and the statue story is a cover the two of them have cooked up. I know that is not the usual interpretation, but it seems to me crystal clear from the script.

I was lucky enough to see the Sam Mendes / Simon Russell Beale production of this in Brooklyn earlier this year. The Arkangel audio version is inevitably only a partial substitute for the real thing. It also doesn't quite gel as some of the later productions do - sorry to bang on about accents again, but it seems off to have two Irish actors (Ciaran Hinds and Sinead Cusack) playing the king and queen of Sicilia, but sounding English - and yet to make the Bohemian peasants come from Mummerset. The standout performance, oddly, is the very very brief appearance of John Gielgud as Time.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
redfiona99
May. 5th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Given your previous reviews, are you sure you want Coriolanus in there and not Cymbeline?
nwhyte
May. 5th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
Er, good point
getawaywithit
May. 5th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
I know that is not the usual interpretation

That's interesting - I did this for 'A' Level, and while that was a while ago, I've always thought Paulina and Hermione faked her death, and I'm pretty sure that's the interpretation our teacher gave us as well. IIRC, Paulina's removed from the scene quite quickly after her supposed death, which adds weight to that interpretation especially in a play without any magical elements.
catilinarian
May. 13th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
That's the interpretation we were taught when I studied A Winter's Tale at university, too - Paulina faked Hermione's death.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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