King Leontes of Sicilia is seized by sudden and terrible jealousy of his wife Hermione, whom he accuses of adultery. He believes the child Hermione is bearing was fathered by his friend Polixenes, and when the baby girl is born he orders her to be taken to some wild place and left to die. Though Hermione's child escapes death, Leontes' cruelty has terrible consequences. Loss paves the way for reunion, and life and hope are born out of desolation and despair.
One of the late romances in Shakespeare's canon, this complex work is at times tragic, at times humorous, but always entertaining and enlightening.
Sinead Cusack plays Hermione, and Ciaran Hinda plays Leontes. Eileen Atkins is Paulina and Paul Jesson is Polixenes. Time the Chorus is played by Sir John Gielgud.
Public Domain (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
The actors all have stunning voices and play it as though on a stage. Follow with your written copy if you're studying it to get a sense of the tone. I'm not going to try and praise Shakespeare because anything I say can't be enough. It's a wonderful romance with a decent bit of drama and comedy. Drama and comedy combine with the famous stage direction of 'exit pursued by bear'. But it's a better story than to focus on this. Just listen and enjoy!
"Exit, pursued by a bear!"
"Is whispering nothing? Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses? Kissing with inside lip? Stopping the career Of laughter with a sigh?—a note infallible Of breaking honesty;—horsing foot on foot? Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift; Hours, minutes; noon, midnight? and all eyes Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only, That would unseen be wicked?—is this nothing? Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing; The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing; My is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings, If this be nothing."
I can see why this play is called "complex" and "problematic." The tone shifts completely from the first act to the last. It begins as a tragedy in which King Leontes becomes irrationally convinced that his wife, Hermione, has been committing adultery with his best friend, the King of Bohemia, and that her child is that of Polixenes. This leads to a lot of death and misery, which makes the final act, in which everyone is reconciled, a miracle occurs, and the play ends with a Happy Ever After more typical of Shakespeare's more straightforward comedies, almost dissonant.
That and the fact that it has few of Shakespeare's famous quotable lines is probably the reason why it's one of his less frequently performed plays, but I think it's a great and twisty tale, and if the ending was a bit deux ex machina, it's still rich in humor and tragedy, and well worth listening to.
"Exit, pursued by a bear!"
"Felt Like Two Different Plays"
I liked the play format and the narration was good. I also really enjoyed the first part of the play; the King's madness is quite evident in this portrayal. I found that part of the story very interesting and captivating.
Then we got to the last half of the play and I could not have been more bored. I don't know if it was the story line or the old language, but I didn't know what they were talking about some of the time nor did I care.
I rate the first half of the play a 4 and the second half a 2, for an overall rating of 3.
"A Lesser Known Shakespeare Gem"
I will listen to The Winter's Tale again in a year or two. Shakespeare was the master of the English language--his witticism and story telling ability is masterful. While this story is not one of his better known ones, its still very good and worth the listen. The cast did a fantastic job emoting the story without having to see them.
"Lovely story with great voice casting"
I did not know this play at all, although I really love Shakespeare. Beautiful cast and wonderfully performed! You won't be disappointed.
"What's not to enjoy?"
A world class audio performance of a seldom performed work by The Bard.
The pacing throughout the work was excellent. Yes, this has undoubtedly been edited, but most performances of Shakespeare are trimmed for the stage as well.
The interplay between Gielgud and Cusack is very good. The entire ensemble is very well cast.
An excellent choice for a broad audio library!
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