The Winter’s Tale as Tudor Family Allegory

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From the November 2014 School of Night series of live, interactive online Shakespeare classes. Dr. Michael Delahoyde, Professor of English & Humanities at Washington State University, discusses The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare's more obscure and baffling plays.

The title alone needs justification: the plot spans sixteen years and settles mostly in springtime. But more peculiar: if Shakespeare is so “universal,” what possible relevance to anyone is the story of a disowned girl whose brother dies young and whose insanely jealous father is responsible for the trial and death of her mother? 

Was Shakespeare's primary target-audience member his own Queen, for whom he provided therapeutic comfort regarding her own extremely dysfunctional family background: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Edward VI (and where is Bloody Mary)? We consider that through The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare even provides Elizabeth with a glimpse of a lost beloved family member through a kind of dramatic resurrection and a touching reconciliation.

Also available on School of Night: “This well-painted piece”: Renaissance Art in The Rape of Lucrece

ABOUT MICHAEL DELAHOYDE

Michael Delahoyde is a professor in the Department of English at Washington State University where he has been teaching Shakespeare and interdisciplinary humanities courses for 22 years. Delahoyde has published articles on Shakespeare, Chaucer, dinosaur films, children’s toys, and meat ads, and has been consulted and interviewed by producers at the Discovery Channel and Cinema Secrets, and by various magazines. He currently is managing editor for Brief Chronicles and frequently serves as a consultant on children’s books concerning monsters. Recently he has given authorship lectures in the San Francisco Bay Area through the California Shakespeare Theater's outreach program.