The Winter’s Tale as Tudor Family Allegory

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

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