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Group Readings > The Winter's Tale, Act 2, Dec 8-15

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2636 comments Mod
Discussion 2018...of Act 2 begins here...


message 2: by JamesD (new)

JamesD | 465 comments Righto. How old is Mamillius then? At first I thought he was mid teens, a young man, but in the opening scene of act 2 he deplores being 'treated like a child' and then like a child he sits and whispers a story in his mother's ear. A story is being told in A Winter's Tale but we don't get to hear it, as the tale for wintery real unfolds; enter Leontes absolutely firm in his belief of being cuckolded, when everyone in the vicinity doubts the liklihood of it.
So is this a moral tale unfolding, about unwarranted jealousy and the damage it can do? Most people will recognise the situation and most people when they are involved are surprisingly helpless in it. Or is there more? I'll read on.


message 3: by Lucinda (last edited Dec 09, 2018 05:50AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments James, the notes in my Penguin edition make Mamillius about seven.
It's intriguing the way Shakespeare makes the boy begin, 'There was a man...dwelt by a churchyard...' and that is all we hear. I believe that line has been taken by later writers of ghosts stories, like M R James...
That made me wonder, if this a culture where they in fact would have had churchyards? But I must admit to ignorance about when this story is meant to be set. Without wishing to write a spoiler, Perdita later takes part in buccolic rituals that seem to be late mediaeval or early Tudor. Yet, somehow, I can't shake off the impression that there is something of classical Greece about the first act, and I don't know why I think that. I know Shakespeare took the earlier play by Robert Green, 'Pandosto' as a source, but I don't know in what era that earlier one is set. (It is interesting that Shakespeare borrowed from Green when Green had earlier written so dismissively of him: very likely Green realised what a mistake he had made).


message 4: by JamesD (last edited Dec 09, 2018 02:49PM) (new)

JamesD | 465 comments Lucinda. Seven! I guess that makes sense - the whispered storytelling in mother's ear etc.
RE the time setting - Shakespeare can be jarringly anachronistic. I think a trip Delos to consort with the oracles will not be out of order, and a child telling a story about a man who dwelt by a church yard could be some sort of secret code perhaps!
Now that we're in Act 2 I have to say that I love the Paulina character. I see her as large in body and even manly. She is hilarious and really shows Leontes up. And of course she would have been played by a male actor in Shakespeare's time and this would have made the role funnier.


message 5: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments James: Silly me - I forgot about the Delos oracle. It must have been that which gave it the air of Ancient Greece in the first half (apart from the churchyards). Paulina I remember as very strong; she tells Leontes where to get off repeatedly.


message 6: by JimF (new)

JimF | 207 comments Title of this play comes from this dialogue. Few notable things:
1. The play isn’t really sad, and has little to do with Winter.
2. Why Hermione keeps asking her son to sit down to break the tale?
3. Why “give it me in mine ear”?
MAMILLIUS.
A sad Tale’s best for Winter:
I have one of Sprights, and Goblins.

HERMIONE.
Let’s have that (good Sir.)
Come-on, sit down, come-on, and do your best,
To fright me with your Sprights: you’re powerful at it.

MAMILLIUS.
There was a man.

HERMIONE.
Nay, come sit down: then on.

MAMILLIUS.
Dwelt by a Church-yard: I will tell it softly,
Yond Crickets shall not hear it.

HERMIONE.
Come on then, and give it me in mine ear.

LEONTES.
. . .

If we search the word Winter, this “sixteen Winters” (in Act 5) is suspicious, because Edward VI (1537–53) died when he was sixteen:
CAMILLO [to Leontes].
My Lord, your Sorrow was too sore laid-on,
Which sixteen Winters cannot blow away, . . .



message 7: by Lucinda (last edited Dec 14, 2018 09:10AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Jim, interesting. It is odd that Hermione keeps interrupting Mamillius, but perhaps it is the way some fond adults treat children, hardly paying attention to what they are saying because of their 'encouragement'.


message 8: by JimF (new)

JimF | 207 comments Lucinda wrote: "... some fond adults treat children ..."

This dialogue is common for stage audiences. It may mean more because the play’s title is set here.

For Readers

“Fond” is the right word. Leontes enters this scene early. He watches them. He cannot stand the boy close to Hermione (“give it me in mine ear”). He takes away the boy from her right away.

For Decoders

The insertion of “come sit down” can modify “a man,” a hint that the “man” is Mamillius himself.

Dwelt...yard splits Edward as Edw-ard (Dwe___ _ard). Mamillius (Edward VI) is doomed in this sad tale.

The word sad does not match with Sprights, Goblins, and fright. Winter can spell Edward except letter a and d; sad Winter can spell Edward.

Why Sprights and Goblins?

Anne Boleyn was charged of adultery with Mark Smeaton (a musician),
Henry Norris (a courter), Francis Weston (a gentleman), William Brereton (a groom), and George Boleyn (Anne’s brother).

The “one of Sprights, and Goblins” can spell Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn. Goblin may be derived from Boleyn. Anne died gracefully on scaffold, that saved her daughter later Queen Elizabeth.

This play brings back the life and honor of Hermione and Anne Boleyn, a smart way to flatter Queen Elizabeth.


message 9: by JimF (new)

JimF | 207 comments Why Crickets?
MAMILLIUS.
Dwelt by a Church-yard: I will tell it softly,
Yond Crickets shall not hear it.
Crickets can’t hear the tale, of course. Crickets (metonymy) indicate certain people Shakespeare wanted to avoid. If we follow the same coding method (anagram), Crickets can be critics. Thomas Middleton explained this in his masque The World Tossed at Tennis (1620):
ST JAMES’S PALACE.
Thou breedest crickets,
I think, and that will serve for the anagram to a critic.
Some say Middleton collaborated with Shakespeare in Macbeth, Timon of Athens, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure. He was one of the poets protected by Wilton House like Ben Jonson.


message 10: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Fascinating research, Jim.
Paulina's conviction that Leontes, on seeing the baby, will be softened by the resemblance to him, misfires so horribly that this seems like tragedy, even though we know that there is a 'comic' outcome to all the misfortune.
Of course, in Greece of ancient times, I believe they did, horribly, sometimes expose unwanted children - particularly girl children, as I recall - so it would presumably be a little less horrible to Leonetes' court than to a later age - it is still seen as a terrible deed by all the courtiers.
As Hermione says, it is odd that Leontes should imagine that she would fnd death terrifying, after what has happened to her:
'The bug which you would fright me with, I seek.'


message 11: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments Lucinda wrote: "Paulina's conviction that Leontes, on seeing the baby, will be softened by the resemblance to him, misfires so horribly that this seems like tragedy, even though we know that there is a 'comic' outcome to all the misfortune. "

I read that scene straight. It didn't strike me as one of S's humorous scenes. It is true that Winter's Tale is one of the plays where S blends humor and tragedy, so maybe I missed the emphasis.

I read this scene as Paulina making a heroic, impassioned attempt at being the voice of reason, and her failure was heartbreaking.

I guess it would be up to the individual theater companies to play the scene for laughs or tears. One of the MND movies, I think it's the Kevin Kline one from '99, plays the Pyramus and Thisbe scene partly straight. It's very effective, and I never would have predicted it would work that way.

Regarding anachronisms: I don't think historical accuracy was ever a concern of Shakespeare's.


message 12: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2636 comments Mod
I had forgotten how tense and paranoid the first and second act wee. I said earlier this was one of my favourite plays....however as I finished Act 2 this week I found myself so annoyed by the Leonetes! So jealous and bitter!

I see the Winters Tale title as referring to older age, if not exactly old age. The reference to nine full moons (pregnancy too) but that seasons and moons indicate old age. Winter being November and December metaphors for age.

Compared to the boys being sweet young lambs as children in brotherhood... now their age has made them not innocent but bitter. Very sad.

Maybe the child must whisper in his Mother’s ears because the mother knows the old man will discourage storytelling and mystery/fairytales. I’m guessing that he must have told his mother a magical childlike fairytale that fathers would believe make boys weak and effeminate.

My intro by Frank kermode says “the faerie queen” is an influence on this play. (Shall we try to read the fairy queen and Arcadia in the spring as a group?)


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