Some critics have claimed that the structure of 'The Winter's Tale;(William Shakespeare) is clumsy, others have claimed it to be a masterpiece of skilful construction. What are your views?

Essay by benfrench2003High School, 12th gradeA, May 2004

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Shakespeare wrote 'The Winter's Tale' when he was nearing the end of his life, and as a result of this it contains many different underlying themes which he wants his audience to consider. In order for these morals/ themes to be presented convincingly, the play must be constructed to integrate them in a natural way. Some critics feel that this effect is not achieved, such as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch- 'If we really prefer this sort of thing, which Gervinus calls 'in itself a rare masterpiece..' then Heaven must be our aid' . There are undoubtedly different views concerning the effectiveness of the structure of the play which need to each be taken into consideration if we are to draw an adequate conclusion.

There are, certainly, weaknesses within the play which could be attributed to the faults of the structure. For example, I think that the time period of the play could be criticized as being unconvincing.

The play can be divided into 3 parts according to location: we travel from Sicilia to Bohemia and then return to Sicilia again for the final part of the play. In Sicilia we hear of '23 days they have been absent', yet in Bohemia, where the longest scene takes place, the time period is merely a day. The theatrical conceit Shakespeare uses in Act 4 Scene 1 has also been attacked for the way it 'o'erthrow(s) law' and 'unfolds error'. The 'law' specifically alluded to here was the ruling of Renaissance dramatic critics about the 'unity of time' which stipulated that the action of a play should be completed in a single day, in contrary to that of 'o'er sixteen years' which Time unveils. Susan Willis tells us "The Winter's Tale seemed a jumble, an odd fusion of Othello and...