Friday, April 24, 2009

Play of the Week: Winter's Tale

Many of Shakespeare's later plays deal with the theme of forgiveness. None more so than the story of Leontes who conjured in his mind the idea that his wife ha had an affair with his best friend. He had no real evidence for this notion. All his subjects begged him to repent and admit the truth that was staring him in the face. But he would not relent and took his own wife to trial for treason to the state.

What can you say in your defense at that point?

Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts my accusation and
The testimony on my part no other
But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
To say 'not guilty:' mine integrity
Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
Be so received.

There is nothing to say. So his wife, Hermione, devises a plan to fake her death - or rather embrace the death of their love that Leontes has imposed upon them both - until he finds the ability to forgive.

Twenty years later and through a wonderful second plot of rogues, clowns, lovers, and more forgiveness in true Shakespearean fashion, we return to find Leontes a changed man. He has live through the winter of his life - a cold and lonely world devoid of his wife. It is only after so many years that he has finally realized what he's lost.

But then in a moment of magic and luck, he finds his long lost daughter - the child that was thought of as being bastard and from which all the trouble stemmed, is found. The girl reminds him so much of his wife that his heart softens. It is only then that he is taken to a garden where there is a statue of Hermione. Both to show his daughter the likeness of her mother and to lay an offering at her feet in sorrow and remembrance. Finally seeing himself for who he is he is able to let go of everything.

And it is in that moment that the statue awakes. The final forgiveness has been realized and in a moment of rebirth the two are united as partners in everything. Springtime abounds and the winter is finally over.

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