I believe I am already enjoying The Winter’s Tale more than Much Ado About Nothing. We see more outrightly feminist characters, both male and female, even though we also see the “blaming” aspect of men when threatened by the possible infidelity of a significant other. I have a feeling though, however, that King Leontes is not going to get his way to way Claudio did. He is already being reprimanded for his actions by King Polixenes and Leonte’s own subject.

Shakespeare’s plays are dramatic, even the comedies have their fair share of whirl wind commotion. The events in the plays seem in today’s context borderline absurd and outside the realm of the reality. For example, in “Much Ado About Nothing” with the marriage scandal and cheating plot. Or, how about the Midsummer’s Nights Dream and the matching and remathcing of the couples. Lastly, the drama of Macbeth and the loophole of being able to be killed because is killer was not born of woman but C-section.  Absurd! Blasphemy! Soap Opera level Drama, for crying out loud! However, Shakespeare’s plays in context with his time period do not seem at all far fetched anymore. In fact they seem quite tame, especially compared to Henry (and the tale of too many wives). Podcast 6, explains the period that Shakespeare \was exposed to and how that ultimately shaped his writing.

The first overused quote of writing is: write what you know. Shakespeare took this advice and ran for the hills. Shakespeare experienced the Tudor age, it was an age where the crown was shifted between multiple owners almost as often as Henry  VIII  beheaded his wives. it was also a period of war – the war of the roses lasted for 34 years and it was something that people of Shakespeare’s time feared. All of these tragedies and events bled into his work and shaped alot of his major plays plots. It really beckons the question – Would Shakespeare be as great today or was he a product of his time?

 

I’m feeling some immediate similarities to Much Ado About Nothing in Acts I and II. It feels like Shakespeare is just changing the direction a little bit, by adding a baby to the mix. I will say that I’m interested to see where the story goes, because Shakespeare’s changes could be his own commentary on Much Ado About Nothing and some of the themes it presented. With King Leontes as the Claudio-like accuser in this situation, could Leontes actually face some retribution of punishment for his accusations? My guess is still no, but I wonder if Shakespeare adds any nuance to the situation that gives Hermione some more agency.

The political scientist student in me views The Winter’s Tale as a criticism of monarchy, though I’m not sure that’s what Shakespeare intended. It feels like a commentary on the pressure and paranoia of being a ruler. I also assume that the monarchy in The Winter’s Tale is based on divine power, as monarchies in Shakespeare’s England were. The invocation of the oracle at Delphi supports this, as Leontes is supposedly looking for a divine signal that Hermione is or is not guilty. To the modern sensibility, this seems ludicrous. Is Shakespeare trying to make the same point, or does he view this as a legitimate form of leadership?

Upon reading the second scene of The Winter’s Tale, where Hermione is introduced, I knew that I was going to love her, and no not just because she shares the same name as Hermione Granger.However, both women are not afraid to stand up for themselves, and have clear strong personalities which I admire. One of the first things that the audience hears Hermione say is “You sir, charge him too coldly” (I.II.37-38). While this may seem like a simple remark in modern day times, it tells the audience a lot about the type of woman Hermione is. She has absolutely no problem telling people how it is, regardless of their sex, which is something that was not a normal practice for a “proper lady” at this time. She even stands up to her husband, Leontes and refuses to be silenced by him even though he sends her away.

I don’t think that there is any question that there is obviously something wrong with Leontes as he seems to think that the entire world is against him and creates what everyone else thinks to be is a lie, that Hermione has been unfaithful to him, and even calls her a whore. The way in which his character is described makes me start to question Shakespeare’s inspiration. It seems as though he may have some sort of mental illness that is leading him to act in a certain way. While there was no awareness or discovery of mental illnesses at the time when Shakespeare wrote this play it is very interesting to look at his character from a modern day perspective, knowing the research that we have today. I am interested to see what happens to his character as this could be analyzed as a commentary on how people viewed those with mental illness in Shakespeare’s time regardless of whether or not that was the intent.

Although I overall enjoyed acts I and II of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, I was, at times, a bit confused by the story. For instance, I could not understand why King Leontes becomes so suddenly violent and accusatory toward his wife in act I scene 2. Upon my first reading of the scene, it did not seem as though Hermione and Polixenes are even flirtatious with each other; they seem like mere friends. The established friendship between Leontes and Polixenes also makes Leontes’ outbreak seem irrational. After some reflection, now I see that Leontes could be a “vice” in the same way Don John from Much Ado was—just mad and villainous for the sake of being mad and villainous. Hopefully we get a clearer reason for Leontes’ anger as the play progresses.

I was also struggling to place The Winter’s Tale into a thematic genre as I read. I feel as though it was easier to peg Much Ado as a comedy right from the start, whereas Winter’s Tale lacks similar elements of humor and love thus far. Could it be considered a romance?

On a different note, I find the character Paulina very interesting and likable from a modern perspective. I appreciated her boldness and bravery in standing up to Leontes and defending Hermione’s honor. Paulina’s response to Leontes’ threats to burn her in Act II scene 3 stood out to me specifically. The line “I care not. / It is an heretic that makes the fire, / Not she which burns in it” reminded me of when Beatrice stood up for Hero’s honor in Much Ado, and I was happy to find a similar outspoken character in this play (II.3.147-49).

Right off the bat in The Winter’s Tale, we learn that this play has a similar set up to that of Much Ado About Nothing; there is a jealous, insecure man who accuses a woman who is not as socially powerful based on his pure belief of her infidelity. Again, we see that the woman’s thoughts and opinions are not considered in the slightest. Other similar patterns in this storyline are the construct of women supporting women (in the case of Hermione and her ladies-in-waiting), the main male antagonist (Leontes) being relentless in his effort to ruin a woman’s reputation because of his “hurt feelings”, and on another note, the structure of wordplay/banter/wittiness is a similarly significant part of the action/movement of the play.

However, I do love the way in which Hermione, the Queen, asserts herself. Unlike Hero and also Beatrice in many ways, she is straightforward, honest, and open, immediately confronting all of the anger and insecurity directed at her throughout the first two acts. Interestingly, she seems hyperaware of the systems of oppression, that even she as the queen, must experience as a woman; for example, she states, “There’s some ill planet reigns. I must be patient till the heavens look with an aspect more favorable” (II.i.129-131). It is clear here that she recognizes that once the King has spoken, there is not much else that can be done, but she confidently stands up for herself throughout the scene and carries on even when she is finally imprisoned. Finally, the fact that the king’s men also believe her and try to stand up for her and her newborn child is a dynamic shift from that of Much Ado, where only Benedick and the Friar genuinely believe Hero’s innocence at first. I am very interested to see how Hermione will function as a champion for herself, and possibly for all women, throughout the rest of the text.

After reading the first two acts, it is clear that Leontes will be a very interesting and unpredictable character to follow. His sudden change in perspective towards his wife, Hermione, and childhood friend, Polixenes, seemed very unwarranted on the surface just having been introduced to the characters. However, it makes me wonder if his frustrations and doubts stem from something that has happened in the past between him and Polixenes. It seemed as if Polixenes and Leontes had a long-lasting friendship and good relationship, so it was odd to see Leontes’ insecurities go into effect so quickly.

Regardless, Leontes after the first two acts definitely shows personality signs of the Dark Triad: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellian. Once he convinces himself that his wife is cheating on him, he immediately goes into a tirade ordering that Polixenes is poisoned, wife thrown in jail, and requesting that his own daughter be left in the woods, without any empathy. When Leontes says “How blest am I/In my just censure, in my true opinion!/Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accursed/In being so blest!” (2, 1, 47-50), it is even clearer how narcissistic he is and thinks that he knows everything. I am curious to see if themes of gender and class will become more prevalent as the play goes on in explaining why Leontes is the way that he is.

When reading Act 1 of “A Winters Tale” for the first time I was utterly confused by the sudden change in character from Leontes. At the beginning of Act 1 Scene 2, he has a heartwarming conversation with Polixenes. They were reminiscing about their childhood when there is a change in perspective as Hermione begins to speak. I was very confused by Leontes’ sudden change, It was as if he had gone mad within a matter of seconds.

I wonder what may have caused this change in perspective? At first, I assumed it may have been Leontes’ observation of the flirtatious conversation Hermione and Polixenes. However, if  Polixenes has been there for 9 months it is likely Leontes would have seen this before. I am curious if adaptations of this play have made Leontes see something out of the ordinary which changed his perspective? After reading the first two acts Leontes is strikingly similar to the Mad King from Game of Thrones. There was no clear reason why he went mad, however, it is what is accepted now.

I am curious to see if his madness continues and if there will be an explanation and or a cure?

I think that this film specifically depicted a true adaptation with little change. While certain obvious parts of the play changed, much of the play- especially the plot-line and dialogue- remained the same. However, set in a modern setting, the original plot-line and dialogue transform to truly depict Shakespeare’s perspective and views in a contemporary environment. This change-in-scenerary really raises the questions of how an artist can change and correspond to newer timeperiods, or if some aspects of his work should remain in the past.

 

Given our recent discussions surrounding our adaptation to Much Ado About Nothing, it is apparent that we are going to revise and change portions of the setting, dialogue, and even plot. In my opinion, this 2012 adaptation provides an example of an adaptation with ultimately little artistical difference than Shakespeare’s original work. While I found it enjoyable at points and overall a solid adaptation, I think that it is a great idea that we are embracing changes and revisions to our adaption.

I really enjoyed watching Much Ado (2012) adaptation of the play, mainly because I love the plot line of the original play. I thought it was interesting how they placed the movie in a more modern setting and pairing that with black and white and Shakespeare’s language, and direct quote. I thought staying mostly with Shakespeare’s intention was an interesting choice, especially with the changes they made, like Beatrice and Benedick having a pervious relationship. However, I wish they took a more modern take, rather than just the setting. I was really hoping Hero would have spoken more or at least have the ending switched and her not taking Claudio back. I thought because there was a modern setting it could have been possible to take a more modern angle on the play, and Hero standing up for herself and being independent would have a more powerful message.