A New Favorite from Shakespeare: “The Winter’s Tale”

I had never before seen or read The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s longest comedy with 24,914 words. My loss.

This play is great: engaging, funny, sad, thoughtful; lots of great characters—mostly good—including my nominee for best comic relief character (“Autolycus, a rogue”) in a Shakespearean comedy.

Words and phrases that came to mind as I read the play were jealousy and suspicion contrasted with loyalty and faithful service; sincere, deep-felt love, oaths kept, patience and hope. A family member, when she heard I was going to read it, commented that it was her favorite Shakespeare comedy. Now it’s mine, too. What’s there not to like about a play featuring a man-eating bear, a disastrous shipwreck, a living statue, a fabulous shepherdess, an obsessively jealous—eventually broken—king, and a rogue unable to do anything rascally without pecuniary gain and approbation.

Generally I’m not enamored with Shakespeare’s clowns, but I liked and found both Autolycus and Clown more crucial to this play and generally more enjoyable than clown-like characters in other Shakespeare comedies.

I’m giving The Winter’s Tale an enthusiastic five Bards: 

Five Bard Rating




Quotes that appealed to me for various reasons:

Camillo: You pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely.

Archidamus: I speak as my understanding instructs me, and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.

Camillo: I may be negligent, foolish, and fearful; in every one of these no man is free. . . .

Paulina: Here’s such ado to make no stain a stain….

Time: I,—that please some, try all; both joy and terror, of good and bad; that make and unfold error….let Time’s news be known when ’tis brought forth….

Autolycus: What a fool Honesty is! And Trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman!

Autolycus: Let me have no lying; it becomes none but tradesmen….

Shepard: My business, sir, is to the king. Autolycus: What advocate hast thou to him? Shepard: I know not, an’t like you. Clown: Advocate’s the court-word for a pheasant, say you have none. Shepard: None, sir, I have no pheasant, cock nor hen. Autolycus: How bless’d are we that are not simple men! Yet nature might have made me as these are, therefore I will not disdain.

Clown: …Though authority be a stubborn bear, yet he is oft led by the nose with gold….

Autolycus: If I had a mind to be honest, I see Fortune would not suffer me: she drops booties in my mouth. I am courted now with a double occasion,—gold, and a means to do the prince my master good; which who knows how that may turn back to my advancement?

Autolycus: I know you are now, sir, a gentleman born. Clown: Ay, and have been so any time these four hours.

Leontes: I am asham’d; does not the stone rebuke me for being more stone than it?

Next Up (if you’re reading along) is the shortest comedy: The Comedy of Errors

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