“King Polixenes of Bohemia is visiting King Leontes of Sicilia. When Polixenes expresses his desire to return to his native land, as he has been gone for some time now, Leontes asks his wife, Hermione, to convince Polixenes to stay. She does so and, in so doing, Leontes is convinced that his pregnant wife Hermione is having an affair with the Bohemian king. Not only that, but the baby in her belly must not be his! Polixenes luckily escapes Leontes’ plot to poison him just in time, but Hermione is locked up in prison where she gives birth to a daughter which in Leontes’ anger, he casts out of the kingdom hoping that it dies stranded on the road. Though his court tells him he has been foolish in his assertion, Leontes waits for the oracle to tell him the truth of his wife’s faithfulness...and faithful she was! And for his mistrust in her, the oracle states that until his true born daughter is returned to the kingdom, he will never have an heir. Hermione, heartbroken, dies in prison, and Leontes mourns the rest of his days. Meanwhile, a lowly shepherd finds a small baby by the Bohemian coast...
Originally categorized as one of Shakespeare’s comedies, later scholars have moved this into what is now known as the Bard’s late romances, and I think that label is the one that better applies to this play. There really weren’t any particularly funny bits but rather, since it wasn’t a play where everyone died, I think most people usually like to call those Shakespeare’s comedies. In fact, the ending for this play was one of the happier ones that I have ever read. I also think the term “romance” applies much more so because it really is much more about Leontes’ love lost and then afterwards Polixenes’ son falling in love.
However, as interesting as the plot seemed and as refreshing as it was for me to once read a Shakespearean play I actually knew nothing about going into it, this is not one of my favorites of his. Leontes’ suspicions of his wife seemed to come out of nowhere and I got confused thinking I missed some big clue, but he was just being stupid, which I understand was needed as the catalyst for the whole play, but it still annoyed me. And then the anger in the second part of the play over a prince marrying someone of such low birth...I know it was appropriate for the time, but again...annoying. It wasn’t a bad play by any means. Shakespeare is still Shakespeare. But just not his best in my opinion. ”
llevinso wrote this review Tuesday, December 11, 2012.