The Winter's Tale - Genre

  • The term ‘Last Plays’ is not entirely satisfactory, but there are some generally agreedupon features which unite this group of plays.
  • Usually The Winter’s Tale is joined in this category by The Tempest (believed to have been written in the same year), Cymbeline and Pericles.
  • Features shared among these plays include a heightened sense of visual spectacle, supernatural (or at least highly improbable) elements and a sense that younger characters can put right historical wrongs and imbue the future with hope.
  • There is primarily a courtly setting, or at least a protagonist of noble birth, but contrasting ‘low folk’, usually rustic peasants, will also have a role to play in the action.
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation are common themes, and an episodic structure takes in events occurring over a long period, usually in violation of Aristotle’s ‘Unity of Time’, which recommended that the action of a play should take place in the course of one day.
  • The Winter’s Tale has clearly identifiable elements of tragedy (Leontes’ suspicions and the fatal consequences of these), comedy (such as Autolycus or the shepherd and Clown), pastoral (the…


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