Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. A Winter’s Tale runs September 25–October 20, 2013.
As directed by Patricia McGregor, A Winter’s Tale suggests the overwhelming power of emotion to govern and transform the authority of a king: At the start of the play, it is explosive jealousy that “rules” Leontes, the king of Sicilia; by the end, it’s compassion and sorrow that govern him, by way of the transformative power of his own tears.
Coming right in the middle of King James’ reign over England, Shakespeare wove into this play his profound belief in the truth of monarchy as well as his skeptical knowledge that a king is but a man. The collapse of a king’s authority into blind personal jealousy—resulting in death and even in assumed murder—would have been, to Shakespeare’s audiences, like an apocalypse. For any man, tears have all-too-often been seen as weakness: yet here we have a king whose tears take him to a new strength, a new belief in the power of love, and a knowledge that no man should assume power over others that serves only his own interest.
The “saint-like sorrow” performed in A Winter’s Tale evokes Christian parables of penitence—but these, like the old oral traditions that the title calls on, are in the service of a wondrous theme: that no matter what authority is vested in a king, it takes a village to raise a full-grown human being.
Are you going to see our production of A Winter’s Tale? Do you have questions or comments about the production’s cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.