Film Review – Richard II (1978)

Apparently the universe is listening to my pleas for there to be better adaptations of the history plays because as I was poking around IMDb for the date on the version of Richard II that I watched, I discovered that there will be a version coming out some time this year with Sir Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt (bonjour, mon capitaine!). Sadly, however, it is not out yet, so I once again I have watched A Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare film, just so you don’t have to. I spoil you, reader.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this adaptation is FAR better than the one I watched last week for King John. The most important difference is that the the actors in this film are not afraid to act. These men (and a very small number of women) are not afraid to break out the emotional range, which was nice. However, while the actors were capable, the cinematography is still pretty dull and so Twitter got some of my attention while watching this film.

That being said, the first act of the film managed to keep my attention for its duration. The actor playing Richard definitely makes the character pretty effeminate, an impression only enforced by his costumes, which contrasts strongly with the actor playing Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV to be) who is undoubtedly masculine. This contrast adds an interesting element to the conflict between these two men and makes it far more difficult to be sympathetic for Richard. The actor portrays him as mercurial and a bit ridiculous, although he does have a very sweet parting scene with his Queen towards the end of the film where we get a flash of of sympathy.

Shakespeare's Richard II 1978

Richard in his not-so-manly clothes.

Interestingly, two of our major female characters, the Duchess of Gloster and the Queen, are played by actresses that were in King John (Eleanor of Aquitane and Blanch, if you’re curious). While the Queen is a sympathetic character and probably the most interesting woman in the play, the Duchess of Gloster just gets stuck with a ridiculously ugly hat.

Duchess of Gloster 1978

"My husband dies and I get stuck with this ugly hat."

While the sets are still very stage-y, the film, for all of its lack of visual pizzazz, is shot to make the sets look as real as possible, so plywood castle walls always look slightly more real. It also helps that many of the “outdoor” scenes which are obviously on a stage are done at night so that they don’t come across as quite so ridiculous.

Scenes of note include Henry and Mowbray tossing their gloves on the ground to challenge each other to duels because the actors actually manage to make the action pretty impressive instead of giggle-worthy. Similarly, the scene on the jousting ground is actually pretty decent. The production actually sprung for two REAL horses (no coconuts for these guys), however, neither of the herald’s are as impressive or as attractive as Paul Bettany. Also of note during this scene are the so-ridiculous-they’re-epic helmets that Richard and Mowbray carry but never actually put on. Sadly, while Richard’s many speeches when he’s about to be deposed by Henry are shot so statically, they come across as interminable. However, he does have a bright moment during the fight scene right before his death. Unfortunately the fighting is so obviously fake (it helps if you HIT the other guy before he falls over) that the scene ultimately fizzles. The real winner of the film is the actor who plays Henry who manages to rock long hair and a beard (also a super ridiculous hat in one of his later scenes as king) and also comes across as sympathetic. So at least there’s something to look forward to when I watch Henry IV Part 1.

Henry and Richard, Richard II 1978

Henry is just so much more awesome than Richard. No wonder he gets to be king.

Speaking of Henry IV Part 1, I’ll actually be taking next week off from reading Shakespeare next week. But don’t despair, as I will finally be posting a film review for The Winter’s Tale next Wednesday. Until then, fair reader.

King Richard II

Role Call: I’m adding this feature for the duration of the history plays, in the hopes that it will help you keep track of all the characters that crop up.

  • King Richard II
  • Edmund of Langley, Duke of York – uncle to King Richard (referred to as York)
  • John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster – uncle to King Richard (referred to as Gaunt)
  • Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford – son of John of Gaunt and SPOILER ALERT later King Henry IV (referred to as Henry)
  • Duke of Aumerle – son of Duke of York
  • Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
  • Duke of Surrey
  • Earl of Salisbury
  • Earl of Berkley
  • Bushy, Bagot, and Green (my edition calls them “Creatures to King Richard” – a job title I never want)
  • Earl of Northumberland
  • Henry Percy – son of Northumberland
  • Lord Ross, Lord Willoughby, and Lord Fitzwater
  • Bishop of Carlisle and Abbot of Westminster
  • Lord Marshal
  • Sir Pierce of Exton
  • Sir Stephen Scroop
  • Captain of a band of Welshmen
  • Queen to King Richard (poor woman doesn’t get a name)
  • Duchess of Gloster
  • Duchess of York
  • Miscellaneous little people that don’t matter much

The Play’s the Thing: King Richard is waiting for Henry and Mowbray to be brought before him, as each man is accusing the other of high treason. The two men have a verbal showdown, each accusing the other of treasonous activities (Henry says Mowbray has assembled a personal army and conspired in the death of the Duke of Gloster (another uncle of Richard’s) and Mowbray is never really specific about Henry did), although neither of them have any substantive evidence, and challenge each other to a duel essentially. Richard decides to let the two men duke it out (ha, punny) and tells them there will be an official face off in Coventry on Saint Lambert’s day (which according to the interwebs is September 17). Later, Gaunt is chatting with his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Gloster, who basically urges Gaunt to avenge the death of her husband. She then expresses her wish that Henry will kill Mowbray, who she believes did kill Gloster. Gaunt then heads off to Coventry to see the fight. In Coventry, there’s this whole bit with Richard having heralds announce Henry and Mowbray (who are apparently going to engage each other with lances, so now I’m picturing jousting scenes from A Knight’s Tale, which of course leads me to hoping that one of the heralds is Paul Bettany). There’s all this talking, Henry and Mowbray are about to get around to actually fighting when Richard decides to intervene. Instead of having them fight, he banishes Henry for ten years initially but then cuts it down to six years and he banishes Mowbray for life. Gaunt is not happy that Richard has banished Henry for so long and fears he will die before he’ll see his son again. In the next scene, Richard discusses his suspicions of Henry (egged on by Bushy, Green, and Bagot) as Henry is so beloved of the people. Richard is planning to head off to go to war in Ireland but receives news that Gaunt is dying. He expresses the wish that Gaunt will die soon so that Richard can use his money to fund the war.

Gaunt is on his deathbed is discussing with York how they have attempted to advise Richard and Gaunt hopes that because he’s dying, Richard will pay more attention. Gaunt then has a bit of a prophetic moment (there are a few in this play, the upside of Shakespeare’s hindsight being 20/20) where he says all will not go well for Richard and England. Richard then shows up and Gaunt attempts to warn him that some of his cronies will not do good things for Richard’s reign. Richard ignores him, Gaunt is carried off stage and then dies. Richard confiscates all of Gaunt’s wealth, refusing to pass it on to Henry, and instead planning to use it to fund his current war effort, as he’s a bit on the broke side. York attempts to get him to reconsider, but Richard has none of it, and York leaves telling him that bad things will happen. Then Ross, Willoughby, and Northumberland chat about how much they disdain what Richard has just done, share the rumour that Henry is about to land in England with several powerful English allies and an army, and the three men decide to join Henry. Meanwhile, the Queen is all bummed out that Richard is Ireland and she’s alone. Then she receives word that Henry has arrived in England and that many of the lords have gone to join him. York then shows up saying he’ll do his best to defend Richard’s rights while Richard is in Ireland. Bushy, Green, and Bagot split up, two to rally support in England and the third to deliver the news to Richard. Bagot fears that they’ll never see each other again (spoiler alert: he’s right). In the “wilds of Glostershire”, Henry is chatting with Northumberland and Henry Percy about the size of the army he’s managed to put together when a messenger from the Duke of York shows up, shortly followed by York himself. York scolds Henry for attempting to take over England while Richard is away and Henry protests that he’s only come back to claim his title as the Duke of Lancaster of which Richard has unfairly deprived him. York declares himself neutral but says he’ll travel with Henry whose headed off to Bristol Castle where Bushy and Bagot are apparently hiding out. Meanwhile, Salisbury discusses with a Captain how the entire Welsh army believes Richard is dead and that they want to disband and join Henry. Salisbury foretells that things will not go well for Richard (for those keeping score, this is prophetic moment #2).

Henry has set up camp near Bristol and orders Bushy and Green executed for misleading the king. He then orders his kind regards sent to the Queen by York. Richard is hanging out in Wales and is not happy that there’s a rebellion brewing but vows that as long as he’s king, he’s not about to bow to Henry. Then Salisbury shows up with the news that the Welsh army, believing Richard dead, have broken up, with many of them joining Henry. Richard takes this as a blow. Scroop then shows up to tell Richard that basically every human being in England has joined Henry’s cause. Richard gets depressed for a bit, then his group of men rally him a little bit, as Aumerle says that his dad, York, is bound to support Richard. Scroop then says, “Oh by the way, York joined Henry too.” Richard gets even more depressed and heads off to meet Henry. Henry receives word that Richard is at Flint Castle, which is quite near Henry’s camp. Henry sends Northumberland as an emissary to Richard and then decides to lead his army on a bit of a march to show his power to Richard. Richard tells Northumberland how appalled he is that Henry is attempting to take the crown while Richard is still alive and foretells that if Henry is successful, lots of people in England will die (prophetic moment #3). Northumberland says that Henry is simply asking for his title as Duke of Lancaster. Richard gives the message that he’ll do whatever Henry wants. He and Henry then meet up where Henry still treats him as King but Richard defers to him and says he’ll do whatever Henry wants. Meanwhile, the Queen is depressed and missing her husband and then hears some gardeners talking about how her husband is about to be deposed and bewails the fact that the wife and Queen is always the last to know.

Henry is attempting to investigate the Duke of Gloster’s death but all the lords are accusing each other and declaring duels with each other all over the place and a few of them saying that Mowbray is the one who will be able to tell who actually killed Gloster. Henry says he won’t make a decision until Mowbray is brought back from exile but is then told that after participating in the Crusades, Mowbray died. York then shows up saying that Richard has said that he’ll make Henry his heir and yield his crown if Henry wants it. Henry decides to ascend the throne and become Henry IV. The Bishop of Carlisle is appalled that a subject should judge the King and foretells that if Henry takes the throne, it will lead to a lot of death in England (prophetic moment #4). Henry has the bishop put under arrest and sends for Richard. Richard arrives and hands over the crown to Henry. Then Richard talks a lot about his existential crisis of being a king and yet not being King. Henry then orders Richard be taken to the Tower.

In the street, the Queen is waiting to catch sight of Richard on his way to the Tower. Richard arrives and tells the Queen to go to France for her own safety. She protests for a bit and they have a discussion about what power Henry can possibly have. Northumberland then arrives and tells Richard that instead of going to the Tower, Henry has changed his mind and wants Richard sent to Pomfret. Henry has also decreed that the Queen be sent to France. The King tells Northumberland that his role in helping Henry ascend the throne will eventually lead to Northumberland deciding to try and get the throne himself and Henry being suspicious of Northumberland (prophetic moment #5). Then he and the Queen have a very sad parting. Meanwhile, the Duke of York is telling his wife about the crowd’s treatment of Richard (throwing dust and garbage at him) and their treatment of Henry (lots of “God save Bolinbroke), when Aumerle comes home. His father sees something around Aumerle’s neck and Aumerle is dodgy about it, causing York to snatch it from him and discover that his son has joined a conspiracy to assassinate Henry. The Duke, Aumerle, and the Duchess all race off to Henry’s court, York to tell on Aumerle, Aumerle to ask for mercy, and the Duchess to ask for mercy. At Henry’s court, he’s asking after his son and hears from Henry Percy that’s up to his typically drunk ways (foreshadowing of things to come in Henry IV Part 1). Then Aumerle shows up, asks Henry to have everyone else leave, gets Henry to grant him unconditional pardon, and then locks the door of the throne room. York, just outside the door says there’s a traitor within which causes Henry to draw his sword. Henry lets York in, there’s a lot of discussion of Aumerle’s almost traitorous act, during which the Duchess shows up and pleads on behalf of her son. Ultimately, Henry pardons Aumerle and orders the other conspirators hunted down and killed. Meanwhile, Sir Pierce of Exton is convinced a sentence that Henry said means he wants Exton to kill Richard. In Pomfret, Richard has gone a bit dotty. He’s visited by one of his old grooms who tells him how Richard’s horse behaves just as well for Henry as it did for Richard (it’s a symbolic thing, but it’s not a big detail). Richard’s Keeper then shows up with dinner and tells the groom to get lost. Richard asks the Keeper to test Richard’s food like he always does but the Keeper refuses, indicating the food is poisoned and Richard beats the Keeper, causing him to cry out. Exton and some servants show up, Richard steals a sword from one of them, kills two men, is wounded by Exton, gives a death speech, dies, and his body is carted off by Exton to show to Henry. Back at Henry’s castle in Windsor, he’s receiving news about the deaths of most of the conspirators. Exton then shows up with the coffin containing Richard. Henry is appalled, condemns Exton to a fate like Cain (for those not up on their biblical allusions, it means he’s doomed to wander everywhere and never be welcome), and Henry leaves to have Richard buried and mourn him.

Heroes and Villains: I don’t particularly like or dislike any of the characters in this play, but Richard definitely has the most interesting arc, so he wins the favourite character prize this week.

Speech to Know: Richard has several long speeches on what it means to be king and the following, which comes during the onslaught of bad news in Act III, is my favourite:

“No matter where; – of comfort, no man speak:
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
Let’s choose executors, and talk of wills:
And yet not so, – for what can we bequeath,
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death,
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground,
And tell sad stories of the death of kings: –
How some have been depos’d; some slain in war;
Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos’d;
Some poison’d by their wives; some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d:- for within the hollow corwn
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,-
As if this flesh, which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable; and humour’d thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle-wall, and – farewell, king!
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence; throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty;
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want, taste grief,
Need friends: – subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?” (III.ii)

View from the PitRichard II has a lot going for it. There’s plenty of fascinating political maneuvering, lots of action taking place amongst duels and wars, and Shakespeare is setting the stage for his exploration of the Wars of the Roses that will carry over in a larger arc through both parts of Henry IV and Henry V. However, the play is most interesting for its character study of Richard II himself. While in many ways the play seems to be more about Henry IV, Richard goes through a fascinating character arc of being a respected, albeit hubristic and flawed, leader to a deposed leader. In the course of this arc, Richard has several speeches in which he pontificates on what it means for a king, selected by God, to be removed from leadership. While as a reader, I felt Henry was vindicated in many ways to claim his birth right and then having come so far, to claim the throne as well, Richard is still a sympathetic character who must attempt to continue to exist in a world whose values have changed in ways he doesn’t comprehend.

Film Review – King John (1984)

We’re back to our good old standard, The Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare series from the BBC. Oh, BBC of the 1980s, sometimes I wonder how you went from making films that I suffer through in the hopes of something worth mocking to making awesome things like Sherlock. How does that happen BBC? And can we travel back in time to fix this series? Please?

This film is the level of bad where I gave it only half my attention and devoted the other half to Twitter, Draw Something, Solitaire, or twiddling my thumbs. Which is the not subtle way of saying that this film is boring as all get out. It’s so dull that there are absolutely no screencaps to be found of this two and a half hour odyssey. These films are the reason that students dread Shakespeare. It is more than possible to make these plays interesting, and dare I say it, even fun to watch, but this film is an epic fail.

Let’s start with the sets. They are very obviously stage sets, with castle walls that have no more width than your typical sheet of plywood, and large painted sheets being used as backdrops for the “outdoors.” The costumes aren’t worth writing home about and although many of them are designed to look rich and luxurious as befits royalty, they just look really fake and probably uncomfortable. The one exception to this is Blanch’s dress, which is actually quite pretty, but she doesn’t get enough screen time to really make a difference. Constance’s crown is the prettiest of all the crowns that are adorning heads (and there are quite a few) but all of them look pretty uncomfortable. Also, let it be noted that there are exactly three haircuts men have in this film: long hair and beard, short hair and beard, short hair and no beard. No faux hawks here, I’m afraid.

And with that over, let’s talk about the actual acting and film choices. The only character I actually liked was Bastard who actually has some charm and is interesting to watch. He cheekily addresses his soliloquies and asides directly to the camera, but the poor man cannot save this film. The actor playing John has about three expressions, one of which made me laugh out loud at its ridiculousness. He plays John as weaselly, cowardly, and downright irritating. Never does John have a sympathetic moment, even when he dies. Although his death is not the most ridiculous in the film. That prize will be handed out later in this post.

But what drives me crazy about this film is the lack of passion that all of the actors seem to have. Constance does not get nearly as hysterical as someone would expect of someone who is desperate to get her son on the throne, and later, as a woman whose son has been abducted and will likely be dead soon. And speaking of the abduction, this film sticks so strictly to the play, that we get absolutely no visual extras. We don’t even get “excursions,” and instead just cuts from one scene to the next. A play oriented around a war with no war scenes is so sad. But returning to the lack of passion, the worst culprit for this is the young actor playing Arthur. While he’s adorable in a young kid whose voice verges on the prepubescent squeak at times, he’s entirely too earnest throughout with absolutely no range in his emotions. Every line is delivered at the same level and when he’s standing around being talked about, his face is rather expressionless and he just tends to blink a lot more than normal. What particularly drove me crazy is that during the scene when Hubert is about to poke out his eyes with hot pokers, the kid DOES NOT FREAK OUT. Now yes, he has Shakespearean lines to deliver, but when someone brings red hot metal near your face (no matter how fake it looks, and it does look fake) you do not remain calm. But Arthur’s best moment is when he proves he is too stupid to live. As you’ll recall, Arthur jumps off the castle wall in the stupidest escape attempt ever. What I did not mention is that among his lines is “be kind to me dear stones” before he jumps off. From the moment the child actor said that line, I started laughing. This only got worse when he had the most unintentionally comic death scene ever. There is fake blood, a line delivered in a weak voice, and then overdramatic death flopping. And then there was loud and inappropriate laughter from me and I desperately wish this scene were on YouTube so you could all appreciate the ridiculousness of it.

So to sum up, skip this film. Unless you are connoisseur in bad death scenes. And then just skip to Act IV and fast forward until you see the blond kid with the weirdly dark eyebrows on the plywood castle walls.

Next week we’re on to Richard II. Get ready for more royal hijinks, war, and death, readers.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Citadel Theatre

Extra special bonus feature time, readers! I went to see the Citadel Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream last night (with my good friend, Argenplath, whose blog you should definitely check out) so now you get the benefit of a review (please note, all production photos are from the Citadel’s website). If the plot of the play is a little fuzzy for you, you can refresh your memory with my previous post about it.

From the moment I walked into the Maclab Theatre, I knew I was going to love the play. The set design is absolutely gorgeous and sets the stage (sorry for the bad puns, I couldn’t help it) for all of the magic. It really allows for flexibility which gives the fairies and elves the opportunity to really appear and disappear as quickly as you would expect of such creatures.

The actors all do a brilliant job. My favourite characters were all played really well and Julien Arnold as Bottom really knocked it out of the park. Also, the small kid playing the Indian changeling boy is absolutely adorable. Before talking about some of the highlights of the play for me, I just want to mention the costumes briefly. They are gorgeous. All the upper-class Athenians have very Greek dresses and tunics, which take definite advantage of how muscular/pretty the entire cast is. The costumes for Oberon and Titania also take full advantage of how good-looking those two are, although they’re far more scantily clad which makes their roles as natural fairy creatures all the more believable. And amazingly, Oberon really manages to rock his headdress. Being my favourite character, I was pleased with Puck’s costume as well. Of course, some of that may have something to do with his being topless the entire play.

Oberon (Michael Antonakos) rocking the headdress while Demetrius (Patrick Lundeen) sleeps.

I’m going to attempt to avoid any production spoilers as there are some details that are far more fun if you’re surprised by them, but I will just mention some of my personal highlights. Despite the fact that she’s a total doormat (“Let me be your spaniel”? REALLY? I feel like she could go for a dose of Sassy Gay Friend), I’ve always been really fond of Helena and I was very pleased with Shannon Taylor’s portrayal who made her a very likable character despite her slightly embarrasssing level of infatuation with Demetrius. In fact, all four actors playing the young lovers very brilliantly portrayed all of the mad confusion that results from Puck and Oberon’s interference, with the scene in which all four of them get into a tussle being very impressive.

Are you ready to rumble?

 As I’ve mentioned before, Puck is one of my favourite characters and Jonathan Purvis very brilliantly brings him to life. He is sweet and charming and his athletic ability is just fantastic to watch. His gymnastic antics are very impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him frolic across the stage.

Oberon and Puck.

However, the greatest moment in the entire play is Bottom and company’s play about Pyramus and Thisbe. The group of men that put together this ridiculous production are just fantastic, fun to watch, and left the entire theatre, myself included, laughing uproariously. I won’t spoil all the delights of their slapstick, but I will give you the head’s up to keep an eye on Moonshine’s dog if you get a chance to see the production.

The would-be acting troupe.

Of course, Puck’s final speech is utterly charming and you’ll definitely be left wanting to accept his offer of friendship. If you have the chance, I highly encourage you to check out this production which runs until 29 April 2012.

King John

File:Shakespeare's King John at Drury Lane Theatre.jpg

The Play’s the Thing: King John, his mother, Elinor, and several of his lords are meeting with an ambassador from France, Chatillon, who is in England on behalf of King Philip of France who is advocating for Arthur Plantagenet, John’s nephew, to be given the throne in England. If John refuses to hand over the crown, Philip has vowed to go to war in order to forcibly take the crown from John. John refuses and sends Chatillon back to France. After Chatillon, two brothers are brought before the King, Robert Falconbridge and his brother, Philip. Robert, the younger brother, complains that despite the fact that Philip is his elder brother, Robert should rightly hold the title to the family land as Philip is a bastard son. When asked whose son Philip actually is, it’s reported that he is the son of Richard Coeur-de-lion (better known as King Richard I, or Richard the Lionheart), John’s deceased brother. John gives Robert the Falconbridge land, accepts Philip as Richard’s bastard, renames him Sir Richard (to avoid confusion I’ll simply call him Bastard for the rest of the summary, as does my copy of the play), and tells Bastard to accompany him to the coming war in France. Bastard is thrilled because while his brother got what he wanted, Bastard has gotten the far better end of the deal.

In front of the walls of Angiers, King Philip of France, Louis the Dauphin, the Archduke of Austria, Arthur, and his mother, Constance, are having a brief meeting. Louis is presenting Austria to Arthur as Austria is responsible for Richard’s death. Arthur grants him pardon as he is joining their cause to remove John from England’s throne. Philip is about to start attacking Angiers (which, while it is in France, actually belongs to the English at this point) when Chatillon arrives to tell him to skip attacking the town and instead prep for war with England as John is hot on his heels with an army of the English. John then shows up himself and tells Philip that if he’ll just recognise John as the rightful monarch, they can avoid the whole war thing. Philip tells him he’s there on behalf of the rightful King of England (Arthur) and that if John will just hand over the crown, then he’ll be willing to skip the whole war thing. Then there’s a bunch of trash talk between John, Philip, Elinor, and Constance, about who should rightfully be King. Elinor and Constance get particularly heated as Constance accuses her of being unnatural in favouring her younger son rather than the heir of her elder son. After lots of arguing, Philip has the brilliant idea to ask the people of Angiers whether they’ll accept John or Arthur as their King. John and Philip make speeches outlining their cases. A representative of the citizens of Angiers says that they won’t pick until there’s clearer signs as to who they should have as their King. Philip and John then have a battle (the stage directions simply say “excursions” so imagine whatever battle scenes you like). Afterwards, a herald from the French comes to the walls of Angiers and tells the citizens that the French are totally winning. He’s quickly followed by an English herald who says the English are totally kicking ass. The citizens of Angiers give the same response as before. John, Philip, and their respective entourages then show up wanting to know what Angiers has decided. They again repeat their response of “We’re hedging our bets for now” which exasperates Bastard, who suggests that everyone ally themselves together to completely wipe out Angiers for being so annoying and then go back to fighting each other. Everyone really likes this plan. Then the spokesman for the citizens of Angiers suggests a different plan that if John will marry his niece, Blanch, to Louis, they’ll then accept him as King. Everybody agrees this is a good deal, John promises to give several of his holdings in France to Blanch as her dowry and everyone heads into Angiers for the wedding.

Back in the French camp, Constance is flipping out over the news that Philip has ditched their cause and allied himself with John. When everyone from the wedding party arrives, she continues to flip out while Philip attempts to mellow her out. Then Pandulph, an emissary from the Pope arrives to scold John for preventing the individual appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury from taking his seat. John basically tells him that he’s King and the Pope can shove it. Pandulph then excommunicates John and tells Philip that he needs to break the newly made truce and go to war with John for his revolt against Rome. Philip verbally sways back and forth for a bit before breaking his alliance with John. John gets really angry and the two go back to war again. We then get more “excursions” in between which, Bastard comes in with the head of Austria. Following that scene and “excursions” we learn John has captured Arthur. John tells Elinor to stay in France and manage the war. Then he sends Bastard back to England to raid the churches for the funds they’ve stored up. Then he entrusts Arthur to his aid, Hubert, and tells Hubert on the sly to murder Arthur to prevent any further issues around John being king. Meanwhile, Philip is having a sad over losing to England. And then he has to deal with Constance who is seriously losing it because her son has been captured and will probably be dead soon. Louis and Pandulph then have a brief conversation where Pandulph convinces Louis to head off to England to continue the war against John, as the people will be more likely to ally themselves with Louis, especially if word gets out that John has murdered Arthur as everyone expects he will. Louis thinks it’s a brilliant idea and heads off to prep.

In merry old England, Hubert is preparing to take out Arthur’s eyes with hot pokers. But on the voyage over, he’s grown fond of the boy, which Arthur uses to his advantage, and Hubert ends up not killing him. Meanwhile, for some inexplicable reason, John has had himself crowned king again, which makes his lords suspicious that he’s killed Arthur. Hubert then shows up, lies to the King that Arthur is dead, and John tells the lords that Arthur has died of an illness. The lords aren’t buying it and disappear. A messenger arrives to bring the news that Louis and an army from France has shown up in England. John is astounded that his mother hasn’t sent him word about this development, only to have the messenger tell him that Elinor died on April first (no foolin’) and that rumour has it Constance died three days before Elinor. John is boggled by all this bad news and it isn’t over as Bastard shows up with Peter Pomfret. Bastard tells John that the people are restless and Pomfret, a purported prophet, was wandering around saying that before noon on Ascension-day, John will hand off his crown. John orders Pomfret kept in prison until the aforementioned date and that when what he foretold doesn’t happen, they’ll execute him. Bastard then tells him there are rumours that the dissatisfied lords will join with Louis in his war against John. John sends Bastard off to attempt to reconcile the lords. He then has a chat with Hubert asking why on earth Hubert actually murdered Arthur. Hubert then tells him that he wasn’t able to do it and Arthur is still alive. John tells Hubert to head off to the lords and tell them this because then everything will be ok. Meanwhile, Arthur in a moment of sheer stupidity decides to jump off the castle walls in an effort to escape. He, of course, dies and is then discovered by the lords, which spurs them to join Louis’ forces. Bastard and Hubert attempt to dissuade them but it doesn’t work.

John has made up with Rome via Pandulph, which involves the whole ceremony of handing over his crown to Pandulph and then getting it back. Pandulph then says that he’ll go and tell Louis that he can skip this whole war thing on this Ascension-day. John realizes that Pomfret’s prediction has come true but that he got his crown back so it’s all good. Bastard then shows up, hears from John that Pandulph is off to convince Louis to pack up and go home, but tells John he should lead his army over to Louis’ just in case. John agrees. Louis is chatting with the lords that ditched John and welcoming them to his side. Pandulph then shows up and delivers his message to Louis that everyone can forget the whole war thing. Louis tells him that while Pandulph may have started this war with a few measly words, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than that to stop it. Bastard shows up and engages in some verbal one-upmanship with Louis until they head off to war. We have some “alarums” and then see John talking with Hubert, where we learn the battle isn’t going well and that John is feeling ill and is heading off to the abbey near Swinstead. John then gets the good news that the supply ship Louis was expecting was wrecked and won’t be showing up. The lords that ditched John learn Louis plans to kill them all if John loses and so they switch their allegiance back to John. Hubert and Bastard meet in the middle of the night and we learn that John was probably poisoned by a monk and is dying. We also learn that the lords all came back and brought Prince Henry, John’s son, with them. Prince Henry and a lord discuss John’s descent towards death, John is then brought out into the orchard where he talks to his son and hears news from the freshly arrived Bastard about Louis’ movements towards them. Then he dies. We then learn Louis has offered peace and Henry prepares to take on his new role as King Henry III.

Heroes and Villains: As an historical figure, I’ve always been fond of Elinor of Aquitaine, King John’s mother. But in terms of the characters Shakespeare creates out of these individuals, Bastard probably gets some of the most interesting moments, so he wins the favourite character prize this week.


  • pell-mell (II.i)
  • play fast and loose (III.i)
  • bell, book, and candle (III.iii)
  • he flatly says (V.ii)
  • cold comfort (V.vii)

Speech to Know: I may find Constance more annoying than not, but her speech at the beginning of Act III when she receives word about Philip’s betrayal is quite impressive.

“Gone to be married! gone to swear a peace!
False blood to false blood join’d! gone to be friends!
Shall Louis have Blanch? and Blanch those provinces?
It is not so; thou hast misspoke, misheard;
Be well advis’d, tell o’er thy tale again:
It cannot be; thou dost but say ’tis so:
I trust I may not trust thee; for thy word
Is but the vain breath of a common man:
Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;
I have a king’s oath to the contrary.
Thou shalt be punish’d for thus frighting me,
For I am sick, and capable of fears;
Oppress’d with wrongs, and therefore full of fears;
A widow, husbandless, subject to fears;
A woman, naturally born to fears;
And though thou now confess didst but jest,
With my vex’d spirits I cannot take a truce,
But they will quake and tremble all this day.
What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
Why dost thou look so sadly on my son?
What means that hand upon that breast of thine?
Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,
Like a proud river peering o’er its bounds?
Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
Then speak again, – not all thy former tale,
But this one word, whether thy tale be true.” (III.i)

View from the Pit: Reading King John was an interesting experience for me, at least partially because during my undergrad studies I took a course on “England in the Age of Robin Hood” where I did actually study many of the figures that pop up in this play. Although much of the details are fuzzy now, I was trying to match up many of the figures in this play with what I remembered. If you’re interested in the actual history, I suggest starting with the Wikipedia article on John, which is very well sourced. The other problem, was that the first image that comes to mind when thinking about John as the brother of Richard the Lionheart is this one. However, once I moved past these issues, the play itself is fascinating for a few reasons. One is the railing against the Catholic church by some of the characters, which would have been received well by an Elizabethan audience, but which may not have been quite so public during an age when England was still Catholic. Also of interest are the many digs at the French (some things never change). But the most interesting element of the play is John himself. We are put in the unusual place of having as our protagonist a figure who is technically a usurper of the English throne. While Shakespeare has compressed many elements of John’s reign and ignored others (such as the signing of that little document known as the Magna Carta), we are left to uneasily watch as John’s reign is slowly torn apart by both external forces and his own missteps. As appears in many of Shakespeare’s history plays, fate plays an unkind role in the play and we are left ultimately sympathetic for a King who should not have been king in the first place.

Film Review – The Comedy of Errors (1989)

I apologize in advance for the exclamation points in this paragraph. I promise the rest of the review will be devoid of them. But to begin with, this DVD is from CBC Home Video! Yay for Canadian content! And it’s the recording of a stage adaptation of the play done at Stratford! Double yay! For those not in the know, Stratford is THE place to see Canadian productions of Shakespeare. *Wistful sigh…* Also, the film is only 76 minutes! Yay for short Shakespeare films!

And with the exclamation point overload over, let’s move on to the play proper. Due to the combination of this production being more than 20 years old and it being full of stage actors, none of the characters are played by recognizable actors. That being said, they all do a great job and bring a lot of the qualities necessary to make the comedy work. Both Antipholuses are played by the same actor, similarly for the Dromios, with stand-ins that keep their backs to the audience for the final revelation scene.

The costumes and set design are actually very rich and give off a bit of a Louis XVI feel, right down to red heels on the shoes of one of the minor characters. The production has also put a strong emphasis on time in the play, with a clock on stage that chimes several times, emphasizing that all the crazy happens in the course of a single afternoon.

There’s quite a bit of slapstick, to which the play definitely lends itself and did make me chortle in a few spots. The play also makes the interesting decision to have all other characters freeze when a character has an aside or a soliloquy with the lighting changing as well. The lighting change doesn’t work as well on film as it simply looks darker if the actor is even slightly outside of their spot but would probably be very effective live.

Obviously to fit into 76 minutes, the play has been cut down but it works well and keeps you from becoming slightly irritated that no one has figured it out yet. Actually better than some of the BBC’s Complete Works of Shakespeare productions, the film isn’t a bad way to expose yourself to the play. Especially as it’s short. But I wouldn’t be rampaging out to get a copy.

Geordie Johnson, Goldie Semple, Lucy Peacock & Keith Dinicol in Comedy of Errors

Adriana, Astipholus, Luciana, and Dromio.

While I still owe a film review for The Winter’s Tale (someone actually checked it out from the library!) which will show up next week, this is the conclusion of the comedies. Next week I’m on to the histories, starting with King John.

The Comedy of Errors

Comedy of Errors

The Play’s the Thing: Ægeon of Syracuse has been brought before the Duke of Ephesus as there is currently a disagreement between Syracuse and Ephesus. Anyone of Syracuse found in Ephesus is to be executed and his goods confiscated unless he can pay the fine of one thousand marks. Ægeon can’t pay but he explains he’s come to Ephesus because when his children were quite young, he and his wife were traveling on a ship that was caught in a storm. He and his wife tied one of their sons (identical twins) and one of the servant children (also twins) to a mast with each of them. The ship then broke in half and the couple and their respective children were rescued by different groups. Ægeon is now trying to find his wife and other son. The Duke is sympathetic but can’t break the law but he does give Ægeon the day to find someone to pay the bond on his behalf. So with the stage for identical twin shenanigans, we meet Antipholus and his servant, Dromio, of Syracuse. Knowing the legislation in place, they only plan to spend the day in Ephesus and then hurry on their way. Antipholus gives Dromio the money to take to the inn for safekeeping. He then runs into Dromio of Ephesus (that’s right, not only are there two pairs of identical twins but the twins have the SAME NAMES. Isn’t that hysterical?). Dromio’s been sent by his master’s wife to fetch him home for dinner. Antipholus thinks the guy is kidding and asks about his money. Dromio has no clue about the money, Antipholus beats him for stealing and then heads off to the inn to see if the money is there.

Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, is talking with her sister, Luciana about her husband’s tardiness and Adriana’s jealous suspicions of her husband’s infidelity. They then meet Dromio of Ephesus who tells them of the crazy behaviour of Antipholus who denied having a wife and was only interested in his money. Adriana sends Dromio out again to fetch Antipholus. At the same time, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse meet up again, shortly after Antipholus has confirmed his money is safe. He asks Dromio what was with all the jokes about his wife and Dromio has no clue what he’s talking about. They then run into Adriana and Luciana who tell them to come home for dinner. Antipholus has no idea who these women are and asks Dromio as he delivered the same message but Dromio also has no clue. Antipholus goes to have lunch with the ladies and Dromio is left to guard the gate.

Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus are headed home with some of Antipholus merchant friends to have dinner. However, Dromio of Syracuse refuses to let them in. Adriana is brought down and says she’s already dining with her husband, refusing to let in the group of men. Antipholus is outraged and decides to take the group for dinner to the house of a lady of the night he happens to know. He then tells his friend Angelo to go pick up the gold chain he had commissioned as he’ll give it to the courtesan to make his wife jealous. Meanwhile, Antipholus of Syracuse is attempting to woo Luciana whom he finds absolutely delightful and wants to marry. He then chats with Dromio who has encountered the woman who says she’s his betrothed in the kitchen. There’s some riffing on how fat she is and then Angelo shows up with the gold chain which he gives to Antipholus. Antipholus is now absolutely convinced the entire town of Ephesus is nutty and tells Dromio to find a ship that’s leaving ASAP.

Angelo now encounters a merchant he owes money and tells him as soon as Antipholus pays him he’ll be able to pay the merchant. Antipholus of Ephesus then happens by and the end up in the circuitous conversation of Angelo asking for his money and Antipholus refusing to pay until he gets the chain which Angelo swears he’s given to him. Antipholus is eventually arrested. Dromio of Syracuse then happens by and tells Antipholus he’s found a ship that sets sail that evening. Confused, Antipholus tells him to forget the ship and go to Adriana to get money to pay his bail. Adriana and Luciana are talking about how her “husband” hit on her sister when Dromio of Syracuse arrives to get the money. Antipholus of Syracuse is marveling at how well everyone in Ephesus treats him when he meets Dromio of Syracuse who gives him the bail money. Antipholus is super confused and asks about the options of leaving town. Dromio is  confused because he already told him. They then meet the courtesan who demands the chain Antipholus is wearing in exchange for the diamond ring he took from her at dinner. Antipholus and Dromio refuse and then leave. The courtesan then heads to Antipholus’ house to get her money or ring one way or another. Meanwhile, Antipholus of Ephesus is in jail when Dromio of Ephesus shows up. Antipholus wants to know where the bail money is and Dromio has no clue what he’s talking about. Adriana, Luciana, and the Courtesan then show up along with “Doctor” Pinch. Pinch decides that Antipholus and Dromio are possessed and order them bound and carried off to Adriana’s house to be cured. Shortly after the pair are carried out, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse arrive with swords drawn to keep away all the crazy people and are very eager to get the hell out of Dodge.

Antipholus of Syracuse runs into Angela and the merchant who ask about the chain he’s wearing about his neck and why he refused he had it before. Antipholus says he did no such thing. He and the merchant are about to duel when Adriana shows up and tells them not to fight as Antipholus is mad. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse then head off to the Priory. The abbess then comes out to chat with Adriana and refuses to release her husband to her. Adriana is outraged and decides to plead her case with the Duke he just happens to be passing that way as he escorts to Ægeon to the place of execution. Adriana outlines the craziness of her husband the stance of the abbess. A servant then arrives to tell her that Antipholus and Dromio broke loose and are on their way. Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus then show up. Everybody’s super confused, even Ægeon who can’t believe his own son doesn’t recognize him. Then Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse come out of the abbey and everybody realized that it’s just been identical twin hijinks that have been going on all day. It’s also revealed that the abbess is Ægeon’s lost wife, Æmelia. Antipholus of Syracuse declares his intention to marry Luciana and everyone heads off to talk about the crazy sauce day they’ve had.

Heroes and Villains: This play is really all about the mistaken identity hijinks with very little opportunity to get to know the characters at all. However, if pressed to choose, I guess my favourite characters would be the Dromios who have the most difficult time of it and are ridiculously comic at the same time.

Speech to Know: There’s no truly brilliant speeches in this play although there is lots of rhyming couplets. However, Antipholus of Syracuse’s wooing speech to Luciana is pretty charming.

“Sweet mistress, – what your name is else, I know not,
Nor by what wonder do you hit on mine, –
Less, in your knowledge and your grace, you show not
Than our earth’s wonder; more than earth divine.
Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak;
Lay open to my earthly gross conceit,
Smother’d in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
The folded meaning of your words’ deceit.
Against my soul’s pure truth why labour you
To make it wander in an unknown field?
Are you a god? would you create me new?
Transform me, then, and to your power I’ll yield.
But if that I am I, then well I know
Your weeping sister is no wife of mine,
Nor to her bed no homage do I owe:
Far more, far more, to you do I decline.
O, train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note,
To drown me in thy sister’s flood of tears:
Sing, siren, for thyself, and I will dote:
Spread o’er the silver waves thy golden hairs,
And as a bed I’ll take thee, and there lie;
And, in that glorious supposition, think
He gains by death that hath such means to die: –
Let love, being light, be drowned if she sink!” (III.ii)

View from the Pit The Comedy of Errors is in many ways a precursor to the screwball comedies of the 1920s and 30s. We have ridiculous plot lines, mistaken identities taken to their heights, and everyone is forever racing about with frenetic energy. The play is pure frothy comedy with very little substance as we watch everyone misidentify the twins over and over again. While towards the end of the play the plot begins to wear a bit thin and you wish they’d just figure it out already, the resolution is predictably happy with couples and siblings reunited and the promise of a wedding. Not a bad way to spend your time, really.

The Winter’s Tale

John Opie - Winter's Tale, Act II. Scene III

The Play’s the Thing: Leontes, King of Sicilia, is playing host to Polixenes, King of Bohemia, who were dear friends in childhood. However, Leontes is now convinced that Polixenes is having an affair with Leontes’  pregnant wife Hermione. Revealing his thoughts to one of his servants, Camillo, he orders Camillo to poison Polixenes. Although Camillo attempts to convince Leontes that his suspicions are baseless, he has no luck and promises he’ll do as Leontes asks. However, when Camillo runs into Polixenes alone, he eventually confesses the orders he’s had from Leontes and arranges for the two of them to escape Sicilia and go to Bohemia, where they’ll both be safe.

Hermione is hanging out with her ladies in waiting and her young son, Mamillius. Asking Mamillius to tell her a story, the boy says, “A sad tale’s best for winter” (take note). Shortly afterwards, Leontes arrives and is incensed that Camillo and Polixenes have escaped. Leontes then has Mamillius taken away from his mother and accuses Hermione of being unfaithful with Polixenes and declares that the child she’s pregnant with belongs to the King of Bohemia. Hermione protests her innocence but is dragged off to jail anyways. Leontes’ lords, including Antigonus, attempt to talk down Leontes but have no luck. Leontes is convinced he’s right and is just awaiting the arrival of two of his lords who have gone to consult Apollo’s oracle at Delphos. Meanwhile, Paulina, Antigonus’ wife, has gone to the prison to visit Hermione but is told she isn’t allowed in. Due to the stress of being imprisoned, Hermione has given birth to a daughter, which Paulina takes to present to Leontes in the hopes he’ll come to his senses. Back at the palace, Leontes is mildly concerned as Mamillius has taken ill, likely due to the fact of the accusations being made about his mother. Paulina arrives with the baby and Leontes continues to be a jerk-face and denies that the baby is his. He then threatens to bash its brains in (such a charmer). Paulina leaves the baby on the floor of the throne room and then leaves, under threat of being dragged out. Leontes tells Antigonus to take the baby and travel to a deserted place and then abandon it. Antigonus doesn’t like it, but does as his king demands. Leontes then receives word that the men who traveled to the oracle are back in town.

Leontes calls the court the order, has Hermione brought in, and has the accusations read against her. Hermione makes an elegant plea of not guilty and she and Leontes heatedly discuss the accusation of her infidelity. The lords that have been to the oracle then arrive. They present the sealed document from the oracle which declares, “Hermione is chaste; Polixenes is blameless; Camillo a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant; his innocent babe truly begotten; and the king shall live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found.” Leontes doesn’t believe it (even though he said he would) until a servant arrives to announce the death of Mamillius. Then Leontes starts to repent. Hermione faints and is taken away by Paulina and a few of her other ladies. Leontes is starting to condemn himself for his insane jealousy when Paulina returns to announce that Hermione is dead too. Leontes recognizes his idiocy and swears he’ll visit the grave of his wife and son every day. Meanwhile, in Bohemia, Antigonus arrives near the beach after taking a boat. He goes off into the hills to abandon the baby, with some bundle that includes identifying paraphernalia, as instructed. He then is attacked and eaten by a bear. The ship that he traveled on is also sunk. The baby is discovered by an old shepherd and his son, who take the child in.

We then have a brief interlude where a chorus, serving as Time, come in to tell us that sixteen years have passed and the baby that was abandoned is named Perdita.

Polixenes and Camillo are discussing Camillo’s request to return to Sicilia. Camillo misses home and Leontes has been repentant for what he did to Camillo in the past. However, Polixenes recruits him to help spy on Polixenes’ son, Florizel, who is rumoured to be in love with a super attractive daughter of a shepherd. Florizel and Perdita are in love but Perdita worries about his father finding out. The shepherd is holding a small shearing party and Camillo and Polixenes arrive in disguise along with other parties. There’s some singing and dancing. Polixenes in disguise, gets Florizel to confess he loves Perdita and urges the young man to tell his father. Florizel refuses several times, at which point Polixenes reveals himself and is outraged at his son’s duplicity and the fact that he loves the daughter of a shepherd. Polixenes then leaves in a huff. Camillo convinces the young lovers to go to Sicilia where Leontes will take them in and they can then convince Polixenes to forgive them for getting married. The pair agree. The shepherd and his son decide to reveal to Polixenes that Perdita isn’t actually the daughter of a shepherd, but get redirected by Autolycus (a troublemaker who provides comic relief and does this one big thing) to follow the young lovers to Sicilia.

In Sicilia, Leontes is being urged by his lords to remarry. However, Paulina tells him that he should only marry when and whom she chooses. The king agrees. Then Florizel and Perdita arrive and try to tell Leontes they are newly married and are sent as emissaries on behalf of Polixenes. However, when news that Polixenes is arriving hot on their tail, they reveal that they aren’t married. Leontes, agrees to petition on their behalf. We then see a couple gentleman discuss the fact that Perdita’s true heritage as Leontes has been revealed, Leontes and Polixenes are reconciled, and blessings have been given to Perdita and Florizel’s marriage. Perdita then wants to go see her mother’s grave. Leontes and the rest of the party are led there by Paulina who reveals a new “statue” of Hermione which is revealed to actually be the queen. Everyone is astounded that she isn’t dead and are happy that the oracle was fulfilled so well.

Heroes and Villains: There are no really outstanding characters, but if I had to choose my favourite, it would be Paulina who goes toe to toe with the king when none of his lords will and provides the final happy ending for the play.


  • it is but weakness to bear the matter thus (II.iii)
  • the blank and level of my brain (II.iii)
  • something savours of tyranny (II.iii)
  • all proofs sleeping else (III.ii)
  • smacks of something (IV.iii)

Pick-up Lines with Style:

“for I cannot be
Mine own, or anything else to any, if
I be not thine.” (IV.iii)

Speech to Know: Hermione’s speech during the court scene over her supposed infidelity is probably one of the best in the play.

“Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts  my accusation, and
The testimony on my part no other
But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
To say, Not guilty: mine integrity
Being counted falsehood, shall as I express it,
Be so receiv’d. But thus, – if powers divine
Behold our human actions, – as they do, –
I doubt not, then but innocence shall make
False accusation blush, and tyranny
Tremble at my patience. – You, my lord, best know, –
Who least will seem to do so, – my past life
Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
As I am no unhappy: which is more
Than history can pattern, though devis’d
And play’d to take spectators; for behold me, –
A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
A moiety of the throne, a great king’s daughter,
The mother to a hopeful prince, – here standing
To prate and talk for her life and honour ‘fore
Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it
As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour,
‘Tis a derivative from me to mine,
And only that I stand for. I appeal
To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
Came to your cour, how I was in your grace,
How merited to be so; since he came,
With what encounter so uncurrent I
Have strain’d, to appear thus: if one jot beyond
The bound of honour, or in act or will
That way inclining, harden’d be the hearts
Of all that hear me, and my near’st of kin
Cry, Fie up my grave!” (III.ii)

View from the PitThe Winter’s Tale is an interesting beast. The play, although set in Italy, takes a great deal of the content from traditions of Greek tragedy. Anyone familiar with Oedipus Rex will find some resonant points in this Shakespearean play. Of course, instead of the tragic ending, at which Shakespeare is very adept, we instead find happy endings and redemption. It is far more an exploration of the actions of characters, the importance of the fates, and the fulfillment of oracles, than about the actual characters themselves. It is particularly frustrating to never understand why Leontes has developed his jealousy about Hermione and Polixenes, but as a catalyst for the ultimate plot that results it is highly effective. Whatever its faults though, Shakespeare manages to balance both the tragic elements as well as the eventual happy ending that leaves this play in the category of comedy. Definitely one of the lesser known gems in the canon which is worth reading.