Internet Shakespeare Editions


Winter's tales and the "unities"

"There was a man. . . Dwelt by a churchyard. . ." So begins the spooky winter's tale within The Winter's Tale told by Mamillius (2.1.29-30). But if Shakespeare's play deals with "sprites and goblins" (2.1.26) they are goblins of the mind rather than charming Midsummer Night's Dream fairies.

There are oracles and miracles, even the magic (if it is magic) of Paulina, a kind of female magus figure rather like Prospero. There is a bear, a pedlar, a sea-coast to land-locked Bohemia*, and a gap of sixteen years in the action. As the title of the play hints, Shakespeare follows a long traditon of romantic comedies fantastic in plot and loose in structure.


  1. A better dramatist than geographer

    Shakespeare wrote The Winter's Tale within at most a year of a play that is highly organized: The Tempest. Shakespeare clearly chose to make The Winter's Tale loose in structure; could he deliberately have given Bohemia a sea coast?