The Winters Tale - Tragicomedy Essay

1575 WordsNov 5, 20137 Pages
Originally classified in the First Folio as a comedy, The Winter’s Tale has since been placed under numerous genres, most commonly that of the more recently created romance and tragicomedy. The difficulty that so many have had with labelling The Winter’s Tale under any particular genre lies in the fact that Shakespeare’s plays often strayed from traditional literary forms (Wells 105). For Shakespeare, genre was not so much a rule to be followed but a medium to be moulded. Whilst the play begins as a typical tragedy, the second half of the play abandons the tragic form and instead takes on the classical features of comedy. In her essay in The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, Janette Dillon describes tragicomedy as “the coming together, the collision even, of tragedy and comedy”(169). The Winter’s Tale is just that, two halves of a tale separated by genre, butted up one against the other. When discussing the nature of genre, Snyder states that “Comedy involves men of middling estate; its perils are small-scale, its outcomes peaceful. In tragedy, ‘omnia contra”, the persons and issues are exalted and they end unhappily. Comedy, beginning in turmoil but ending in harmony, celebrates life; but tragedy’s course from prosperity to calamity expresses rejection of life.” This description gives the idea that all plots have their own dangers and threats; however, in tragedy they are fulfilled whereas as in comedy they are averted. Fletcher has described tragicomedy in relation to death, stating "A Tragicomedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy"(Dillon 170). The Winter's Tale takes this description to its limits as it does not merely want death, but actually delivers them. The first three Acts of the play are seated heavily

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