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“The Winter’s Tale” with Simon Russell Beale

Full Film

A “winter’s tale” was Jacobean slang for something fanciful and unreal — a campfire story. Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” written during the period 1609-1611, is classified as one of his late romances. This is a play driven by passion and obsession, by the uncontrollable jealousy of King Leontes, who recklessly rejects his wife’s love and accuses her of an affair with his old friend. Acting like a man possessed, he orders his friend killed and his pregnant wife imprisoned. In 17th-century marriages, even royal ones, a wife believed guilty of adultery could indeed be brutally punished. The play’s second half, something of an idyllic comedy despite the stark and brutal first half of the play, returns the people Leontes thought he lost through one of the greatest theatrical coups of all time — a magic trick that uses no magic. Beale shows that in this play Shakespeare offers something for which everyone longs: to reverse time, to make amends for an irreversible mistake.