The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare creates many topics for discussion throughout his play, The Winter's Tale. For many of these themes, multiple viewpoints can be derived from the thoughts, words, and actions of the characters in the play. The reasoning for Shakespeare's title is indeed one of the aforementioned topics.
Firstly, the title helps to set the stage for which the play takes place. Numerous references hint to the fact that the play is staged mostly during the winter season or close to it. In act II, scene I, Mamillius tells Hermione that he will tell her a sad tale because, "A sad tale's best for winter." As the words of Mamillius, these are innocent enough and give the audience the impression that the season is winter. The seasonal setting of winter is reaffirmed later in the play during the discussion that takes place between Perdita and Polixenes in act IV, scene IV. Polixenes declares, "Shepherdess- a fair one are you- well you fit our ages with flowers of winter." Further discussion between them suggests that it may not be winter yet, but is getting very close to it. Although these passages and others show that the title is cleverly used to introduce to us the physical setting of the play, I believe that the purpose of the title does not stop there. In fact, I believe that it goes well beyond this simple understanding of the physical stage into a more complex reference to the mental setting of the play.
As I said before, the title is a topic that contains more than one meaning. Shakespeare was clever with his usage of this title. We must closely examine the words of each of his characters to find the underlying meaning that Shakespeare hid within his play. In act I, scene I, Mamillius states, "A sad tale's best for winter." At that particular point in the play, Mamillius was merely commenting about the surrounding time and atmosphere. However, in my opinion, Shakespeare had a greater meaning to these words than just determining what season it was. Through the short phrase that Mamillius speaks at that time, Shakespeare reveals the mood of nearly the entire play as one of sadness. This mood of sadness and of sorrow can be seen through many of the main characters throughout most of the play.
The play opens with a peaceful conversation between two long-time friends, King Leontes and King Polixenes. However, the story changes to one of jealousy and sorrow very early on. Leontes' jealously drives him to such extremes that he removes from his presence almost all of the characters that are close to him. He scares his childhood friend Polixenes away by the threat of death. He loses his entire family in a very short period of time. His son and wife are lost to death and his newborn daughter to banishment. To add to his torment, Leontes loses his loyal servant Camillo who was a dear friend to him as well.