"A merry winter's tale would drive away the time trimly," suggests a character from The Old Wives' Tale, a play by one of Shakespeare's lesser-known contemporaries. And indeed, Elizabethan audiences recognized a "winter's tale" as a fanciful story, rendered all the more appealing by its very improbability. The Bard's version of this traditional entertainment is a charming romantic comedy, but with undertones of tragedy.
Running an emotional gamut from betrayal and broken hearts to a lighthearted romp, the tale begins with the tyrannical actions of a jealous king, whose baseless suspicions of his wife and best friend destroy his own family. The play's second half takes place sixteen years later, when the lovely plot turns toward romance and reconciliation. A sheep-shearing festival provides the occasion for a picturesque assembly of country folk, who contribute some of the play's finest moments with their rustic songs and dances.
Originally presented circa 1611, this tragicomedy abounds in disguises and mistaken identities, courtly intrigue, miracles, and all the theatrical elements that make Shakespeare's works a timeless source of entertainment and enlightenment.
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John Dover Wilson's New Shakespeare, published between 1921 and 1966, became the classic Cambridge edition of Shakespeare's plays and poems until the 1980s. The series, long since out-of-print, is now reissued. Each work contains a lengthy and lively introduction, main text, and substantial notes and glossary.From the Publisher:
Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards.
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