If This Be Magic

THE WINTER’S TALE:  Shakespeare Unleashed


The Winter’s Tale. Somehow, the title evokes the phrase, “Once upon a time…”

Hearing it, we know a story is coming. We know to allow all possibilities and to enter another time and place where magic, or at least the unusual, can happen.  The Winter’s Tale invites us: escape for a while from the cold of life and expect … anything! Late in Shakespeare’s life and career, after scaling such Mount Everests as Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, in which one central character was the heart of the story, here Shakespeare writes something completely different. Not one mountain, but the Himalayas! Leontes, Hermione, Polixenes, Antigonus, Paulina, Florizel, Perdita – each one of the play’s characters has a mountain to climb. It is a panorama of humanity.

The Winter’s Tale is Shakespeare unleashed. He sings with flowing poetry. He jumps time and space as he never did before. Sixteen years pass and Time herself guides us. He leaps from the depth of tragedy to heights of silliness. Storytelling can do that. Some name this a “problem play,” because it dares to have intense tragedy in Part One and comedy in Part Two. I say, isn’t that life?  I don’t know about you, dear audience, but that is my life, over and over. Tragedy and comedy. Misfortune and fortune. I think we humans can handle that in a story because we live it and Shakespeare knew it. He is unsurpassed at reflecting to us what it is to be human.  

“Merry or sad shall it be?”  Both. Love is always the touchstone of this complex story. Love gets battered by the powerful, pushed away by jealousy, protected and attacked, lost and then found. It is revealed between husband and wife, parent and child, servant and master, friend and friend. The younger characters, Florizel and Perdita, bravely stand for love against raging authority.  With time, the oldest, Leontes and Hermione, endure and find the wisdom of repentance and the greatness of forgiveness. There is always hope in the play, but the final redemption is elusive without some “magic.”

Shakespeare chooses not to explain the end. I’m with him! Is it magic? Grace? Or just life? Do we ever know? Just see how your heart feels at the end of this tale… 

“If this be magic, let it be an art lawful as eating.”


Isabelle Anderson, Director of The Winter’s Tale, is CSC’s Distinguished Artist-in-Residence.


TICKET DETAILS:  THE WINTER’S TALE, March 9 – April 7, 2018, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.

LEARN MORE:  Escape to a springtime sheep-shearing festival in Bohemia, where herdsmen perform the Dance of the Satyrs.

SYNOPSIS of THE WINTER’S TALE:  Be forewarned. Plot twists and spoilers are included.