Article Title

The Winter's Tale and Guarinian Dramaturgy


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Genre concepts significantly affect our understanding of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. The play not only repeatedly calls attention to itself as fiction, but its tripartite tragicalpastoral- comical arrangement focuses our attention on three important dramatic genres of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and the dialogic relationships between them. In Pericles, Shakespeare emphasizes the romance source by dramatizing John Gower and narrative itself, the radical of presentation most congenial to romance. "Romance" also aptly describes the story of The Winter's Tale: a more schematic, typological presentation of character than obtains in the tragedies, the (apparent) suspension of the laws of cause and effect, marvelous recognitions over large expanses of space and time, and an overall trajectory from woe to weal. But Shakespeare takes the romance material available to him in Robert Greene's Pandosto and separates it into the three dramatic genres that constituted an important new Renaissance form, the avant-garde Italian pastoral tragicomedy. The non-dramatic term 'romance,' used first in the late nineteenth-century by Edward Dowden in what we would now call a modal sense to convey the serene, beneficent attitude of the last plays,1 neither gets to the quick of The Winter's Tale as experienced by the theater audience nor speaks to our increasing sense of the conflicts between comic and tragic and pastoral visions in the play. 'Tragicomedy,' understood in the historical context of late Cinquecento dramatic theory and practice, better explains the dramaturgy (involving the transposition from romance story to staged play) and audience experience (mediated by genre concepts) of The Winter's Tale.

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