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Exit, Pursued By a Bear

Posted in The Winter's Tale with tags , , , , on 2010/01/20 by mattermind

I’ve already warned you kids about my reading habits. I’m from the Dead Poet Society school of reading things for yourself, a discipline that was reinforced by my graduate work at St. John’s College in Annapolis (Great Books, No Gym and Where the Great Books Are the Teachers — TM). You can check them out at http://sjca.edu/ if you feel inspired… or sentimental.

But now that I’m a blogger, I’m all about trying new things… especially if they can add a little spice to the place. (Note to Keira Knightley: please feel free to submit a photo of yourself in Shakespearean attire. Or sans.)

So in the interest of drumming up material, I did what we all do and hit Wiki for more info.

I’m sorry I did. Not that Wiki is a bad thing, mind. It’s just that sometimes it’s better not to know too much in advance. Except about the bear. Who doesn’t like the bit about the bear?

To wit:

The Winter’s Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, first published in the First Folio in 1623. Although it was listed as a comedy when it first appeared, some modern editors have relabeled the play a romance. Some critics, among them W. W. Lawrence (Lawrence, 9-13), consider it to be one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays”, because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending.

Nevertheless, the play has occasionally been extremely popular, and enjoyed productions in various forms and adaptations by some of the leading theatre practitioners in Shakespearean performance history, beginning with David Garrick in his adaptation called Florizel and Perdita (first performed in 1754 and published in 1756), and again in the nineteenth century, when the third “pastoral” act was widely popular. In the second half of the twentieth century The Winter’s Tale in its entirety, and drawn largely from the First Folio text, was often performed, with varying degrees of success, for the first time since it was first performed in London in 1611.

The play contains the most famous Shakespearean stage direction: Exit, pursued by a bear, describing the death of Antigonus. It is not known whether Shakespeare used a real bear from the London bear-pits, or an actor in bear costume.

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