The Winter's Tale

When you read literary criticism you should have a thorough knowledge of the text first, against which you can weigh your response to others' critical views.

Below is a selection of possible critical reading on The Winter's Tale. (The date given is usually the date of first publication, though some of these texts have gone into later editions, which in some cases have then had different publishers.)

Useful historical context

General background, dealing with Shakespeare's life

Bill Bryson Shakespeare. Harper Collins, 2007
James Shapiro 1599: a year in the life of William Shakespeare. Faber, 2005
Peter Ackroyd Shakespeare, the Biography. Chatto and Windus, 2005
Michael Wood In Search of Shakespeare. BBC Books, 2003
A.L.Rowse Shakespeare the Man. Macmillan, 1973

Women in Shakespeare

Lisa Jardine Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare. Brighton: Harvester, 1983

Critical views on The Winter's Tale

(in reverse order of original publication from present day)

[Note that in some cases these are essays on The Winter's Tale or references to it within a book on more than one Shakespearean play.]

Sheila Innes Cambridge Student Guide to The Winter's Tale. Cambridge University Press, 2002
Kiernan Ryan Shakespeare. Harvester New Readings, 1989
Fitzroy Pyle Winter's Tale: A Commentary on the Structure. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969
Kenneth Muir (ed.) The Winter's Tale (critical essays). Macmillan Casebook series, 1968
M. M. Mahood Shakespeare's Wordplay. Methuen, 1957
F.R. Leavis The Common Pursuit. Peregrine Books 1952 (reprinted Pelican, 1976)
E.W. Tayler Nature and Art in Renaissance Literature. Columbia University Press, 1964
Harold Goddard The Meaning of Shakespeare. University of Chicago Press, 1951
E.M.W. Tillyard Shakespeare's Last Plays. Chatto and Windus, 1938 (first published Macmillan, Toronto).

Pre-twentieth century critics of Shakespeare

(See also reproduction of earlier criticism in Macmillan Casebook ed. Stead, above)

Nineteenth century

Walter Pater Appreciations. Macmillan, 1890. Reprinted Echo library, 2006
William Hazlitt The Characters of Shakespeare's Plays. Originally 1817, but reproduced Dent, 1960

Eighteenth century

Samuel Johnson Reproduced in Dr. Johnson on Shakespeare ed. W.K. Wimsatt. Penguin, 1969

See The Winter's Tale

An essential resource when studying any drama is a means of seeing it in performance. If no live performance is available, then DVDs or videos are an excellent resource. There is a BBC Shakespeare video of The Winter's Tale available, as well as later versions, one starring Anthony Sher and another starring Jeremy Kemp. A search of the web, for example by looking at Amazon, will readily show these – and audiotapes of the play.

Listen to The Winter's Tale

Audio CD or taped productions are also very useful, particularly to allow the listener to concentrate on the flow of the verse. There are several productions of The Winter's Tale in audio book form: one is made by the Arkangel Complete Shakespeare Company; another is a CD which comes with the New Variorum Edition; and there is also a Caedmon Shakespeare edition.

The Winter's Tale on the web

Typing in ‘Shakespeare The Winter's Tale to Google produces hundreds of thousands of responses! Some are editions of the text, some study guides, some essays. Although you will certainly find some useful material, remember that none of it is going to help you understand the play if you do not already have a thorough knowledge of the text from reading it yourself.

Be particularly careful to avoid ‘lifting' any material – including any from this web site! Copying even a small amount is plagiarism and its inclusion in coursework essays will be looked upon scathingly and severely penalised by examination boards.

An interesting website which really looks at the play as drama is the RSC's guide based on their 2006 production. You can see this by going to

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