Just finished watching an exuberant, over-the-top 1999 Royal Shakespeare Company live presentation on DVD of this play by Shakespeare, and had a familiar feeling as I watched (which I’ve had before through much of Cymbeline and Pericles). This play which was heavily borrowed from other sources was either only partly Shakespeare, or very weak Shakespeare, or not by Shakespeare.
True, there are some superficial resemblances (to Ophelia) such as the flower imagery in the exiled king’s daughter speech and the great overblown anger of Leontes, mirrored in two other fathers, Polixenes and the Old Shepherd, that resembles, superficially Lear’s great blow-up. There is also the scolding of Paulina, which is an extended version of Emilia in Othello. But, by and large, this could be simple copying by another writer of the Bard’s time (The play was not in the First Folio.). There are way too much singing, bawdy songs, clowning, empty bombast, and non-stop melodrama minus the majesty and poetry of, say, The Tempest–a more obvious Shakespeare text.
A sampling of some trite lines:
“Paddling palms and pinching fingers”
“A sad tale’s best for winter/I have one of sprites and goblins.’
“I am a feather for each wind that blows.”
“Exit, pursued by a bear.” (stage direction)
“This is fairy gold.”
“Set my pugging tooth on edge.”
“Summer songs for me and my aunts,/While we lay tumbling in the hay.’
“A snapper-up of unconsidered trifles.”
“For the life to come, I sleep out othe thought of it.”
“Good sooth, she is/The Queen of curds and cream.”
“Lawn as white as driven snow.”
“I’ll queen it no inch further.”
These are great memorable lines by Shakespeare? Shakespeare wrote this trite crap? Methinks not. Not his diction, not his inspired, imaginative style. And moreso, the extraneous, unnecessary, overdone bawdiness, folk dancing and singing, the Delphic oracle device, a statue come-to-life, much of the second half’s totally autonomous feel, and a 16-year-break between the two halves of the play.
To Royal Shakespeare’s credit, they explore and project the text like a Broadway show; “there’s something for everyone here”. Right down to the billowing draperies which create the main setting effects. But nothing can convincingly sell the overwroughtness of the plot and empty words attributed to the great Shakespeare.