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The Winter’s Tale Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Does Hermione really come back to life at the end of the play or, is there any evidence that Paulina’s been scamming Leontes and the audience the entire time (by hiding Paulina away for sixteen long years)?
  2. What possible explanation can we provide for Leontes’s sudden onset of jealousy? Has Leontes completely lost his mind, or is there some strange “rationale” at work in Leontes's mind?
  3. What is a “winter’s tale,” exactly? Why do you think Shakespeare chose this as a title for the play?
  4. The Winter’s Tale is often referred to as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” because its genre is so hard to pin down. (Is it a comedy, tragedy, romance, fairy tale, or something else?) How does the play fit in to and/or depart from generic categories that we typically find in Shakespeare’s body of work?
  5. How does Leontes’s character compare to that of Shakespeare’s other notorious jealous husband, Othello (from the tragedy of the same name)?
  6. What is the overall significance and effect of the play’s two-part structure? (Think about how the setting and tone shift dramatically after the first three acts.)
  7. Which characters, if any, have symbolic functions in the play? (Think, for example, of Perdita’s role in The Winter’s Tale.)

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