The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

 The Winter's Tale cover

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare has come in for a lot of criticism over the centuries since it was first published in 1623. The problem seemed to be that it didn’t fall into a distinct category. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, part tragedy, part comedy and part romance. Plus you definitely have to suspend your disbelief at times in the story, otherwise the plot just seems to be far too unlikely.

Leontes, King of Sicilia, and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, were great friends in childhood and after many years apart Polixenes visits Leontes in Sicilia. After nine months in Sicilia Polixenes is keen to go home to see his son Prince Florizel, Leontes is reluctant to give him up, but is unable to persuade him to stay on. Not willing to take no for an answer Leontes persuades his wife Queen Hermione to twist Polixenes’s arm – and she succeeds, presumably because Polixenes finds it more difficult to say NO to the heavily pregnant Hermione, and he doesn’t want to seem impolite.

However Leontes is immediately suspicious of this change of mind and decides that his friend and wife must have been having an affair, and that the child that Hermione is carrying isn’t his. Very quickly Leontes’s love for his friend turns to hatred and the man that he had praised to the skies becomes number one enemy and Camillo, a Sicilian lord is ordered to kill Polixenes. But Camillo warns Polixenes and they both sail off to Bohemia.

Furious at this escape Leontes turns his wrath on Hermione and ends up throwing her in prison, where she soon gives birth to a daughter. In an attempt to soften Leontes’s heart Hermione’s friend Pauline takes the baby to the king but it has the opposite effect and he orders Pauline’s husband Lord Antigonus to take the baby away and abandon her in the wilds.

Leontes had sent messengers to the Oracle at Delphos to find out if Hermione had been unfaithful to him, but meanwhile Hermione is put on public trial, during the trial the report from Delphos is read out and it says that Hermione and Polixenes are completely innocent and that Leontes won’t have an heir until his abandoned daughter is found. Leontes refuses to believe any of that, but when news reaches the court that his son and heir Mamillius has died due to the stress at the treatment handed out by his father to his mother Hermione faints. Pauline tells Leontes that Hermione is dead and he’s wracked with grief over the loss of his wife, son and baby daughter.

I would definitely say that this part of the story comes under the category of tragedy. Now for the romance.

While all this has been going on Antigonus has taken the baby to the coast of Bohemia and has given her the name of Perdita which apparently Hermione had asked him to name her in a dream he had. Perdita meaning lost. Perdita is found by a shepherd and his son and as there is a cloth bundle containing gold and jewels with her they realise that the baby comes of noble blood.

Sixteen years pass and King Polixenes’s son Prince Florizel has fallen in love with Perdita of course! They plan to get married without asking for Polixenes’s permission but the King knows what is going on and he and Camillo disguise themselves and go to the feast at which the betrothal will take place. Furious at his son’s subterfuge Polixenes threatens the old shepherd and Perdita with death and orders Florizel never to see Perdita again. The young couple run off and set sail for Sicilia, accompanied by the old shepherd and his son and helped by Camillo who then tells Polixenes where they have gone, hoping that the king will follow them to Sicilia and take Camillo with him.

Meanwhile, in Sicilia Leontes is still in mourning for Hermione. His courtiers have tried to persuade him to re-marry in order to get an heir to the kingdom, but Pauline tells him that no other wife will match up to Hermione. When Prince Florizel and Perdita arrive in Sicilia Leontes is very happy to see them, especially as Florizel claims to be on a diplomatic mission from his father. But very quickly Polixenes and Camillo arrive and it isn’t long before everyone realises that Perdita is actually the long lost daughter of Leontes and Hermione. Leontes is thrilled to have his daughter back and of course the two kings will be happy to have their offspring married to each other. Everyone goes off to Pauline’s country house where there is a newly made statue of Hermione, but while Leontes is weeping at the sight of his dead wife the statue moves – YES – Hermione is alive!

And that’s that. There is romance and some comedy and the real tragedy is the waste of time – the 16 years in which Leontes mourned for a wife he thought to be dead and of course the loss of Mamillius due to his father’s suspicious and jealous mind. As human beings don’t change over the centuries the psychological aspect of this story is one which is repeated often.

There is a certain POTUS who seems to have that problem, when people are doing what he wants them to do they are just wonderful, terrific people, but as soon as the possibilty of a perceived disloyalty is suspected – all hell breaks loose!

The Winter’s Tale isn’t a favourite of mine, but I was glad that I read it in an Oxford World’s Classic edition as it has an interesting introduction and lots of notes.

The Classics Club Spin # 22 – the result

The result of The Classics Club Spin number 22 was announced on Monday and it’s 13 which means I’ll be reading Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff.

The Rider of the White Horse cover

I’m happy about that as I enjoy Sutcliff’s writing, but such is life and my book piles the book has been languishing here unread for a long time. Previously I’ve mainly read her books which were aimed at children, but this one is for adults. The setting is the English Civil War, or as it is more accurately called nowadays, The Wars of the Three Kingdoms as it all spilled over into Scotland and Ireland too.

If you’re taking part in this spin I hope you were lucky enough to get something you’re looking forward to reading too.

Classics Club Spin #22

classics club spin

It’s Classics Club Spin time again, they seem to be coming around fast.

The rules are:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Sunday 22nd December the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 31st January 2020.

My list is:

1. Montaigne essays
2. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
3. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
4. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
5. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Parrot by Hugh Lofting
6. Summer Half by Angela Thirkell
7. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
8. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
9. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
10. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
11. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
12. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
13. Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
14. The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
15. Sing for Your Supper by Pamela Frankau
16. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
17. The Trial by Franz Kafka
18. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
19. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
20. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison

I’m on my second list of 50 now and I only have 20 books left unread on it. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading High Wages by Dorothy Whipple for ages now so I’d be very happy if number 2 popped up as the spin number, but there’s really nothing that I’m dreading on this list – other than maybe preferring not to get a chunkster, but I think that most of them are fairly weighty books.

classics club

The Classics Club Spin number 21

Classics Club Spin

Yes it’s that time again – Classics Club Spin and this one is number 21. If you’re taking part you have to list twenty books from your Classics Club list which still have to be read before September the 23rd 2019 which is when the number will be chosen. Whichever number is chosen in the spin is the book to be read before 31st of October 2019.

My list is:

1. Montaigne essays
2. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
3. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
4. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
5. The Tempest by Shakespeare
6. Summer Half by Angela Thirkell
7. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
8. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
9. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
10. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
11. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
12. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
13. Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
14. An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
15. Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley
16. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
17. The Trial by Franz Kafka
18. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
19. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
20. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison

This is just about all of the books still unread on my second list of 50 classics, but I’m really bad at putting my reviews on the Classics Club review page, so I must get around to sorting that out. I hope the spin number is 10 The Black Arrow, or maybe An Infamous Army as people seem to love it so, or Summer Half as it’ll be light-hearted.

Are any of these ones a favourite of yours?

Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope

 Lady Anna cover

Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope was published in book form in 1874 but the setting is around 1830. Lady Anna’s mother was socially ambitious and was determined to marry into the aristocracy. Despite dire warnings, especially from her father, she insisted in marrying Earl Lovel who had a reputation for being evil. Not long after their wedding Earl Lovel told his ‘wife’ that she wasn’t actually married to him at all as he already had a wife living in Italy. Their unborn child would be illegitimate. Then he abandoned his ‘wife’ and went to live in Italy. Over the next 20 years Lady Lovel strove to prove in court that she was actually married to Lord Lovel, all that cost a lot of money that she didn’t have.

A local tailor took pity on her and ended up supporting her and her daughter, Lady Anna. The tailor had spent thousands of pounds on the Lovels, to the detriment of his own son. Meanwhile Anna has more or less been been brought up with Daniel the tailor’s son and over the years they’ve become more than friends, Anna has promised to be his wife when she’s of age. When her mother learns of this she’s horrified at the thought of her Lady Anna marrying the son of a mere tailor, despite the fact that that tailor has been supporting them both for years.

Meanwhile Lord Lovel has died intestate so his estate and money should go to his nephew who is keen to marry Anna which would please Lady Lovel, but Anna feels she must keep her promise to Daniel. Lady Anna takes this all very badly as you would expect of someone who has always been a social climber

Whose side was I on? Well, there are lots of clues to the character of Daniel and they don’t bode well for a harmonious marital future for whomever he marries. Daniel is a Radical, the variety that thinks that everyone should have equal rights, except his wife!

Daniel Thwaite was considering the injustice of the difference between ten thousand aristocrats and thirty million of people, who were for the most part ignorant and hungry.

“Mr Thwaite says, “There must be earls and countesses.”

Daniel Thwaite says, “I see no must in it. There are earls and countesses as there used to be mastodons and other senseless, overgrown brutes roaming miserable and hungry.”

Daniel Thwaite says, ” I don’t want my wife to have anything of her own before marriage, but she certainly shall have nothing after marriage – independent of me” For a man with sound views of domestic power and marital rights always choose a Radical.

I believe that Trollope wrote more books featuring these characters – it sounds like Lady Anna may discover that she has made a big mistake.

Chronicles of Carlingford by Mrs Oliphant

Chronicles of Carlingford cover

Chronicles of Carlingford by the very prolific Scottish author Mrs Oliphant is a Virago publication which consists of two novellas – The Rector and The Doctor’s Family, originally published in 1863. There’s an introduction by Penelope Fitzgerald.

The blurb on the back of this book compares Margaret Oliphant with Jane Austen, George Eliot and Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles. I would include Mrs Gaskell too.

The Rector is only 35 pages long, the setting is mid 19th century Carlingford which is a small town close to London. A new rector/minister is coming to the town and his parishioners are anticipating what sort of preacher he will be. Surely he won’t be as low church as the last rector. He had gone to the canal and preached to the bargemen there – that didn’t go down at all well with his snooty congregation. Most of them are hoping for something a bit more stylish – and preferrably a bachelor as there are several unmarried ladies apparently in need of a husband. The new rector has spent the last 15 years cloistered in All Souls and this is his first living. He may be a great theologian but he’s absolutely at sea when it comes to human nature and dealing with his parishioners.

Difficult or awkward men seem to have been Oliphant’s forte. There’s no doubt she had plenty of experience of them within her own family, and in fact she came to believe that her managing and competent character contributed to the weakness in her menfolk.

The Doctor’s Family is 157 pages long. Young Doctor Rider has just moved to a newly built part of Carlingford, he doesn’t know it but that is not going to do his business any good. The old established Carlingfordians look down on that area. His older brother had gone to Australia under some sort of cloud and he had married and had a family out there. Things didn’t go any better for him in Australia – well – he is a drunkard – so he had come home and was living at his young brother’s expense.

Dr Rider had decided that although he wanted to marry a young woman he couldn’t afford to look after his brother and a wife and children, so he had given up hope of marrying at all. Imagine his horror when his brother’s wife and children and her sister turn up and billet themselves on him!

Even worse – it turns out that his brother’s wife is feckless and doesn’t even take any notice of their badly behaved children, and for some reason she blames her brother-in-law for the situation that she and her husband are in.

This one is much stronger I think, but they’re both well worth reading and have moments of comedy as well as frustration at enraging characters.

I read this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

lassics

I’ve decided to participate in Karen @Books and Chocolate’s Back to the Classics Challenge 2019, it seems like a good idea as it’ll be a way of concentrating on unread books that I already have in the house. There are twelve categories – see below – and I intend to read one from each category, just for a wee bit of fun – I know, it takes all sorts! See my reading choices below the categories.

THE CATEGORIES:

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899.
1. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1969. All books in this category must have been published at least 50 years ago. The only exceptions are books that were published posthumously but were written at least 50 years ago.
2. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

3. Classic by a Woman Author.
3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language. You may read the book in your native language, or its original language (or a third language for all you polyglots!) Modern translations are acceptable, as long as the book was originally published at least 50 years ago. Books in translation are acceptable in all other categories as well.
4. The Earth by Emile Zola

5. Classic Comic Novel. Any comedy, satire, or humorous work. Humor is very subjective, so if you think Crime and Punishment is hilarious, go ahead and use it, but if it’s a work that’s traditionally not considered humorous, please tell us why in your post. Some classic comic novels: Cold Comfort Farm; Three Men in a Boat; Lucky Jim; and the works of P. G. Wodehouse.
5. An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer

6. Classic Tragic Novel. Tragedies traditionally have a sad ending, but just like the comedies, this is up for the reader to interpret. Examples include The Grapes of Wrath, House of Mirth, and Madame Bovary.
6. The Trial by Franz Kafka

7. Very Long Classic. Any classic single work 500 pages or longer, not including introductions or end notes. Omnibus editions of multiple works do not count. Since page counts can vary depending on the edition, average the page count of various editions to determine the length.
7. Is He Popinjoy? by Anthony Trollope

8. Classic Novella. Any work of narrative fiction shorter than 250 pages.
8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). Includes classic set in either North or South America or the Caribbean, or by an author originally from one of those countries. Examples include Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (United States); Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Jamaica); or One Hundred Years of Solitude (Columbia/South America).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). Any classic set in one of those continentss or islands, or by an author from these regions. Examples include Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt); The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (Japan); On the Beach by Nevile Shute (Australia); Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria).
10. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute

11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived. Read locally! Any classic set in a city, county, state or country in which you’ve lived, or by a local author. Choices for me include Giant by Edna Ferber (Texas); Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (Chicago); and Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (Germany).
11. Waverley by Walter Scott

12. Classic Play. Any play written or performed at least 50 years ago. Plays are eligible for this category only.
12. The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Have you read any of these ones? It isn’t too late to join in with this challenge – go on, I dare you!

The Classics Club Spin #19 – a bit late

I’ve been away in Lancashire over the last four days, and I had scheduled some posts to go on here while I was away – but only one of them did go on – technology – huh! Anyway that’s why I didn’t post about this classics spin before it was actually announced, but I’m just going ahead with it anyway. The number has been picked and it’s 1 so I’ll be reading The Earth by Emile Zola. I’m quite looking forward to reading it.

Classics Club

Yes it’s spin time again at The Classics Club. Post a list of twenty classics from your list and read whichever book the spin comes up with.

1. The Earth by Emile Zola
2. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
3. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
4. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
5. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
6. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
7. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
8. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Parrot by Hugh Lofting
9. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
10. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
11. Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
12. The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff
13. If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi
14. The Tempest by Shakespeare
15. An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
16. Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley
17. Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett
18. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
19. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
20. The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott

I’m really not fussed which book I get to read. There’s plenty of time to get around to reading it as the 31st January 2019 is the big day to post my thoughts on the book.

Quite a lot of the books on my list are chunksters.

Classics Club Spin number 18

Classics Club

It’s spin time again at the Classics Club and the number will be chosen on Wednesday the 1st of August, I’ll have to read it by the 31st of August. I’ve fairly recently had to compile my second classics list as I completed the original one a while ago, so here are twenty from the newish list, I don’t mind which number comes up.

1. The Earth by Emile Zola
2. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
3. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
4. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
5. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
6. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
7. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Parrot by Hugh Lofting
8. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
9. The Kill by Emile Zola
10. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
11. The Trial by Franz Kafka
12. The Beast in Man by Emile Zola
13. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
14. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
15. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
16. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
17. Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Laclos
18. Montaigne
19. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
20. Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope

Classics Club Spin number 17

Well the Classics Club Spin number has been chosen, it’s number 3 so the book that I’ll have to read before April 30th is Sir Walter Scott’s Bride of Lammermoor.

That’s fine by me as I’ve been meaning to read that one for ages. My copy which was published by Richard Edward King Limited originally belonged to Jack’s grandfather so it’s very old, but strangely it has no publication date on the front. The print is very small so although it’s only 316 pages long that probably translates to over 600 pages in a more modern print size. I think I’ll download it from Project Gutenberg so I can read it on my Kindle, or get a more modern copy.

Did you take part in the spin, and are you pleased with what you have to read?