The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This sad tale turned happy shows us how jealousy destroys, how God’s providential mercy restores, and how hard it can be to forgive.
The kings of Sicily and Bohemia are friends, but Sicily suspects Bohemia of adultery with his wife. It isn’t true, but he won’t listen to reason. His family is destroyed as a result. The source of the jealousy is his friend heeding her words after he wouldn’t heed his. This is a potent headwater of envy: to not be listened to easily brings resentment. Ironically, the king does not believe his wife’s pleadings of innocence, but he does believe the oracle of Delphi! He does to her the very thing that made him jealous.
Divine Providence restores. After 16 years, a faithful and observant servant brings his daughter back home. The wife isn’t really dead, and she comes back at the end.
But to forgive? A nobleman’s wife plays a key role in constantly, bluntly, reminding the king of the awful thing he did to his wife. She does not forgive him, reinforcing his own difficulty in forgiving himself. Turns out, she had the queen cloistered for 16 years, withholding her from the king! This is despicable. Shakespeare is a genius at making us feel revolted by this evil of withholding forgiveness. And then the king freely forgives her when she could not forgive herself. She swears she will never marry again (her husband died), but the king gives her a husband.
The cycle of offense has to stop with mercy and free forgiveness, or it won’t stop. Jesus Christ did this at the cross for the world, and “A Winter’s Tale” is a beautifully crafted, Gospel-shaped story.
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