What an unusual Shakespeare play really surprised you

Summary of The winter fairy tale

The Oracle of Delphi

According to ancient myth, the Greek father of gods left Zeus once two eagles set off from one end of the world each, and the two birds met in Delphi. That is why the city, located in central Greece at the foot of Mount Parnassus, was considered the center of the world. It was also used from the 8th century BC onwards. To the seat of the Oracle of Delphi, the Apollo, to the god of arts, spring and prophecies, was dedicated. Pythia was the name of the priestess through whom Apollo gave his advice to the pilgrims. However, the prophecies had to be interpreted retrospectively, which often caused confusion among those seeking advice. According to recent research, gases leaked from a crevice in Delphi, which may actually have put Apollo's priestess in a trance-like state. At first the Oracle of Delphi spoke only once a year - on the birthday of Apollo - and later once during each summer month.

One of the most famous oracles handed down in mythology is the prophecy as to what King Oedipus kill his own father and marry his mother. The Greek poet presented the tragic fate of this mythological figure Sophocles in a around 430 BC It is one of the most important works in world literature. Also Alexander the Great is said to have Apollo in the year 335 BC BC asked for advice before his planned campaign against the Persians, although he was put off. 391 AD the Christian emperor issued Theodosius I. a provision that banned all oracle sites. Today's excavation sites in Delphi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The winter fairy tale, which was written in 1610 or 1611 and whose first attested world premiere took place on May 15, 1611 at London's Globe Theater, is one of Shakespeare's late works. It was created in a phase in which the playwright was reorienting himself, retaining the motifs characteristic of his great dramas, such as rage, jealousy, intrigue, domination and tyranny, but keeping them in a comedy, ironically broken and sometimes fairytale context posed. The pieces created during this time, which are referred to as Shakespeare's "romances" (based on the verses of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance), also belong Pericles, The storm and CymbelineWith the title of the work, Shakespeare alluded to the expectations of the contemporary audience, who understood a fairy tale to be a horror story, which with its miraculous events is allowed to defy the laws of plausibility and logic.

Shakespeare's most important model is the prose romance published in 1588, which was extremely popular at the time Pandosto. The Triumph of Time from the pen of the English poet Robert Greene. The most important redesign in the Winter fairy tale concerns the end. While in the original the queen actually dies and the guilty ruler commits suicide out of desperation over his irrational deeds, everything turns out for the better with Shakespeare. In contrast to his usual approach of taking the audience into their confidence, this one is just as surprised as the characters.

Impact history

The winter fairy tale initially enjoyed great popularity with contemporary audiences. After that, however, it was as good as forgotten for around 200 years and was only mentioned with disdainful contempt by the critics. It was considered proof that Shakespeare had lost his outstanding dramaturgical creativity in old age and was no longer able to bring characters like Hamlet or King Lear onto the stage. The words of the English poet and literary critic are indicative John Dryden, who wrote as early as 1672 that Shakespeare's "romances" were "either based on impossibilities or written so miserably that the comedy in it neither arouses the viewer's amusement nor the serious passages his dismay." Nevertheless, the English playwright and actor succeeded David Garrick in 1756 under the title Florizel and Perdita a successful reworking of the piece.

It was only the romantics who began The winter fairy tale to appreciate again and put the original version back on stage. To this day, the play is rarely performed compared to other works by Shakespeare. The numerous unlikely twists and turns as well as the lack of plausibility of the main characters are no longer primarily an expression of declining creativity, but a playful and original redesign of the genre of "romance". The play was filmed several times; In 2009 it will be directed by the British-Indian filmmaker Waris Hussein come back to the canvas.