It has been said that Shakespeare “lost the light-hearted gaity of his youth; where once he had laughed, he now, in his maturity, smiled pensively not without melancholy.”Discuss this statement in relation to Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale.
Shakespeare’s plays can be divided into three categories;history,comedy and tragedy. “The Winter’s Tale” is a play, which is partial comedy and partial tragedy. Combination of both these genre is enough to describe this play one of the best drama of Shakespeare. In start of the plot, the play can be classified into problem plays of Shakespeare but with the development, we realize the tone of the play somewhat light hearted. Shakespeare is known for his tragedies; he cannot leave this genre. He has already described life as stage and humans as actors. Tragedies, written by Shakespeare, are known as Shakespearean tragedies. The matter of controversy between the critics is that whether “The Winter’s Tale” is comedy or tragedy but no one confidently has described the genre of this play. Shakespeare has also been criticized because of the climax of this play. Making a character alive, at the end of play, after so many years, is impossible but he can be forgiven as he wants to give a happy ending to this play. If Shakespeare has lost his light-hearted gaity, then why he, in light hearted tone, concluded this play.
As far as the maturity of Shakespeare is concerned, he was mature enough at that time, when he has written “Othello”. Undoubtedly, “Othello” is a pure tragedy of William Shakespeare but when he came to “The Winter’s Tale”, he wanted to laugh with the audience, therefore, keeping in view the idea of happiness, he has written this play. The play is neither comical nor purely tragic but the combination of both. Shakespeare, after writing so many tragedies, wants to show that life is not a misery. Sadness and happiness, if both combined, can make life. Everyone, in life, faces hurdles, problems, sadness but there are some happy moments of life, which are enjoyable. Life is mixture of these elements and no one can deny it. Only certain cases of tragedy cannot define everyone’s life as a tragedy. Shakespeare has laughed with us but dejections are also part of life, therefore, he has juxtaposed both these elements in this play. He, very minutely, observed life and realized that it is not totally sorrowful. So far as the pensive smile of the artist is concerned, yes, it is right that every person, who has gained maturity, similes with melancholy while watching this play as both necessary elements of life are combined in it.
The question has still not been answered. What is the reason behind the pensive smile of William Shakespeare? Either bad or good but to give credit, only to maturity, is not justified. Creativity and talent are also two main factors of writing; therefore, they should also be included. As we know that Shakespeare has written comedies but none of them are surely satirical. He is not cynical at all. His comedies are for amusement. With respect to comedies, he is not a reformer but a creative artist as well as poet. His comedies are either classical or romantic. Most of the critics has included “The Winter’s Tale” in the list of romantic plays but they cannot define that it is either comedy or tragedy; therefore, the common term called tragicomedy has been used. It is very relevant to mention here that the play, more than comedy, tragedy or tragicomedy, is problem play as in the start we know the conflict raises between the characters. Shakespeare’s attitude towards the weakness of character is very harsh. Most of the characters of his plays suffers too much, even because of their tiny mistakes. Not only the main protagonist but also the minor characters, who are innocent, also drown with the hero. Thus, melancholy is part and parcel of this play as the king commits a mistake by planting the tree of jealousy in his heart as well as mind. Shakespeare could not forgive this mistake and portrayed the suffering of the king in form of losing his heir. His suffering did not stop here but he had also been separated from the queen for so many years.
Critics may not be agreed to include this play as a light hearted comedy but it is an admitted fact that Shakespeare laughed meditatively in his last years. This play can never be called as a pure comedy after reading “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Comedy of Errors”. The play is totally based on the rule of ‘loss and recovery’. In the start, King loses everything but at the end, he recovers at least his wife and daughter. The procedure of loss and recovery leaves an undue influence on the minds of spectators. Shakespeare’s theater is different from his rivals. He thinks differently. He can define human nature in different ways. This play is an example of Shakespeare’s creativity. It may be true that the writer smiled pensively but it can never be said with confidence that it is totally interlinked with maturity of the writer.
At last but not least, it is an ideal way to represent comical elements as well as sorrows, in combination, to arrange a wonderful play rather it is creativity, which can only be done by a genius mind like Shakespeare. It is totally agreed that the play is mixture of griefs and sorrows, therefore, we can find marks of tragedy in the smiles of spectators, including writer, but it is not because of maturity of the writer. It is true that, as compared to a moron, person, who gains maturity, laughs less and if he laughs, pain is part of his smile. Moreover, Keats is very much right when he says that happiness is occasional episode in general drama of pain. Life is short but happiness is shorter. There are more hard moments in life as compared to bliss. Nevertheless, according to my opinion, it is not the impact of maturity but clean imaginative creativity of the writer to smile pensively and melancholy with the audience.