A pastoral is a poem or play dealing with shepherds and rural life. Within the conventional treatment of pastoral themes, this rural way of life is idealized. In The Winter's Tale, the pastoral scenes, or "pastoral interlude" as it is often referred to, begins in Act III, scene iii, when the action of the play shifts from Sicilia to Bohemia. In Act IV, which begins with Time announcing that sixteen years have passed, the interlude continues through the last scene of this act. With the passage of time and the movement from the Sicilian court to the Bohemian countryside, comes a movement from the tragedy of the first three acts to comedy. The lightness of comedy reaches into the play's final act, in which the pastoral characters journey to the Sicilian court. The pastoral scenes, with their rustic figures, festival, singing and dancing, serve as a sharp contrast to the more somber and cold world of the Sicilian court. Despite this contrast, the pastoral world is not free from the darkness that looms over the courtly world in Sicilia. Commentary on the pastoral scenes focuses heavily on the fact that, unlike the conventional pastoral, Shakespeare's pastoral is not completely idyllic. In the pastoral world, a terrible storm threatens as Antigonus arrives in Bohemia with the baby Perdita. Before Antigonus can escape to his ship, he is chased and later devoured by a bear. Polixenes's angry outburst in Act IV, scene iv, is...
(The entire section is 1656 words.)
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