The Winter’s Tale: A Poem by Philippa Kelly

NapaShakes Dramaturg Dr. Philippa Kelly offers this poem to illuminate The Winter’s Tale, starring Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh and screening at the Cameo Cinema on January 17, 2016:


The Winter’s Tale

Polixenes – Leontes’ friend,

With dear intent a path didst wend

To far Sicilia, there to rest,

With pleasure at his friend’s behest.


For reasons far beyond his ken

(The inmost part of many men?)

Leontes harbors jealous rage

Which, unannounced, bursts forth on-stage


He swears his friend Polixenes

Has made his pregnant wife his squeeze!

How ghastly! Can his child be sired

By he, who once was so admired?



‘Go throw the infant in the river!’2244

His servants all are set a-quiver.

His son collapses, dies of sadness,

His wife, too, prey to Leontes’ madness.

And so Leontes has to face

His loss of love, and life, and grace.

He’s now curated by Pauline

Who swears she’ll scrub his conscience clean.


Meanwhile, in forests of Boheme,

A shepherdess does regal seem,

Inspiring much appreciation

Of lineaments beyond her station.


The son of King Polixenes

Before this wench gets on his knees.

Implores her to enrich his life

By saying she’ll become his wife.


3307They fall in love and plan a future

The narrative requires a suture:

They must produce a fairytale!

And to Sicilia thus they sail.


GUESS who has stepped from off the water?

Leontes’ lost, dead-seeming daughter!

And now Pauline will strutt her stuff –

Declaring 16 years enough


For any sinner to repent

And so, as if from heaven sent,

She brings Hermione from the grave:

Sweet tears her gentle face do lave!


Death is death, a wall’s a wall,

But somewhere deep inside us all,

A fairytale can yet prevail,

Illuminating dark travail.


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