Historical Background Information—The Winter’s Tale
By Dr. Susan Breitzer
This aspect of dramaturgy has posed a challenged, because technically this play reflects no actual
history, at least on the surface. Probing below the surface however, it is believed to be allegorical to the
second marriage of King Henry VIII of England to Anne Boleyn, or more to the point, its tragic ending. A
little historical background to that is in order.
The English Reformation was different from that of Continental Europe in that 1. It was a largely top-
down affair, legislated by the monarchy 2. It had very much to do with the personal life of King Henry
VIII. Henry VIII’s marital record is very well known to history, and much came down to producing a
male heir. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon had produced only one surviving child—a daughter, Mary.
Then as she aged, Henry genuinely developed the hots for her lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. So Henry
appealed to Rome for an annulment of his first marriage, on the retrospectively decided grounds of
Catherine’s being his brother Arthur’s widow, something that was apparently disallowed without a
dispensation (which they had gotten) The divorce suit, was hardly the most frivolous one to come forth
from or been granted to a monarch nonetheless threatened to undo the whole legitimacy of Papal
Dispensations. Plus at the time, Pope Clement VII was under the political thumb of Catherine’s nephew,
The pope therefore had little option but to dither and stall, allowing the suit to proceed in England for
the next two years, before suddenly announcing that it had to be brought to Rome anew. Henry, after
laying increasing pressure on the Pope, in 1531 compelled an assembly of English clergy to make him
“protector and only supreme head” of the Church in England. Then, in 1533, went ahead and married
the already pregnant Anne, without waiting for an annulment of his previous marriage. Then the child
was turned out to be a girl (the future Queen Elizabeth I), it must have seemed all for nothing—Henry
refused even to attend her christening. From there, things didn’t work out so well for Anne, after
subsequent failed efforts to give the king a son, ending with a miscarriage. Afterward, the king fell
in love with her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, his eventual third wife. Rather than attempt another
divorce, he had Anne imprisoned and executed on trumped-up charges of adultery with multiple
men—including a close friend of the king’s who refused to confess even to avoid execution. It has been
suggested then that Perdita was an allegorical presentation of Elizabeth, the unwanted daughter who
went on to be one of the greatest (if not greatest) English monarchs in history.
There are also historical circumstances surrounding some of the geographical oddities described in
the play. In The Winter’s Tale there are references to the “seacoast” and “desert” of the Kingdom of
Bohemia. If this Bohemia is the same the comprises most of the modern Czech Republic, this does not
make since, because this region has neither desert nor seacoast. But Bohemia in this context, may
refer to a much lager territory briefly ruled by Ottokar II of Bohemia that included the Adriatic coast,
making it theoretically possible to sail from Sicily to the “seacoast of Bohemia” during the period under
discussion. Other possibilitiesare that Bohemia was an alternate name for the region Apulia in Sicily or
misspelling of Bithynia in Asia Minor. The most likely theory is that Shakespeare, when adapting the
novella Pandosto, in which King Pandosto of Bohemia was the one who suspected his wife of being
unfaithful with his best friend, the King of Sicily, Shakespeare chose to reverse the locations of the
two characters. This was because of King James II’s alliance with Rudolph II, the King of Bohemia (and
the Holy Roman Emperor!)at the time of the play was first performed—also making it possible for the
play to be performed in honor of the marriage of James’s daughter Elizabeth to the crown prince of
Bohemia! There are also other explanations for this and other geographic improbabilities that will be
discussed in a separate literary history of the play.
Beyond Bohemia, there is also the question of why Shakespeare located the Oracle of Delphi on an
island, when Delphi (ancient and modern) is located in the mountains in Central Greece. Rather, this
seeming relocation of the Oracle to the island of Delos (known in Shakespeare’s time as Delphos) is
lifted straight from Pandosto, whose author in turn refers Virgil’s Aeneid.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare is excited about this holiday season. After an exciting year that began LAST January with Twelfth Night and ended in November with Antigone, we’re looking forward to an exciting 2015. To help us prepare for the coming year’s productions, we’re asking for your help in making our holiday dreams come true.
Below is a wishlist of items we’re after. If you’re interested in contributing one or more of these items, please email email@example.com to claim the item. We’ll provide information for shipping, coordinate getting you a tax letter, and make sure the items are taken off the list below as necessary.
Cotton Gauze fabric — 52″ wide | 500 yards (can receive in 50 yard increments)
Chauvet COLORado Tri-tour LED par light | 12 instruments (can receive one at a time)
Aquamarine Fabric Dye – Rit | 20 bottles (can take one a time)
Tan Fabric Dye – Rit | 20 bottles (can take one a time)
Gray Fabric Dye – Rit | 30 bottles (can take one at a time)
Large Storage Tubs | Total of 20 (can take one at a time)
Frosted round Christmas light strings and/or replacement bulbs | total of 50 strings (can take one at a time)
LED Tea lights (36 pack) | total of 30 packs (can take one at a time)
Lowe’s Gift Cards | any amount
Custom Sweet Tea Mason Jars | $440 for 300 (all at once)
Outdoor Halogen Par lights | any amount
First Aid Kit
Laser printer (used is fine)
Wireless lapel/headset mics | total of 15 units
White peasant shirts | total of 25. Various sizes.
VISA gift cards designated for purchasing stage combat weapons | any amount. $2000 goal.
Garden pop up gazebo | two needed
Large rectangular garden party tent | 1 needed
Large round garden party tent | 1 needed
By Brandon S. Bryan, STS Master of Stage
I am a man. I have man-parts, manly features, a man’s voice, and I get cast in roles written for men which, honestly, is a lot of roles.
Think about this: how many strong, meaty, important or impactful female roles can you drum up off the top of your head? Go on, think about it for a good ten seconds, at least. Some of the more theatrically-educated and inclined might have come up with enough to count on two hands. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? One might ask, “why doesn’t someone do something about it?”
This lack of strong, substantive roles for women – especially in classical and Shakespearean plays- gave rise to a new branch of Sweet Tea Shakespeare: the Honey Series. The series aims to put talented women in the spotlight by presenting plays which feature strong female casts. The Honey Series debuts with Antigone, a Greek Tragedy centered around the titular character and her struggle to find justice and decency regarding the burial of her brother; an act forbidden by the King of Thebes. In the spirit of Honey, the cast is comprised of five women and two men. Of those women, three are playing multiple roles, some of which would traditionally be portrayed by men. This might not seem like a very big deal, (especially, perhaps, to men); yet, consider how a fresh perspective can change even a mundane sentry or messenger into an intriguing, resolute character committed to do what is right no matter the consequences.
The Honey Series is an important part of bringing equality and fairness into the world of theatre. Nowhere else offers such opportunities that specifically target women. As it continues to develop and grow, I hope to see many more women given the opportunity to display their craft. This town is home to so many talented and inspired women, and now there is a place that wants to show how talented the females of Fayetteville truly are.
And they deserve nothing less.
By Brandon Bryan, STS Master of Stage
I moved back to Fayetteville, the city of my youth, almost six years ago. Since then, I’ve worked for and sampled most of the theaters in Fayetteville. All of them are wonderful, but there is one that stands apart from all the rest.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare doesn’t try to be better than other theaters. We don’t try to out-do anyone or compete with anyone. Before I joined this amazing troupe, I witnessed their dedication not only to the art, but also to the community.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare has since accepted me into the fold, and I truly feel like I belong here. It makes me happier than even Shakespeare could describe to work with others who share in the ideal that art is about love and giving. We love this community, and we enjoy being able to give back to it in the form of quality entertainment. This company has become a home for that kind of community service, and for my single self, I am prouder than I have ever been to serve this community with Sweet Tea Shakespeare.
More exciting still is the fact that STS is still young, with a lot of room to grow. After seeing two productions as an audience member and participating as an actor in three, I can vouch for the wonderful potential that this company of players possesses. As we continue to give to our community, I am humbled at the amount that our community reciprocates. We are only able to do what we love as a direct result of the city to which we owe our origin. I see, during each production, company members and volunteers alike come together to achieve wonder and magic the likes of which I have never witnessed nor heard tell of from any theater.
The symbiosis of Sweet Tea Shakespeare and our community is truly what sets us apart, for we are our community. I consider myself lucky to be able to be an active part of this family, and I’m positively delighted to be able to share these experiences with the community to which I also owe so much.
By Jessica Osnoe, STS Master of Education
One of my earliest experiences with Shakespeare is attempting to read Hamlet around age ten. I remember following the story, but becoming frustrated with the language because I knew there was meaning in it that I couldn’t yet see. I felt relieved to learn a few years later that Shakespeare’s works, and indeed all plays, weren’t meant simply to be read; they were meant to be acted, to be lived out onstage.
As a lover of words, I am fascinated by the way language works, especially in performance. The act of breathing – respiration – includes both inspiration (breathing in) and expiration (breathing out), which gives the language a unique life each time it is spoken. Words live (inspire) and die (expire) in a single breath, making each performance a different expression in the life of the language.
One of the things I love most about Sweet Tea Shakespeare is its commitment to living out the beauty of language in performance. Every production begins with attention to the text and builds a shared understanding of the story among the actors so that each night, we can live each word with the audience, celebrating the potency and fragility of language well-lived and of a story well-told.
The process of creating the characteristic atmosphere for each Sweet Tea Shakespeare performance also inspires a unique fellowship among the cast and crew. A Sweet Tea show is never only about the play, so those who invest their time gain not only experience in acting, but the joy and satisfaction of bringing about a creative vision with like-minded people. The sweetness of this shared fellowship and understanding makes working with this company one of the joys of my life. I am honored to share in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s vision and invite you, as you are willing and able, to own part of the vision as well.
By Nathan Pearce, Associate Company Member
When I moved back to Fayetteville last August, the one thing I was really hoping for was that I would find a theatre family right away. I can say that I definitely found that with Sweet Tea Shakespeare. The thing that is unique about this theatre troupe is that when you are part of this group, you are not just an actor, or techie, or musician……you get to experience every aspect of theatre. You truly own the show and get to leave a lasting mark.
Another thing I love about Sweet Tea Shakespeare is that it allows the community to be exposed to classic theatrical pieces in a very unique and special way. We strive to give our audience the best show, rain or shine. There is definitely a strong sense of satisfaction when completing a show and receiving applause from the audience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
In short, I love my Sweet Tea Shakespeare family and I would be honored if you would show your support!