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The Romance Plays

Shakespeare. Plays. 1623. London, 1623

The Winter’s Tale (written around 1611) is one of Shakespeare’s later plays and is usually categorized as a romance. Shakespeare’s romances typically share the following features:


  • A combination of rural and court scenes
  • A plot line that often involves the reuniting of long lost family members
  • An extensive use of lyrical poetry
  • A magical or fantastical occurrence
  • A mixture of tragedy and comedy
  • A masque element


A masque is a form of dramatic entertainment usually involving pantomime, dancing, dialogue, and song. Masques were popular in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and were presented as elaborate productions.


Next: About the Characters

  Did you know?

"Exit pursued by a Bear" is one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s stage directions. Many Elizabethan theaters were used for bear-baiting, which is the practice of setting dogs to fight a chained bear and betting on which would win, so in early productions a live bear may actually have been used to chase Antigonus off the stage. This line also traditionally marks a shift in the structure of the play. Up until this point, the play is serious and even tragic, whereas from this point on, there is a real sense of a comedy.

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