Well, I finished The Winter's Tale in a very short amount of time. It was a good re-read, as I realized that there were quite a few details that I didn't remember from the first read about 5 years ago. And while I liked the play, it is definitely not my favorite Shakespeare play.
It felt really disjointed to me, almost as if good old Shakespeare wasn't sure what to do with the 4th act. It was as if he realized he needed a 4th act, so he simply threw in some new characters and some comedy and voila! Instant 4th act!
One main thing that really detracted was the appearance of Autolycus. Shakespeare always has a clown character in his comedies (I'm also thinking of Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing) to liven up the mood and provide a class distinction (higher classes always speak in iambic pentameter, while the clowns, servants, and lower classes do not). However, in The Winter's Tale, I found the clown to be completely distracting and unnecessary. He's an annoying character who jumps in out of nowhere and steals attention away from the romance of Perdita and Florizell. I was not a fan.
I wish that Shakespeare had instead spent a small amount of time showing Perdita and Florizell's courtship rather than the two of them popping up as adults and saying, "I love you!" But who am I to edit Shakespeare?
I still enjoyed the ending and the resolution. And how even thought the play starts in the gloom of winter, spring and summer bring resolution and new life to those involved. It is a very optimistic viewpoint that good for the reader.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the play:
"A sad tale's best for winter," (2.1.33)-Spoken by Mamillius
"I am a feather for each wind that blows," (2.3.191)-Spoken by Polixenes
"...nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean," (4.4.106-107)-Spoken by Polixenes
"When you do dance, I wish you
A wave o' th' sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that..." (4.4. 166-168)-Spoken by Florizell
And my favorite stage direction:
He exits, pursued by a bear. (3.3. 64)
Well, off to the next book.