Staging the Sacred: Transformation and Miracle in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale"


Anne Wolfstone

Document Type


Publication Date



William Shakespeare?s Late Romance, "The Winter?s Tale", was performed for the first time in London?s Globe Theater in 1611. Nearly a century after Luther?s Ninety-Five Theses, tensions between Protestants and Catholics continued to play out in society and on stage. Shakespeare critic Huston Diehl focuses much of her writing on the relationship between Reformation and Elizabethan theater. Diehl compares priest and player in her essay ?Disciplining Puritans and Players? and offers deeper historical insight into the Protestant-Catholic interchange on issues such as iconoclasm and the Eucharist in Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage . My historical question of Reformation and theater will largely rely on Huston Diehl?s account, but focus upon important instances of miracle and transformation in "The Winter?s Tale." Miracle and its power to transform?in the religious sense?is clear, but less comprehensible and equally as important as in a plainly irreligious play. The play itself begins as a tragedy, but ends as a comedy and, therefore, eludes genre classification, undergoing an extreme transformation. What?s more, most of the play?s characters surpass any one identity. As tragedy turns to comedy, orphans become princesses, the dead are revived, jealousy turns to reverence and faith relieves doubt. I will show how these transformative miracles reflected the religious?how performance of miracle on the secular stage functioned in relation to miracle on the priest?s pulpit. These staged miracles necessarily captured the imagination and conviction of Shakespeare?s playgoers. Miracle allowed his audiences to find faith, belief and sacredness in the most unexpected place.


Martha Ronk




Ford Mentors Endowment

This document is currently not available here.