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Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale

2. Historical Context

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In this module, we look in more detail at the historical, political, and theatrical context of the play: first, we look at the early reign of James I and his attempts to reconcile Catholic and Protestant forces in Europe by the marriage of his son to the (Catholic) Infanta of Spain and his daughter to the (Protestant) Frederick V, the Elector Palatine; after that, we consider James’ penchant for court masques, productions which were replete with allegory and symbolism; and finally, we look at the impact of the Blackfriars Theatre, the small, indoor theatre that Shakespeare began to write plays for in 1608.


In this course, we explore several aspects of one of Shakespeare’s later plays, The Winter’s Tale. In particular, we consider the political and theatrical context for the play, the importance of allegory and symbolism, the play’s peculiar structure, and, of course, Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear”


Dr Charles Moseley is a Fellow and Tutor of Hughes Hall and has taught Classics and English Literature in the University of Cambridge for many years. He is General Editor (Literature Insights) of the unique and innovative academic e-book project -

The author of an extensive list of academic and other publications, Charles has lectured at universities, schools and societies in many countries around the world on topics as diverse as Shakespeare, the history of travel literature, the Norsemen, Medieval art and his own travels in the Arctic. Recent published essays range from Elizabethan painting to nineteenth century printing technology and the topographical drawings of Alfred Wainwright.

For many years Charles was Programme Director of the University's popular and respected International Summer Schools in English Literature and Shakespeare. He has planned and led study tours for parties of visiting scholars and teachers in several places, including Vienna, Prague and Florence. Charles and his wife recently led a seminar study group in Florence on Renaissance art and philosophy.

Charles is currently very much in demand as a lecturer and speaker, on both academic and non-academic subjects and has recently lectured on cruise vessels in the Arctic, Baltic and Antarctic.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Moseley, C. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale - Historical Context [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Moseley, C. "Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale – Historical Context." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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