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Shakespeare Connected - Storms and Watercolours: Visualising Shakespeare's Nature

Antigonus Pursued by a Bear - Engraved by S. Middiman after the painting by Joseph Wright, 1794

In The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare conjures a fascinating contrast between the sterile court of Leontes, King of Sicilia, and the pastoral idyll of Bohemia, where the baby Princess Perdita is taken by the courtier Antigonus in an effort to keep her safe from Leontes’ irrational rage. In a bizarre (and in its production history often darkly comic) turn of events, Antigonus’s good deed is rewarded by a deadly encounter with the local wildlife. Hence, the famous stage direction: ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’. In this engraving of a painting by the celebrated Joseph Wright, the moment is one of threat and chaos, amplified by the bold rendering of crashing waves and jagged rocks. It is worth bearing in mind that this image was created during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, and therefore its sublime vision of Shakespeare’s nature could be read against the contemporary reality of urbanisation.


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