Part Five

The Maiden Phoenix: the Daughter Redeems the Father

In Part Five, Shakespeare changes the story. His plays cease to follow the exact psychological development of the protagonists, but turn instead to myths and fairy tales. In these late plays (PericlesCymbelineThe Winter’s TaleThe Tempest, and finally, Henry VIII) Shakespeare finds a way to make tragic events right again. It’s the daughters who discover the way, with a few good men.

By examining first Pericles and then Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare introduces the ingredients needed for redemption and forgiveness.  The women find ways to heal the past and allow the future to unfold without the story of revenge. The last lines written by Shakespeare about a woman are Cranmer’s blessing over the baby Elizabeth at the end of Henry VIII, and his evocation of what the feminine spirit can do for a society that was borne out of her reign.

The Elizabethan Period revered learning, music, poetry, dancing, painting, and education as the pillars of the human experience. In response, Shakespeare asks: what is the role of the artist in society? Gore and Packer investigate this question in Part Five, finishing the series in the same inquisitive spirit in which they began.