Jeanette Winterson Interview
How do you put your own stamp on the work of the most famous English writer of all time? How do you cover Shakespeare? That’s the question Hogarth Press is asking some of the best authors working today. Atwood, St Aubyn, Jacobson – they’re all having a crack at novels based on the bard’s work, but it’s Jeanette Winterson who has taken to the stage first. And she hasn’t gone for one of the big names: Hamlet, Othello, or the like. Winterson has chosen to take on one of Shakespeare’s latter works, The Winter’s Tale – seldom performed, and perhaps best known for its stage direction: ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’.
In The Winter’s Tale, King Leonides, the ruler of Sicily, becomes mad with jealousy and decides that his wife, Hermione, is having an affair with the Polixenes, the king of Bohemia and his own childhood friend. Leonides also comes to believe that the baby Hermione is carrying is not his own, and a torrent of rage and revenge is unleashed; until the second act begins, at the light-hearted scene of a sheep-shearing feast. It’s an odd play.
Winterson has moved proceedings to the current day, and looks to explore the motivations behind the actions in her wonderful version: The Gap of Time.
Jeanette Winterson spoke to Sky Kirkham about drama, comedy, and her own personal connection to the play. Originally broadcast 09/06/2016. The Gap of Time is out through Random House.