The Winter's Tale

Monday, September 12, 2011
Yes, I know we just started Hamlet but we're going to take a quick detour to read The Winter's Tale in preparation for the performance we're going to see. With that said, forget my last post and be open to meet some new characters.

We open on two lords, Camillo and Archidamus, who then talk about the great friendship between their kings Leontes and Polixenes. By now I should realize that as soon as Shakespeare sets up a seeming life-long friendship it will be broken. And big suprise! It's over a girl. Go figure.

So, Leontes suspects Polixenes of being in a relationship with his wife because he refuses to stay until his wife (Hermione) asks Polixenes to stay. I feel that Leontes is completely overreacting (which is confirmed later in the act). Hermione makes a point to not say anything until Leontes asks her "Tongue-tied, our queen?/ speak you."

Let me point out Hermione's first comment of the play - "I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until/ You have drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,/ Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you are sure/ All in Bohemia's well;" We hear from Polixenes that nothing is happening between him and Hermione, but Hermione's speech here should be proof enough. Notice how she starts off by telling Leontes what he should tell Polixenes. Only after increased stubbornness from Polixenes does she address him directly. This should show that she still respects her husband enough to converse with him first about conversing with Polixenes. I just think that if I were in an unfaithful relationship (hypothetically) that I wouldn't really care about Leontes in the discussion and I would automatically entreat Polixenes to stay from the start.

Bottom line is that Leontes is being a jealous king. The only person ever able to challenging his authority would be the neighboring king, Polixenes, and having such a person in close proximity must make Leontes feel like his own power is slipping. In Polixenes' own words - "This jealousy/ Is for a precious creature: as she's rare,/ Must be great, and as his person's mighty,/ Must it be violent,"


  1. Justin Walter said...:

    I agree with the fact that Leontes is an irrationally jealous person. I was wondering if Acts II and III would bear this out, and they really did...especially when Leontes refuses to acknowledge the baby as his own and sentences it to abandonment while ignoring all the testimony of his lords and Paulina. He even blows off the Oracle, right up until his son dies. Then there's a big turnaround...a little too late. This has to be a characterization like we discussed in class.

  1. Mason said...:

    It makes me wonder what has happened in the relationship between Leontes and Hermoine before to make it so fragile. Leontes definitely has problems, sometimes the worst things we see in other people are just projections of ourselves. What has happened to Leontes?

Post a Comment