Misfortune And Comedy In Shakespeare's Play, A Winter's Tale

1374 words - 6 pages

A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare is a chilling play full of misfortune and comedy. Throughout the play, the themes of death and suffering are present, but yet the way in which they are presented is both comical and strange. The way in which the dialogue takes place or the way in which actions occur seem to be ambiguous. One of the most pivotal points of the story takes place over a very short time span, climaxing over three pages, and declining almost immediately thereafter. In this case, the death of Hermione and Mamillius occurs and is resolved, with their burial following quickly after. The wording throughout the text can be interpreted in several ways, especially in the way which death is represented throughout the play. Death occurs quickly and there is no real indication to when it is about to take place. The characters die off stage, and as an audience we only hear of their deaths from second hand accounts. Is it thus possible to believe all that is said or heard, or is possible that the sounds and sights of the play are written as such to cause doubt? Shakespeare uses death in A Winter’s Tale as a modem for certain events to be interpreted ambiguously, ultimately leading up to the reveal at the end. The way in which death is presented is as a way for the story to proceed, and it allows for the character to mold to the situation.
Leontes has become a deranged king, one whom can no longer separate his feelings from his actions. As the novel progresses, Leontes becomes more and more rash, basing his actions only off his feelings, and it does not matter what is said to him. A prime example of this, is his reaction to the Oracle, as he disbelieves what he is told:
“Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless; Camillo a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant; his innocent babe truly begotten; and the king shall live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found” (47).
To him it is no importance what is said, instead his views are all that matters, but then reality takes hold of the situation, for shortly thereafter the death of his son is announced. His wife and queen, Hermione, passes out from the shock and also dies soon after. However, strangely none of the deaths occur on stage, rather both deaths are announced to the king through someone else. Paulina being the most important of the messengers, for she was the one caring for both Hermione and Mamillius. The way in which she announces Hermione’s death is peculiar, “I say she's dead; I'll swear it. If word nor oath prevail not, go and see: if you can bring tincture or luster in her lip, her eye, heat outwardly or [breathe] within” (50). She confirms that Hermione is in fact dead, but still want Leontes to go forth and see for himself. Strange considering that before this point Paulina had changed her views towards the tyrant king. Paulina no longer respected her king as before, for he had gone blind with rage. Leontes up and till this point had discredited his queen, already he had...

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