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A Winter's Tale - Why is Leontes so jealous of Hermione and Polixenes and why does he think they are having an affair?

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Introduction

Nick Magill 30/09/03 Why is Leontes so jealous of Hermione and Polixenes and why does he think they are having an affair? By the time Leontes has become certain his suspicions that his wife is having an affair are true he is undoubtedly in the grip of a mental illness. This is the main reason behind the development of his jealousy of Polixenes. Leontes and Polixenes have been close friends since an early age but Leontes seems to forget this friendship whilst jealousy takes him over as he think he is seeing his wife moving away from him. The problem, ironically, is started by Leontes. Leontes is desperate for Polixenes to stay longer with him in Sicily but Polixenes refuses on the grounds that he has a child back in Bohemia and that he must go home and be an active king again. Leontes fails to tempt Polixenes into staying an extra few weeks due to the blunt way in which he tries to persuade Polixenes. For example Leontes says simply "Stay your thanks a while, and pay them when you part" without making an effort at arguing why he would like Polixenes to stay. ...read more.

Middle

Leontes feels that this request has been taken too far by Hermione or perhaps he forgets he asked her to do it altogether. Leontes realises that Hermione and Polixenes' topics of conversation have perhaps become (or always were) quite intimate and sexual. Hermione talks about keeping Polixenes "prisoner, not like a guest" and Polixenes talks about "innocence". Hermione even refers to adultery in persuading Polixenes to stay when he wishes to leave. She says when describing Polixenes and Leontes' marriages that she hopes, "If you first sinn'd with us, and that with us You did continue fault, and that you slipp'd not With any but with us [Hermione and the wife of Polixenes]". Hermione in talking so candidly about this may have alerted Leontes to the possibly she is cheating on him. Later on Hermione comes across to me at least as sounding slightly sexual; especially in the way she talks about horses and kissing. She says to Polixenes and Leontes, "You may ride's with one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere with spur we heat an acre". I think this tone in which she talks is sexual and could be construed by Leontes as being slightly flirtatious. ...read more.

Conclusion

If this was the case then I think she would have either fled her husband and home or let Leontes know that it was not his baby. The fact that she is eight months pregnant ties in with the arrival of Polixenes a month previous to her conceiving. This would make Leontes feel humiliated as he would have to assume that Polixenes and Hermione had been having an affair under his nose for the duration of her pregnancy; a full eight months. Leontes view that the two are having an affair is compounded further when Camillo, who he has told to poison Polixenes, appears to flee Sicily with Polixenes. This makes Leontes feel there is or has been a plot against him in which some of his own people are involved. Leontes mental state is obviously creating an illusion, which he feels he has evidence to back up. Leontes' natural paranoid mind creates the idea of his "pond fish'd by his next door neighbour". Leontes is isolating himself and turning himself into a victim therefore backing up the image in his mind that his wife is cheating on him. He creates the story in which his wife is having an affair and applies it to the real world. ...read more.

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