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Act 1 of "The Winter's tale",

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Introduction

"Leontes is no more than a case study in obsessive mania: he is not credible at all." "Leontes' jealousy - despite its rapid onset- is entirely convincing in its power and the horror it creates in the audience." Consider these opinions in relation to Act 1. How far does the text support each of these opinions? In Act 1 of "The Winter's tale", it is evident that Leontes' madness and suspicions over an affair between Polixenes and Hermione are increasing at an extreme pace. However, this essay will seek to analyse whether or not the, perhaps, overly paranoid nature of this is realistic in the impact it has on the audience. There are clear examples, that in the opening lines of Act 1 Scene 2, there is a very close bond between the two kings, Leontes and Polixenes. As they've been friends since childhood, this is to be expected and Leontes is keen for his friend to stay with him a while longer. "Stay your thanks a while And pay them when you part." The fact that there are shared lines between the pair of them emphasises this closeness. They are extremely close and so this makes the events that occur later in the scene baffling to the audience, because of this early closeness. Arguably however, closeness is not being shown at all in this early encounter, and it can be likened to the first scene of the play where Camillo is engaging with Archidamus. ...read more.

Middle

However the conclusions he comes to are ridiculous. ""mingling bloods" He is implying that Hermione's blood has been mingling with Polixenes' and so she is bearing his child. The audience will definitely see this as madness: it is unlikely that they have had an affair, but to come to this is overly paranoid. Leontes proceeds to say "Th' mort o'th'deer". This however, has double meaning: firstly it can mean that he wants to kill Polixenes. The alternative meaning to mort though is orgasm, which is obviously more implication that Polixenes and Hermione have been having an affair. The disturbance in Leontes' mind is shown by poor punctuation, and changes in vocabulary and speech rhythms. Initially there was a small part of the audiences mind which may well have thought that Leontes was being very intuitive and spotting something that nobody else had seen. However as his speech breaks down like this, it's obvious that he is unable to thing properly, and the audience becomes increasingly aware of the paranoia which is driving him to conclusions which are incorrect. For example twice in quick succession he questions whether or not Mamillius is actually his son, even though he is now seven years old. "Art thou my boy?" line 120 "Art thou my calf?" line 126 His thought processes appear to be drifting all over the place, and there is the repeated image of the cuckold. ...read more.

Conclusion

Leontes proceeds to list lots of things that have happened which show that he is obviously not making something out of nothing, including "kissing with inside lip" - he has not actually seen this at all though, he is clearly mad to the audience. Debatably, it could be said that obviously if you're certain people have had an affair, you don't need to have seen it - you know what they have done, meaning that this could be realistic, and compared to any sane person who's partner has had an affair. Leontes is so desperate for Camillo to endorse his theory, that he is incensed when Camillo refuses to accept it. "I say thou liest" he says. At this point, Leontes is obviously beyond reason. No longer satisfied with Camillo, he pushes aside the fact that he's unwilling to believe him and instructs Camillo to kill Polixenes. "To give mine enemy a lasting wink" Camillo, obviously disobeys this because it is clear Leontes is not in his right mind, and so the audience will tend to follow this opinion. In conclusion therefore, there are elements of realism to Leontes' suspicions of Polixenes and Hermione initially, as the close contact between the two of them makes Leontes see things which aren't actually there. However, this rapidly spirals out of control into pure paranoia, meaning that the audience see Leontes for exactly what he is - a paranoid man who is clearly mad. ?? ?? ?? ?? Patrick Stevenson HU ...read more.

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