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An exploration of Shakespeare’s presentation of the different forms of love in 'The Winters Tale'.

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Introduction

An Exploration of Shakespeare's Presentation of the Different Forms of Love in "The Winters Tale" There are several relationships within "The Winter's Tale" and a number of different forms of love between the characters. We see the childhood friendship between Leontes and Polixenes develop into a bitter rivalry, a true friendship grow between Paulina and Hermione out of the devastation caused by Leontes, the pure romantic love between the two youngest characters, Florizel and Perdita, Hermione's loyalty and everlasting love for Leontes despite his furious jealousy. These relationships have different effects on the characters and help reveal new aspects of the characters to the audience. There are two distinct halves to "The Winter's Tale" - it is set in bitter, claustrophobic Sicilia and warm, happy Bohemia. The atmosphere of each country affects the relationships in the play - most are formed in Bohemia and destroyed in Sicilia. In this essay I will discuss the different types of love which Shakespeare presents to the audience. I have chosen to examine the way each character loves individually, rather than in pairs, as in each case the two parties have very different perceptions of their relationship. The main romantic relationship Shakespeare presents throughout "The Winter's Tale" is between Leontes and Hermione, King and Queen of Sicilia and the audience witness the sudden changes which occur in their once loving relationship. Leontes is presented to us as an obsessive, possessive and irrational man. He sees women as objects, devoted to him and taking care of his childish behaviour. ...read more.

Middle

The fact she knows Leontes would be listening to their conversation tells us a lot about their relationship - Leontes has obviously never trusted Hermione, making it more obvious that his jealousy is not an illness. When Leontes has Hermione imprisoned he claims "'tis Polixenes has made thee swell thus", but Hermione has no idea what Leontes is talking about, a sign that they used to be happy. She asks "What is this? Sport?" and thinks Leontes may be playing some sort of game with her, which is indicative that he used to be good-natured as she clearly does expect this treatment from him. After hearing everything Leontes says about her, implying she is dishonest and calling her "an adulteress", Hermione seems to realise he is not thinking clearly but she does not seem to realise the depth of his conviction that she has been unfaithful: How will this grieve you, When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that You thus have published me! Hermione's concern for Leontes, despite his accusations and cruelty, shows the audience that she is selfless but we wonder if this is out of duty to her husband, an act of true altruism or a sign of real love. In court, Hermione attempts to make it clear to Leontes how much she loves him as she remained true to him throughout their marriage and is desperately unhappy without him. She tells the jury: My past life Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true, As I am now unhappy; which is more Than history can pattern. ...read more.

Conclusion

The ending of the play forces the audience to question whether Leontes has actually learnt from his mistakes at all. He appears to have repented for his sins and accepts that he alone is responsible for the loss of his queen and children. Despite the problems it has caused Leontes does not seem to have lost his headstrong nature and the audience are not sure he understands love now. He obviously still feels guilty that he was responsible for the death of Antigonus but he does not realise that his pairing of Camillo and Paulina is circumstantial rather than a passionate love. Come, Camillo, And take her by the hand, whose worth and honesty Is richly noted and here justified By us, a pair of kings. Leontes seems to think he is repaying Paulina for looking after Hermione and returning her to him but he does not seem to take their feelings into account, which is reminiscent of the way he behaved at the start of the play although then he was only acting for himself and he is now trying to help others. We are never shown the reconciliation between the friends and lovers but it appears that Polixenes and Hermione have forgiven Leontes - although when she wakes Hermione doesn't speak to Leontes she embraces him and it appears she forgives him. Shakespeare explores a variety of different types of love within the main forms of friendship and romance - the equal, brotherly love between Polixenes and Leontes and the self-absorbed, needy love of Leontes which is balanced by Hermione's reassuring maternal love for him. ...read more.

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