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It has been said that The Winter's Tale falls into two distinct halves. What relationships, if any, can you see between the two parts of the play?

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Introduction

Ruth Norris It has been said that The Winter's Tale falls into two distinct halves. What relationships, if any, can you see between the two parts of the play? In your answer you should: * Make detailed reference to the structure of the play, its language, tone and characterisation. * Relate the idea expressed in the question to your own judgement of the unity in the play, acknowledging that there may be different interpretations possible. * Show understanding of the genre of tragicomedy and the structure and tone of Shakespeare's last plays. There are two clear parts to The Winter's Tale, separated by the passage of Time. The settings in the two halves are very different and different characters drive the plot, for example, in the first half, the action takes place in the court whereas in the second half the scenes are pastoral. However, there are many strong links between the two parts. The themes of forgiveness and regeneration through the innocence and youth of the two kings' children link the misery and wrongs of the first half to the joy at the end, and behaviour is paralleled in the two parts, such as the kings' irrationality. The structure of the play plays an important part in the distinction of the two halves as clearly one era ends, sixteen years pass, and the next begins in a new place. ...read more.

Middle

Once again, the regeneration of what is to come of foretold. The fact that Perdita survives the elements she is exposed to shows her strength and that, as a helpless child, she is not threatened by natural dangers. In this play, apart from the death of Antigonus and the shipwreck, it is human behaviour that damages and kills, and the young, like Perdita and Florizel who revive and restore. There is a strong parallel between the behaviour of the two kings in the two halves of the play, with Leontes' rage and jealousy in the first half and Polixenes' irrationality and unfairness concerning Florizel's love for Perdita. Polixenes, having been a target and supposed cause of Leontes fury shows similar a trait to his childhood friend. When he confirms his suspicions that his son is courting the lowly Shepherds daughter, Perdita, he says, 'If I may ever know thou dost but sigh/ That thou no more shalt see this knack - as never/ I mean thou shalt - we'll bar thee from succession;/ Not hold thee of our blood, no, not our kin/ Far than Deucalion off.' He is willing to disown his son and heir for loving Perdita for her virtues, rather than her status. As well as the character of Polixenes offering a parallel to Leontes in his regretful behaviour, his actions help to propel the plot. ...read more.

Conclusion

Families link the two settings, Sicilia and Bohemia, as Leontes' daughter lives in Bohemia and it is through her relationship with Florizel that she is reunited with her real parents. Perdita is seen in the play as the only woman who can equal Hermione's virtues, as 'there is none worthy,/ Respecting her that's gone.' Her beauty and grace appear above her apparently humble breeding not surprisingly knowing, as the audience would, her royal origin. She reminds Leontes of his wife and the play ends when she is reunited with her mother who had 'preserved [herself]/ To see the issue.' In The Winter's Tale, it is true that there are two very distinct halves, the play being split with a passage of sixteen years. The two halves are however inextricably linked though one is tragic and the other comic. Characters are paralleled and the existence of Perdita links the two settings, but it is the theme of forgiveness and restoration that relates the happy end of the play with the tragic end of the first part. Leontes has repented, Hermione is resurrected, the 'lost child' is found and the kings' lifelong friendship is restored. Even Camillo who left Sicilia to escape Leontes' wrath wishes to return to die peacefully. All is at rest and above all, the wrongs of the first part of the play are righted. ...read more.

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