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The Winter's Tale - Bohemian Scenes

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Introduction

"The Bohemian scenes are a distraction from the key elements of the play" "The Bohemian scenes provide a welcome contrast to the wintry gloom established before them" How do you respond to these different criticisms of the play? What is your view on the significance of the Bohemian scenes? The two statements agree on the fact that the Bohemian scenes contrast with those based in Sicilia, but offer conflicting views as to the importance and usefulness of the scenes. It is important to highlight these contrasts. The scenes differ in two main ways. First is the natural setting of those in Bohemia with the formal courtliness of Sicilia. The most obvious portrayal of this contrast is through the characterisation and staging of the play. While the Sicilian scenes are based in Leontes' grand court with two kings and Queen Hermione, daughter of "the Emperor of Russia", surrounded by Lords and attendants. In Bohemia the audience is shown a sheep-shearing festival, watched by truly rural characters such as the Shepherd and his son, the Clown. On a more analytical level, this contrast is also made evident through the lines and language of the characters. ...read more.

Middle

His analogy with the moon also shows their natural deposition. Equally, Shakespeare's use of "half a kiss" as a unit of measurement is beautifully romantic. This romanticism is certainly no longer present between Leontes and Hermione (in one direction at least). He does refer to his initial love for Hermione when he states that she "never spok'st to better purpose" than when she told him that: "I am yours for ever". This soon deteriorates into maddened jealousy: "Inch-thick, knee-deep, o'er head and ears a forked one! [To Mamillius] Go play, boy, play: thy mother plays" Here is one of the strongest examples of "the infection of his brains". His reference to "a forked one" is him being cuckolded by his wife. The trochaic "inch-thick, knee-deep" gives the speech a trochaic start and a slightly obtuse rhythm, which only emphasises his madness. When he tells Mamillius to play, his mind instantly leaps back to his supposedly adulteress wife. This shows how completely overcome his mind is. Now that these contrasts have been established, we must determine whether or not they are a distraction and whether the contrast is welcome. I feel that the purpose of the Bohemia scenes is to advance the audience's knowledge of (and relationship with) ...read more.

Conclusion

gloomy end to the Sicilian scenes that involved the deaths of both the King's son and wife as well as the episode in which he denounces his innocent newborn daughter to be a "bastard". The turning point between the tragedy and the comedy is the now infamous stage direction "Exit pursued by a bear". Due to the fact that his crosses the borders of both tragedy and comedy, it can be performed to emphasise the sad loss of Archidamus or the humorous ridiculousness of the bear's presence. I feel that the Bohemia scenes are certainly significant as, through their contrast, they highlight the wrongdoings of the scenes that proceeded them, but also invite some sympathy and understanding for Leontes' position, similar to the feelings felt by Paulina over the 16 years skipped in act 4 scene 1 that reach an essential point in act 5 as she feels that he now deserves to have his wife returned to him. Equally, he vitally manages to lift the mood of the play as one based solely in Sicilia would stray from the atmosphere he wished to establish. Through a careful use of characters and themes, which are present in both Bohemia and Sicilia, Shakespeare maintains their relevance while avoiding them becoming a distraction. ...read more.

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