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"The Winter's Tale:" 'The Madness of Leontes appears with terrifying speed and threatens to destroy the world around him.' Discuss.

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Introduction

'The Madness of Leontes appears with terrifying speed and threatens to destroy the world around him.' Discuss. Leontes' 'tyranny working together with (his) jealousies' causes him to lose his only son by death and his wife, daughter, most expert advisor and oldest friend by estrangement for sixteen years. It is his jealousy that lies at the heart of his madness and it is his power as king that allows him act on this jealousy and wreak havoc upon those people closest to him. Leontes' jealousy appears in the second scene of the first act, with alarming swiftness and based on no real evidence. The suspicion begins to grow when Hermione manages to convince Polixenes to prolong his stay in Sicilia, Leontes takes it as a personal affront saying: 'at my request he would not.' From this moment on the jealousy begins to grow, this is made worse by the fact that Leontes himself asked Hermione to try and persuade Polixenes. Leontes claims that Hermione has 'never but once' spoken 'to better purpose' than when entreating Polixenes to stay, the other occasion, according to Leontes, was when she agreed to marry him. He seems to think that she holds them equally in her affections, it is a sign of how much his jealousy has grown ...read more.

Middle

This is shown well by the story of their courtship, Hermione made Leontes wait 'three crabbed months' before she told him: 'I am yours forever.' Leontes still seems to hold a grudge and does not see the compliment, Hermione waited till she was completely sure that she would be faithful to him forever. This lack of understanding leads to a lack of trust, could he ever possibly believe her guilty of adultery if he understood her character. Perhaps the most important element of Leontes madness not taken into account by those whose believe the reasons for it are irrelevant, is the sheer power of sexual jealousy. Leontes describes his emotions by saying 'my heart dances,' it is as if the jealousy has a physical affect on him Once the suspicion enters his mind the jealousy begins to take control of him and we see it warping his mind. Given a little time to observe Polixenes and Hermione together he starts to view all their actions as if they were lovers. A 'smile' or a 'sigh' from Hermione seems to him to be the ultimate treachery, and takes normal words such as 'satisfy' to be obscene euphemisms. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is the idea that Leontes mind is diseased and that it would only take something that forced him to remember his life before the madness to cure him. But Paulina is unsuccessful, with an alarming lack of compassion and ignoring the fact that Perdita is the 'copy of the father', he orders her to be abandoned in some 'remote and desert place'. This is a man 'without...mercy'. But Leontes' worst act and the one which seals his destruction comes during Act 3 Scene 2, the court room scene. It is terrible enough that Leontes charges his innocent wife with adultery and conspiracy to regicide, does not listen to her proud, defiant eloquence (which is in sharp contrast to his own confused ranting) when she states that 'life can be no commodity' to her without his 'favour', but there is worse to come. Leontes sent two subjects to Apollo's oracle at Delphos and when they return with a 'seal'd-up Oracle' it is read aloud proving that: 'Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless' and 'Camillo a true subject'. But Leontes flies in the face of the Gods and defies the oracle, showing his overpowering insanity and blindness to the truth. It is this action which results in his punishment of a dead son and lost wife. He repents immediately but it is too late, he must live with the consequences of his actions. ...read more.

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