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What atmosphere is created in Act IV of A Winter's Tale and Why?

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Introduction

What atmosphere is created in Act IV and why? Act 4 was to contrast greatly with the previous acts, as the sombre mood of Leontes' palace is to be cast away in place of more cheerful atmosphere. The play is split up into two parts, and the 2nd half strives to improve upon the dark ambience of the previous few acts - Shakespeare did this so that he could relieve the audience of the tragic events only acts before, and the cheerful environment is also there to compare with the beauty of Perdita and also the "unchaste and un-lustful love" that Florizel and Perdita have betwixt them. This mood shift from Leontes' palace is immediately highlighted when Time enters, stating that "Leontes leaving...that he shuts himself up," and mentions that Perdita has "now grown in grace equal with wond'ring...a shepherd's daughter is what to her adheres" Time also mentions "the son'o'king's, which Florizel I now name to you." It is immediately obvious "what follows after is th'argument of time." ...read more.

Middle

The underpinning tone, generally, is one of happiness, as the sheep shearing festival is meant to be a time of great joy. The presentation of the characters is very important to this, with the intertwining love between Florizel and Perdita cropping up throughout the act. This is supposed to counterbalance Leontes' fury in the first half of the play. The disguising of Polixenes and Camillo also provides comedy, as the audience are the only people who know that they are 'they.' Later, when he [Polixenes] reveals himself, an almost melodramatic, and comical moment happens ("Hast thou a father? / I have, but what of him...Let him know't - [removing his disguise] Mark your divorce, young sir...). However, one of the themes then is one of regret - "Even here undone...O cursed wretch...Undone, undone!" This runs slightly parallel to the first half of the play, as Leontes also accused Hermione of similar events, and later regretted this (negative diction such as "[Polixenes calls Perdita] a witch(craft)," and claims that she shall "have her beauty scratched out." ...read more.

Conclusion

There is also an argument between Mopsa and Dorcas over the clown, "I was promised them against the feast... he has paid you all he promised..." This provides a lighthearted banter onstage. When Florizel is speaking with Polixenes, the latter asks about his father. This provides the opportunity for 'quick-fire' lines - "Have you a father...I have, but what of him...Knows he of this...He neither does nor shall..." This also provides the audience with a chuckle, as the audience knows who is behind the disguise, and Florizel doesn't. The final part of Act 4 Scene 4 ends with Florizel, Perdita, Camillo, Polixenes, the Clown, the shepherd and Autolycus boarding a ship to Sicilia, and this provides a final kick to the atmosphere (comedy) by the slightly coincidental proceedings happening at the same time for different reasons. The atmosphere in Act 4 goes from intrigue, to joy, to regret, and to excitement of the great unknown, which plenty of comedy fed in throughout. It is to contrast greatly with Acts 1-3, as the whole play is written to be a comedy, and not a tragedy, as one might suspect at the end of act 3. ...read more.

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