• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"What do we learn about Leontes in Act 1? How does Shakespeare dramatically portray his character?"

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"What do we learn about Leontes in Act 1? How does Shakespeare dramatically portray his character?" James De Vile - 2/10/01 Leontes is King of Sicilia and the main character of the play. However, as always in Shakespeare's tragedies, the would-be hero has a fatal flaw which leads to his downfall. This often takes a long time to surface and be obvious to the reader. But this play differs from other such plays, for example 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Othello'. Othello's fatal flaw is not truly apparent until act IV, when his jealousy first begins to surface, yet in a Winter's Tale, Leontes' paranoia is plain from the outset. We first notice something is amiss when Leontes enters for the second time in act I scene II, enquiring whether Polixenes is "won yet", and will stay. Leontes' wife, the Queen Hermione, proclaims that she has managed to win him over, something Polixenes dismissed earlier by saying "there is no tongue that moves, none, none i'th'world, So soon as yours could win me" (I.2.20-21) to Leontes. Leontes notices this and bluntly states "At my request he would not." This could well be the first sign of Leontes' paranoia. It shows that he sees a bonding between Hermione and Polixenes that enables her to persuade him to stay, where Leontes is powerless. The main blow for Leontes comes when Hermione offers Polixenes her hand: "...I have spoke to th'purpose twice: The one for ever earned a royal husband; Th'other for some while a friend." ...read more.

Middle

Leontes' sudden paranoid jealousy causes him to talk incoherently about anything that seems to enter his head, giving us snippets of information as to how he is feeling ("I have tremor cordis in me, my heart dances"). He asks his child, Mamillius, "Art thou my boy?". This proves his paranoia, and shows that he has immediately jumped to the possible conclusion that his son was actually Polixenes'. He also seems to pay less attention to what others are saying, or answer and then break off on a tangent. After he directs the aforementioned question at his son, he begins, somewhat metaphorically, to talk of cows: "And yet the steer, the heifer, the calf Are all called neat. Still virginalling Upon his palm?-How now, you wanton calf! Art thou my calf?" After his hectic talk of animals, he turns his speech back to the same question he asked moments ago; whether Mamillius is his son. From this we learn that he is very erratic, and is thinking faster than he can talk. The fact that he asks the same question twice shows us that he is not in a fit mental state to take any information in, and although he seeks and receives reassurance, does not listen to it. One may notice that Leontes' animal metaphors are a recurring theme. He exclaims that "my wife is a hobby horse", obviously in belief that his wife is easily unfaithful sexually. ...read more.

Conclusion

Camillo, on the other hand, thinks that it is his master, Leontes that has the disease, and, refers to Leontes' Paranoia as if it were a illness that he had contracted, and one that is dangerous to Leontes' sanity. He is extremely shocked at the idea that Hermione is being unfaithful to Leontes, and pleads: "Good my lord, be cured Of this diseased opinion, and betimes, For 'tis most dangerous" Camillo is polite, clear, direct, everything one would expect of a courtier, whilst Leontes is, at first, tangled up: "For to vision so apparent rumour Cannot be mute - or thought - for cogitation Resides not in that man that does not think - My wife is slippery?" and then suddenly frantic: "Is whispering nothing? Is leaning cheek to cheek? Is meeting noses? Kissing with inside lip?" The final blow for the audience and the point that really makes us doubt whether Leontes is totally sane is his ordering of Camillo to prepare a poisoned drink for his lifelong friend Polixenes. He says, clearly, that: "To give mine enemy a lasting wink; Which draught to me were cordial." We learn here, that the poisoning of Polixenes would be the medicine of Leontes - this shows how much Leontes' sudden hate has already grown. Shakespeare uses his unrefined and uncalled for bitterness to hint that he may not have been in a fit mental state from the outset. -oOo- ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Winter's Tale section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Winter's Tale essays

  1. "The Winter's Tale:" 'The Madness of Leontes appears with terrifying speed and threatens to ...

    This proceeds to the point where his words seem to be the ravings of a madman: 'inch-thick, knee deep, o'er head and ears a fork'd one', the emphasis on 'thick', 'deep' and fork'd' make the line sound very sinister. To some degree it seems that his madness is self-inflicted, the more he thinks about it the more convinced he becomes.

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

    Polixenes again until Act 5 when he has been grieving the loss of his family and best friend as a result of his insane jealousy for 16 years. When Florizel and Perdita arrive in Sicilia, Leontes apologises to him for the way he behaved towards his father: You have a

  1. By what means does Shakespeare convince us of the madness of Leontes in Acts ...

    Shakespeare plays upon this to emphasise Leontes' madness by impressing upon us the idea that Leontes is not thinking clearly but just reacting to a primitive urge. Shakespeare also implies that Leontes' anger is a reaction to a deep-rooted psychological problem which is why he feels so violated by the idea of his wife and friend betraying him.

  2. How does Shakespeare Develop the Character of Leontes in the Opening Scenes of the ...

    This is the first time he voices his suspicion. Later, in Scene II, we get an insight into the malicious side of Leontes. The vicious imagery of the "pond being fished by his next neighbour" and the image of the "hobby-horse" show how caught up in his own incoherent, paranoid fantasy Leontes has become.

  1. How do relationships succeed or fail in the Winter's Tale?

    I, an old turtle, Will wing me to some withered bough, and there My mate, that's never to be found again, Lament till I am lost. [5.3.132-135] Paulina wants the revelation of Hermione's survival and also that of Hermione's reunion with Leontes, because Paulina understands Leontes' loss and Hermione's even greater losses.

  2. Read the following extract from Act I Scene II of the play. How do ...

    King Leontes is seized with a jealous conviction that Polixenes is the father of his pregnant Queen's child. Leontes then says he is going for a walk with Mamillius, and Hermione should entertain Polixenes. Again aside, Leontes declares that he is laying a trap for the two of them.

  1. Act 1 of "The Winter's tale",

    argued, that yes, this creates power and horror in the audience just because of the way this is presented. However, it's not at all convincing really, and instead just increases the suspicion that he has gone crazy. As if the audience wasn't convince enough by his madness already, Leontes then

  2. Examine Act 3 Scene 2 and consider its importance in the development of the ...

    There is a need to develop the plot further and Shakespeare does this successfully with the introduction of new characters and by moving the story 16 years further. Florizel and Perdita's romance is a welcome change in tone and injects new life into the plot.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work