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Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

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Introduction

Christen Hall Shakespeare Dr. Doug Sonheim December 5, 2004 Dear Dr. Sonheim, While we have read Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale together, this time I enjoyed reading it much more. Instead of wondering what would happen, I was able to focus more intently on the characters. Although I remembered her role in unveiling Hermione's statue, I did not really begin to recognize the significance of Paulina's character until I read the play for a second time. Because she does not appear until Act II, scene 2 and is present in only three of the five acts, Paulina seems to be no more than a minor character. Nonetheless, Paulina's action is critical to the plays classification as a tragicomedy, and her depth of character make her a lovely candidate for best-supporting actress. In the first three acts, which constitute the plays tragic storyline, Paulina proves a loyal friend to Hermione and a decided woman. Her first appearance presents her addressing the jailer, who acknowledges that he knows her "[f]or a worthy lady / And one who much I honor" (II, ii, 8-9). ...read more.

Middle

After Paulina does not leave when she is told to and Leontes reprimands Antigonus for allowing his wife to behave in such a domineering way, Antigonus confirms his wife's strong-willed nature: "When she will take the rein I let her run / But she'll not stumble" (II, iii, 62-63). Paulina continues expressing her opinion that Leontes is being illogical and unfair despite being threatened with punishments, including burning. Nothing the men say or do can quiet her. She decides on her own when she has finished her reprimand. In Act III, scene 2, Paulina's loyalty is again displayed. Her pain at the loss of her queen is great. She moves quickly from anger to sorrow, proclaiming first that Leontes sins are too great to be forgiven then following the condemnation with an apology. Perhaps Paulina shows greatest sorrow by denouncing her own actions, which brings about a change in character: "Alas, I have showed too much / The rashness of a woman. [...] I beseech you, rather / Let me be punished, that have minded you / Of what you should forget" (III, iii, 244-45, 249-50). ...read more.

Conclusion

Paulina's influence is most important in the final scene of the play. In fact, although Perdita returns, if Paulina does not call Hermione's statue to life, the tragic nature of the play would loom. Since Hermione's mistreatment and death is the focus of much of the play, she must be present in the end. The play's ending is comedic, of course, as the characters seem to live happily ever after. Mamillius does not have to be resurrected as both kingdoms have an heir in the much-in-love Perdita and Florizell, Polixenes and Leontes have restored their friendship, Hermione has been resurrected to live with her king, and Paulina is betrothed to Camillo. While Paulina is provided a companion, Leontes's choosing her a husband seems an antithesis to Paulina's strong female character. Until this point, she has been a feminine voice directing the patriarch, but she is suddenly willing to submit. Perhaps her decided nature is only an aspect of her loyalty to Hermione, but I (although I am a hopeless romantic) am personally a bit disappointed in this unquestioned marriage. I probably would have been more pleased if Antigonus returned as well, but I am not that enthralled with Camillo's taking Paulina's hand. Oh well, I suppose most women are weak when it comes to love. Sincerely, Christen Hall ...read more.

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