A Pagan's Perspective in The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

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A Pagan's Perspective in The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale depicts a family torn apart as a result of the jealous actions of Leontes, the King of Sicilia. The actions and personality of Leontes can also be

observed in Greek Tragedies by Homer and Sophocles. The relationship between the members of

the royal family portray direct and subtle parallels to the Classical works before it.

Louis Martz comments on the parallels between The Winter's Tale and Greek tragedies in

his article: Shakespeare's Humanist Enterprise: The Winter's Tale. Martz draws several subtle

parallels to Greek Tragedies with references to location, religion, syntax, speech, chronological

actions of a character and the concept of the tragic hero. Comparisons are drawn to the tragedies

of Agamemnon, Oedipus Rex and Antigone. Martz places emphasis on the characters of Leontes

and Hermione, but also to more subtle characters like the Shepherd and Autolycus. The concept

of The Winter's Tale as a trilogy is also introduced by Martz. The defiance of the Oracle, the

death of Mamillius, and the miraculous rebirth of Hermione are also vital aspects of the

tragicomedy discussed by Martz.

In Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, King Leontes is introduced as a jealous ruler, acting

as a good host. His jealousy and suspicion toward his Queen Hermione and to his guest, King

Polixenes is rooted in the fact that Hermione is expecting a child. Leontes does not trust his

Queen's faithfulness and suspects that the unborn child is the son of Polixenes. Martz argues that

the jealousy in Leontes was present even before the opening of the play, but none-the-...

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trilogy, is lying at the foot of the great stature of Athene in Athens. Then the goddess herself

enters, a living presence, to redeem Orestes from his hereditary curse. Should we add this

reminiscence to the other allusions to Greek tragedy and myth that have long been felt in the

statue-scene of The Winter's Tale..."(131.)

The tragedies of Homer, Sophocles and Aeschylus draw important parallels to William

Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Although many parallels are subtle, they can be observed

through careful examination of both the texts and historical data.


Works Cited.

1) Martz, Louis L.: Shakespeare's Humanist Enterprise: The Winter's Tale.

Chelsea House Publishers, New York. 1987

2) Shakespeare, William: The Winter's Tale.

Washington Square Press, New York. 1998
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