Feminist Perspective of Paulina in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

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A Feminist Perspective of Paulina in The Winter's Tale Feminist criticism explores gender themes in literature, assesses the worth of female characters, promotes unknown women writers, and interprets the canon from a politically-charged perspective. Shakespeare has proven more difficult to categorize than other white male masters of the written word, precisely because of the humanity of his female characters. Critic Kathleen McLuskie urges feminists to "assert the power of resistance, subverting rather than co-opting the domination of the patriarchal Bard" (McLuskie 106). Yet many feminists find strength in Shakespeare. Irene Dash, for instance, proclaims that "Shakespeare's women characters testify to his genius .... they learn the meaning of self sovereignty for a woman in a patriarchal society" (Dash 1). Paulina of The Winter's Tale provides support for Dash's argument. With courage and passion, Paulina defends Hermione against chauvinistic paranoia and enshrines female virtue. Perhaps the best testimony to Paulina's power is the historical reaction of male critics. In 1733, editor Lewis Theobald condemned Paulina as "too gross and blunt" for daring to call the King "downright a Fool" (Dash 135). In 1863, scholar Charles Cowden Clarke whined that Pauline was excessive: "... she does play the tattoo upon his skull with amazing vivacity ­ and after he is down, too .... Paulina cannot forego the gratification of punching him in his maundering distress" (Clarke 356). In 1969, Fitzroy Pyle acknowledged Paulina's "goodness" but applied the label "militant" (Pyle 41). With a similar sentiment but more blatantly hostile language, the fictional King Leontes abuses his adversary Paulina with sexist insults... ... middle of paper ... ...ti. Webster's First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987 Dash, Irene. Wooing, Wedding, and Power: Women in Shakespeare's Plays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981 McLuskie, Kathleen. "The Patriarchal Bard: Feminist Criticism and Shakespeare." Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, editors. London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985 Neeley, Carol Thomas. "The Winter's Tale: Women and Issue" (1985). Reprinted in the Signet Classic Edition of The Winter's Tale. New York: Penguin, 1988. Pyle, Fitzroy. The Winter's Tale: A Commentary on the Structure. New York: Routledge & Paul, 1969. Schweickart, Patrocinio. "Reading Ourselves." Speaking of Gender. Elaine Showalter, editor. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 1989.

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