Relationships Between Men and Women in The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

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Relationships Between Men and Women in The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

The Winter's Tale was written in 1611, during the reign of Queen

Elizabeth I. The play is one of Shakespeare's romance titles, though

it could be more justly referred to as a 'tragi-comedy' due to the

instances of accusation, death, repentance and reunion. To

successfully study how Shakespeare presents relationships between men

and women in The Winter's Tale there are four main relationships to

examine - Hermione and Leontes, Paulina and Antigonus, Perdita and

Florizel, and Leontes and Paulina.

Shakespeare's view of women, and generally the Elizabethan view,

suggested that women had less capability for evil - can only assist in

a man's corruption or downfall, evidence for this can be found by

examining particular types of literature from this period, such as

T.E. (?)'s didactic 'The Law's Resolution of Women's Rights'. Likewise

in The Winter's Tale, only to a lesser extent, women can be seen as

temptresses. Hermione was the supposed adulteress in The Winter's Tale.

Many would argue that Shakespeare depicted the condition of women

within a patriarchal system and created female characters, which in

their richness transcend the limitations of his time. Shapiro, for

example, goes so far as to claim that Shakespeare was 'the noblest

feminist of them all.' Though Shakespeare pays more attention to the

roles that men play in society and many of the female characters are

constricted in their experiences. They do not have the same ability to

be as fully human as the men. They do not learn by their experiences,

except Paulina who is eventually chastised and pa...

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It could be argued that Shakespeare only goes so far with the gender

roles - the women are eventually silenced or pacified - because the

suspension of disbelief can only be maintained so far - the

traditional view of women was confined within rigid boundaries. In The

Winter's Tale all the women are badly treated - incidentally, at the

hands of men. Our perspective of the actions of the men we believe to

be harsh, though to Shakespeare's contemporaries they were likely to

be justified - in fact chastisement would probably be justified to a

more brutal extent. There is however little authentic evidence in the

plays, that Shakespeare strove either to uphold or to subvert, however

covertly, the established order.

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. The Winter's Tale. Ed. J. H. P. Pafford (London: Methuen, 1963).
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