Romance and Tragedy in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

Powerful Essays
Romance and Tragedy in The Winter's Tale

In The Winter's Tale, the line between romance and tragedy runs thin and almost blends together. The romantic ending would not be possible without the tragic beginning. For example, how could the romance between Leontes and Hermione take place in the end without the almost tragic mistake that Leontes makes in the first three acts of the play? Specific characters are responsible for the way the play turns out, with or without the help of the Fates. Paulina, for example, understands her role and mission as Hermione's friend, and uses her manipulative abilities to influence Leontes. Her faith in the oracle and her vision of the romantic possibilities fuels this responsibility. Perdita's return to Sicilia and her original family may have been influenced by lucky coincidence, yet the shepherd takes on the responsibility of ensuring Perdita's survival. In addition, the unexpected kindness of Autolycus is also responsible for the happy ending. Furthermore, Hermione's representation as a woman of strength and honor is portrayed through her ability to sacrifice sixteen years of her life due to her faith in the oracle's prediction. The agency for the play's romantic outcome lies within the characters involved and their determination to do what is morally right, resulting in a romantic climax.

Paulina takes advantage of the time she's given to understand Leontes and become his trusted advisor. In the space of sixteen years, she comes to be able to influence Leontes' perception of Hermione in his mind so that when she returns from the dead, he will be in a state of desperation for her and ecstasy at seeing her again. Paulina says, "Sir, my liege, / Your eye hath too much youth in 't; no...

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...nsibility to bring about the romantic climax. Every character is responsible for a piece of the puzzle, willingly avoiding conflict, misunderstanding, and tragedy, which ultimately results in the happy ending that characterizes the romance story.

Works Cited and Consulted

Clarke, Charles Cowden. Shakespeare-Characters; Chiefly those Subordinate. London: Smith & Elder, 1863. Reprinted by AMS Press, NY, 1974.

Daly, Mary and Jane Caputi. Webster's First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

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.

Pyle, Fitzroy. The Winter's Tale: A Commentary on the Structure. New York: Routledge & Paul, 1969.
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