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.
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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