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Published: 07-12-2019

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Leontes’ Jealousy in The Winter’s Tale

The opening act of The Winter’s Tale is atypical amongst Shakespeare’s late romances. Cymbeline, The Tempest, Pericles, King Lear, and Othello all open by unfolding the plays’ significant, and most dramatic, crises. The Winter’s Tale, however, offers the audience a casual discussion among two courtiers, suggesting total harmony in between the kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia and their kings Leontes and Polixenes. Thus, the friendship was reduce quick when they had been married to their respective wives, the suggestion is purely humorous the men’s friendship remains genuine. It is hardly surprising, consequently, that Leontes begs his friend to remain longer. Upon Polixenes’ refusal, he asks his wife to speak Hermione, his type and nine months pregnant queen, declares Polixenes should stay. Polixenes relents and says that he will stay their guest a quick although longer, while Leontes congratulates his wife on speaking so effectively. The scene, like the first, seems peaceful. However it provides the roots of jealousy that lead to the play’s central conflict and climax.

As Hermione clasps the hands of Polixenes, Leontes’ jealousy makes its 1st appearance. Leontes exclaims, “Too hot, also hot!” (1.2.109)–the obvious outburst of insecurity. Though Polixenes implies that the boys’ childhood was “clear even of original sin” (Frye 165), an innocence that appears to have been maintained in adulthood, Leontes convinces himself that his wife is possessing an affair with Polixenes. He thinks the kid she is carrying is not his, but the consequence of her “affair”. Leontes’ suspicions are unjustified we can only attribute them to sexual jealousy (Cox 139). Yet their lack of justification does not imply Leontes’ refusal to act.

Rather, Leontes acts with all the totally free will and power of the king that he is. When he summons the Oracle of Delphi to the matter, she tells him his wife has been loyal rather than accept her words, Leontes asserts that she is wrong. In undertaking so, he disregards a power much bigger than his own–that of the fates. In this context, the initial discord is a product of male interaction, rather than of female intrusion (Erickson 820). Later, in Act III Scene ii, the Oracle refers to Leontes as a “jealous tyrant”.

Leontes then enlists his courtier Camillo to murder Polixenes, but is thwarted by this try. Camillo, although shocked at Leontes’ accusations against his wife, reluctantly agrees with him. He gives to poison Polixenes. However when his conscience wins, Camillo cannot act on his strategy and flees.

Next, Leontes wonders if murdering Hermione will end his troubles. Entirely unstable, he convinces himself that killing Hermione will enable him to sleep. Later, he speaks of undertaking the exact same to his infant daughter, Perdita. Leontes is consumed with paranoia that everybody about him is laughing at his expense they are, but not for the causes he suspects.

In his madness, Leontes envisions a globe in which every man preys on his neighbour’s wife and sleeps with her. Unsurprisingly, the dynamic of his youthful friendship with Polixenes adjustments. It is superseded by competitors for status via ladies (Kahn 125). Carefree childhood is contrasted with the malady of adulthood.

Beyond the weighty occurrences of the very first act, the act’s imagery also is important. The play begins with an ominous atmosphere, like that preceding a thunderstorm. The storm erupts, along with Leontes’ fury. Hermione’s innocent, polite communication with Polixenes render Leontes insecure and angry he does not recognize that Hermione’s attention is split in between her husband and their cordial guest only out of obligation and courtesy. Gradually, Leontes’ illusion and his unsupported suspicions distort and suffocate reality.

In providing the opening scenes of the play a serene atmosphere, Shakespeare permits the circular structure that Act V completes, returning his audience to a paradise recovered by means of the intervening perform of time, the onerous regret of Leontes, and the remarkable orchestrations of Paulina, Polixenes wife, in “bringing back” Hermione. However this creates difficulty when we attempt to capture just how the crisis develops in the 1st spot. The most apparent and the most important query in the interpretation of the play is, from where does Leontes jealousy stem?

Indeed, Leontes, who initially shows no signs of the deep disturbance of thoughts he comes to reveal, has no seditious Iago to tempt him to his misdeeds. The rash emergence of evil prohibits the possibility of any recoil of psychosomatic causes, as its abrupt presence takes the reader by surprise.

Regardless of Hermione’s faithfulness to Leontes, he forsakes her and sentences her to prison, with Polixenes as accomplice. His jealousy has reached its apex. A excellent deal of critical debate has centered on this aspect of his character, asking regardless of whether it is sufficiently motivated or basically one particular amongst the many givens the play invites the reader to accept, a essential condition of plot or predictable feature of character depiction. William Lawrence suggests that it is an “unjust condemnation of an innocent lady by a man not himself evil, but temporarily deceived” (Lawrence 198). In a sense, this very same description could be applied also to the characters of Othello and Lear. Roger L. Cox agrees in that Leontes is “acting as abruptly as King Lear and as irrationally as Othello” (Cox 124).

It is intriguing to note here that in 1611, the very same year of the 1st recorded functionality of The Winter’s Tale, King James of England invented a new aristocratic rank: the baronetcy. This meant that any man or lady, supplied they had been wealthy sufficient, could purchase the title of baron or baroness. The sale of baronetcies exemplifies how, throughout that time, marriage and wealth enabled a greater social rank, despite not being born into a noble household.

Shakespeare particularly dealt with societal problems of his time. The Winter’s Tale was written in between the years of King James’ reign of 1603-1625, hence its Jacobean influence. Two major trends of believed that created in England for the duration of this time have been that of cynicism and realism, two qualities evident in this play, and specifically in King Leontes. This short discourse in social trends for the duration of the early seventeenth century explains the qualities of The Winter’s Tale in terms of how they differ from prior Shakespearean romances or tragedies.

Stratfordians insist that Shakespeare derived his plot from Robert Greene’s Pandosto, with slight variations. Pandosto of Bohemia becomes Leontes of Sicily, Egistus of Sicily is Polixenes of Bohemia, and Bellaria becomes Hermione. Although both Pandosto and Bellaria die in Greene’s version, Shakespeare areas Leontes and Hermione in states that figure death-madness and exile, but in actuality are not lethal (McGuire 153). Likewise, Pandosto’s protagonist dies out of grief upon his discovery that the woman he loves is the daughter he abandoned at the time of her infancy. The Winter’s Tale, in contrast, leads not to Leontes’ suicide, but a renewed involvement with his previously abandoned daughter later in the play.

The Winter’s Tale is a demonstration of how adamant Shakespeare was in avoiding writing another tragedy (McGuire 153). This play seems to get the traditional tragic ending out of the way initial, with its ending concluding in a fairly joyous state. Leontes’ jealousy would ultimately cause pain, death and pointless sacrifice in The Winter’s Tale, but is corrected and rectified in the final scenes. As opposed to the other Shakespearean Last Plays, the royal court of Leontes maintains normalcy. The State is not impacted, and the Kingdom of Sicilia exempt from any negative consequence. As Lawrence states, “Darkness lies in the soul of the tortured king, his emotions are certainly not regular, but there is nothing at all miasmatic about the atmosphere of his court” (Lawrence 176).

Even before a lady enters, the play highlights an inherent problem in male institutions (Erickson 819). Leontes’ initial frustration is with Polixenes and not Hermione. The irony right here is that while Leontes’ turns to his wife for resolution, he later condemns her for it. Some speculation over the last three centuries over the core of The Winter’s Tale implies that there was an underlying homosexual relationship among that of Leontes and Polixenes. This probability is feasible, but will not be discussed further right here. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that possibly Leontes’ jealousy of Hermione’s imagined love for Polixenes causes him to recognize his personal.

Act I is the most pivotal act in the whole play. It is here that Leontes’ descent into spiteful chaos starts. For example, he explains his realization of the affair, detailing the “Paddling palms, and pinching fingers” (1.2.115), as he watches them converse. Leontes addresses his young son Mamilius, and assures himself that Mamilius is surely his own son. He reminds himself that Mamilius resembles him, but nonetheless makes derogatory remarks about ladies, especially that they “will say any thing”(1.2.131). Preceding sending Mamilius off to play, he speaks with Camillo about his strategy pointed out above. Camillo warns Polixenes, and both men agree to leave the court. Suspicion and jealousy develop stronger with every single moment.

As with numerous Shakespearean plays, the opening of The Winter’s Tale can be interpreted several distinct approaches. It is suggestible that Leontes’ jealousy does not appear until after Hermione convinces Polixenes to extend his keep in Sicilia. Nonetheless, there are a number of clues that recommend otherwise. Polixenes’ opening speech reveals that he has been in Sicilia for “Nine changes of the watery star”(1.2.1), which noticeably corresponds with the length of Hermione’s pregnancy. Similarly, the introductory stages of the play indicate that any cheerful speeches belong to Hermione and Polixenes, and not Leontes. Leontes’ dialogue is rather quick and blatant in comparison. Leontes is also possibly experiencing a yearning for the previous as a “boy eternal”, and allots to those around him qualities of this previous. In this instance, Polixenes response to Hermione would elicit feelings of youngster-like displacement and lowliness within Leontes. In the earliest scenes, it is suggestible that Leontes isolates himself via his illusions as a defence mechanism to romanticize his surroundings and rescue himself from his destructive fixations. He is maybe not prepared to “grow up”. His overbearing jealousy might have existed even then, and only been accelerated by his accusations of infidelity.

The play’s very first scenes, for that reason, have only a single intention: to show that Leontes’ rejection of Hermione has no basis outside of Leontes’ personal psyche (Cox 139). He lacks any concrete proof that his wife has carried on an affair with his buddy. Indeed, it is only Hermione’s husband who regards her as shameful. Everyone else in the play-including the Oracle-comes to her defence and asserts her intrinsic worth and purity (Cox 138). Therefore, the Winter’s Tale’s very first act lays the groundwork and sets the tone for the unfolding story. It is a composite of “Sunny romance and of the gloomiest realism” (Lawrence 226), that all is not constantly as it appears, and that the thoughts can sometimes be guilty of creating the most abhorrent scenarios, as demonstrated in Leontes and the opening Act of The Winter’s Tale.
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