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The empowered woman in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

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  1. Introduction
  2. The character of Hermione
  3. Paulina's breaking of Leontes mad jealousy
  4. The actions of Leontes'
  5. Antigonus's pledge
  6. The strength of the last of the three important female characters
  7. Conclusion

Speaking of his king's command to ?stay [his wife's] tongue,? (The Winter's Tale, 2.3.110) Antigonus very succinctly states the theme of female empowerment in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Throughout the play, Shakespeare employs various strategies to communicate this idea. One such strategy was Shakespeare's utilization of an unusual structure wherein the first half of the play was tragic and the latter half was comedic. Additionally, throughout the text, Shakespeare often references myths, older stories, and the supernatural to aid in the development of the strong woman theme. Shakespeare also uses three women as the catalysts of his play who affect the outcome in vastly different but equally effective ways.

Right from the outset of the action of the play, Hermione is upstaging her husband and her king, Leontes. By convincing Polixenes to stay in Sicilia awhile longer, she does what Leontes could not.

[...] The first thing we notice about these characters is their similar opinion of the king regarding his behavior towards his queen or his daughter: they all think Leontes is in the wrong. When broached with the king's suspicion of his wife's infidelity, Camillo tells Leontes to cured/Of this diseased opinion.? ( 1.2 .295-6) Antigonus goes even farther with his words when he tells Leontes he will ?pawn the little blood which [he has] left? to save young Perdita from the cruel fate to which the king wishes to subject her. [...]


[...] She is, in fact, such a strong character, that to bring out the inner strength of this woman requires no literary allusions or structural devices. The strength of the actions of this character is loud enough to speak for itself. From a lowly jailor to her husband to King Leontes, she bullies, manipulates, and chides them all into doing whatever she deems best. The jailor, who already thinks of Paulina as a ?worthy lady? ( 2.2 presents almost no obstacle when pressed to allow Paulina to take Hermione's daughter to Leontes in the hope that may soften at the sight o' th' child.? ( 2.2 .40) However, Paulina's insistence sets the chain of events in motion that will allow Shakespeare to shift the tone of the story from tragedy to comedy. [...]


[...] Both Dion and Cleomenes, the king's two remaining prominent male advisors, counsel the king to take a new bride while Paulina, claiming that no woman could be the equal of his former wife, persists in telling Leontes to remain a widower. Leontes learns his lesson from the last time he chose to ignore Paulina's advice promises her shall not marry till thou bidd'st ( 5.1 .82) Paulina's elevated status in the king's eyes is further evidenced at the end of the play when she is given a second husband. [...]

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