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Explore How The Roles Of Men And Women Are Portrayed In "The Winter's Tale"(William Shakespeare) And How The Modern Day Audience Would React To Them

2778 words - 11 pages

"The Winter's Tale" encompasses many different underlying themes within its pages. It is important to recognise that the contemporary audience would have reacted to the play very differently to its modern day audience. The attitude towards the portrayal of men and women in "The Winter's Tale" has changed greatly over the years, along with the transmuting status of women. It could easily be argued that the audience in the Middle Ages had many preconceptions of women, with the men of the age largely assuming the female sex to be emotive, weak, feeble or inept. It could equally be argued that the modern day audience has come to be far more accepting of women, seeing them as capable equals with independent minds. With thorough analysis of the characters, I aim to discover how the different genders within the play were intended to be depicted, how challenging the ideas were, and how this has changed over time.The central women in "The Winter's Tale" seem to be represented in a favourable light. We meet, primarily, the "good" and "gracious" Hermione, victim to false allegations, and find that she reacts in a very rational manner. She comes to accept Leontes' unsupported wrath with humility and nobility- "Should a villain say so..He were as much more a villain. You, my lord, do but mistake". Her reverential tone and calm composure contrasts greatly with Leontes' language, as we will come to see. Hermione maintains her integrity and dignity in the eyes of the audience, despite her belief that it has been stained. Hermione also seems to posses a sort of feminine wisdom which is evident in the intelligence and in the articulacy of her speeches, and we are made to sympathise greatly with her. Her appreciation of home values also endears her to us, as she explains her grievances to Leontes: "Your favour I do give second joy, and first fruits of my third from my breast...myself on every post proclaimed a strumpet.". We learn that the last of her concerns is the damage inflicted on her reputation, as the loss of her family devastates her the most. As we can see, Hermione's language is beautifully controlled, strong in its gentle diction and irrefutable logic. I believe that Hermione's appeal will not have waned over the years yet her profound message concerning the potential qualities of women will have lost some of its depth as we have become increasingly more aware of the proficiency of women.We subsequently come to meet the "audacious" Paulina, who is, from the onset a very strong character. She refuses to defer to Leontes' royalty, telling him outright that he is "no less honest than...mad". Her strength is also seen in her assertiveness-addressing the gaoler with the direct imperative "Conduct me to the queen" and her persuasiveness and stubbornness eventually allow her to gain access to Leontes. Paulina could also be described as shrewd, as she deceived Leontes in telling him that Hermione was dead. However, one might view...

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