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The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

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1 The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

2 Index Page Slides 1 -2: Summary Slide 3: Family Tree Slide 4: Analysis Slide 5: Analysis Slide 6: Characters Slide 7: Characters Slide 8: Theme of Jealousy Slide 9: Theme of Jealousy (cont) Slide 10: Theme of Regeneration Slide 11: Theme of Reconciliation and Forgiveness Slide 12-14: Key questions and answers Slide 15: Key Questions Slide 16: Summary – Key Points

3 Slide 1: Summary – Part 1 The play opens when King Leontes of Sicilia begs his childhood friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia, to extend his visit to Sicilia. Polixenes says he can not as he has been away for nine months. However after Leontes pregnant wife, Hermione pleads with him to stay he agrees. Leontes in the meantime is possessed by jealousy and is convince Hermione and Polixenes are having an affair. Leontes in return orders Camillo, his servant to poison Polixenes. However in order to save his life Camillo tells Polixenes of Leontes plan and the two men flee. Furious Leontes now publicly accuses his wife of infidelity and declare her unborn child as illegitimate he throws her in prison and send for the Oracle of Delphi who he is sure will confirm his suspicions. Hermione gives birth to a baby girl and her friend Paulina takes the girl to the king. Leontes grows angry and orders Paulina’s husband Lord Antigonus to take the child and abandon it. While Antigonus is away the answer comes from Delphi who declares Hermione and Polixenes are innocent, Leontes with will have no heir until his daughter is found. Leontes’s son Mamillus is found dead after suffering a wasting sickness brought on by the accusations against his mother. Hermione collapses at the news and Paulina reveals that Hermione is in fact dead.

4 Slide 2: Summary- Part 2 Antigonus abandons the baby he believes Hermione appeared to him in a dream and tells him to name the baby Perdita. Shortly after leaving the baby Antigonus is killed by a bear and Perdita is raised by a shepherd. Sixteen years pass and Prince Florizel the son of Polixenes falls in love with Perdita. His father and Camillo attend in disguise and watch Florizel and Perdita marry. Revealing his disguise Polixenes demands that his son never see Perdita again. With Camillo’s help Florizel and Perdita travel tp Sicilla after using the clothes of a local rogue, Autolycus. They are joined by the shepherd, his son, a clown. In Sicilia Leontes is mourning his loss, and greets the son of his old friend effusively. Florizel pretends to be on a diplomatic mission for his father but his cover is blown when Polixenes and Camillo both arrive in Sicilia. The next part of the play is told to the audience by a gentlemen of the Sicilian court. The shepherd tells everyone his story of how Perdita was found and Leontes realises that she is his daughter leading to general rejoicing. The company then travel to Paulina's home in the country, where a statue of Hermione has just been completed. The sight of his wife makes Leontes feel distraught, to everyone’s amazement the statue comes to life – it is Hermione. As the play draws to an end Paulina and Camillo are engaged and the company celebrates the miracles.

5 Slide 3: Characters – The Family Tree
Leontes King of Sicilia Hermione Queen of Sicila Paulina Hermione’s friend Perdita Daughter of Leontes and Hermione Mamillius Son of Leontes and Hermione Camillo Servant to Polixenes and Leontes Florizel Son of Polixenes Polixenes Best Friend of Leontes King of Bohemia Shepherd Finds and raises Perdita Antigonus Defends Hermione and Paulina’s wife Key Lovers = Family = Friends = Autoclycus Clown helps Florizel and Perdita

6 Slide 4: Analysis The Winter’s Tale is a perfect tragicomedy; It is set in an imaginary world were Bohemia is on the coast and Greeks oracles coexist with renaissance sculptures. It is split into three acts of tragedy followed by two acts of restorative comedy and resolution. Between these acts sixteen years have passed, this has been considered a flaw by many critics as the lapse in time seems hasty and unnecessary. This lapse of time highlights the disparity of theme setting and action between the two halves. One half is set in the winter and illuminates the destruction of jealously and mistrust. This jealously controls and destroys the main family in the play. The second half is set in spring and the spring intervenes and all the damage the king has created is undone, through coincidence, goodwill and miracle, as the statue of Hermione regains life and embraces her husband. The force behind the tragedy stems from Leonte’s disbelief. As a result Leontes has attracted more critical interest than any other. Leontes acts as an Othello who is his own Iago, he is a perfect paranoiac. Leontes is convinced he has all the facts and is ready to twist them at any length. Leontes madness is a terrifying thing: when he is told there is nothing between his wife and he responds friend "Is this nothing? / Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing, / The covering sky's nothing, Bohemia nothing, / My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings, / If this be nothing"(I.ii ). The roots of his jealousy seem to run deep and there are hints of insecurity and an inability to be truly separate from Polixenes. The only answer for Leontes is his own – in one of Shakespeare’s finer images “I have drunk, and seen the spider"(II.i.45).

7 Slide 5: Analysis In order to contrast with Leonte’s morbid and brooding nihilism and jealously Shakespeare creates Perdita , an epitome of spring, rebirth and revitalisation. Her lover Florizel is as constant and generous as Leontes is suspicious and cruel. When Perdita appears covered in flowers and hands them out she symbolises Proserpina, the Roman goddess of spring. As Leontes is a tragic hero Prediata is a classic fairy tale heroine. Perdita is a princess reared amongst civilians – who falls for a prince – and lives happily ever after. Leontes casts Perdita out as an infant in Act III whilst truly consumed by his darkness. In Act V she returns and restores him. The miracle of Hermione is closely linked to Perdita ’s energy as a saviour who brings life. Perdita allows the main characters in the play to be reborn. This play is notable for its fantastic and rich group of supporting actors. Hermione is exemplary character despite the fact she spends most her time defending herself. Whilst her friends Paulina acts as the voice of reason. Leontes acts initially as the voice of madness and then the voice of penance once he realises his regret. The shepherd and Camillo are both sympathetic characters. Autolycus the peddler thief and minstrel who is a harmless and humorous villain. He is so harmless that he warms the hearts of the audience as they applaud him as he sings, dances and robs his way through the play.

8 Slide 6: Characters Leontes Hermione Perdita Polixenes
The King of Sicilia, and the childhood friend of the Bohemian King Polixenes. He is gripped by jealous fantasies, which convince him that Polixenes has been having an affair with his wife, Hermione; His jealousy leads to the destruction of his family. Hermione The virtuous and beautiful Queen of Sicilia. Falsely accused of infidelity by her husband, Leontes, she apparently dies of grief just after being vindicated by the Oracle of Delphi. She is restored to life at the play's close. Perdita  The daughter of Leontes and Hermione. Because her father believes her to be illegitimate, she is abandoned as a baby on the coast of Bohemia, and brought up by a Shepherd. Unaware of her royal lineage, she falls in love with the Bohemian Prince Florizel. Polixenes The King of Bohemia, and Leontes's boyhood friend. He is falsely accused of having an affair with Leontes's wife, and barely escapes Sicilia with his life. Much later in life, he sees his only son fall in love with a lowly Shepherd's daughter who is, in fact, a Sicilian princess.

9 Slide 7: Characters Florizel Camillo Paulina Autolycus Shepherd
Polixenes's only son and heir; he falls in love with Perdita, unaware of her royal ancestry, and defies his father by eloping with her. Camillo  An honest Sicilian nobleman, he refuses to follow Leontes's order to poison Polixenes, deciding instead to flee Sicily and enter the Bohemian King's service. Paulina  A noblewoman of Sicily, she is fierce in her defense of Hermione's virtue, and unrelenting in her condemnation of Leontes after Hermione's death. She is also the agent of the (apparently) dead Queen's resurrection. Autolycus He steals the Clown's purse and does a great deal of pilfering at the Shepherd's sheepshearing, but ends by assisting in Perdita and Florizel's escape. Shepherd An old and honorable sheep-tender, he finds Perdita as a baby and raises her as his own daughter. Antigonus Paulina's husband, and also a loyal defender of Hermione. He is given the unfortunate task of abandoning the baby Perdita on the Bohemian coast. Mamillius  The young prince of Sicilia, Leontes and Hermione's son. He dies, perhaps of grief, after his father wrongly imprisons his mother.

10 Slide 8: Themes THE THEME OF JEALOUSY
The first part of the play introduces Leontes' jealousy immediately, it contrasts with noble feelings of purity and loyalty in the play. His jealously is fast and furious it appears to be inexplicable and somewhat of an ‘infection’, something he cannot control. It makes him appear as mad as everyone else in the play knows and protests Hermione’s innocence. Paulina says Leontes has betrayed "the sacred honour of himself". Antigonus tells him: "You are abused, and by some putter-on that will be damned fort. Would I knew the villain". The villain becomes Leontes jealousy. To prove his jealousy is purely subjective the gods themselves speak against his belief in the form of the Oracle. Divine Intervention takes the form of the message from the Delphi oracle. Apollo's oracle is read aloud in the court of justice: "Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless; Camillo a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant; his innocent babe truly begotten...". In hos fury Leontes dismisses this divine intervention and is punished for his jealousy. As both his son Mamillius and Hermione die. Leontes’ self induced jealousy is counteracted by the integrity of Paulino and Camillo and Perdita .

11 Slide 9: Themes THE THEME OF JEALOUSY (Cont)
The noble attitudes of these older characters bridges the gap between the evil of Leontes and the innocence of Perdita . Away from Leontes mind and the bear there are no other examples of essential evil in the play. The court and country are good and honourable intentions rules. Every characters maintains that he or she means well. The lack of motive for Leontes’ jealousy is criticised as a weakness in the play. Leontes slow repent becomes as a growth form within, rather than from an outside source. It could be argued that Shakespeare does not wish to analyse jealousy but use it as the onset to the evil cycle in his play, which is quickly followed by repentance and reconciliation. Shakespeare’s audience may have accepted this sudden emotion more easily than by a modern audience who actually search for psychological answers to problems. The Renaissance audience might have seen it as an attack of a melancholy humour; one of the four bodily fluids believed to shape one's temperament.

Another significant themes which pervades the play. It is emphasised on the fertility in the figure of Perdita. In many ways the whole play can be read as a fertility myth or allegory. Both Perdita and Hermione are lost – Hermione dies and goes to the underworld (Hades), also does Perdita as in the Proserpine myth. When the ladies discuss Hermione’s pregnancy it is discussed as a joyful experience and the renewal of life. In act IV Perdita expresses the same joy in creation and fertility. Perdita represents the powerful force of nature which is uncorrupted by civilisation. The marriage between Perdita and Florizel symbolizes the meeting of civilsation and nature and symbolises the cycle of procreation, regeneration and fertility. The restoration of Hermione and Perdita moves the characters lives from winter into a new spring. Polixenes and Leontes and Hermione thus achieve immortality through their own children. All character experience a new sense of regeneration.

The many themes found in The Winter’s Tale often seem to centre around the basic idea of forgiveness and reconciliation. At the onset the evil arrives suddenly through Leontes’ mind as he causes the death of Mamillus and Hermione and loss of Perdita . It is at this point that evil seems to have conquered all for Leontes. In order for Shakespeare to provide reconciliation and forgiveness for Leontes a long period of penance and mourning must be serve, hence the sixteen year lapse serves its purpose. This remorse is indicated in Act V when Leontes explains how he ahs mourned and never remarried. This repentance is followed by forgiveness and mercy as Hermione is restored. Her death represents her retirement from the world and a punishment for Leontes, once he is truly sorry and repents he can be forgiven. Leontes is ultimately made to suffer for his sins. The restoration of Hermione and Perdita is almost a miracle. As a result the cycle is complete as repentance brings for forgiveness and forgiveness brings reconciliation.

14 Slide 12: Key Questions Discuss and analyse Leontes's jealousy.
The innocence of Hermione is never in doubt--every character in the play testifies to it, and the Oracle confirms it--so Leontes's suspicions of his wife and best friend are clearly irrational. As the victim of misplaced jealousy, he resembles one of the most famous Shakespearean heroes, Othello, who murders his wife Desdemona because he believes her to be unfaithful. But Othello is led into error by his villainous aide, Iago, whereas Leontes is his own Iago--the entire dream of adultery is concocted within his own mind. The play offers us hints, in the childhood friendship of the two kings, and the suggestion that Leontes may have been too close to Polixenes; in the king's insecurity over the legitimacy of Mamillius, and the threat that bastards posed to any kingdom; in Leontes's misogyny and fear of women, which comes out when Paulina tries to reason with him. But none of these is sufficient to solve the problem, and Shakespeare seems to intend it thus. "Your actions are my dreams," (III.ii.81) Leontes tells Hermione, and while he means it sarcastically, the play does not--he has allowed his nightmares to infect his view of the waking world. (Question and response taken from

15 Slide 13: Key Questions Discuss the resurrection scene. Is the apparent miracle real? There is evidence on both sides of this question. Paulina, who orchestrates the entire scene--and who ostensibly commissioned the statue--seems remarkably unsurprised by the "miracle," and she is, after all, our only witness to the fact that Hermione actually died. Her behavior in the years since suggests a foreknowledge of her queen's return, as she steadfastly kept the king fixated on his own guilt, and on the impossibility of ever marrying again. On the other hand, if the entire business is only a trick, it seems rather an over-the-top stunt for two level-headed women like Hermione and Paulina to orchestrate. And no one who witnesses the miracle raises even a scrap of doubt as to whether the statue was ever an actual statue. Clearly, Shakespeare wants to have it both ways--a genuine miracle to cap off his "Tale," and a hint of a naturalistic explanation for the careful reader. And in either case, the miracle is an appropriate conclusion to the play, since it provides for a truly happy ending that Hermione's death seemed to place out of reach. (Question and response taken from

16 Slide 14: Key Questions Discuss the changes in mood, plot and imagery that occur between Act I-III and Act IV-V. In Mamillius's words, "a sad tale's best for winter," (II.i.25) and the first three acts are set in a Sicilian winter, and are determinedly sad. Indeed, these acts offer a kind of miniature tragedy, as Leontes's errors, like Lear's or Othello's, bring death and destruction down upon his family and kingdom. What makes The Winter's Tale a romance, rather than a tragedy, is the abrupt shift in mood after Time announces the passage of sixteen years, and the action shifts to Bohemia. Winter comes to an end, and spring enters, bringing with it the promise of rebirth--and as the seasons change, so the story shifts away from tragedy and into the realm of fairy tale and romantic comedy. The imagery of Act IV is dominated by the flowers that Perdita wears and dispenses as hostess of the sheepshearing, and the mood of the act is found in the cheerful songs of Autolycus. This spirit is eventually brought back to Sicilia, where Act V undoes much of what seemed so tragic in Act III--Perdita is restored to her rightful home, Hermione is restored to life, and even Paulina is given a new husband. The Winter's Tale, then, ends the way all winters end--by giving its characters the promise of forgiveness and a fresh start. (Question and response taken from

17 Slide 15: Key Questions Discuss the role of setting in the play.
Analyse the character of Autolycus, and discuss his role in the play. Analyse the character of Perdita, and her relationship to nature. Discuss the role of divine intervention in the play, especially the miracle scene and the Delphic Oracle. Discuss the role of women in the play, and their relationships with their husbands/lovers. Analyse the character of Camillo. What is his function in the play? Would you categorize The Winter's Tale with Shakespeare's comedies, or his tragedies? Some scholars have grouped it with The Tempest,Pericles, and Cymbeline as a "romance." Would you agree with this grouping? Why or why not? /QUESTION (Questions taken from

18 Slide 16: Summary The play is one of Shakespeare's comedies and the resolution ends with forgiveness and love. The play is set in Sicilia. The play moves between country and court. Leontes is the king of Sicilia husband to Hermione and father to Perdita and Mamillus. Leontes jealousy is the cause of all problems in the play including the separation of Perdita and death of Mamillus and Hermione. The play focuses on the themes of jealousy, redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation. The play defies the laws of time and space as it moves between places and there is a lapse of sixteen years. The play is split into two halves Act I-III symbolises the winter of the play. Between Act III and IV sixteen years pass and the arrival of Perdita in Act IV symbolises the move from winter to spring. Perdita and Florizel fall in love. The young couples love helps to bring the play fall circle. The young couple also help to bring reconciliation and forgiveness to the play. The play relies on miracles to reach its resolution.

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