The Winter's Tale - Parallels

  • In considering the play as two distinct halves, there are notable parallels that occur before and after the intervention of Time, the Chorus.
  • Some are complementary episodes reflecting the nature of the comic or tragic section in which they occur (for example, Hermione’s ‘death’ and her later resurrection); some mirror earlier incidents (such as Camillo’s recurring role as a rescuer, of Polixenes in the first half and Perdita in the second).
  • Camillo also appears in two brief prose scenes describing relationships between characters: the opening scene in which he and Archidamus discuss the friendship of Polixenes and Leontes, and Act Four scene Two, in which he and Polixenes discuss Florizel’s relationship with the shepherd’s ‘daughter of most rare note’ (Perdita).
  • The trial scene and the statue scene both revolve around Hermione being put on show, though the circumstances obviously differ in each instance.
  • There is also a connection in the fact that Hermione is persecuted by Leontes, and her daughter by Polixenes – both are attacked for their relationships with men, and both are found to be ‘innocent’ of their respective charges of adultery and ‘low birth’.

Polixenes and Leontes:

  • The relationship between the two men is the driving force at the start of the play.
  • It’s the first thing we hear discussed and provides the essential bridge between two very different kingdoms as well as the drive behind the initial action that sets the tragic half of the play in motion.
  • Polixenes and Leontes are friends, brothers, colleagues and rivals all at once. Both are fathers and monarchs and both show a preoccupation with honour – Leontes through his fear of cuckoldry, Polixenes through his violent overreaction to the idea that his heir would marry an unsuitable wife, when royal duty would dictate he should make a match with another noble family for dynastic or political reasons.

Sicilia and Bohemia: 

  • The two places function as flip-sides of the same coin, though not quite as mirrors of their respective rulers.
  • Sicily is stately, wealthy and refined, but also cold, artificial and secretive, if not outright deceptive. It is the place of winter, associated with isolation, regret and loss.
  • Hermione figuratively turns to stone there; Mamillius’ quiet and sudden death chills the place of life. If Sicily was dignified artifice, Bohemia teems with unruly life.
  • The opening scenes of the play acknowledge that Bohemia is less grand that Sicily, but it is a place of life and warmth…


No comments have yet been made