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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: September ::
The Ending of the Winter's Tale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0477  Friday, 4 September 2009

[1] From:   Jim Carroll <
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     Date:   Tuesday, 01 Sep 2009 21:01:15 -0400
     Subj:   Re: The Ending of the Winter's Tale

[2] From:   Joseph Egert <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 2 Sep 2009 13:02:59 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0469 The Ending of the Winter's Tale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jim Carroll <
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Date:       Tuesday, 01 Sep 2009 21:01:15 -0400
Subject:    Re: The Ending of the Winter's Tale

Bringing the wife back to life is at least as old as Euripides' 
"Alcestis", but I suppose you could consider much of the classical 
literature as a kind of "heterosexual male fantasy" if you choose to 
interpret things that way:

"Then the son of Peleus forthwith ordained in the sight of the Danaans 
other prizes for a third contest, even for toilsome wrestling: for him 
that should win, a great tripod to stand upon the fire, that the 
Achaeans prized amongst them at the worth of twelve oxen; and for him 
that should be worsted he set in the midst a woman of manifold skill in 
handiwork, and they prized her at the worth of four oxen." Homer Iliad 
23.700

Shakespeare in many ways appeared to be both a borrower of classical 
dramatic techniques (the play-within-a-play of "Hamlet" is reminiscent 
of the bard in Homer's "Odyssey", who sings of the battle of Troy and 
Achilles, and brings tears to Odysseus' eyes, just as Hamlet stirs the 
king), and an extender of them, much as Euripides brought more realism 
and variety to the Greek theatre. Shakespeare, in "Titus Andronicus", 
especially in the first act, bends the classical use of violence to his 
own imaginative ends, and in his sonnet sequence and "A Lover's 
Complaint" he mocks the simple-minded literalness of his Elizabethan 
predecessors in those forms. The additional relevance of "Alcestis" to 
"The Winter's Tale" is that neither is really a "heterosexual male 
fantasy", but the purity of the wives in both is there to highlight the 
vanity of the husbands.

Jim Carroll

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Joseph Egert <
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Date:       Wednesday, 2 Sep 2009 13:02:59 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0469 The Ending of the Winter's Tale
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0469 The Ending of the Winter's Tale

Alan Dessen asks:

 >to whom does Paulina address "It is requir'd / You do awake
 >your faith"?  To Leontes alone? To all onstage? To the playgoer
 >(or reader or critic of the last twenty years)?

Answer: All of the above.

Bruce Young notes:

 >Even Hermione's return isn't a resurrection in the fullest and most 
literal
 >sense. The New Testament reminds us that the doctrine of resurrection
 >was considered "foolishness" by the Greeks

Verily I say unto you, Bruce Young, that this doctrine was also deemed, 
in Paul's words, a "stumblingblock [Gk: skandalon]" for adherents of the 
Old Law (I COR I:23), as in PAUL-ina's "Yea, scandalous to the world" 
(II.3.121).

Most current critics strangely discount Christian allegory as a dominant 
presence in this play. Bryant's HIPPOLYTA'S VIEW (61) is a notable 
exception. He argues said allegory structures the play overall, tracing 
Christian theo-history from the ante legem Eden days, when lambs 
frolicked in innocence, through the Old Law era (sub lege) of 
prepenitent sinful Leontes with its doctrine of ill doing and attendant 
legal punishments, to the final age of Grace (sub gratia) and 
reconciliation. Bryant sees in Hermione's revivification a "lesser 
incarnation" of Jesus, and in the closing marriage a union between the 
Christian church (Perdita) and the Gentiles (Florizel and family). That 
final conversion encompasses those former Old Law adherents like 
Leontes, now awakened after sixteen years (sixteen centuries?) to a new 
faith in Grace and forgiveness. (The omnipresent numerology in this play 
is itself intriguing, perhaps a parody on such speculation.)

What I find striking for this winter's tale is the total absence of 
miracle, technically defined as a clear interruption or violation of 
what we construe as Nature's order. While Shakespeare allows for a 
guiding supernal Hand to arrange the play's improbable coincidences, the 
events themselves are strictly natural or, in Dr Young's words, 
"strictly human." (http://english2.byu.edu/faculty/youngb/wintale.htm).

I also see the death of young Mamilius, like that of Romeo and Juliet, 
as redemptive in initiating the movement toward Leontes' repentance and 
toward the final reconciliation of the royal families in the marriage of 
their young. This being a Romance, the couple are wedded in life rather 
than in death.

Verily yours,
Joe Egert

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