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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: July ::
Hermione?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0294  Tuesday, 20 July 2010
 
[1]  From:      Dan Venning <
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     Date:      July 15, 2010 10:47:48 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

[2]  From:      Abigail Quart <
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     Date:      July 15, 2010 11:12:12 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

[3]  From:      Alex Went <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 6:07:12 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

[4]  From:      David Schalkwyk <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 9:22:41 AM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

[5]  From:      Matthew Henerson <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 2:04:34 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0283 Hermione?

[6]  From:      Brian Bixley <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 3:26:38 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re:  Hermione?

[7]  From:      Christopher Baker <
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     Date:      July 16, 2010 5:18:48 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Dan Venning <
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Date:         July 15, 2010 10:47:48 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0283  Hermione?
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

>I am wondering about the conclusion of "The Winter's Tale" and how 
>we are to interpret Hermione's lone remarks in the closing scene. 
>During her one short speech in 5.3, she asks the gods for a blessing 
>on her daughter and asks Perdita how she has come to be found. She 
>does not address or reference Leontes at all, giving no hint as to 
>whether she feels as joyful about reuniting with her husband as she 
>does her daughter.
>
>This silence in victimized women is something Shakespeare has used 
>before. Perhaps most famously, Isabella says nothing after the 
>Duke's proposal in "Measure," and we never definitively hear whether 
>"Much Ado's" Hero has entirely forgiven Claudio, who slanders her 
>into a seclusion and a faked death before heading off to marry her 
>at the play's close.
>
>Thus, I am wondering if the play really ends with the reconciliation 
>we commonly think it does. I am seeing the Stratford Festival's 
>production in about two weeks and am eager to see if they do anything 
>with the reconciliation scene. Has anyone ever seen a production where 
>Herimone is shown to harbor anger against Leontes as the play ends? 
>I've seen about six productions of the play, and in each one, 
>Hermione's feelings were left undisclosed.
>
>Any thoughts?


In my opinion, this is a case that resists purely literary interpretation, 
one in which the reader *cannot* definitively interpret Hermione's emotional 
state, precisely because she doesn't speak to Leontes. This is an instance 
where we can come to "know" her emotional reaction only through the way it 
is staged in individual productions -- productions that could differ wildly 
from one another.

It seems to me that the directors of the productions to which Paul refers, 
in which "Hermione's feelings were left undisclosed," chose to reproduce the 
mystery presented by the text. This is a reasonable choice, but directors or 
actors could equally reasonably choose to have her clearly unhappy with her 
situation, or on the other hand accept of Leontes' repentance and be ready 
to forgive through love. All that seems important to me is that the choice 
made fit within the interpretation of the overall production.

As a side-note, in the (unfortunately only adequate at best, I felt) 
production currently running in Central Park, director Michael Grief has 
Linda Emond as Hermione demonstrate quite clearly how she feels. And indeed, 
Hermione's choice (SPOILER: she seems happy to be reunited with Leontes, 
and, in deference to her husband, avoids even looking at Polixenes until 
Leontes shows through a gesture that he is completely done with jealousy and 
entirely repentant) fits in with the overall rubric of Grief's production: 
the whole play is presented entirely *earnestly*; the humor and selfishness 
present throughout the play were almost entirely missing. I was sadly not 
blown away by the usually amazing Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Leontes, and 
really thought the only ones who stood out were Hamish Linklater as a 
wonderfully charismatic Autolycus and, to a lesser degree, Marianne Jean-
Baptiste as Paulina.

Dan Venning

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Abigail Quart <
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Date:         July 15, 2010 11:12:12 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0283  Hermione?
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

Please don't include Isabella in a list of "victimized" women. It is a 
dreadfully poor way of viewing her journey from ice-water-in-her-veins to 
warm-blooded, passionate woman. It also ignores the similar journeys of the 
Duke and Angelo, simply because they are men. Measure for Measure is a 
comedy about three characters who believe themselves above their human 
nature. Two men, one woman. They may be dragged unwillingly into messy human 
life and emotion, but they get there. To become human is not to be 
victimized.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Alex Went <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 6:07:12 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0283  Hermione?
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

Shakespeare's comic endings frequently point to the tragedy that has been 
averted -- and suggest a wider lesson that we should not skate too close to 
the wind if we, too, wish to enjoy a happy ending. As such, they are 
frequently disturbing. In my 1997 production of WT for Shrewsbury School, I 
specifically wanted the Leontes/Hermione relationship to end unresolved, in 
order to give bulk to Leontes's 'Hastily' in the last line. 

Working back through that final speech it became obvious how to do so, by 
giving the line 'What -- look upon my brother' a question mark, thereby 
shifting the meaning of 'What' from imperative to interrogative, and giving 
the impression that the whole sequence of events 'performed in this wide gap 
of Time' were about to repeat. Careful staging replicated the glance between 
H and P which had been the source of L's rage in Act I (about which, 
incidentally, another tale another time). The actor (Andrew Dawson) charged 
with playing Leontes, filled this line with mock anger -- followed by light 
hearted, but nevertheless sincere, good humour for 'both your pardons ....' 
etc, Leontes exited, taking Paulina by the hand, but the damage was done: 
the lights dimmed on the vision of a Hermione, lingering, still, and visibly 
shocked by what she has just heard: the Winter's Tale repeated in miniature. 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         David Schalkwyk <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 9:22:41 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0283  Hermione?
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

I wrote about this some years ago in "'A Lady's "verily" is as potent as a 
Lord's': Women, Word and Witchcraft in _The Winter's Tale_", _English 
Literary Renaissance_, 22.2 (Spring 1992), 242-72. It deals precisely with 
the silencing of the women at the end of the play.

David Schalkwyk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Matthew Henerson <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 2:04:34 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0283 Hermione?
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0283 Hermione?

A note from the trenches:

I am a week away from tech on my third production of Winter's Tale, this one 
for the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival in Thousand Oaks, about an hour north 
of Los Angeles. In both this production and my first -- at A Noise Within in 
1997, Hermione and Leontes are/were reconciled without ambiguity. However, 
in a production I did for an excellent -- but now defunct -- theatre company 
called Women in Time (San Francisco, 2000), Hermione's response to Leontes 
at the end of the play was ambiguous at best. Unless you cut them, it is 
difficult to ignore the blocking implied in Polixenes' and Camillo's lines 
immediately following physical contact, which Paulina's earlier lines 
suggest is initiated by Hermione:

Paulina: 
...Nay, present your hand.
When she was young you wooed her; now in age
Is she become the suitor?

Leontes:
O, she's warm.
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.

Polixenes:
She embraces him.

Camillo:
She hangs about his neck--
If she pertain to life, let her speak too!

Act V, scene iii, 107-113 (Punctuated according to The Oxford Shakespeare 
Edition, edited by Stephen Orgel.)

In the Women in Time production, the director left the passage uncut and 
allowed Hermione to embrace Leontes -- me, as it happens, that time through. 
But as I recall, she used the pause occasioned by Camillo's short line to 
allow Hermione to break the embrace and turn away from Leontes towards 
Perdita. Hermione then suggested in her final speech (V, iii: 121-128) that 
she had preserved herself exclusively to see and bless Perdita. The effect 
on most viewers seemed to be that she had forgiven her husband, but had 
outgrown, or in some other way transcended that relationship. Perdita and 
Hermione exited with their arms around each other, and Leontes followed a 
few steps behind. I recall fighting the choice. It left Leontes heartbroken 
and excluded from what I had always considered an unequivocal 
reconciliation. Audiences were divided by it; some people considered it 
thought-provoking and psychologically plausible, while others found it a 
persnickety piece of quasi-political posturing at odds with the magic of 
Hermione's resurrection. 

I was and am very proud of the Women in Time production, but the more time I 
spend around this play -- both as an actor and an audience member -- the 
more I think we fluffed the ending. Denying Hermione a verbal response to 
Leontes, but mandating a physical one, seems to me the kind of fearless 
dramaturgy of which only the boldest playwrights are capable. The animation, 
resurrection, or whatever you like to call it of Hermione--or Hermione's 
statue, if you prefer -- is such a powerful gesture, that any language, 
beyond the most basic commentary ("O, she's warm.", "She embraces him.", 
etc.) would be both intrusive and anti-climactic. I believe the same impulse 
prevents Shakespeare from dramatising the reunion of Leontes with Polixenes, 
or the revelation of Perdita's identity. Having engaged his audience's 
imagination to such an extent that they are (it is?) prepared to accept the 
magic of the resurrection, Shakespeare trusts that same collective 
imagination, in response the reconciliation, to better anything even he 
could have written for Hermione to say.

I do not believe either Isabella's silence at the end of Measure or Hero's 
response to Claudio has much in common with the end of Winter's Tale. To 
begin with Much Ado: Hero is not silent at the end of the play. I have never 
understood her lines "And when I lived I was your other wife; / And when you 
loved, you were my other husband." (V, iv: 60-61) combined with a 
willingness to go through with the marriage -- are we to suppose that 
Leonato is holding a gun to her head? -- and her participation in the 
exposure of Beatrice's sonnet, as anything other then forgiveness of Claudio 
(who is, after all, the victim of malicious manipulation himself), relief, 
and delight in the final celebration of her interrupted wedding. By 
contrast, I think Isabella's silence does reflect a deep ambiguity with 
regards the Duke's proposal, and I have never seen a production which does 
not, in some way foreground that ambiguity.

A final word: all this is not to say that productions could not be conceived 
-- and conceived successfully -- in which Hero is compelled to marry a man 
whose humiliation of her she can never forgive, or in which Isabella rushes 
into the Duke's arms the second the proposal passes his lips. And I know 
from personal experience that a successful production is possible of 
Winter's Tale which at least partially excludes Leontes from the final 
reconciliation. These plays are durable, not to say tough. They have, after 
all, survived more and less plausible interpretations of authorial intent--
and that's a whole other discussion--for centuries.

Matt Henerson

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Brian Bixley <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 3:26:38 PM EDT
Subject:      Re:  Hermione?

>I am wondering about the conclusion of "The Winter's Tale" and how 
>we are to interpret Hermione's lone remarks in the closing scene. 
>During her one short speech in 5.3, she asks the gods for a blessing 
>on her daughter and asks Perdita how she has come to be found. She 
>does not address or reference Leontes at all, giving no hint as to 
>whether she feels as joyful about reuniting with her husband as she 
>does her daughter.

Hemione's silence vis-a-vis Leontes in her speech (5.3.121 Oxford) does seem 
to indicate a less than enthusiastic surrender to Leontes' presence. But she 
has bestowed her forgiveness earlier:

Polixenes: She embraces him. (5.3. 111)
Camillo: She hangs about his neck - (5.3.112)

"She embraces him" could be minimal, polite, not much more. "She hangs about 
his neck," on the other hand, seems to imply ardour (unless she was simply 
exhausted from standing still for so long!).

Brian Bixley

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Christopher Baker <
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Date:         July 16, 2010 5:18:48 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0283  Hermione?
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0283  Hermione?

While it's true that Hermione does not speak to Leontes, both Polixenes and 
Camillo remark on how ardently she hugs him: "She embraces him" and "She 
hangs about his neck." Her emotions of reconciliation are there; actions 
speak louder than words, which are inadequate to convey her feelings. She 
seems to be enacting Antony's moving statement to Cleopatra: " The nobleness 
of life is to do thus [embracing]" (1.1.36-37). 

Chris Baker 



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