Acts 4-5 Response

When reading Act 4, I immediately noticed a shift in Polixenes’ character. While he appears to be level-headed and reasonable in the earlier acts of the play, he seems to adopt some of Leontes’ irrational tendencies when he discovers that his son, Florizell, wants to marry Perdita, who they think is a lower class citizen. Like Leontes, Polixenes immediately overreacts, saying that Florizell is no longer his son or the heir to the throne of Bohemia, also threatening to kill the shepherd and Perdita. This also reminds me of the way Leontes reacted because both suddenly carry out what they think are just and deserved punishments but in reality turn tyrannical and threaten people harshly. Florizell, then, suddenly has a lot in common with Perdita, who also lost her family due to her father’s irrational anger and stubbornness. Leontes and Polixenes both seem to lack self control and humility, which ends up hurting their children. 

 

While I was pleased to see that Leontes has a change of character and regrets his actions, I was a bit disappointed with the ending of this play. First of all, it made absolutely no sense to me that Hermione just suddenly reappeared once Leontes appears to be fully sorry for how he treated her. This was bothersome to me because it appeared as though Hermione needed to wait for her husband to fully come to terms with what he had done in order for her to come back to life. Also, with Hermione coming back, this left Paulina as the only one with a dead spouse. As Paulina, to me, is the only respectable character for her ability to voice her beliefs despite her gender, I was upset by this unjust ending for her. After all, her husband died bringing Leontes’ child to a safe place, essentially sacrificing himself for her. Though I was happy Hermione didn’t actually have to die due to Leontes’ wrongdoings, I felt that Paulina was completely robbed.

 

5 comments

  1. I think your point about Polixenes is really spot on and shows how important class was in these times. Despite Perdita’s beauty and intellect that seemed to be greater than her supposed class level as a Shepherd’s daughter, Polixenes could not get over the class disparities between herself and Florizell.

  2. when reading Act 4, the connection between Polixenes behavior and reactions to Leontes didn’t occur to me. I think you make a great point. Both of them overreact and believe without a doubt they are right and that is the only way.

  3. I also had the same feeling when finishing the play. The ending kind of confused me. I was happy that Leontes has a change of character and regrets his actions, but then Hermione coming back to live because Leontes had a change in heart? Doesn’t make much sense to me. It is as if she was waiting for him to come to the realization his accusations were wrong. In the beginning Hermione was a strong women, but this makes me question that.

  4. I think you bring up an interesting point comparing Polixenes’ current behavior to the irrational tendencies we saw from Leontes in the beginning of the play. It was also interesting how strongly the issue of class is portrayed in this part of the play – as soon as Polixenes believes that Perdita is of a lower class and therefore “unworthy” of his son, he loses it.

  5. I wonder how much of Polixenes’ behavior has to do with his relationship with Leontes. Did the lack of communication and friendship over 16 years negatively impact his mental health to the point of deterioration, is this an issue of age, or has he always been this way but we’ve never seen the context in which it shows itself.

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