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.