Deja Vu?

I’m feeling some immediate similarities to Much Ado About Nothing in Acts I and II. It feels like Shakespeare is just changing the direction a little bit, by adding a baby to the mix. I will say that I’m interested to see where the story goes, because Shakespeare’s changes could be his own commentary on Much Ado About Nothing and some of the themes it presented. With King Leontes as the Claudio-like accuser in this situation, could Leontes actually face some retribution of punishment for his accusations? My guess is still no, but I wonder if Shakespeare adds any nuance to the situation that gives Hermione some more agency.

The political scientist student in me views The Winter’s Tale as a criticism of monarchy, though I’m not sure that’s what Shakespeare intended. It feels like a commentary on the pressure and paranoia of being a ruler. I also assume that the monarchy in The Winter’s Tale is based on divine power, as monarchies in Shakespeare’s England were. The invocation of the oracle at Delphi supports this, as Leontes is supposedly looking for a divine signal that Hermione is or is not guilty. To the modern sensibility, this seems ludicrous. Is Shakespeare trying to make the same point, or does he view this as a legitimate form of leadership?

5 comments

  1. When I read Acts 1 and 2 I also saw the comparisons to Much Ado About Nothing, it was as if we never got over the topic of infidelity. I am excited to see this play out and as you mentioned, with Hermione have more agency? Will Leontes be held accountable.?

  2. I thought the invocation of the Oracle, as you say, was also incredibly interesting. It made me wonder how people in Shakespeare’s time thought about other religions or God’s and if this was Shakespeare’s way of denouncing them. Did the English look down on other religions or God’s? Did they think other countries were lesser because of their different religious beliefs?

  3. What I find interesting about the mention of the oracle, is that she comes from a different faith tradition, which was apparently permissible for the censorship of the time. However, if Shakespeare had talked about Catholicism, I don”t think that would’ve gone over well. The hypocrisy of religion tolerance is an interesting dynamic to consider.

  4. I also saw some similarities with Much Ado. I agree, I hope Hermione is not guilty of cheating and that Leontes actually faces some retribution of punishment for his accusations. I think this beginning really drew me into the play and I’m curious to see what will happen.

  5. I agree that so far, Winter’s Tale has continued some of the commentary on gender and fidelity from Much Ado. I like how you pull leadership into this post because I was also trying to figure out who and how the characters lead in the play. In Much Ado, the person with the most formal title was Leonato, but he didn’t seem to have much influence on the plot. Leontes however, seems like he will have more power over the characters and more say about what happens to them, even if it is under the guise of a “divine message”.

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