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?