Right off the bat in The Winter’s Tale, we learn that this play has a similar set up to that of Much Ado About Nothing; there is a jealous, insecure man who accuses a woman who is not as socially powerful based on his pure belief of her infidelity. Again, we see that the woman’s thoughts and opinions are not considered in the slightest. Other similar patterns in this storyline are the construct of women supporting women (in the case of Hermione and her ladies-in-waiting), the main male antagonist (Leontes) being relentless in his effort to ruin a woman’s reputation because of his “hurt feelings”, and on another note, the structure of wordplay/banter/wittiness is a similarly significant part of the action/movement of the play.
However, I do love the way in which Hermione, the Queen, asserts herself. Unlike Hero and also Beatrice in many ways, she is straightforward, honest, and open, immediately confronting all of the anger and insecurity directed at her throughout the first two acts. Interestingly, she seems hyperaware of the systems of oppression, that even she as the queen, must experience as a woman; for example, she states, “There’s some ill planet reigns. I must be patient till the heavens look with an aspect more favorable” (II.i.129-131). It is clear here that she recognizes that once the King has spoken, there is not much else that can be done, but she confidently stands up for herself throughout the scene and carries on even when she is finally imprisoned. Finally, the fact that the king’s men also believe her and try to stand up for her and her newborn child is a dynamic shift from that of Much Ado, where only Benedick and the Friar genuinely believe Hero’s innocence at first. I am very interested to see how Hermione will function as a champion for herself, and possibly for all women, throughout the rest of the text.