The Winter’s Tale: Act I, II

Upon reading the second scene of The Winter’s Tale, where Hermione is introduced, I knew that I was going to love her, and no not just because she shares the same name as Hermione Granger.However, both women are not afraid to stand up for themselves, and have clear strong personalities which I admire. One of the first things that the audience hears Hermione say is “You sir, charge him too coldly” (I.II.37-38). While this may seem like a simple remark in modern day times, it tells the audience a lot about the type of woman Hermione is. She has absolutely no problem telling people how it is, regardless of their sex, which is something that was not a normal practice for a “proper lady” at this time. She even stands up to her husband, Leontes and refuses to be silenced by him even though he sends her away.

I don’t think that there is any question that there is obviously something wrong with Leontes as he seems to think that the entire world is against him and creates what everyone else thinks to be is a lie, that Hermione has been unfaithful to him, and even calls her a whore. The way in which his character is described makes me start to question Shakespeare’s inspiration. It seems as though he may have some sort of mental illness that is leading him to act in a certain way. While there was no awareness or discovery of mental illnesses at the time when Shakespeare wrote this play it is very interesting to look at his character from a modern day perspective, knowing the research that we have today. I am interested to see what happens to his character as this could be analyzed as a commentary on how people viewed those with mental illness in Shakespeare’s time regardless of whether or not that was the intent.

5 comments

  1. I too was really happy to meet Hermione and see a woman standing up for herself a bit, rather than Hero sho just “died” and stayed silent.
    I think your point about Shakespeare and what was going through his head at his time is interesting. I know that Shakespeare and his wife lived in different places and I am curious if that plays a role in his focus on infidelity, once again.

  2. I also think that Hermione’s character was a breath of fresh air. I definitely compared her to Hero, in the sense that Hermione is everything I wanted Hero to be. Both women were set in similar situations involving the men in their life. And even though Hermione was slandered by Leontes in the same way Hero was by Claudio, Hermione maintained her independence and strong will. In this way, Hermione can be viewed as a mix of Beatrice and Hero, like how it was with Cher in Clueless.

  3. I hadn’t considered the lens of mental illness when looking at Leontes, and I really want to look at that, and keep that interpretation in mind as we read the rest of the play. Leontes really feels absurd in the context, but it would be really interesting to see if we learn more that makes him seem less irrational.

  4. I immediately made the connection between this Hermione and Hermione Granger, and not only because they share name, but, I agree, they are both smart women not scared to speak up. Someone else mentioned there being similarities to Much Ado, and I agree, but Hermione as a strong women will make this play more interesting compared to Hero, who didn’t speak up much at all.

  5. Love my girl Hermoine Granger but this Hermoine from the Winter’s Tale is also quite the powerhouse. She finds a good balance between sarcasm and direct punches that make me say “yes, girl” but I wonder how Shakespeare’s audience would react- a gasp, a laugh, a murmur? Reading this now I read it as a strong female lead role, but considering a young man would have played Hermoine in Shakespeare’s time, I would be curious to read a first-hand account of someone who saw it live in the 1590’s.

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