The Winter’s Tale Acts I and II : Some Connections to Much Ado

Although I overall enjoyed acts I and II of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, I was, at times, a bit confused by the story. For instance, I could not understand why King Leontes becomes so suddenly violent and accusatory toward his wife in act I scene 2. Upon my first reading of the scene, it did not seem as though Hermione and Polixenes are even flirtatious with each other; they seem like mere friends. The established friendship between Leontes and Polixenes also makes Leontes’ outbreak seem irrational. After some reflection, now I see that Leontes could be a “vice” in the same way Don John from Much Ado was—just mad and villainous for the sake of being mad and villainous. Hopefully we get a clearer reason for Leontes’ anger as the play progresses.

I was also struggling to place The Winter’s Tale into a thematic genre as I read. I feel as though it was easier to peg Much Ado as a comedy right from the start, whereas Winter’s Tale lacks similar elements of humor and love thus far. Could it be considered a romance?

On a different note, I find the character Paulina very interesting and likable from a modern perspective. I appreciated her boldness and bravery in standing up to Leontes and defending Hermione’s honor. Paulina’s response to Leontes’ threats to burn her in Act II scene 3 stood out to me specifically. The line “I care not. / It is an heretic that makes the fire, / Not she which burns in it” reminded me of when Beatrice stood up for Hero’s honor in Much Ado, and I was happy to find a similar outspoken character in this play (II.3.147-49).

3 comments

  1. I thought this play started out strong with the accusations. There was no real warm up but rather we jumped right in! I also want to get more understanding for Leontes’ anger. I think Paulina’s character was a great addition and I loved to see women supporting women, as we saw when she stood up for Hermione.

  2. I definitely appreciate the greater representation of strong women in this play. Even though they remain restrained by the gender roles put onto them by society, the women use their agency to fight back against those restrictions. More of the women in this play have a sense of Beatrice-ism that Much Ado was lacking.

  3. In Much Ado the juxtaposition between the two main women was very prominent. While Beatrice was opinionated and strong, Hero was sweet and mild. However, in the first two acts we have met two powerful women Paulina is just as formidable as Hermione and neither of them are afraid to push back against men in power.

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