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).