The Winter’s Tale: Acts I & II

After reading the first two acts, it is clear that Leontes will be a very interesting and unpredictable character to follow. His sudden change in perspective towards his wife, Hermione, and childhood friend, Polixenes, seemed very unwarranted on the surface just having been introduced to the characters. However, it makes me wonder if his frustrations and doubts stem from something that has happened in the past between him and Polixenes. It seemed as if Polixenes and Leontes had a long-lasting friendship and good relationship, so it was odd to see Leontes’ insecurities go into effect so quickly.

Regardless, Leontes after the first two acts definitely shows personality signs of the Dark Triad: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellian. Once he convinces himself that his wife is cheating on him, he immediately goes into a tirade ordering that Polixenes is poisoned, wife thrown in jail, and requesting that his own daughter be left in the woods, without any empathy. When Leontes says “How blest am I/In my just censure, in my true opinion!/Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accursed/In being so blest!” (2, 1, 47-50), it is even clearer how narcissistic he is and thinks that he knows everything. I am curious to see if themes of gender and class will become more prevalent as the play goes on in explaining why Leontes is the way that he is.

2 comments

  1. I agree with you, that shift in Leontes’ character is super sudden and almost unexpected. It seemed like he and Polixenes were having a good conversation, but the mood shifted almost immediately after he sees Polixenes with Hermione. I like how you brought in the Dark Triad, I was also thinking about his seemingly high levels of narcissism, as well as a low level of empathy. I am excited to see how his character evolves throughout the play, and how he handles other “obstacles” that get in his way.

  2. Jumping right in to such a big accusation with not much to back it up was also surprising to me. As with Much Ado and wanting to know more about why Don John was so dead-set on ruining the wedding, I wonder if we will ever know why Leonates accuses Hermoine of cheating…or if we will be left to predict that on out own. Since you mentioned the Dark Triad, I also wonder whether Shakespeare gave Leonates all those traits to emphasize and over exaggerate the corrupt leadership of the crown or of any crown.

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