Critics have said that in the first movement of the play (Acts 1-3) "Hermione and Paulina are models of feminine strength." And "Hermione's passivity is dwarfed by Paulina's dynamism"

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Hermione and Paulina can be presented on stage in many different ways and are both strong female characters.

At points in the play, it could be argued that Hermione's passivity is dwarfed by Paulina's dynamism.

Paulina is first introduced as a powerful and dominating woman. Her first line is commanding, 'the keeper of the prison, call to him; let him have knowledge who I am'. She does not need permission to speak and seems sure of her self.

Hermione, in contrast, when first introduced to the audience, is silent on stage and only speaks when addressed by her husband, 'tongue-tied out queen? Speak you'. This suggests she is passive and dominated by her husband.

Paulina shows later in the act that she is not always obedient to her husband and visits Leontes even though she admits she has disregarded her husbands command not to. This provokes Leontes to question Antiginous, 'what! Canst not rule her?' to which Antiginous replies 'when she will take the rein I let her run; but she'll not stumble'.

She also pays no attention to Antiginous telling her 'that's enough' when she is prevented from seeing Leontes, and continues to convince the Lords to let her pass. This shows an audience Paulina is a powerful women who will only be ruled 'from all dishonesty'.

Paulina is dynamic in that she is the only character to directly confront Leontes, calling his accusation of Hermione a 'weak-hing'd fancy' and tells him, she is 'no less honest, than you are mad', making her one of the only characters to directly call him mad, showing she is courageous enough to stand up to the king. When Leontes threatens she will be burnt she replies 'I care not' which shows she is willing to ignore the consequences of her actions as long as she is acting honestly.

Hermione, however, does not argue her case as fervently as Paulina and seems passive in her response to Leontes' accusations, telling him calmly, 'you, my lord, do but mistake.' She does not confront him, which reinforces her appearance as a more passive character.

Shakespeare writes Hermione's lines, in response to the accusations to contrast Paulina's. There is very little punctuation used in Hermione's lines. For example, 'There's some ill planet reigns: I must be patient till the heavens look more favourable.' Is a sentence stretching three lines which suggests Hermione is calm and obedient in her response.

This is a great contrast to Paulina's speeches to and about Leontes later in the act such as, 'I dare be sworn: These dangerous, unsafe lunes I' th' king, beshrew them!' which is very punctuated, showing the speed at which Paulina should speak them on stage and the passion that the audience should be shown behind the words.

Hermione uses soft gentle sounding words such as, 'prechance' and 'grace' throughout her speeches to Leontes, again an indicator of her being calm and passive in her response. The drawn out sounds in words such as 'patience', 'beseech' seem to be an indicator for the words to be spoken slowly and the 's' sounds in many of her words, suggest that they should be spoken quietly on stage. This all shows Hermione as being very submissive and obedient to her husband and his accusations. She does not seem to question him, or confront him about his allegation, only calmly accepts it, passively deciding to wait 'till the heavens look with an aspect more favourable'.

Although this is one possible interpretation, it is also possible to argue that both Hermione and Paulina are models of feminine strength and that the different characters, merely show this in different ways.

Paulina is shown to be actively strong, she is courageous, putting her argument to see Hermione or one of 'her women' to the Gaoler, 'is't lawful, pray you, to see her women?'. She is also portrayed as proactive, instantly forming a plan to win over Leontes, suggesting that if Hermione 'dares trust me with her little babe, I'll show't the king'

Although this does show her as more dynamic as Hermione, in that she is active in her responses, in my opinion this does not mean Hermione is being dwarfed by her. And Hermione is also shown to the audience as being strong, but in a less active manner.

When accused by Leontes, Hermione replies calmly, but is confident and courageous in doing so. She gives the impression of not needing to either verify or try to invalidate his claims. She says 'should a villain say so... he were as much more villain: you, my lord, do but mistake' suggesting she finds his claims so ridiculous, she need not attempt to defend herself.

She makes a point of saying, 'I am not prone to weeping, as out sex commonly are' showing that even though she is not actively fighting Leontes, she is being strong. Although some women cry, she does not which shows the audience that she does show feminine strength. Her grief is 'honourable' and in her staying calm, she shows, in my opinion, that she is just as strong as the feisty and actively strong Paulina.

At her trial, Hermione shows her bravery by ignoring Leontes' threats of death, listing the things that have happened to her and saying, 'Tell me what blessings I have here alive, that I should fear to die?' This shows her as a strong character and portrays her defiance as she speaks up against Leontes.

She also says that she will not accept Leontes as her judge, 'I do refer me to the Oracle: Apollo be my judge'. In this she tells Leontes that she does not trust him to be her judge, and refers to the God's whose verdict would override hers. This is subtly challenging Leontes control over the trial and is courageous on Hermione's part.

In my opinion the characters of Hermione and Paulina, have been written as strong feminine characters and can both be seen, in their different ways, as models of feminine strength. While Paulina tries to fight Leontes decision, Hermione trusts that it is just momentary, 'an ill planet reigns'. While Paulina is active in trying to prove Hermione blameless, Hermione shows her strength in the calm responses she gives to Leontes, even when he threatens to have her killed.

Different productions of 'A Winters Tale' would, of course, have different ways of portraying the two characters which will impact that audience differently. But, in my opinion, both Hermione and Paulina are models of feminine strength.