Explore how the roles of men and women are portrayed in "The Winter's Tale"(William Shakespeare) and how the modern day audience would react to them

Essay by benfrench2003High School, 12th gradeA-, May 2004

download word file, 11 pages 5.0

Downloaded 45 times

"The Winter's Tale" encompasses many different underlying themes within its pages. It is important to recognise that the contemporary audience would have reacted to the play very differently to its modern day audience. The attitude towards the portrayal of men and women in "The Winter's Tale" has changed greatly over the years, along with the transmuting status of women. It could easily be argued that the audience in the Middle Ages had many preconceptions of women, with the men of the age largely assuming the female sex to be emotive, weak, feeble or inept. It could equally be argued that the modern day audience has come to be far more accepting of women, seeing them as capable equals with independent minds. With thorough analysis of the characters, I aim to discover how the different genders within the play were intended to be depicted, how challenging the ideas were, and how this has changed over time.

The central women in "The Winter's Tale" seem to be represented in a favourable light. We meet, primarily, the "good" and "gracious" Hermione, victim to false allegations, and find that she reacts in a very rational manner. She comes to accept Leontes' unsupported wrath with humility and nobility- "Should a villain say so..He were as much more a villain. You, my lord, do but mistake". Her reverential tone and calm composure contrasts greatly with Leontes' language, as we will come to see. Hermione maintains her integrity and dignity in the eyes of the audience, despite her belief that it has been stained. Hermione also seems to posses a sort of feminine wisdom which is evident in the intelligence and in the articulacy of her speeches, and we are made to sympathise greatly with her. Her appreciation of...