Elements Of Comedy In The Winter's Tale

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A tragicomic play blends elements of both tragedy and comedy together. In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, this can be seen in how the first half of the play portrays a very serious narrative, but then the second half of the play displays acts of reconciliation and a happy ending. The main theme that helps to drive and juxtapose these elements is Time. Its importance can be seen in the Oracle of Delphi’s prophecy concerning Leontes and his banished daughter Perdita, the atonement that Leontes imposes on himself, Perdita and Florizel’s union, as well as the eventual restoration of Camillo and Perdita to their homeland as well as Leontes’ eventual reconciliation with Hermione. It is the aim of this essay to discuss how the term ‘tragicomedy’…show more content…
This is evidenced by the First Lady saying to Mamillius that “The queen your mother rounds apace: we shall/Present our services to a fine new prince/One of these days” (2. 1. 22-24). The fact that the First Lady states that the “new prince” will be among them “One of these days” suggests that Hermione is quite far along in her pregnancy. It has been nine months since Polixenes came to stay in Sicilia, a period of time universally known to be the amount of time that passes from conception to the birth of a child. This passage of time is communicated in the conversation between Polixenes and Leontes in the second scene of the first act where Polixenes states that “Nine changes of the watery star hath been/The shepherd 's note since we have left our throne” (1. 2. 1-2). Here, the phrase “Nine changes of the watery star” refers to nine months passing, and the phrase “since we have left our throne” clarifies that this is the amount of time that has passed since Polixenes left his kingdom to visit Leontes. These two facts appear to play on Leontes’ mind, which leads to him making the assumption that the two facts are directly related and thus Polixenes and Perdita are making a cuckold of him, a cuckold being a man whose wife has been unfaithful. The king becomes plagued by the belief that his wife and old friend have betrayed him. His unsubstantiated accusations lead to the deterioration of his mental…show more content…
Camillo asking that Leontes “be cured / of this diseased opinion” (1. 2. 347-348) connotes Leontes’ assumption regarding Hermione and Polixenes with a disease that must be cured. Hermione tells Leontes that he is clearly mistaken, “you, my lord,/Do but mistake” (2. 1. 99-100). The First Lord tells Leontes that “the queen is spotless” (2. 1. 156), meaning that she is absent of any crime or wrongdoing. Paulina tells Leontes that she is “no less honest / than you are mad” (2. 3. 87-88), clearly showing her opinion of Leontes’ accusations by equating her level of honesty with his level of madness. Despite all of these protests, Leontes refuses to listen to reason as he is so overcome by anger and jealousy. He claims that his people are “traitors!” (2. 3. 90) and that he finds himself in “a nest of traitors” (2. 3. 102) and shouts at his people, “You’re liars all” (2. 3. 180). Here we see how the theme of Time lends itself to creating the tragic atmosphere of the first half of the play. The more time Leontes spends overcome by anger, jealousy and distrust, the less time he will have to come to his senses before committing some tragic and irreversible

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