Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paulina's Personal Prerogative (The Winter's Tale)

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Paulina guarding the statue of Hermione, while an extremely
handsome Leontes (right) pleads with her to let him approach.
I have spent the past few days continually contemplating what I would want to talk about, were I to write a paper on The Winter's Tale. I considered writing on the self-referentiality of the play, friendship (especially as founded on shared-meter lines in the play), and themes of power and control. However, through discussion on Slack, I became more and more interested in the person of Paulina. Preliminary research before beginning the play illuminated the discussion about whether Paulina orchestrated the "resurrection" of Hermione through covert means, or whether it was actually magic. I've come to the conclusion that through an analysis of Paulina's rhetoric in specifically significant scenes, Paulina appears to be more in control of the situation than Leontes. This lends validity to the idea of her orchestrating the disappearance and "resurrection" of Hermione in non-magical ways. This claim could include a feminist critique of female and male power struggles within the play.

In making this claim, I would need to analyze the rhetoric that Paulina uses in the scenes she is a significant part of. One scene that lends itself very highly to this idea is act two, scene three. Here, within fifteen lines, she uses several rhetorical devices. These include antanaclasis: "Commit me for committing honor" (59); ethical appeal through parallel structure: "your loyal servant, your physician, / Your most obedient counselor" (66-67); and alliteration involving voiced and voiceless plosives: "Good queen, my lord, good queen, I say "good queen"(72). Each of these has its individual use, but together, they form a picture of one who is skilled at oratory, who is collected enough to express herself eloquently. Compare this to King Leontes, who, although using some rhetorical devices himself, is overall more flustered and out of control. This rhetorically-based Paulina is one who is self-assured, who doesn't need her husband to tell her what to say, or whether to say it (despite Leontes' objections otherwise). This kind of control is the kind that Leontes lacks, and the kind that shows that Paulina is actually the one who is in control.

It would be fun to write about this because I have never explicitly written a feminist critique of the play. It would be good practice to see how Paulina's power, compared to Leontes' or Antigonus', is more valid and overall more effective. I would be able to do research into other feminist readings of the play (I imagine there would be some). I could find if anyone else has analyzed her speeches and dialogue. I could look for critiques of power struggle within the play, and see if any scholars have talked about ideas of control (either as it relates to Paulina or to other ideas such as fate and chance).

Paulina's power gives validity to the idea that she took it upon herself to control elements in the play, culminating in the spectacular resurrection scene in the closing of the play.


  1. Yay this topic! I think it's great and super interesting. I found this, which isn't super cool, but it is every line she has in the play. That could really help with studying it and making sure to not miss any of it!

    1. Also, I'm replying to myself to say hahaha to the gray hair/makeup that aged you 16 years.

    2. Who Kate, that's an amazing resource! Thank you so much!