Friday, April 1, 2011

Doubles and Likenesses-with-difference: The Comedy of Errors and The Winter's Tale

© Connotations 6.1 (1996-97): 19-40
N.B. For purposes of citation, page numbers of the printed version are inserted in square brackets.

Doubles and Likenesses-with-difference: The Comedy of Errors and The Winter's Tale



M. M. Mahood, Shakespeare's Wordplay (London: Methuen, 1957)
In her classic study, M. M. Mahood concentrated on wordplay in Shakespeare. My interest here is in non-verbal double meanings and their interplay with the verbal text. Structurally The Winter's Tale is obviously a double action divided by Time the Chorus. Part 1's narrative, the movement from court to country and from kings to shepherds, is reversed in Part 2's movement from country to court and from shepherds to kings, as if in a diptych or pair of hinged mirrors: and this double pattern is repeated in other terms: Part 1's suspected disguises are repeated in Part 2's real disguises, and in each part accusation is followed by flight, then by confrontation. At the hinge between the two Parts death meets birth; the end of Part 2 reunites the figures from the beginning of Part 1.

This pattern of doubling, the repetition in the two Parts of events and even individual words, composes patterns of likeness-with-difference--conceits which are far-fetched over a gap between tragedy and comedy, Sicily and Bohemia, winter and spring. Shakespeare makes his double design of the play emphatic but at the same time it is riddling, something that is most obviously emphasised by the two coups de théâtre--the bear and the statue--where the stage images embody deep conceits; but also by the mischievous spirit of travesty in which the whole pastoral episode of 4.4. is presented. The double design in fact extends to the smallest verbal links between the two halves of the play, as with the single word "hook," used by Leontes gloating at the prospect of seizing Hermione: "she / I can hook to me" (2.3.7) and by Polixenes rebuking Florizel: "Thou a sceptre's heir, / That thus affectst a sheep-hook" (4.4.420): or the single word "slip," used by Perdita in 4.4.100 in the sense "a twig, sprig or small shoot taken from a plant or tree for purposes of grafting [page 20] or planting" (OED sb.2 1.) but earlier used in another sense, "sin," by her mother playfully ("slipp'd," 1.2.85) and her father savagely ("slippery," 1.2.273). There is something residually difficult in this whole pervasive system of likenesses-with-difference.1

Early in his career, Shakespeare deliberately explores varied comic styles. He is fascinated by extremes, concentrating intensely in Love's Labour's Lost on words and the idea of double meaning, while in The Comedy of Errors it is action and the meaning of the double which is thoroughly explored. It is presumably because The Comedy of Errors is chiefly concerned with the play of meanings in doubled persons and situations, rather than in words, that it did not earn itself a place in Shakespeare's Wordplay; nevertheless I have been struck when re-reading The Winter's Tale by the way it has kept reminding me of The Comedy of Errors, and looking again at this early comedy from the unusual perspective of The Winter's Tale seems to me to illuminate interesting features in both plays--there is the conscious pointing to the absurdity resulting from the extreme pressure placed on narrative conventions, there is the way a whole plot can have a double meaning apparent to an audience but not to the characters--although it is not so much in technique as in substance that the later Shakespeare is still able to draw inspiration from this early piece.

In The Comedy of Errors the changes Shakespeare makes to his main source, Plautus, emphasise the pathos of human capacity for error and man's subjection to the power of Fortune. The doubling of masters and servants results in situations in which innocent actions appear guilty; the fact of identical twins puts in question the very idea of Nature, as well as the human quest for self-knowledge. Shakespeare ensures that the audience know more of the situation than the characters do (except for the very last revelation), which increases the impression that the characters are victims, thereby producing effects both ridiculous and pathetic. The wife Adriana declares (2.2.110-46) her belief in the sanctity of marriage as a spiritual union, she and her husband being "undividable, incorporate." The audience is aware--though she is not--that her husband has an identical twin, and that it is to this man, a complete stranger, that she is declaring herself indissolubly knit. The metaphysical paradox that man and wife are one flesh is thus confronted by the [page 21] physical paradox that man and brother are identically the same. The longing for reunion that one twin feels for the other is contrasted with the frustration both husband and wife feel within the bonds of marriage.

It is in this central concern with twins as a challenge to the exclusive union of man and wife that I find the strongest connection between The Comedy of Errors and The Winter's Tale; and with this common theme goes a similarity of dramatic technique (allowing for the general development in Shakespeare's art) in the dividing of an audience's attention so that an episode can be understood from two opposite points of view simultaneously--so that the narrative itself, in short, has a double meaning, and generates whole orders of subsidiary double meanings.

A clear instance is the already-mentioned episode where the wife, Adriana, fearing her husband is being unfaithful, suddenly comes upon him. She passionately appeals to him to uphold the ideal of marriage as spiritual union:

For know, my love, as easy mayst thou fall
A drop of water in the breaking gulf,
And take unmingled thence that drop again,
Without addition or diminishing,
As take from me thyself and not me too. (2.2.125-29)
The audience, knowing that this is not her husband but his twin, will not respond with full sympathy to her speech--they will be more interested in its effect on the bewildered Antipholus of Syracuse. He does his best to respond clearly and formally (2.2.147):

Plead you to me, fair dame? I know you not:
but the situation gives this simple utterance two opposite meanings: the audience can see that it is perfectly reasonable--since he is a stranger--but it is equally clear that to Adriana it must appear to be frightening evidence of a sudden change in her husband--it is either calculated malice or madness. Moreover, Adriana's speech with its simile of the drop of water will have another quite unintended significance to this Antipholus, since in his first scene he had likened himself, seeking his lost twin, to [page 22]

a drop of water,
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth
(Unseen, inquisitive), confounds himself. (1.2.35-38)
--a speech all the more poignant in retrospect since it marks his last moment of sanity before the entry of the wrong Dromio plunges him deeper and deeper into an ocean of confusion, until he fears he is among

Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body (1.2.99-100)
Although the image of the drop of water, transparent and volatile, can be understood in Christian terms as the soul, in The Comedy of Errors these same qualities of transparency and volatility are also associated, ironically, with instability and loss of identity. In the play the image of the drop of water is used as a paradoxical simile both for the relationship between twin and twin and for husband and wife. As the play unfolds, Adriana's assertion of indivisible union with her husband is belied by her suspicion that he is unfaithful, by the audience's observation of his temper and of his relations with the courtesan, and by the remarks of the Abbess about jealous wives; so that the ultimate issue is the crisis in the marriage, something not caused, but only precipitated, by the arrival of the twin: thus a resonant double-meaning is focused in Adriana's passionate question:

How comes it now, my husband, O, how comes it,
That thou art then estranged from thyself? (2.2.119-120)
Here are several hints for the stagecraft as well as the subtext of Act 1 Scene 2 of The Winter's Tale, which likewise concerns a married couple, the husband having a (spiritual) twin brother, then being struck suddenly by mistaken jealousy, the wife virtuous but, victim of an apparently compromising situation, exposed to his madness and vindictive rage, amid accusations of witchcraft and conspiracy. Shakespeare in The Winter's Tale manipulates the audience's perception so that they see events in a double sense: the husband is a tyrant but at the same time [page 23] a victim, he is a tragic figure and at the same time as ridiculous as Antipholus of Ephesus in pursuit of Dr Pinch.

* * *
In 3.2. of The Comedy of Errors Luciana appeals to her brother-in-law Antipholus to be kinder to his wife: even if he does not love her, she says, at least he could conceal it: if he must commit adultery, then "do it by stealth," "Be secret-false,"

Look sweet, speak fair, become disloyalty;
Apparel vice like virtue's harbinger; (3.2.11-12)
Unfortunately she does not realise this is the wrong twin brother, who while being confused by much of what she says, reacts eagerly to what he thinks might be a sexual invitation:

Lay open to my earthy, gross conceit
Smothered in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
The folded meaning of your words deceit (3.2.34-36)
It is, characteristically for this play, the situation which gives this language its ambiguity. The word "folded" can be glossed (OED "folded" ppl.a.) as concealed, doubled, twisted, and is equivalent to "implied." Folding a letter before the ink is dry produces a double image; but of course the usual reason for folding is to conceal the contents. Still, in a play about undiscovered doubles, two sets of identical twins, "folding" seems a suggestive word for Antipholus to use here: doubled, concealed meanings are of the essence.

If, psychologically, a certain threat is inherent in self-mirroring, it may be because the self is naturally prone to division. In The Comedy of Errors there is no mistaking the fearful implications of the loss of self-possession, the idea of confounding, the suggestion of drowning implicit in the simile used by the twin to explain that he is "like a drop of water"

That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth
(Unseen, inquisitive), confounds himself. (1.2.36-38)
[page 24] From his early plays forward Shakespeare shows a fascination with likenesses-without-difference, in twins and doubles. When Viola in Twelfth Night thinks of her lost twin brother she says, to reassure herself, "I my brother know / Yet living in my glass" (3.4.379-80); but when she and her brother, at last reunited, stand side by side, the sight unnerves the hitherto robust Antonio:

How have you made division of yourself?
An apple, cleft in twain, is not more twin. (5.1.222-23)
Her twin is identical except for his opposite sex--Shakespeare developing further from The Comedy of Errors his concern with same-sex identical twins, and hence producing in Twelfth Night a more complex treatment of issues of sexual identity as well as jealousy.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream 3.2. the idea is of spiritual twinning, of the growing together of the two girls Helena and Hermia:

So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition,
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
So with two seeming bodies, but one heart, (3.2.208-12)
Their childhood unity is stressed at the point when sexual rivalry divides them. Helena appeals to Hermia to remember how in childhood they were like identical twins, but whatever she might pretend in these lines, the play makes it clear that the girls are physically quite unlike (e.g. 3.2.290-91). It was not physical but spiritual identity they shared so intensely, but Helena lets her rhetoric run away with her: the unintended confusion of the simile (does this double cherry have two stones or one?) reveals a certain emotional falseness in the speaker, especially as the cherry's propriety as an image of girlhood is undermined minutes earlier by the use Demetrius has made of it, addressing Helena: "Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow."

Helena's lines are too neatly divided, the similes whimsically pretty but too like one another, making an effect more repetitious than incremental: [page 25]

We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds
Had been incorporate: (3.2.203-8)
This is the rhetorical equivalent of a child's sampler, where time stands still; but for Helena and Hermia sexual love now involves growing apart. The episode concerns love's inducement to betrayal as much as self-betrayal--Helena is at least right to feel that it is intolerable to be treated as if she were a mere sexual token exchangeable for her erstwhile spiritual twin.

At the very beginning of The Winter's Tale a conversation between two courtiers stresses, as something extraordinary, the boyhood intimacy of the two kings Leontes and Polixenes--an intimacy which now must inevitably change:

They were train'd together in their childhoods, and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection, which cannot choose but branch now. (1.1.22-24)
Polixenes asserts of himself and Leontes that they were

Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal. (1.2.63-5)
The play's intense concern with double-meanings in language and stage-imagery--with true ambiguity in interpretation--springs from and returns to this original concern with twinning. In The Comedy of Errors the wrong Antipholus twin is unfortunately admitted by the other's wife to "dine above"--to an intimate reconciliation with the unwitting risk of adultery, and in A Midsummer Night's Dream the distress of Helena hinges on her erotic exchangeability with Hermia. In this play Leontes and Polixenes, as boys, feel themselves to be twin brothers, and there is the implication that their boyhood parting and their subsequent marriages involve a latent (however suppressed) sense of infidelity, since marriage constitutes a rival kind of union, expressed in the metaphysical [page 26] conceit that man and wife are one flesh. The stage action of 1.2. involves an audience in assessing the manner, the signals of voice, face and body, of three figures who at first seem undivided in affection--and the two kings may, in stage performance, be very similar in appearance. Yet the kings' continuing sense of being twins (both are prone to childhood reminiscences) means that Hermione is aware of being subtly excluded, while she is no less aware that, in sharing things with one, she is in a way also sharing with the other: she must find it difficult to distinguish between them in her manner. Her relation to Polixenes will naturally be a close one yet it must not break--and must not be believed to break--the taboos; although among people of royal rank, manner may permit itself some privileged largesse.

Shakespeare complicates the interpretation of body-language by drawing attention to Hermione's state of advanced pregnancy. This might be supposed to guarantee her a degree of sexual immunity: but while it may allow her a more relaxed closeness to Polixenes, it may involve a slight sexual distancing from her husband Leontes, which could naturally produce tension. Furthermore Polixenes' wife, although briefly referred to in 1.2., is absent, and this gives visual emphasis to an exclusive triangular relationship. As the action unfolds attention is concentrated on the way each of the three adults is divided in turn from the remaining pair; and then for Leontes there is a further stage of alienation triggered by the presence of his two offspring, the unborn child as significant as the boy Mamillius. Thus Hermione finds herself in this scene dividing her attention between the two kings, showing affection in different ways to both, and provoking equivocal responses from each. Polixenes is divided between an obligation to go home and requests that he stay. To Leontes the sense of sharing affection with these two is suddenly supplanted by the sense of division as decisive as that in a theatre between spectator and actors. He turns from Hermione, carrying the unborn child, to his boy Mamillius, as if they constituted another choice, rather than mirroring his self-division: the unborn child's survival as a branch of a family, though Leontes tries to kill it, will lead to the growth of a whole new narrative from Act 3 forwards.

Consulting the OED under "implicate" I find a quotation of 1610 describing how "the boughes and armes of trees twisted one within [page 27] another so implicated the woods together." Here the readiness of the writer (Holland) to exchange the word "armes" for "boughes" strikes a chord if one thinks of Shakespeare's stagecraft in 1.2. of The Winter's Tale. In 1.1. Camillo remarks of the two kings "They were trained together in their childhood" (22-23), and he will not let go of the image of the boys' intertwined arms: they "shook hands, as over a vast, and embraced, as it were, from the ends of opposed winds" (30-31). Here courtly hyperbole, as it seems, too abruptly magnifies, with the effect of distortion and painful strain--and "vast" can refer to a great stretch of time as well as space. The stress on vastness of scale seems apparently to be a function of courtly rhetorical style, to accentuate the positive, (as is the negative construction), but it will soon enough take on an opposite meaning, as untimely storms both emotional and actual cause destruction. And the onset of this storm will be in Leontes' sudden obsessive attention to simple on-stage actions of Hermione and Polixenes--joining hands, putting an arm round a waist, embracing. Several scenes later the image of arms is still obsessing him, in his Macbeth-like rumination: "the harlot king / Is quite beyond mine arm . . . but she / I can hook to me" (2.3.4-7).

In 1.2. Leontes disgustedly describes the two figures of Hermione and Polixenes: Polixenes "wears" Hermione

like her medal hanging
About his neck (1.2.307-8)
Not until the very last moment of the play is the "great gap of time" closed (5.3.154), its closing emphatically marked by the simple action as Hermione and Leontes enclose one another in embrace; at this Camillo exclaims "She hangs about his neck" (5.3.112). It seems evident from this remark that the major impact here is to be visual, in their embrace, and that the powerful verbal image of 1.2.307 is now triumphantly redeemed in being visually imprinted in action on stage.

In the first scene Camillo's courtly paradox "embraced, as it were, from the ends of opposed winds" (1.1.30-31) is so absurd one might almost suspect Shakespeare of a sly pun on Puttenham's term for hyperbole, which is "the over-reacher"--and yet embracing "from the ends of [page 28] opposed winds" will be seen retrospectively to be a surprisingly cogent, even epigrammatic comment on this weird story, where the defiant interplay between contrary emotions, surface and depth, microcosmic and macrocosmic scales, easily outdoes anything in Donne.

In the theatre a decision must be made as to how far, if at all, the behaviour of Hermione and Polixenes makes Leontes' interpretation plausible. In the important production of 1910 at New York the two kings were made to look extraordinarily similar, with identical neat, black Italianate beards and similar crowns and furred gowns. In 1.2. Hermione took the hand of Leontes as she spoke the line

The one for ever earn'd a royal husband; (1.2.107)
and she turned to Polixenes with the next line

Th'other for some while a friend.
and took his hand. Moving away, she sat by Polixenes and--as a photograph shows,2 read his hand, their heads very close together. When Leontes spoke the lines

To your own bents dispose you; you'll be found,
Be you beneath the sky. (1.2.179-80)
Polixenes placed a shawl on Hermione's shoulders as they moved towards the garden. Such a staging, in placing central emphasis on the actors and reading the dialogue closely for explicit and implicit stage directions, maintains a lifeline to the non-scenic theatre of the Elizabethans; it shows the potential in the non-verbal codes of theatre for a play on meanings which is equivalent to that in the dialogue, and it maintains a tension between dialogue and action. Nevertheless The Winter's Tale was the subject of massive adaptation for the Victorian spectacular theatre, and productions continue to efface important features of Shakespeare's style by imposing cuts, changes and anachronistic ideas on the opening scenes. Anthony Quayle in 1948 at Stratford cut all but fifteen lines of 1.1., substituting a "Kean-like Bacchanalia of barbaric intensity: leaping, screaming, knife-throwing Russian dancers".3 In this [page 29] production the court for 1.2. was macabre in red, black and gold, dominated by a Tartar Leontes, "the tyrant of the fairytale."4 Such a context gave Shakespeare's sophisticated, witty, supple dialogue no chance, and summarily disposed of the question of Leontes' motivation. Trevor Nunn in 1969 disposed of the question with no less clarity, and imposed an alien set of ideas--this time Freudian--with no less force, if with more intellectual self-consciousness. He presented Leontes' soliloquies as part of a dream sequence, Polixenes and Hermione in the dim light, with alternately stylised and naturalistic gestures, enacting the sexual fantasies of Leontes: on the words "How she holds up the neb, the bill to him" Hermione raised her nose and lips to Polixenes in the half-dark.5 Given the subtlety of the text, the frequent modern recourse to heavy-handed stage symbolism seems particularly obtuse.

A contrasting tradition is illustrated by Peter Wood's 1960 production which (like the 1910 New York production) showed how stage action and gesture can be derived in detail from the dialogue; this gave Leontes' outbreak of jealousy considerable plausibility. Leontes and Polixenes locked arms as Polixenes said "Farewell, our brother" (1.2.27) and Hermione took the hand of Polixenes and kissed it. At "Tongue-tied our queen" Leontes and Hermione held out their hands to Polixenes, then Leontes moved up-stage watching the other two unobserved, came downstage in time to hear "If you first sinned with us," Hermione embraced Leontes at "The one for ever earned a royal husband" and she embraced Polixenes on the next line, "Th'other for some while a friend," then drew him downstage, holding hands. Leontes was clasped round the waist by Mamillius after his soliloquy "O that is entertainment / My bosom likes not." Later, playing with Mamillius, he fell forward on his knees and Mamillius put his arm round him. A reviewer wrote of this interpretation of Leontes that its details "build a personality open to the storm like tissue paper to a fire."6

Even in stage productions closely attentive to the text there is still, after all, a considerable range of choice: Hermione and Polixenes may be shown to display nothing beyond conventional good manners, and in that case Leontes' comments will seem glaringly misplaced, implying him to be either already covertly a prisoner of obsession before the scene begins, or suddenly, inexplicably seized by it in mid-scene. Such an [page 30] interpretation, while legitimate, accords less well with the detailed texture of the dialogue, and seems less interesting dramatically, than one where Hermione and Polixenes do show affection which could plausibly be misinterpreted--as in the production of 1910 in New York, or in 1960 by Wood, or more recently, Peter Hall.7

* * *
Happiness is identified with the negation of time, an idea Polixenes touches on again when he says his small son "makes a July's day short as December," preventing thoughts that "would thick my blood" (1.2.171). He stresses the idea of youth as freedom from choice: that is how it was with himself and Leontes,

We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' th' sun,
And bleat the one at th'other. What we chang'd
Was innocence for innocence, we knew not
The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
That any did. (1.2.67-71)
The two lambs replicated each other, their discourse was identical (well, it was out of the mouths of babes and sucklings), sheer repetition of innocence and innocence: though they were two there was no individuation nor self-division; but when change came (in dream as well as waking) it was because their "weak spirits" were "reared with stronger blood" and this had the direct consequence of guilt.

Had we pursu'd that life,
And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven
Boldly, 'Not guilty'; (1.2.71-4)
This usage of "blood" is complicated: taken with "reared" it can literally apply to the human child's progression from being milk-fed (like lambs) to a red-meat diet; and while "blood" is, positively, the full vigour of life, its negative connotation (according to "the doctrine of ill-doing") is as the seat of animal or sensual appetite, lust and anger. Given the royal status of the boys, the sense of "blood" meaning family and lineage [page 31] is present; and in the Bible "blood" often refers to blood shed in sacrifice, and this strengthens the typological association of the lamb with Christ, the redemptive power of innocence sacrificed. If there is a more pervasive Biblical influence in the play than the idea of the Garden of Eden it is (as in The Comedy of Errors) that of St Paul, in the Epistles. The idea that in childhood one is filled with the milk of innocence and this is only changed by one's being given a new diet, recalls Paul in Hebrews: "For every one that useth milke, is unexpert of the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meate belongeth to them that are perfect, even those which by reason of use, have their wits exercised to discerne both good and evil" (Heb. 5:13-14). Polixenes implies that with adulthood inevitably comes sin, specifically sexual sin, something from which they would have been protected by remaining boys and sharing boyhood affection. It should be noticed how firmly this identifies the adult world of the court with sexual guilt and contrasts it to the child's world of natural innocence, though at the same time implying that it is according to Nature that a child develops from a state of innocence to guilt; and this leaves the door ajar, so to speak, for the Freudian interpretation of childhood.

"Sicilia cannot show himself over-kind to Bohemia" (1.1.21-22) says Camillo, and he is, as M. M. Mahood says, ambiguous. He means "however strong the expression, it cannot exceed Leontes' feelings of love," but can also mean "Leontes tries but fails to keep up the appearance of love" and also "Leontes must not show that his love for Polixenes goes too far." The negative construction casts its shadow, touching as it seems unintentionally on just those areas which give maximum possible embarrassment. Yet this embarrassing issue is very important: it is the implicit concern with forbidden love which contributes greatly to the feeling of release at the end, in the lawful union of the two kings' children. The extent to which the love of the two kings involves anxiety is nevertheless left implicit, and this accounts for much of its power, and is a sign of Shakespeare's mature art. Comparison with The Comedy of Errors shows how explicitly, but therefore less deeply, that play explores the experience of delusion, sexual jealousy, cruelty, in relation to Christian ideas of demonic possession and redemption.

[page 32]The Winter's Tale presents a fascinating exploration of the interplay of the categories of the civilised and the natural, as in the remark:

They were train'd together in their childhoods; and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection, which cannot choose but branch now. (1.1.22-4)
"Training" in Shakespeare usually signifies educating, bringing-up, rearing, but in the horticultural sense training means artifically imposing a shape on a tree as it grows, often by use of a frame or espalier; whereas "branch," to put out a new growth, can also mean to divide into two lines, to deviate, and to turn single into double; and in genealogy--by extension from the metaphor of the family tree--"branch" is used to mean a child. This last sense is at the back of Leontes' mind when he takes his son Mamillius aside to examine his face, anxiously brooding on fatherhood and its shameful issue, cuckold's horns, in his words "o'er head and ears a fork'd one" (1.2.186). It is no accident that "fork'd" suggests not only the branching of horns above but also of the loins below: the image of man as "a poor bare forked animal." Nothing is more tricky than the faux-naif mode of Pastoral. We may think of branching as the natural doubling of a single line. Is it then less natural for identity, having once branched out from the main stem to single separateness, to divide again, become double? If double may mean twice the value of single, in Shakespeare single can also mean weak, and double can mean false.8

Implicit in the play's idea of nurture is the intermingling of human cultural practice with natural law, but also of the divine with both these: in the case of the two boys raised together, Nature apparently was made to go against her own idea of individuation as their roots intermingle: they become twins though they are not born twins, and they feel their later separation as damage. The two young princes grew into a loving intimacy like that of naturally-born twins, although they were not: and then this exclusive intimacy persisted beyond the normal time-span, which certainly diverges from cultural norms if not natural law: indeed, the courtier says, it was their royal rank that forced them apart ("royal necessities made separation of their society" 1.1.25-6) but despite that they continued to interchange "loving embassies." If one is aware that [page 33] "affection" could have the meaning "lust," however (as in Lucrece 271) then an alternative sense, almost the opposite, is implied: that there seeded itself between them this plant and now is its time to grow (branch), widening a division between them.

The image of branching recurs in the second part of the play when used by Leontes' disowned daughter, Perdita, who wishes she had flowers of the Spring for those shepherdesses

That wear upon your virgin branches yet
Your maidenheads growing . . . . (4.4.115-6)
In 1.1. Camillo says that the two young boys/trees were planted very close so that they could be trained together: and furthermore, as the gardener pruned and interwove their young branches by art, below ground their roots grew together by nature. Nature and culture impose their double authority, and this is interesting in relation to the phrase "cannot choose": the negative construction has the function of emphasis, stressing sheer irresistibility, but it does not quite efface associations of "branch" with "choice": so Christianity teaches that in due time comes man's adulthood, marked by acquisition of a capacity to exercise free will, not be enslaved to blind instinct.

Associated with this is the idea of natural law as expressed in the time taken by its proceedings, and the trouble caused by disruption of Nature's timing by delay or haste: so pruning aids growth, but must be done at the right time, and in nature too-forward young buds may be killed by late wintry storms. The first words of Polixenes assert that he has delayed his return to his duty and his family during nine months, the natural period for pregnancy but here a delay made by choice and associated with guilt. At a public level Polixenes shows good manners, but taken to an extreme; at a personal level his nine months stay involves over-favouring of his friend as well as neglect of his own wife.

Men and women, though subject to instinct, do also exercise choice in the case of marriage-partners. Leontes stresses that he chose Hermione for love (he makes no reference to dynastic considerations); and Hermione exercised her right of choice too--but Leontes recalls that "three crabbed months soured themselves to death" (another tree-image, [page 34] though this crab-apple seems not just characteristically sour but dying of a disease) as she delayed her choice. To Leontes in his jealousy, memory of Hermione's three months delay suddenly suggests a suspicious link to Polixenes, whose first words are of nine months. For Leontes--himself rashly jumping to conclusions and burning with impatience for revenge--haste, just as much as delay, can be a sign in others of guilt: in 1.2. Leontes obsessively supposes lustful Hermione and Polixenes driven to frantic impatience,

wishing clocks more swift?
Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? (1.2.289-90)
whereas Hermione good-humouredly teases Polixenes about when the due time came for him to experience temptation (1.2.75-86).

Shakespeare goes on to play obliquely with the idea of delay or haste in relation to Nature's measure of time, when Hermione's son Mamillius, surprisingly, shows a marked forwardness, a precociousness, in banter of a sexual kind with the court ladies in 2.1. In 2.3. the audience learns that Perdita's own birth was brought on by Leontes' rage: Hermione consequently was delivered "something before her time" (2.2.23). The second half of the play will open in 3.3. with the Old Shepherd's remark that youth is a prolonged wait for adulthood, a kind of delay in the life-cycle, producing nothing but impulsive disruption, "getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting" (3.3.61-63). In 4.4. stress falls on the forwardness--the precociousness--of youthful Florizel as well as of young Perdita, and how this exposes them to a father's wrath. Perdita, unaware of her own past history, or her dead brother's, or of the present threat posed by Polixenes, dwells on the vulnerability of the very young to premature death, of young maids like flowers that risk a too-hasty appearance in early Spring "before the swallow dares," or like pale primroses

That die unmarried, ere they can behold
Bright Phoebus in his strength (a malady
Most incident to maids) (4.4.123-25)
Perdita, in unaccustomed robes, with the rashness of extreme youth, disputes the theme of art and nature with Polixenes disguised as an old [page 35] man (4.4.83-103). She makes a point of insisting she will never touch slips from "bastard" plant varieties, wants nothing to do with "art" because it also can mean artifice. Shakespeare trips Perdita up; a shepherd's daughter, willing subject to clandestine royal courtship, costumed and garlanded as queen of a Spring festival, likened to Flora and alluding to Persephone: and does she claim herself free of artifice? For his part, Polixenes may very wisely declare that to marry a "gentle scion" to the "wildest stock" (4.4.93) is both natural and bettering nature, but this does not prevent him violently contradicting himself in practice only minutes later.

There is a clear element of travesty in this repetition of themes and episodes from the first half of the play--it goes beyond establishing the contrasting comic mode. When Polixenes does unmask in rage to disrupt the proceedings, Florizel, undismayed, declares himself "delay'd"

But nothing alter'd; What I was, I am;
More straining on for plucking back. (4.4.464-65)
Here this by now well-worn motif of delay/haste takes an unexpected form: and it is ingeniously echoed in the case of the Old Shepherd who, having successfully delayed death well beyond the traditional life-span of the Bible, three score and ten years, fears he is now to be all too hastily cut off:

a man of fourscore three,
That thought to fill his grave in quiet; yea,
To die upon the bed my father died, . . . . (4.4.453-55)
Another example of the strain involved in uncovering patterns of likeness-with-difference in this play is the throw-away jocular remark of Autolycus about the Old Shepherd's fate: "Some say he shall be ston'd; but that fate is too soft for him, say I" (4.4.778-79): this collocation stoned/soft bizarrely anticipates the description of the Old Shepherd weeping "like a weather-bitten conduit of many kings' reigns" (5.2.55-56), a statue-image that reverses Autolycus' stoned/soft opposition, and which, though in travesty-form, anticipates the words of the "marble-breasted" Leontes before the statue of Hermione--"does not the stone rebuke me / For being more stone than it?" (5.3.37-38) and the reverse [page 36] transformation of Perdita, rapt in admiration, "Standing like stone" beside the statue of Hermione (5.3.42). Obliquely this is also a transformation of the haste/delay motif into that of eternity/time, art/nature.

The play ends with a final wry twist to this motif of time stretched by delay or compressed by haste, of time suspended in dream or illusion contrasted to time measured by the beat of the pulse. In the play's last moment Leontes looks back on its events and concludes that everybody present has "perform'd" a "part" in "this wide gap of time." His word "gap" signifies a measurable extent of time, between then and now, but also a sheer blank, a nothing. To Leontes it is almost as if time had been suspended while they performed a dream-like comedy of errors, and now they are awake again.

* * *
In The Winter's Tale successive local dramatic situations carry surface conviction, and drive forward a positively resolvable plot (since this is a Romance, and we know Perdita's true origins, it is ultimately a matter of time), whereas the system of patterning is fraught with discrepancies, with double-meanings. What is striking about the beginning of 1.2. is the stress on subtle divisions between the three figures even before Leontes begins to lose control. Act 5 scene 1 offers an intricate reflection of 1.2. since instead of Hermione and Polixenes it is Perdita and Florizel who confront Leontes, and in this instance comprise a complex of doubled images. The baby present though not yet born in 1.2., and disowned by Leontes, is here in 5.1. grown up: that is to say Perdita, first freed and enfranchised from her father's rage, then again subject to rage from Florizel's father, is now again with her own father and once again unintentionally provoking Leontes, this time erotically. Thanks to Paulina's strong presence, the scene is framed by memories of Hermione: as it begins, Leontes laments his rage that caused his son's death and Hermione's:

I might have look'd upon my queen's full eyes,
Have taken treasure from her lips . . . . (5.1.53-54)
[page 37] As the scene ends Paulina reminds an emotionally reviving Leontes of how beautiful Hermione was, and he responds, in a tone of wonder, that while he has been gazing at Perdita it is Hermione he has been thinking of.

The first sight of Florizel is also a source of wonder to Leontes: he exclaims that Florizel looks like the young Polixenes:

Your mother was most true to wedlock, Prince,
For she did print your royal father off,
Conceiving you. (5.1.124-6)
This recalls the moment in 1.2.122 when Leontes found comfort in Mamillius, saw they were alike, that in fact the boy's nose was "a copy out o'mine." There is also another echo, more interesting because more teasing, of 2.3., when Paulina insisted that Hermione's new-born baby reprinted Leontes' features:

Behold, my lords,
Although the print be little, the whole matter
And copy of the father--eye, nose, lip;
The trick of's frown, his forehead . . . . (2.3.98-101)
Perhaps no-one in real life is on oath when first showing a father his new-born child, certainly not Paulina. Nevertheless, this insistence on minute details of facial likeness is striking. Now in 5.1. this child, which Paulina had so strongly urged to be a copy of Leontes, is said to be very like Hermione. Perdita is the child of Hermione and Florizel the child of Polixenes, but also, they are doubles for Leontes' two lost children, the baby and Mamillius.

That is to say, this pair, as they stand before Leontes, therefore represent three remembered figures from the past: his wife, his best friend, and himself. These are the very figures which tortured his alienated mind at the beginning of the play. Now the mood is altered, strange but auspicious. Paulina's concern, in reminding Leontes that Florizel was born in the very same hour as Mamillius, is to awaken loving associations in Leontes' mind, but to the play's spectators the information certainly is news, seeming to invite the suggestion that, in the form of a son-in-law, Leontes' lost son is redeemed--but also, more [page 38] obscurely, that the twinning of the fathers could have been replicated in the sons. And yet of course he cannot be redeemed, the deeds of 1.2. are irreversible, the fantasy of wish-fulfilment is impossible, loss is permanent, including loss of innocence and twinship.

The emphasis on the likeness of Mamillius and Perdita may be supported, in stage performance, by the same actor doubling the roles; what cannot be done plausibly (though it has been tried), and should not be done thematically, is for one actor to double the roles of Perdita and Hermione. There must be likeness-with-difference between them. Florizel and Perdita are like their parents, but they must not be exchangably identical to them: that would mean they are destined to repeat the cycle of events that constitute their Winter's Tale. Here contrast with The Comedy of Errors seems illuminating.

The question of the meaning of the double in The Comedy of Errors is distilled finally in stage images which are visually, conclusively, identically double. At the climax the entrance of the Abbess unwittingly brings the two long-separated pairs of twins together. A sense of incredulity combines with deep satisfaction and light-headedness all round: Antipholus wonders "If this be not a dream I see and hear" (5.1.377), but for his brother the preceding action, which the audience know to be entirely explicable as error, has been rather one of nightmare, in which the people he knows best have acted like strangers or treated him insolently or declared him a victim of witchcraft and satanic possession and insanity, and the simplest sensory experience has proved untrustworthy.

Astonishment, therefore, but also a powerful undertow of awe and fear, are palpable as the Duke sees the twins together: "which is the natural man, / And which the spirit?" (5.1.334-35) Their reunion results in the restoration to the Abbess of her sons, and then of her husband, rescued from the gallows in the nick of time. The Abbess, in a conceitful "over-reacher" remarkably anticipating the manner of The Winter's Tale, describes this separation as a pregnancy of thirty-three years now astonishingly delivered: "After so long grief, such nativity" (407), and Dromio jests to his twin: "Methinks you are my glass and not my brother" (418). The question of the double is resolved in the figure of the Abbess-mother, long-lost yet always present (though hidden), [page 39] combining the opposites of holiness and naturalness, priestess and wife, in a manner to be characterised by Edgar Wind's term of serio ludere;9 it is Shakespeare playing with serious things and being serious in a playful style.

In the final scene of The Winter's Tale Florizel is not identical to, but only like, Polixenes, a likeness-with-difference. This crucially releases him, and his symbolic role, into the future: this is not to be the world of Beckett's Play. Perdita is emphatically identified with Hermione but then decisively separated from her, precisely at the point where the statue is seen to have (like old Aegeon in The Comedy of Errors) marks of "time's deformed hand" upon it. Hermione returns so much altered, unlike what she was (and Perdita shows what she was like) but truly like her present self, that is, alive to a revived Leontes.

The statue transformation is Hermione's play of incarnation, which distinguishes between the ideal, figurative meanings of Hermione--what she is like for her husband and for her child and for her husband's twin Polixenes--and the actual meaning to herself of being a woman with a husband and daughter, who exists in time, where truth is not to be divided from change.

In this play Shakespeare uses stagecraft, the composition of stage images and action, in the same spirit as he uses words: in the spirit of serio ludere. The play is a unique kind of tragicomedy in that it deliberately heightens one's sense of discrepancy and incommensurability, the impossibility of complete resolution, so that when a conclusion is achieved the surprise and pleasure are increased without suppressing the unassimilable elements--indeed it is clear how much must remain unredeemable, and this is the difference from The Comedy of Errors. The final stage image, then, can mean what it says, although it is by no means plain and unvarnished.

Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität

The Witer's Tale: Plot summary

The Winter's Tale: Plot Summary From Stories of Shakespeare's Comedies by Helene Adeline Guerber. New York: Dodd, Mead and company.
Act IWhen the curtain rises for the first act on an antechamber in Leontes' palace, in Sicilia, we overhear his councillor Camillo talking with a follower of the King of Bohemia. They are discussing the meeting between their masters, who, after having been brought up together, and separated for years, have been enjoying a renewal of their former friendship. They also mention the little prince of Sicilia, Mamillius, who promises to become a fine man, although at present merely an engaging child.

The second scene is played in a state apartment of the same palace, where Leontes enters with his family, guests, and train, and where Polixenes, King of Bohemia, courteously states it is time to bid his host farewell, and return to his own kingdom. Although Leontes warmly urges his friend to prolong his sojourn, his entreaties prove vain, until he turns to his wife, Hermione, suggesting she try her skill. With grace and eloquence, Hermione, at his request, uses such persuasive arguments that Polixenes finally yields, and enters into sprightly conversation with her, describing his happy youth with her husband, and his grief at their long separation.

Meantime, Leontes, perceiving his wife's persuasions have proved more efficacious than his own, exclaims she never spoke to better purpose save when he wooed her, and she consented to become his wife! This praise so elates Hermione that she prizes herself happy in having spoken twice to such good purpose that she earned a royal spouse, and a worthy friend. Her innocent joy, however, kindles the jealousy of Leontes, who suddenly fancies she is speaking too warmly of their guest. With keen suspicion he begins watching wife and guest, pretending meanwhile to play with his boy, and soon concludes they have some secret understanding. This discovery causes him such jealous pangs, that, seizing Mamillius, he questions whether he is his offspring. Although the child's marked resemblance to himself clearly proves his legitimacy, Leontes nevertheless deems his wife faithless, and frowns so portentously that he rouses the wonder of his guest, who asks Hermione what can cause her husband's irritation?

Urged to speak by wife and friend, Leontes pretends to have been dreaming over the past, when he, too, was a mere lad. Then he asks whether Polixenes loves Florizel as dearly as he does Mamillius, whereupon the King of Bohemia enthusiastically declares his boy makes 'a July day short as December,' for him. A moment later, Leontes bids Hermione, if she loves him, show their guest all courtesy, and considers her unsuspecting obedience such hypocrisy that he mutters she is wooing his guest beneath his very eyes. He, therefore, grimly watches them out of sight, speaks roughly to his boy, and murmurs that wives have often proved faithless, and that he is suffering the usual lot of mankind.

Such is Leontes' state of raging jealousy that it disquiets the child ; and when the lad has gone, the king turns to Camillo, his counsellor, and remarks their guest is going to stay. Because Camillo replies he does so only on account of Hermione's entreaties the jealous husband fancies he is already a laughing-stock for the Sicilians. Drawing Camillo apart, therefore, he accuses him of being a coward or faithless, which latter suspicion the counsellor can truthfully deny. Still, knowing his master's nature, he temperately bids Leontes point out in what way he has transgressed, promising to atone for his shortcomings as soon as possible. But, when Leontes expresses suspicions of the honour of guest and wife, Camillo waxes indignant that so noble a lady should be traduced. This causes Leontes to demand angrily whether 'whispering is nothing?' But when he describes the actions of his wife and guest from his jaundiced point of view, Camillo rejoins he is suffering from a diseased imagination, and urges him to cure it betimes, lest the complaint become dangerous.

In his wrath at being misunderstood, Leontes taxes Camillo with lying, adding that he himself has been blind for months, during which his guest and wife have systematically deceived him. Suddenly, he orders Camillo to poison his guest, and thus avenge his honour; so, seeing him determined to dispose of Polixenes, and dreading lest he entrust the task to some one else, Camillo pretends to consent, after providing, as he fancies, for the queen's restoration to favour. Warmly thanking Camillo, and assuring him that by this deed he will win half his master's heart, Leontes adds the grim threat that, in case he does not obey, he will lose his life!

No sooner has Leontes left the room than Camillo muses upon Hermione's sad plight, and his own quandary, being compelled to turn poisoner or forfeit life. Even if others, similarly placed, have stricken down anointed kings, he feels he cannot soil his hands with such a crime, so decides to leave home. Just then Polixenes joins him, remarking that he seems to have fallen suddenly out of favour at the Sicilian court. He relates how Leontes has just passed him, with such looks of scorn that he was barely recognisable. Then, perceiving Camillo is aware of the reason for this strange conduct, Polixenes urges him to reveal all he knows. After some demur, Camillo advises the King of Bohemia to leave Sicilia secretly, because his host intends to slay him for making love to his wife. On hearing this absurd charge, Polixenes indignantly refutes it, and conscious of irreproachable conduct, declares this is 'the greatest infection that e'er was heard or read!'

When Camillo explains that his master has sworn his guest shall die, and has forced upon him a cruel alternative, Polixenes accepts his suggestion that they slip away together at nightfall, and, embarking on his waiting ship, escape from a land where it is no longer safe for them to sojourn. After promising Camillo a warm welcome in Bohemia, Polixencs expresses compassion for the queen, whom, however, he dares not try to defend, lest he increase Leontes' jealous suspicions.

Act IIWhen the curtain rises on the second act, we see a room in Leontes' palace, where Hermione and her attendants are playing with Mamillius, who, like all the poet's children, is a frightfully precocious lad. The ladies talk to him and before him as if he were grown up, teasing him in particular in regard to the coming brother or sister, who will soon supplant him in his mother's affections. Preferring Hermione to all the rest, the boy finally sits down beside her, and, after stating that 'a sad tale's best for winter,' volunteers to tell one of his own.

He has scarcely begun whispering it, when Leontes angrily enters with Antigonus, — his chief adviser, — and several retainers. He has just heard of the flight of Polixenes, who was seen vanishing behind the pines in Camillo's company, and traced to the vessel now disappearing from sight, and taking them beyond his reach. This report duly confirms Leontes in the belief that Camillo has betrayed him, and was party to his wife's wrong-doing.

Snatching his boy from Hermione's arms, he hisses it is fortunate she never nursed him, and when she wonderingly inquires whether he can be joking, orders the child removed from her custody. Then, after decreeing she shall never see Mamillius again, he sends her off to prison, accusing her of infidelity! Amazed by such a charge, Hermione proudly rejoins that had a villain said so, he would be base indeed, ere she humbly assures her angry spouse he is mistaken. But Leontes, too jealous to hear reason, goes on reviling her, although she realizes he will be sorely grieved when he comes to the 'clearer knowledge,' that he has disgraced her without cause.

Unwilling to listen to her, Leontes banishes her to prison, where she entreats some of her women may accompany her, as she will soon need their care. Having obtained this favour, Hermione goes off to her cell without further protest than that she hopes, for the first time in her life, to see her husband sorry!

Horrified by the scene they have just witnessed, the lords, headed by Antigonus, now implore their monarch not to act rashly, reminding him that he attacks his own reputation as well as that of his wife and heir. When one of them offers to lay down his life in proof of Hermione's innocence, Antigonus adds he will never trust his own consort again, if the queen has failed in her duty. These protests only exasperate Leontes, who insists upon carrying out his revenge in his own fashion, reiterating that the flight of Polixenes and Camillo proves their guilt. When the courtiers feebly suggest he should seek advice on so weighty a question, Leontes says he has sent messengers to Apollo's temple at Delphi, and that their return with a sealed oracle will settle the matter. Hearing this, the lords are reassured, for they feel certain the gods will protect Hermione's innocence.

We are next transferred to the prison, where Paulina, wife of Antigonus, has come to visit Hermione. When she asks for the jailor, he promptly appears, but only with difficulty yields to her entreaties sufficiently to allow her to see one of the queen's attendants. The jailor, in introducing Emilia, announces he will have to be present at their conference, as the king has given orders that the prisoners be constantly watched. In this momentous interview Emilia reveals how her poor mistress, shaken by past emotions, has prematurely given birth to a little daughter, and relates how she welcomed her new treasure with the pathetic cry, 'my poor prisoner, I am as innocent as you.'

The visitor, fully convinced of this fact, now sends word to Hermione, that if she will only entrust the babe to her, she will carry it to the king, in hopes that its innocence will plead for its wronged mother. This suggestion is seized with delight by Emilia, because her mistress has expressed a great desire that some friend should take this very step. With the assurance that she will use all her eloquence to plead Hermione's cause, Paulina sends Emilia back to the queen, and bargains with the jailor to let the babe leave the prison.

The curtain next rises in a room in the palace, where Leontes is brooding over his wife's supposed adultery and his own terrible wrongs. Suddenly, he sends a servant to inquire for his son, Mamillius being dangerously ill through fretting over his mother's disgrace. In fact, the child has been sinking so fast that his father is very anxious; but even while waiting for tidings, he reverts to the bitter thought that Camillo and Polixenes are laughing at him, and grimly adds they should not do so, could he only reach them!

It is while he is rejoicing that his wife, at leasts is still in his power, that a clamour arises in the antechamber, where Antigonus and other lords try to prevent Paulina from entering. Browbeating them all, Paulina forces her way into Leontes' presence, closely followed by her protesting husband. Seeing her appear thus, Leontes discharges his wrath upon Antigonus, reminding him that he ordered Paulina should not be admitted under any pretext. When Antigonus tries to excuse himself under plea he could not prevent it, Leontes indignantly demands whether he is not able to rule his wife. But, without giving her husband a chance to reply, Paulina declares he cannot prevent her doing what honour requires, adding that she has come in the name of the good queen. Because Leontes starts angrily at this adjective, the tactless Paulina insists that, were she only a man, she would fight in Hermione's behalf; then, depositing the helpless babe at Leontes' feet, she reports that the good queen sends his little daughter for his blessing. Starting back from the bundle as if it contained some loathsome object, Leontes furiously orders it removed, thereby rousing Paulina's indignation to such a pitch, that she gives him a vehement piece of her mind. In his paroxysm of rage, Leontes roars that the child is to be removed, while Paulina just as emphatically forbids any one touching it, attacking Leontes and all who try to silence her. But, although she persistently points out the child's resemblance to its father, and although Antigonus intercedes, Leontes refuses to acknowledge his offspring. His match in obstinacy, Paulina reiterates it is his, and leaves the apartment without it. When she has gone, Leontes vents some of his anger upon Antigonus by ordering him to have the child burned alive under penalty of death. Hoping to free himself from blame, Antigonus calls the other lords to witness how he tried to prevent his wife from approaching the king, and all present exculpate him and intercede for the babe. Because Antigonus volunteers to pawn what little blood he has left to save the child, Leontes promises its life shall be safe provided Antigonus obeys his orders. Thus wringing a solemn oath from too trustful a servant, the cruel Leontes next bids Antigonus carry the babe off to some remote spot, and there abandon it, 'without more mercy, to its own protection and favour of the climate.' Bound by oath to fulfil these commands, Antigonus tenderly picks up the babe, and departs, fervently hoping wolves and bears, — who have occasionally shown tenderness for helpless human beings, — will prove more compassionate to it than its father. While he goes out, Leontes, still a prey to jealous delusions, grimly mutters he 'will not rear another's issue.'

A few moments after Antigonus' departure, a servant announces the return of the messengers from Delphi, bringing Apollo's sealed oracle. Their return, in twenty-three days time, seems nothing short of miraculous to Leontes, who summons all present to witness the trial of his disloyal wife, for he declares he will be just, although his heart will be a burden to him as long as she lives.


The third act opens just as the two Sicilian lords, sent in quest of the oracle, land in their native isle, and comment upon its delightful climate. Their minds are still full of their eventful journey, which, they hope, may prove so successful, that the sealed oracle they bring will free the queen from all suspicion.

The curtain next rises on the court of justice, where Leontes proclaims that, although it grieves him, he has been obliged to summon his wife to account for her conduct. Then, the prisoner appears, still weak and pale, supported by Paulina and other attendants, and an officer reads aloud an indictment accusing Hermione of conspiring with Camillo to slay her husband in order to marry Polixenes. Sadly rejoining it is useless to plead not guilty, since every word she utters is accounted a falsehood, Hermione bids them consider her past life, urging that if she ever said or did anything to give rise to suspicion, she wishes to know it, as she has always been faithful to the husband who accuses her so wantonly. When Leontes contemptuously retorts that criminals of her kind never lack the effrontery to excuse themselves, she rejoins that has never been one of her characteristics, adding that she loved Polixenes only as her duty required, and that her persuasions to him were made at her husband's request. As for Camillo, she warmly defends him as an honest man, and states she cannot conceive why he secretly left court.

When Leontes angrily insists that she knew of Camillo's departure, Hermione fails to understand him, and when he repeats that she is ' past all shame,' she pathetically states she is unhappy enough, having been robbed of her place as wife, deprived of the sight of her son and of her new-born treasure, to call forth no further cruelty on his part. Then, in her desperation, she appeals to Apollo, and, while the messengers are sent for, exclaims that her father, the Emperor of Russia, would pity her were he to see her.

At this juncture, the messengers appear, and solemnly testify that they have been to Delphi, and that the oracle they bring was handed to them, sealed, by Apollo's priest. In the presence of the assembly, an officer breaks the seal, and reads aloud a statement declaring Hermione chaste, Polixenes blameless, Camillo loyal, Leontes a jealous tyrant, the innocent babe his offspring, and decreeing he shall * live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found.' In their relief at Hermione's acquittal, the lords give spontaneous thanks to Apollo, but Leontes, still too angry to credit the oracle, hotly declares it is a falsehood.

He is just ordering the trial to proceed as if no oracle had been given, when a servant rushes in, reporting that Mamillius has died, news which causes the father to realize that Apollo is angry, and the poor mother to swoon from grief. Vowing this last blow has killed her mistress, Paulina gladly obeys Leontes when he bids her bear the queen away and try and revive her.

Brought by calamity to his senses, Leontes now humbly begs Apollo's pardon for failing to respect his oracle, promises to be reconciled to Polixenes, to recall Camillo, — whose reputation he clears by revealing how basely he tried to induce him to poison his guest, — and to 'new woo' his queen. Scarcely has Leontes finished this recantation, when Paulina staggers in full of woe, to announce that Leontes' cruel behaviour has slain his wife! In reviling him, she pitilessly sets forth how many lives have been blasted by his jealousy, for she rightly ascribes to him not only the death of his son and that of his wife, but the exposure of his daughter. Unable to believe Hermione dead, Leontes forces Paulina to repeat her tidings and describe the tests which proved life extinct. Then, conscious of deserving the severe punishments Paulina ruthlessly calls down upon him, Leontes displays such grief that even this accuser pities him and begs his forgiveness, declaring she reviled him so hotly only because of her love for his wife and children. In his grief, Leontes begs to be taken where the corpses lie, vowing one grave shall hold them both, and that he will water it with his tears, for he is now a thoroughly repentant, broken-hearted man.

The curtain next rises on the desert coast of Bohemia, where Antigonus has just arrived with the unhappy babe he must abandon in obedience to the king's orders. Besides, in a vision which visited him on shipboard, Hermione herself bade him call the babe Perdita, and expose her in Bohemia. Convinced by this apparition that Hermione is dead, and that Perdita is Polixenes' daughter — since she has been sent to his realm, — Antigonus lays down the babe, and has barely bidden it a touching farewell, when a huge bear comes toward him. Antigonus and this bear have scarcely rushed out of sight, when a shepherd appears, grumbling that youths should be suppressed between the ages of ten and twenty-three, as during that time they are prone only to mischief. While talking thus, he stumbles across the abandoned babe, whom he deems the illegitimate offspring of some youthful couple.

While he is investigating his find, his son, — who is dubbed a clown in the play, — rejoins him, crying he has just beheld two awful sights, a bear devouring a stranger, who only had time to cry his name was Antigonus, and a ship sinking in a tempest before his very eyes! Then his father calls his attention to the babe, who is robed in rich garments, and has jewels and gold enough beside her to make them rich as long as they live. The father finally concludes to take the foundling home, while the son goes off to ascertain whether the bear has finished dining on Antigonus, and whether he has left any remains to be buried.

Act IV

The fourth act opens with the apparition of Father Time, who proclaims that sixteen years have elapsed since the previous events, and that another turn of his glass will reveal how Leontes has repented of his jealousy, and how his daughter has grown up in Bohemia, where she is now beloved by Prince Florizel, although he deems her naught but a shepherd lass.

The curtain rises on Polixenes' palace, just as he IS conversing with Camillo, who is anxious to return to Sicilia, now that he no longer need fear Leontes' wrath. During his sojourn, in Bohemia, CamiUo has been Polixenes' chief adviser, so he consents to postpone his return home, on hearing the King of Bohemia still needs his aid. It transpires that Polixenes is troubled by a report that his son is in love with a shepherdess, and that, disguised, he wishes to attend the sheep-shearing festival with CamiUo, and thus discover whether the prince is seriously entangled.

We next see a road near the shepherd's cottage, along which strolls Autolycus, the peddler, singing a merry song. When it is finished, he murmurs that, having been born under the planet Mercury, he is justified in stealing all he can. Autolycus is the archtype of a merry rogue, and no sooner sees the clown, than he deems him a likely subject for his mischievous arts. Meanwhile, the clown is laboriously trying to calculate how much his fleeces will bring, and to remember all the articles his adopted sister bade him purchase for the sheep-shearing festival, where all their neighbours are to be entertained.

As the clown draws near, Autolycus grovels on the ground; loudly calling for aid. When the innocent rustic compassionately approaches, he is implored to remove the sufferer's clothes, but avers that, dirty and ragged as they seem, they are better than none. The rogue, however, rejoins that he has been robbed and beaten, his good apparel taken from him, and nothing but rags left to cover him. Not only does the gullible down believe every word Autolycus says, but gently helps him to rise, little suspecting that while he does so his pocket is cleverly picked. After comforting Autolycus, — who tells a most extraordinary tale, — the clown goes off to do his errands, while the rascal congratulates himself upon having robbed him, and having learned about the sheep-shearing feast, where he will be able to practise some of his arts. He, therefore, leaves the scene, singing how 'a merry heart goes all the day, your sad tires in a mile-a.'

We are now transferred to the shepherd's holding, where Prince Florizel, in guise of a rural swain, is wooing Perdita, who playfully tries to turn aside his compliments. When she states, however, that she trembles lest his father should discover them by accident, and resent all this secrecy, Florizel avers that the gods, themselves, assumed disguises, and quotes instances where deities transformed themselves into beasts. Besides, he is so earnest in his wooing that he tells Perdita, if he cannot be hers, he will never marry at all, and implores her not to look sad when so many guests are coming, but to wear as cheerful a countenance as if this was to be their wedding day.

A host of shepherds and shepherdesses now come trooping in, the disguised Polixenes and Camillo among them. Ushering in his guests fussily, the old shepherd chides his adopted daughter for not being everywhere at once, like his wife on similar occasions, and bids her welcome the strangers. With modest grace, Perdita offers the strangers flowers, and Polixenes, seizing this opportunity, begins to converse with her, pointing out that different kinds of flowers do not blend together successfully. Although only half understanding his veiled allusions, the maiden lovingly discourses about her garden, disclosing, while doing so, the delicacy and purity of her mind. Her talk not only enraptures Florizel, who hovers close beside her, but wrings from Polixenes the admission that she is 'the prettiest low-born lass that ever ran on the green sward," and that all she says and does, smacks 'of something greater than herself, too noble for this place.' This opinion is shared by Camillo, who happily dubs Perdita a 'queen of curds and cream,' ere the music strikes up and the young people present engage in a dance.

Meanwhile, their elders step aside to watch this performance, the old shepherd garrulously informing Polixenes that the swain with whom his daughter is dancing is deeply in love with her, and slyly adding that he does not think there is 'half a kiss to choose who loves the other best.' He also hints that the man who marries Perdita will be far better off than he expects, little dreaming that the youth he points out is Prince Florizel, and that his interlocutor is the king.

At this point, a servant enters, enthusiastically describing a peddler who has just arrived with choice wares. When this vendor is ushered in, he chants the list of the goods he has for sale with all the gusto of the bom bagman. Shepherds and shepherdesses crowd around him, chattering among themselves, calling out for various articles of apparel, and especially for ballads, for which they seem to have a particular fancy. Then, discovering one for three voices, set to a tune they know, they gaily sing it, ere the peddler renews the enumeration of his wares.

It is in the midst of this lively hubbub that the servant proclaims the arrival of a party of Satyrs, who enter dancing gaily, and indulge in mad jumps which excite great admiration among the spectators. Taking advantage of the general confusion, Folixenes now addresses his son, — who does not recognise him, — and remarks that when he was young, he lavished tokens upon his lady-love, whereas the young man has bought naught for Perdita. The prince proudly rejoins that his beloved 'prizes not such trifles as these,' but looks to him for gifts 'lock'd up in his heart.' Then, seizing Perdita's hand, he calls the stranger guest to witness that he loves this fair damsel, who satisfies his every fancy. Polixenes admits that this declaration of love sounds genuine, and, hearing Perdita timidly confess she fully returns it, the old shepherd suggests that the young couple be betrothed, promising to bestow upon his daughter a portion equal to the swain's.

The contract is about to be sealed when Polixenes interferes, reminding them it will not be legal imless the young man's father consent. Still protected by his disguise, he asks whether Florizel's father is incapable or childish, only to hear the prince boast his sire enjoys better health and strength than most men of his age. When Polixenes suggests, that in that case, this father might feel offended should his son mate without consulting him, a discussion arises whether the match should be postponed. When the prince, however, insists upon an immediate betrothal, Polixenes suddenly reveals himself, declaring he will never allow this marriage, and angrily threatening to have Perdita's beauty marred, so she may no longer bewitch his offspring. It is breathing such terrifying threats that he leaves the scene.

The king having gone, Perdita wails that, although strongly tempted to remind Polixenes that 'the self-same sun that shines upon his court hides not his visage from their cottage but looks on all alive,' she will now return to her 'ewes and weep.' Meantime, the shepherd, upon whom it has dawned, at last, that the prince has been wooing his daughter, steals out to meditate over the disgrace which threatens him, while Florizel assures Camillo he is not at all afraid of his father. Deeming it wiser, Florizel, Perdita, and both shepherds avoid the king's sight until 'the fury of his highness settle,' Camillo suggests that they flee to Sicilia. By this time he feels satisfied that Perdita must be some fair princess, and declares that, when her birth becomes known, no further objection will exist to their union. For that reason he urges flight, offering all necessary aid, and pledging himself to use his influence to bring Polixenes to a better frame of mind. Overjoyed with the prospect of escaping from his father's wrath, and especially of securing Perdita against the terrible fate threatening her, Florizel consents to depart, although he wonders how he will be received in Sicilia, when he appears there without such a train as befits his rank.

While Camillo and the prince indulge in an aside, the peddler appears, gleefully soliloquising upon the fashion in which he has picked pockets and fleeced the rustics, the sheep-shearing having proved a profitable field of action for him. As he concludes, Camillo states he will pave the way by letter for Florizel's arrival in Sicilia, and that King Leontes will doubtless plead his cause with Polixenes. Then, becoming aware of Autolycus' presence, Camillo suggests that he and the prince change garments, which they immediately do, and that Perdita, in disguise, hurry down to the seashore to embark. Although be fancies Polixenes will pursue the fugitives, Camillo intends to accompany him, as this will give him the desired opportunity to bestow good advice upon him and revisit his native land, for whose sight he has 'a woman's longing.'

The rogue, after listening attentively to all that is said in his presence, and watching Florizel, Perdita, and Camillo depart, shrewdly concludes the prince is meditating some iniquity, which he will further by keeping it secret. Then, the shepherd and his son re-enter, the youth urging his father to tell the king that Perdita is only a foundling and thus divert royal wrath from their heads. Overhearing them state they are bound for the palace to exhibit the garments found with Perdita, the rogue, who has uttered sundry asides, suddenly volunteers to accompany the rustic pair thither. They gladly accept this offer, as his clothes proclaim him a man of wealth and influence, a delusion he diligently fosters. But, after wringing from the simpletons the admission that there is a secret connected with Perdita which they alone can reveal, the rogue so intimidates them with descriptions of the tortures awaiting them, that they consent to follow his advice. He, therefore, proposes to smuggle them secretly on board of the prince's ship, and there, — for a consideration, — to arrange that their confession be graciously heard. This bargain concluded, Autolycus sends the shepherd and his son on ahead, and follows them, exclaiming Fortune will not allow him to be honest.

Act V

The fifth act opens in Leontes* palace, where one of his lords tells him that, after long years of penance, he should Mo as the heavens have done,' and forgive himself. Leontes' sadness, how- ever, is too deep-seated for such consolations, so he assures this courtier that, remembering Hermione's perfections, and his wrongs toward her, no joy remains for him in this world. This sad admission is overheard by Paulina, who rejoins that even if Leontes were to take the perfections of all the women in the world and mass them together, he could never create so perfect a wife as the one be killed, a statement which renews his remorse.

When a courtier suggests that, as the king has no heir, he should cease mourning, and marry some new companion with whom he might spend happy days, Paulina, displeased by his advice, again urges no woman would equal Hermione, and that such a move would be vain, since the oracle asserted Leontes would have no heir until the lost child were found. Because the king has not forgotten his wife, and wishes he had followed honest Paulina's advice sooner, he now swears he will never marry, until he can find a woman so like Hermione that he cannot detect any difference between them.

They are still conversing, when the announcement is made that Prince Florizel, son of Polixenes, has landed in Sicilia with his princess, and begs to be received. This unexpected arrival amazes Leontes, who is further surprised to learn the prince is accompanied only by his wife, a princess whom the messenger enthusiastically describes as 'the most peerless piece of earth that e'er sun shone bright on,' thereby rousing Paulina's ever ready jealousy on Hermione's behalf.

The moment seeming inauspicious for dwelling upon the perfections of his dead wife, Leontes proposes to forget his own griefs by welcoming the newcomers. He, therefore, bids some of his courtiers go and get them, and when Paulina murmurs that Prince Florizel and Mamillius were just of the same age, sorrowfully exclaims, 'thou know'st he dies to me again when talk'd of.' A moment later Florizel and Perdita are ushered in and warmly greeted by Leontes, who concludes the prince's mother was a faithful wife, as his strong resemblance to his father leaves no doubt in regard to his parentage. Then, bidding his guests welcome, Leontes warns them they have come to a sorrowful court, for he has lost two children, who, had they lived, would have been just their age. When he proceeds to inquire for Polixenes, Florizel states how his father sent him first to Africa to secure his princess, then hither to Sicilia to visit bis friend, his suite meanwhile returning to Bohemia.

Leontes has just invited the young couple to linger with him as long as they please, when a lord hurries in, bringing greetings from Polixenes, and summoning Leontes to 'attach his son, who has his dignity and duty both cast off,' by fleeing from Bohemia with a shepherd's daughter. On hearing these words, Leontes eagerly inquires where the King of Bohemia may be, and is amazed to learn he has just landed in Sicilia, but is detained by a sudden encounter with Perdita's father and brother.

Concluding Camillo has betrayed him. Prince Florizel reviles him, while Perdita,- who has been silent hitherto, wails that spies have been set upon them to prevent the celebration of their marriage! These words revealing that they are not yet united, Leontes inquires whether Perdita is really the daughter of a king. As Florizel only rejoins she will be when she is his wife, Leontes informs the youth he has been undutiful, and regrets his choice is not 'so rich in worth as in beauty.' At these words Florizel implores the humbled Perdita to remember that, although Fortune pursues them, their love is unalterable, and, turning to Leontes, begs him to plead in their favour, for his father will grant any favour his friend asks. Fascinated by Perdita, Leontes exclaims he would fain ask for her himself, when Paulina hastens to remind him that the queen at Perdita's age was even more lovely. Insisting that Perdita strangely reminds him of his dead wife, Leontes volunteers to go and meet Polixenes, for he now feels equally friendly toward him and toward his son.

It is in front of Leontes' palace that a dialogue next takes place between Autolycus and a gentleman, the peddler eagerly asking whether his interlocutor was present when the shepherd related his story, and exhibited what he had found in the bundle with the abandoned babe. The courtier whom he questions admits that the king and Camillo were amazed, and when another of his companions appears, eagerly inquires of him whether any further discoveries have been made. The newcomer joyfully proclaims that the oracle is fulfilled, for Leontes' daughter is found, — news which Paulina's steward soon confirms, stating that Hermione's mantle and jewels were easily recognised, as well as the letter signed by Antigonus. When asked whether he witnessed the meeting between the two kings, the courtier regrets having missed it, as the good steward informs him it was a grand sight, the encounter between the father and daughter having been touching in the extreme. After describing the thanks lavished on the shepherd, — who saved the babe from death, — he repeats the clown's account of Antigonus' death and of the wreck of his vessel, which explains why Paulina never received any tidings of the husband she mourned so faithfully. Still, it is said, the reunion was not unmarred by sorrow, for when Perdita learned how her beautiful mother died, she wept freely, and expressed a keen desire to know what she looked like when alive. Then only Paulina revealed she had a statue of Hermione, painted by Julio Romano, of such life-like fidelity that it might be mistaken for the living queen. As both father and daughter seemed anxious to view it, Paulina invited them and all the court to visit it in her country house on the morrow.

While the rest now leave, the peddler lingers upon the scene, congratulating himself upon having brought the old shepherd and his son to Sicilia, but regretting that seasickness prevented an earlier revelation of their secret, as he would then have reaped the benefit of Florizel's gratitude. While he is soliloquising, he is joined by the shepherd and his son, the latter glorying in the title of gentleman, which has just been bestowed upon him, and in regard to which he accepts the peddler's mock homage.

The last scene is played in the chapel of a deserted house, which Paulina has secretly visited twice a day for years. The royal party are ushered in, while the king is thanking his hostess for all she has done for him and his, and expressing eagerness to behold her wonderful statue. After assuring him that this work of art is so lifelike it has to be kept apart, Paulina draws aside a curtain, and reveals the living Hermione, standing on a pedestal, as if she were a statue. Such is the effect produced, that silence reigns, and it is only when invited to express his opinion that Leontes, full of remorse, implores the image to speak, were it even to chide him. Then he pronounces it a perfect likeness of his queen, although somewhat older than when he last saw her. Hearing this, Paulina avers the sculptor wisely represented Hermione as she would have been had she lived among them until now.

While lost in contemplation of this wonderful likeness, Leontes murmurs Hermione looked thus when he wooed her, and that he is more remorseful than ever for his vile suspicions. Meanwhile, Perdita, also overcome by the sight, craves permission to kiss the statue's hand, but Paulina objects that the colors are not yet dry, and that hence it cannot be touched. While Camillo and Polixenes are offering consolations to the grieving Leontes, Paulina tries to draw the curtain, saying that the statue has so impressed them that presently they will imagine it is moving. But Leontes beseeches her to let him gaze upon his wife's image a while longer, exclaiming that the blood seems to circulate in its veins, and that its lips and eyes are alive. When Paulina again tries to hide her masterpiece, he restrains her, declaring he must embrace his wife, although Paulina forbids. Then, seeing she cannot entice him away, the hostess suddenly exclaims if he is sufficiently prepared for a great surprise, she will, by lawful magic arts, induce the statue to descend from its pedestal and take him by the hand.

Eager for such a revelation of magic power, Leontes urges her to make use of it; so, after soft music has been played, Paulina bids the statue step down among them. At her command Hermione advances toward them, silently offering her hand to Leontes, who no sooner touches it than he discovers it is warm! A moment later, his beloved wife is clasped in his arms, and Paulina assures the wondering Polixenes and Camillo that Hermione is indeed alive, although she has been deemed dead so many years.

The recognition between husband and wife over, Paulina urges Perdita to claim her mother's blessing, which blessing Hermione joyfully bestows, stating she has lived in hopes of seeing this beloved child, as Paulina has sustained her courage by constantly repeating Apollo's oracle. The faithful Paulina now urges her guests to leave her and enjoy their happiness, for she alone still has cause to grieve, having just learned how her husband was devoured by the bear.

Unwilling that any one should sorrow while he is joyful, Leontes bestows Paulina upon the faithful Camillo, knowing two such worthy people will be happy together. Then, turning toward friend and wife, who dare not look at each other, he humbly begs their pardon for having suspected them of wrong-doing, welcomes his new son-in-law, and departs with all present, remarking that they will question each other at leisure, and thus make up the gap of time 'since first we were dissever'd.' With these words the curtain falls.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Themes: Jealousy in Othello.

The play is written by the most famous poet in the world William Shakespeare. He is known as romantic and comedy writer .Othello was written at probably 1604. Although winter’s tale is one of the last play written by Shakespeare but the theme (of jealousy) is not much different than Othello.

Jealousy as stated in the Oxford dictionary “feeling angry or unhappy because somebody you like or love is showing interest in somebody else: a jealous wife or husband.” Some try to find out the source of inspiration that William Shakespeare to write about romances. Not much is known about the love life of William Shakespeare, Several theories have been advanced by Shakespearean scholars and biographers, many involving a mysterious "dark-lady" to whom the bard seems to pine for in several of his sonnets. As the Shakespearean scholar Arthur Aches writes :

" I believe, from what I find in the Sonnets, that our poet's connection with [a] woman commenced at almost the same period as his acquaintance with Southampton, in about 1593, ... I believe, also , that he genuinely loved her, and fired with the passion and intensity of his love, produced in those years the marvelous rhapsodies of love in "Romeo and Juliet," ... and other of his love plays, which have so charmed the world, and still charm it, and shall continue to do so while the language lives. If ever a man lived who sounded the human heart to its depths, and gauged its heights, that man was Shakespeare, and such knowledge as he had, and shows us of life, may not attained by hearsay, nor at second hand.

The play Othello tells the story of Othello the Moor who marries Desdemona out of love, without Desdemona father approval. Jealous that Othello promoted Cassio instead of himself Iago, Othello trustee, lied to Othello to trigger jealousy in Othello thinking that his beloved wife Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. In the end eaten by jealousy Othello killed his wife, only later to find out about Iago deceitful lies. In regret Othello kills himself.

In the play the theme of jealousy is not only evident in between Othello and Desdemona but in Iago to Cassio. At the end of his tale to Roderigo about how he was passed over for promotion to lieutenant, Iago displays his jealousy of Cassio. He says that Cassio, a "counter-caster"(1.1.31) has the job Iago wanted, while Iago has to keep on being "his Moorship's ancient " (1.1.33). A little later, Roderigo, who is desperately in love with Desdemona, expresses his jealousy of Othello's marriage to Desdemona by saying, "What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe, If he can carry't thus!" (1.1.66-67). Where Roderigo says "carry't thus" .

"Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee" (1.3.292-293). Desdemona makes it clear that she loves and honors her husband, Brabantio remains bitter, and warns Othello that Desdemona may turn out to be a unfaithful.

Iago tells a series of lies about Desdemona, and manipulate Othello mind by saying that they may not be worth thinking about. He says, "I confess, it is my nature's plague , To spy into abuses, and oft my jealousy , Shapes faults that are not" (3.3.146-148). Here Iago uses the word "jealousy" in its general sense of "suspicion," but ambiguously he also speaks of himself.

Psychologically, Iago manipulate Othello thoughts to make Othello jealous, Iago warns Othello against jealousy:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;

But, O, what damned minutes tells he o'erWho dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves! (3.3.165-170)

This speech not only a description of jealousy, it also shows insightful of its psychological manipulation. (reverse psychology).In comparison to all of this pain of suspicion and doubt, it's "bliss" to just be angry. Thus Iago tempts Othello to make the jump from suspicion to anger, without considering if the suspicion has any truth in it.

Iago's warnings against jealousy have the outcome that he was looking for: Othello denies that he is jealous. From Iago's point of view, this is a good sign, just as was Cassio's denial that he was drunk. Othello does not believe that he is the sort of person who can be jealous, because to him "to be once in doubt , Is once to be resolved" (3.3.179-180). He means that as soon as he is in doubt he will eliminate it.

It is Othello who is talk of jealousy; even as he's denying that he can be jealous. He says, "'Tis not to make me jealous, To say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company, Is free of speech, sings, plays and dances well; Where virtue is, these are more virtuous"(3.3.183-186). An outgoing personality doesn't make a woman loose. But keep saying that he is not jealous Similarly, he says, "Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw, The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt; For she had eyes, and chose me" (3.3.187-189). Again, Othello is reconcile his thought by reminding himself that in front of her father and the world Desdemona proclaimed her choice, but if he were not jealous he would not have to remind himself that she chose him.

Othello says that he is untouchable by jealousy by declaring, "No, Iago; , I'll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; And on the proof, there is no more but this,-- Away at once with love or jealousy!" (3.3.189-192). Othello already has strong suspicions, not from seeing anything, but just from listening to Iago. But still, Othello is prepared to hear and believe whatever Iago says next. Othello believes that he's not the jealous type and he believes that Iago is his honest friend, so he believes that Iago couldn't be lying and he believes that he himself cannot be wrong. Shows the ego of man of rank.

Iago then uses more reverse psychology, telling Othello to "Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio; , Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure" (3.3.197-198). Then Iago adds, "I would not have your free and noble nature, Out of self-bounty , be abused; look to't." (3.3.199-200). In other words, Othello shouldn't be jealous, but if he's not, Desdemona is likely to take advantage of him.

Desdemona can't find her handkerchief and she feels guilty, and she's put herself at ease by saying that "my noble Moor , Is true of mind and made of no such baseness , As jealous creatures are," because otherwise the loss of the handkerchief might be "enough , To put him to ill thinking" (3.2.26-29). Emilia seems to have a doubt about Othello not being jealous, but Desdemona says confidently, "I think the sun where he was born , Drew all such humours from him" (3.4.30-31). "Humours" were thought to control a person's temper. Desdemona is sure that Othello will be jealous.

However, when Othello arrives, he asks Desdemona about the handkerchief, and then storms out, Emilia asks, "Is not this man jealous?" (3.4.99). Desdemona tries to convince herself that Othello is only upset by something that happened at work, but Emilia, unconvinced by Desdemona's reasoning, says diplomatically, "Pray heaven it be state-matters, as you think,And no conception nor no jealous toy, Concerning you." (3.4.155-157). A "toy" is a silly or stupid idea, and Emilia clearly thinks that Othello could be toying with the stupid idea that Desdemona is unfaithful to him. Desdemona replies, "Alas the day! I never gave him cause" (3.4.158), which gives Emilia the chance to remind her that jealousy doesn't need a cause; "It is a monster , Begot upon itself, born on itself" (3.4.161-162). Desdemona exclaims, "Heaven keep that monster from Othello's mind!" (3.4.163),

"I will be hang'd, if some eternal villain, Some busy and insinuating rogue, Some cogging , cozening slave, to get some office, , Have not devised this slander; I will be hang'd else" (4.2.130-133). Emilia says this after Othello calls Desdemona a whore and Emilia thinks she knows the reason. This describes Iago exactly, and it makes him uncomfortable. He says, "Fie, there is no such man; it is impossible" (4.2.134). However, Emilia knows better. She continues to denounce the unknown villain until Iago tells her to quiet down, which only inspires Emilia to say, "Some such squire he was , That turn'd your wit the seamy side without, And made you to suspect me with the Moor" (4.2.145-147). He shuts her up by saying, "You are a fool; go to" (4.2.148). "

Just before he commits suicide, Othello tells about how he wants to be remembered. He says he should be spoken of as "one not easily jealous, but being wrought , Perplex'd in the extreme" (5.2.345-346). The first half of the statement, that he was "one not easily jealous," was supported by Desdemona when she said, "I think the sun where he was born , Drew all such humours from him" (3.4.30-31). Still, it can be said that he was too easily made jealous. The second half of the statement seems beyond doubt. True that he was confused and tormented in to the extreme, and he views his puzzlement not as an excuse, but out of guilt he kills himself.

As a conclusion jealousy as the theme of the play Othello is very apparent. It can be found in almost every part of the scene. A monster that existed from love and insecurity, or simply because someone else has the upper hand as do Iago to Cassio. In the end, Desdemona, Othello and Emilia died because of the green eyed monster called jealousy.


M.R. Ridley. (1972) Othello. Methuen & Co Ltd London.