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"The Winters Tale" by Shakespeare - Referat

I.2 / II.1 / III.2 / V.3

As the wife of Leontes she is a gentle firm and womanly character. She disappears from sight in the third act and does not reappear until the last scene.
Throughout the entire time she is on stage, she behaves with royal dignity and charm. She is also gifted with a lively intelligence and a fine wit.

Act I: Scene 2
This scene introduces Hermione as a lady of beauty, charm, nobility, and obedience, with a fine sportive wit.
She is able to get the attention of Polyxenes, even though he is lonely for his own family and for his own court. In this scene, Hermione still behaves freely and has an ease of manner that is born of complete confidence in her husband and the perfection of her innocence.


Act II: Scene 1
In the accusation scene with her ladies Hermione speaks most mildly to her temporarily insane husband.

II.1 58-65 p.74

First she even takes his accusation as a joke and only later does she realize that he is serious, so secure does she feel in his love and affection to her. But she is not totally disillusioned by Leontes and therefore she suggests that evil planetary influence may be the cause of his distemper.

II.1 107-115 p.76

when Leontes orders her to be taken to prison, the only favour she asks is that some of her women attend her because she will need assistance in view of the imminence of her child's birth.
Courageously she tells her attendants not to weep; she let them save their tears for an occasion on which their mistress has really deserved prison.

II.1 123-124 p.76

She takes this imprisonment as a trial, a purification, and her only rebuke to her husband is loving, mild, and dignified:
"I never wish'd to see you sorry; now/ I trust I shall."

Hermione in this scene shows herself a good example of queenly dignity and wronged innocence as the accused woman. She is patient and at the same time she still seems in love with her husband, whatever he may do to her. She never loses her temper and always speaks lovingly, if sadly, to her husband, and is too proud to weep like a weak woman.

Act III: Scene 2
In her trial scene Hermione defends herself in an interesting manner. She marshals her points with skill and she argues well, but the very manner of her approach is one that could arise only from a complete confidence in her own innocence. She is the wronged wife, and that is the attitude she adopts. She knows that Leontes has sent to the Oracle and she is as a result confident that she will be vindicated, because she is sure of her innocence, and also because she has implicit faith in the gods. She even states her belief quite openly:

. . . if powers divine Behold our hutan actions, as they do, I doubt not then but innocence shall make False accusation blush,
and tyranny Tremble at patience . . . III.2 29-33 p.92

With this confidence born of security in faith and innocence, Hermione's speeches are in effect statements of her wrongs and of the purity of her past life.

Act III: Scene
2 44-49 p.93

She recalls the favour in which Leontes held her before the arrival of Polixenes, and speaks of her
performance of duty to Leontes. She claims that certainly she loved Polixenes, but only as far as honour required, with the kind of love that becomes a lady like herself; and further, Leontes himself had commanded that she show affection for his friend. As for the charge of conspiracy with Camillo, Hermione confesses herself ignorant of the reason for his departure from the court.

Hermione, though appalled at the fate of her child, still has courage and refuses to be frightened by the threats of her husband. Life does not mean much to her now since she has lost the favour of Leontes, whom she loves, and since she has also been forbidden to see her son Mamillius. Thirdly, her baby daughter has been torn from her and in effect murdered. She concludes by calling for the pronouncement of the Oracle to be read. But as we know, Leontes refuses the Oracle and Hermione disappears.

Act V: Scene 3
The character of Hermione has often been criticised because of the way in which she cruelly retires for sixteen years simply in order to make Leontes suffer.
But there is another possibility.
Hermione has heard the words of the Oracle, and in particular the specification that "the king shall live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found." The Oracle has given hope that the child Perdita may be found, but it also specifies that the king shall have no heir until the child is found. Consequently there must be no more children and Hermione willingly sacrifices herself to that end.
She is sacrificing herself on the altar of Leontes' repentance until the words of the Oracle are fulfilled.

Symbolically she is also important as the figure of womanhood, and also as a fertility figure in mythic terms. She is pregnant at the beginning of the play, and she brings forth Perdita, the child who is to figure as the redemptive character and youthful fertility figure for the rest of the play. Hermione's personality is seen reborn in Perdita, and therefore the theme of the cycle of life is dramatised. But Hermione is not simply a symbolic figure; much more than Leontes she possesses realistic qualities which strike at the heart of the audience. Her motivations are usually clear and her actions logically justifiable. In many ways she is the most memorable character of the play.

Sandra Zesiger

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