Category: Fall 2020

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Oedipus Rex, and Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

Macbeth is by far my favorite Shakespearean play for several reasons, the most prominent of which is the supernatural element of the Witches and their prophecy which disrupts and changes the fates of the play’s characters. Beyond that, it is a remarkably short play; whose own brevity works to highlight the quick and desperate backslide into madness that is caused by the existence of the prophecy. Like other works of literature before it (such as Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex), Macbeth illustrates that prophecies and the actions that we take to avoid or fulfill them should be considered carefully and cautiously, i.e., what is the price of our actions/inaction.
The idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy was not a new concept to Shakespeare or his contemporaries. Earlier Greek plays and stories such as Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Within the play, King Laius, Oedipus’s father, receives a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi (oracles were, at the time considered the most accurate/trustworthy source of information on future events as they were directly linked to the Greek god Apollo and gifted the ability of future sight. As such, oracles were consulted for any number of small and great reasons. And the most famous and accurate of oracles was the Oracle of Delphi). The prophecy that King Laius received was that if his wife ever gave birth to a son, that his son would grow up and kill him and marry his mother, Jocasta. Once Oedipus is born King Laius tries to avoid the prophecy by ordering the death of his son. However, in doing so, he seals the future in which the oracle prophesized. Many Greek plays and stories of heroes are structured with the placement of a self-fulfilling prophecy.


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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, just as in Oedipus Rex the catalyst/source of the death, misery, and madness begins with prophecy…

FIRST WITCH
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!
SECOND WITCH
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!
THIRD WITCH
All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!”
“FIRST WITCH
Hail!
SECOND WITCH
Hail!
THIRD WITCH
Hail!
FIRST WITCH
Lesser than Macbeth and greater.
SECOND WITCH
Not so happy, yet much happier.
THIRD WITCH
Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.
So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
FIRST WITCH
Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!
(Act 1 Scene 3)

By all means of rational thinking, the Witches were not a source by which Macbeth should not have trusted, in-so-much that all would have been well in his house had he not mulled over their words or told his wife that they had prophesized (which was, 1. That Macbeth would become the next thane of Cawdor, 2. That he would become king, and 3. That Banquo’s children would rule after Macbeth). The initial issues with this situation are the Witches; Macbeth does not know who these creatures are, he does not know what type of beings they are, and he does not know as to why they would tell him this in the first place or what they gain from doing so. But he becomes so focused on the lure of power (the lure of the crown), so enraptured by the tantalizing idea that he would become king that not only does he allow himself to begin to think of it as a distinct possibility, (he makes the clear choice to allow himself to become enrapture/seduced by the possibility of becoming the next king). And he is so blinded by the prophecy that he does not consider two crucial factors: 1. How will he become Duncan’s successor? and 2. Why will Banquo’s children gain the throne and not his own?
At this point in the play, it feels as if Macbeth is merely treating the encounter that he and Banquo had with the Witches as a strange/vivid hallucination and their prophecy as just an intriguing and fanciful dream (I say it this way because up until Macbeth speaks with his wife he has already contemplated how he would, in fact, become king and he cannot think of an answer that would make the second part of the prophecy true and instead mulls it over quietly, unsure of what he should do next).
After hearing the prophecy, Macbeth sends a letter to his wife detailing what the Witches told him. And upon reading the letter, Lady Macbeth begins to think of the significance of the prophecy and of ways in which she can assure that it comes to pass. That being said, I doubt very much that Lady Macbeth believes in the prophecy of the Witches, but in her own ambition clearly sees the opportunity that has been neatly laid before her and her husband (and why not, the Witches whether real or not, have already put the idea in Macbeth’s head).

Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valor of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crowned withal
(Act 1 Scene 5)

And she urges Macbeth to take action and seize the throne by committing murder, thus, setting off the chain of events that leads to their own downfall.
Both Oedipus Rex and Macbeth problematize knowing what the future will hold. And whether they wished for the outcomes to come true or not, the choices of these characters lead to a solid understanding of the types of consequences that are met when you wish to change/keep said outcome; and in doing so, also reveal the true danger that is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Link to Text:
https://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/shakespeare/macbeth/page_10/
Link to Image:
in.pinterest.com/pin/310115124325495631/

Twelfth Night, Masks, and Gender as Performance

Please note: this blog post contains reclaimed and academic instances of the term ‘queer,’ which I recognize has a history outside of academia and reclamation as a tool for hate speech and degradation in the past. If you are someone for whom this word may cause issue, please take heed.

Pictured: the painting "Peasants Celebrating Twelfth Night." 4

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is one of the Bard’s better known works and was originally created to be performed during celebrations of the Twelfth Night holiday (the last night of a 12-day period surrounding Christmas in some sects of Christianity). The romantic comedy is estimated to have been written in the very early 1600s (around 1600-1602, by most approximations), and tells the story of two near-identical twin siblings, Viola and Sebastian, who are involved in a wreck at sea and presume each other dead. Viola then disguises herself as a man named Cesario in order to serve under Duke Orsino, a nobleman presently lamenting his unrequited love for a woman in mourning—Olivia, who has veiled herself and vowed not to even consider romance or men for 7 years in grief over the deaths of her brother and her father. Viola, under the name and guise of Cesario, offers to speak to Olivia on Orsino’s behalf, and through their subsequent interactions, it quickly becomes clear to both the audience and to Viola herself that Olivia has fallen in love with her.

Viola grows close to Orsino under her assumed identity of Cesario (and has clear romantic tension with him), and her brother Sebastian meanwhile befriends an enemy of Orsino, a sea captain named Antonio. (There is also undeniable evidence of Antonio harboring romantic feelings for Sebastian.) After a series of wacky events and zany shenanigans fitting for a comedy and typically involving the themes of mistaken identity, the play ends with Olivia marrying Sebastian (in place of Cesario, who she loves, as if these feelings are easily transferable) and Orsino marrying Viola, who has revealed her true identity and reunited with her twin brother. (There is also a subplot involving multiple servants of Olivia conspiring together in a revenge plot against Olivia’s steward Malvolio, but as that is not very relevant to the topic I wish to touch upon, that is enough on that.)

Notably, gender as it is presented in Twelfth Night seems to read as more of a matter of performativity than anything else. Taking the historical context of the play into account, it might seem odd at first that Shakespeare was able to get away with as much as he was in this work. Particularly, the atmosphere it would have been performed in was an intensely homophobic one, and it might be assumed at first that it is only the socially acceptable resolution of these plot threads (with conventional straight marriages between characters previously involved in ‘gender confused’ homoerotic love triangle circumstances) that saves Shakespeare and this play from potential ire. However, I would argue instead that, while this more ‘conventional’ ending romance wise does help, the primary force that caused this play to be socially acceptable was the concept of gender as performance and how it contrasts with gender as a state of being.

Of course, the thought of gender as an act or a performance would not necessarily have been as alien a concept to Shakespeare’s contemporary audience as one might at at first assume; after all, there were no women actors at the Globe Theatre at the time (though there were women actors elsewhere in Europe—they were barred from this profession in England specifically), and viewers of the stage plays it featured had come to expect young boys to ‘perform’ the role of women already. 2 For this reason, it would be only natural for an audience like Shakespeare’s, already familiar with interpretation of an actor’s gender through performance but likely still aware subconsciously of the ‘true’ gender as a state of being of these actors (but consciously choosing to ignore it in favor of perceiving their performed genders at least on a conscious level), to have sympathetic and amused reactions to the apparent plights of Olivia and Orsino.

After all, it is very possible that (assuming audiences throughout history have, despite some generational differences, generally engaged with media in at least foundationally similar ways) some women in the audience might have understood the feeling of attraction (more in a literary and intellectual sense in the ways one might feel drawn to a fictional character, but attraction all the same) to a character presented to them as a woman, and understood that this was ‘justified’ due to the actor’s gender as state of being and not performance; conversely, some men in the audience might have allowed themselves to become drawn in by some of Shakespeare’s female characters (though admittedly, the men far outnumber them), and rationalized this through the concept of gender as performance and not state of being. (It’s worth mentioning, too, that LGBT people have existed in all time periods, and there were certainly at least some present in Shakespeare’s audiences over the years, but it is fairly likely that these people would have been forced into the closet perhaps even on a personal level due to the nature of the society they lived in.)

Therefore, gender in Twelfth Night exists not solely in the sphere of literal state of being nor solely in the sphere of performance, but simultaneously in both. It is worth noting the origin of the play’s name: not only is it relevant due to its creation as part of the Twelfth Night festivities in the real world, but the very concept of some of these festivities lines up quite well with themes of identity as performance contrasting with one’s ‘true’ masked or hidden identity. Though the holiday has now been largely forgotten in most places, the Twelve Days of Christmas as a festival was quite the colorful celebration, and involved most notably the idea of people donning masks, both literally and metaphorically, and assuming different roles. In England, people danced on the street and visited homes to request food and drink; these people were termed “Mummers,” which comes from the French word “momer”, or to wear a mask.1

Twelfth Night itself was the culmination of this 12-day-long festival, and often involved a whirlwind of merriment, feasting, drinking, and celebration to send the holiday off. David Teniers, a painter who captured images of the lives of commoners in Europe in the 17th century, has preserved a snapshot of the sort of role-switching festivities that were associated with Twelfth Night by that time; in his work “Twelfth Night (The King Drinks)”, we see tavern goers following a Twelfth Night practice that involved the crowning of one among the common patrons as ‘king’ for the night, and who received the appropriate social treatment in exchange for treating their fellow patrons to drinks. It has been proposed by some historians that mask wearing or other such ‘comic’ role switching festivities may have been encouraged by the Christian church, who may have initially suggested celebrators wear masks that particularly mocked or satirized deities seen as heretical such as Roman or Pagan gods (before the celebration evolved into something much broader).1

Pictured: the painting "Twelfth Night (The King Drinks)5

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, in its layered presentation of gender and themes of masked identities, is thusly quite aptly named; much of the comedy revolves around the audience’s understanding that the characters are wearing various ‘masks’ (not only in Viola’s case, but in others, such as the subplot with the steward Malvolio ‘earning’ his comeuppance in the eyes of the audience through his assumption of a class role undeserved) and the resolution involving a subsequent ‘unmasking’ on both Viola’s and Sebastian’s parts. As Joseph H. Summers phrases it quite succinctly in his essay “The Masks of Twelfth Night”, published in Shakespearean Criticism: “the audience has been a participant in the festivity”.3 Therefore, in its use of thematic ‘masks’ for humor and entertainment, its presentation of gender as both a state of being and a performance (playing further into the concept of masks), and simply as a result of the historical context it existed in (which it was expertly crafted for), Twelfth Night has endured and remained influential for centuries, rather than being shot down in its infancy due to its controversial and potentially queer themes, as some might assume before learning the proper context.

 

Works Cited

  1. Levins, Sandy. “Understanding Twelfth Night: The Holiday that Time Forgot.” Camden County Historical Society, 3 Jan 2005, https://www.http://historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews93.shtml. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.
  2. McManus, Clare. “Shakespeare and gender: the woman’s part.” Discovering Literature: Shakespeare & Renaissance, British Library, 15 Mar 2016, https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/shakespeare-and-gender-the-womans-part. Accessed 2 Dec 2020.
  3. Summers, Joseph H. “The Masks of Twelfth Night.” Shakespearean Criticism, edited by Laurie Lanzen Harris, vol. 1, Gale, 1984. Gale Literature Criticism, https://link-gale-com.vortex3.uco.edu/apps/doc/FZVZMY300188710/LCO?u=edmo56673&sid=LCO&xid=3b71cbbc. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020. Originally published in The University of Kansas City Review, vol. 22, no. 1, Autumn 1955, pp. 25-32.
  4. Teniers the Younger, David. Peasants Celebrating Twelfth Night. 1635. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. National Gallery of Art, https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.53141.html. Provided by the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.
  5. Teniers the Younger, David. Twelfth Night (The King Drinks). 1634. Oil on canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid. Web Gallery of Art, https://www.wga.hu/html_m/t/teniers/jan2/1/twelfthn.html.

Othello Cultural History.

Hey, guys! Today we’re going to talk about the play, Othello, and the cultural history behind this work. 

Since the beginning of time, the black experience has been complex and hard to look back on. 

Whether Shakespeare knew it or not, Othello became part of the black community’s culture the moment he wrote Othello as a black man. Othello is iconic for many reasons, the main reason being Shakespeare’s only play where he not only acknowledges a black person but includes them into his story. Though this implication is ambiguous, students of Shakespeare base this knowledge on Othello’s description in the play by other castmates. He is referred to as black, the moor, and his black features are brought up.

Before he even comes to the stage, we learn that Othello’s wife chose him over her father. Without explicitly saying so, we learn that Desdemona’s father isn’t fond of their relationship. In an article written by Kiernan Ryan, it is brought to the reader’s attention that the couple is enthralled by “the venomous rage of a society whose foundations are rocked by the mere fact of their marriage” (Ryan). Because of white men’s entitlement to Desdemona’s body, they mark Othello as an enemy. His existence becomes a threat to their masculinity and they don’t even regard Desdemona’s feelings. 

While reading this play, I realized that I had an issue with the relationship between Desdemona and Othello. During the time that this play was written, Othello was more than likely deemed the villain the moment the audience got the playbill or their love would be seen as something exotic and not real love. But the relationship between Desdemona and Othello plays into the stereotype of black men “stealing” white women from their husbands. Iago plans to plot against Othello based off of a rumor that he hears of him sleeping with his wife. To me, Iago thought that since Desdemona chose Othello that he would influence other women to chose a black man instead of a white one too. All of the odds were set against him before the character was even brought to the stage.

Though I believe that there should be stories written about black characters outside of their tragic cultural past, this play has racist undertones but erases oppression from his history. There’s no talk about how a white woman and a black man’s relationship together wouldn’t have been seen as normal, but instead, they sabotage it.

Iago, the true villain in this play, is the main one sabotaging their marriage by telling Othello that he knows that his wife is cheating on him. Othello becomes enraged and accuses his wife of cheating on him with Cassio. Throughout this whole time, Desdemona refuses to believe that something has gone wrong with Othello and he’d never be jealous about her while other people insist that he is. Sadly, things go sour between the two which ends up with the death of Desdemona. In another article by Andrew Dickson that I researched for, I saw how some actors have a problem with this part of the story along with other things. A British-Ghanian actor by the name of Hugh Quarshie says that “Of all the parts in the canon, perhaps Othello is the one which should most definitely not be played by a black actor,” and that “doing so risked legitimising – in fact condoning – the racist stereotype of a black man” (Dickson). With this tragic ending along with other aspects of the play, many actors refuse to participate in the recreation of Othello. The character Othello started out as an outsider but an outsider who was wise, smart, and honorable then turns out to be a murderer. To me, Othello didn’t get the chance to become developed before he was written off as a murderer. He deserved the chance to be seen as something else and have a happy ending.

In a lecture that my Shakespeare class covered earlier this semester, Kim F. Hall touched on the fact that black scholars are policed when it comes to their love of Shakespeare just like they’re policed when it comes to their beings. The story of Othello is seen as the only play by Shakespeare that’s acceptable for black people to embrace. Kim F. Hall brings up that in an article, Toni Morrison was not seen as relatable to Shakespeare but seen as someone of the Elizabethan Era and a descendant of Othello. 

Even with its racist implications and undertones, many black scholars and theater lovers have taken Othello into their own hands and created what represented the black community. Taking this play and showing the multifacetedness of many actors, directors, and writers show how we are worthy of experiencing Shakespeare like our non-black counterparts. When looking at Shakespeare’s work, one can not overlook the racist and entitled history that comes with it. In the article written by Dickson, he points out that the first actor that played Othello was a white man who “have worn dark makeup, as actors in Britain did until the late 1980s” (Dickson). Though black individuals weren’t looked at as people that were worthy of telling their own stories, they were included in stories the way that non-black people wanted them to be. 

With Toni Morrison rewriting Othello to make Desdemona and actors such as Jessika D. Williams play Othello as a black woman, there are many creative adaptations of this play rewritten by black individuals. Othello can be seen as a story that’s been passed down from generation to generation for black people to mold into what they believe and want it to be. Black stories are for black people to retell and cherish. We deserve the chance to make Shakespeare into who we visualize him to be but also acknowledge the history. 

WORKS CITED. 

Dickson, Andrew. “Othello: the Role That Entices and Enrages Actors of All Skin Colours.” The British Library, The British Library, 16 Nov. 2015, www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/othello-the-role-that-entices-and-enrages-actors-of-all-skin-colours.

Ryan, Kiernan. “Racism, Misogyny and ‘Motiveless Malignity’ in Othello.” The British Library, The British Library, 11 Dec. 2015, www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/racism-misogyny-and-motiveless-malignity-in-othello.

The Winter’s Tale : Seasons

 

In The Winter’s Tale, there’s an importance put on the idea of seasons and how they represent the things happening in the play as well as how the people in the settings during the time of the seasons. A prime example of this can be seen in how the play is set up in the acts and scenes.

To begin, In the second Act we are given a definitive point of time, which allows us to assume when Act 2 is happening. In this quote, Mamillius and Hermione are talking about how her son is going to tell his mother a story:

“Hermione:

Come, sir, now

I am for you again: pray you, sit by us,

And tell ‘s a tale.

MAMILLIUS

Merry or sad shall’t be?

 

HERMIONE

As merry as you will.

 

MAMILLIUS

A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one

Of sprites and goblins.” (2.1.28-34)

 

The first thing in this quote that can be seen is that Mamillius directly states that “A sad tale is best for Winter.” This piece of the quote sticks out for two reasons, One the stating of the season that they are in and two the major symbolism in the meaning of winter. Often, the use of winter is to signify the ending of something as well as death. This makes sense given that the season itself unintentionally kills the leaves and send the living into an almost dormant state of being while the rest of time carries on.

This idea of winter being a season on ending continues

to play throughout the piece. In the following quote there is mention of winter and summer: “My lord, your sorrow was too sore laid on, / Which sixteen winters cannot blow away, / So many summers dry; scarce any joy / Did ever so long live; no sorrow / But kill’d itself much sooner” (5.3.57-56). Again, there is this reference to the winter being a time of mourning for his wife’s “crimes” and the loss of his child. They also talk a

bout the season of summer in which the second act takes place during. This pairing of the two is interesting because it shows two sides of the same coin and they are opposites of each other. Summer is like the celebration of life, the start of new beginnings.

Along with the topic of life, Spring is often seen as the time of renewal and rebirth, it can also bee seen as a symbolization of youth. They play with the idea of youth during the second half of the play when the Perdita’s moment of rebirth happens when she finds out that she is a princess and her mother is reborn into the world. Both these moments emphasize the meaning of rebirth especially the case of Hermione who died while she was locked up.

 

 

https://designyoutrust.com/2019/06/one-photo-four-seasons-this-is-how-8-different-locations-around-the-world-look-across-the-four-seasons/

 

Shakespeare, William. “The Winter’s Tale” The Norton Shakespeare, Greenblatt, Stephen, Cohen, Walter, Norton & Company, 2016, 1655-1726.

 

Shakespeare’s ‘“The Winter’s Tale”: From Destructive to Harmonious Relations by Kristen Acevedo

The word Shakespeare can convey all sorts of images and conceptions, some will think of Macbeth and a bloody dagger, or Hamlet holding a skull. But do you ever think about a harmonious relationship between men and women with roles being expanded for women as characters? Most likely not, but that is what this post is here to help you discover, that Shakespeare was constantly messing with the concepts of men and women gender roles. In an article titled “Patriarchal Structures in “The Winter’s Tale” by Peter Erickson, he talks about how one of Shakespeare’s plays The Winter’s Tale actually does a good job of showing a harmonious relationship between man and woman, which comes from a complete turn around of destructive male dominance that makes up the first portion of the play. 

GIF, gifer.com

Hopefully, by the end of the post you might be able to see Shakespeare in a different way instead of the tragedies that end in terrible death, which does happen, but this article sheds light on a major aspect of not only The Winter’s Tale but other plays as well. Now whether you’re a Shakespearean pro, or just starting to become interested in the many plays that he has written, it is important to know what The Winter’s Tale is all about. 

    The Winter’s Tale is about a king named Leontes who is married to Hermione. Together they have a son named Mamillius and are expecting another child. One of Leontes best friends, named Polixenes who is also a king, comes to visit them. During a brief interaction between the three of them Hermione is able to convince Polixenes to stay the night at their palace, but Leontes turns into a jealous rage and accuses Hermione and Polixenes of having had an affair with each other. Leontes also claims that the child that Hermione is carrying is an illegitimate child and is actually Polixenes’ kid. 

Photo credits: Alamy stock photo

Leontes orders that Hermione be sent to prison and then sends for the Oracle of Delphi to confirm his suspensions, which he is sure his suspensions will be revealed as true. The queen gives birth to a girl which her lady-in-waiting, Paulina presents to Leontes in hopes to change his mind about the assumptions that he has about his wife. Instead of making him consider his faults, Leontes only grows angrier and orders her husband, Lord Antigonus, to abandon the child. Meanwhile, the Oracle of Delphi has given back the information that Polixenes and Hermione are innocent, and he will no longer have an heir to the throne until his daughter is found. Leontes doesn’t believe the Oracle and it takes his young son, Mamillius, away from Hermione. Mamillius ends up dying from separation from his mother.Leontes realizes what he has done, but it is already too late for Hermione as she had died as well after giving birth. 

    Eventually the play turns to the young girl, Perdita that was the daughter of Leontes, is found by a Shepherd. She lives with the Shepherd for sixteen years until she falls in love with Polixenes son, Florizel. After a long draw-out exchange between father and son because Polixenes doesn’t want his son to marry Perdita. Florizel disobeys his fathers orders and ends up marrying Perdita anyways which is how the play ends.

photo credits: meme.com

    Now don’t jump to any conclusions of Shakespeare plays just yet, but instead let’s get into the analysis of the article I had mentioned earlier. In The Winter’s Tale there is an obvious indication of “male-oriented” patriarchy that is clearly destructive in the play towards not only women, but also any men that stand against Leontes. Erickson states that, “The dramatic action consists partly in the fashioning of a benign patriarchy—in the transition from a brutal, crude, tyrannical version to a benevolent one capable of including and valuing women” (819, Erickson). So we can see here that there is a possibility in this play that the value and attitude towards women can change to one that is productive and respective. Before we continue with understanding how it changes from such opposite ends, we first need to analyze where this relationship of male dominance and disrespect begins in the play. In Erickson’s article, he indicates five separate ways that the play indicates male control which leds into the loss of that control: Gift Giving as a Male Institution, The Father-Son Relation, Reversal of Sexual Roles as a Threat to Male Control, Brothers and Brotherhood, The Role of Women. I will not be covering each of these topics, but the one I want to focus on is the Father-Son Relation. 

    The Father-Son relationship in The Winter’s Tale, or in any post Renaissance literature, held this type of relationship in high esteem because the man was the one that was always direct in line for the throne and gave the kingdom assurance of a royal bloodline. The importance of Mamillius in the play to Leontes is more important than the role of the queen. We see this in Act 2, Scene 1, “A spider steeped, and one may drink, depart,/ And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge/ Is not infected. But if one present” (41-43). Leontes decides to take his son away from his mother so that he does not become infected with “poison” that his mother might tell him, even though Mamillius would rather stay with his mother than have to leave her. Erickson states that this is what ends up killing Mamillius because he was not able to be with his mother and have the maturing relationship that he needed as a young boy. This is a topic that Erickson also touches on as being a flaw in the father-son relation in the play that ends up being destructive. Leontes is more worried about keeping an heir to the throne than trusting and believing his wife, and in the end he ends up losing both. Erickson states that, “The patriarchal use of the father-son relation is shown to be problematic. The equation of father and son on which patriarchal continuity depends is the very one that destroys Mamillius. Leontes is left with an emotional vacuum that he tries to fill by turning to Mamillius” (821, Erikson). The male dominated world that this play was centered in, is showing that it had serious flaws in it that actually led to more destruction than peace and harmony which is what Leontes was trying to accomplish with the protection of Mamillius. 

    Another aspect that is central to the flaws in the patriarchal order, is that the unborn child that Hermione is carrying is looked at as sin, even though there is a possibility of Hermione having a boy for an heir. Shakespeare made a specific choice in deciding that the sexuality of the child that was to be born would be a girl because if it had been a boy, Leontes wouldn’t have let it die. “He thinks—nay, with all confidence he swears,/ As he had seen’t or been an instrument/ To vice you to’t—that you have touched his queen/ Forbiddenly” (412-414). Leontes accuses his wife of being adulterous and the child, that ends up being a girl, is cast to the side which is a lot like how society treated women during that time. Erickson states that, “The father-son relation is fundamental to patriarchal organization because it implies male control of reproduction. The mother is ordinarily included only as the vehicle that bears the father’s successor” (821, Erikson). The indicators in the play that show a flaw in male control is obvious, but this ends up turning around with the father-son relation to be cut and the importance of the father’s decision no longer a necessity. 

    This happens with Florizel who wants to marry Perdita, but Polixenes does not want them to continue their relationship due because she is of a lower class than Florizel, “Mark your divorce, young sir,/ Whom son I dare not call” (4.4.408-409). Because Florizel decided to marry Perdita he is disowned from his father, and while Polixenes is hoping that Florizel comes running back in order to gain his trust again Florizel does nothing of the kind and breaks the hierarchy of the male control father-son relation. Erickson considers this part in the play the turning point of the father-son relation, “Florizel poses a clear-cut threat to patriarchal order. Though Perdita readily acknowledges the image of the father by her expressions of fear, Florizel is absolute in his commitment to her as against his father. Florizel proves true to his word when he resolutely refuses to consult his father about his choice in marriage” (822, Erikson). This is the part of the play that shows a complete turn around from the beginning when the male control is eminent and the son did not usually have a say in who he was going to marry. Despite the belief that Shakespeare plays all end with tragic deaths, we can see from the analysis from both the play The Winter’s Tale and from the article by Erickson that there is a lot more than the mere tragic scenes that Shakespeare is known for, and instead has a lot of insight to offer when his plays are looked in closer detail. 


Photo credits: bestgifs.makeagif.com
Kiki Acevedo

                                                     Works Cited 

Erickson, Peter B. “Patriarchal Structures in The Winter’s Tale.” PMLA, vol. 97, no. 5, 1982, pp. 819–829. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/462173. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

Shakespeare, William. “The Winter’s Tale” The Norton Shakespeare, Greenblatt, Stephen, Cohen, Walter, Norton & Company, 2016, 1655-1726.