role and significance of women.
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Leontes’s hateful ideas about women dominate the first three acts of The Winter’s Tale. After he convinces himself that his pregnant wife is having an affair and carrying another man’s child, Leontes reveals a crude and misogynistic attitude that seems to have been lurking beneath the surface all along. In the jealous king’s mind, all women are sexually promiscuous and dishonest (an attitude that’s all too common in Renaissance literature). Leontes also gives voice to the notion that women who are not silent and obedient to their husbands are monsters who invert socially accepted gender hierarchies. Leontes eventually repents but his nasty attitude leaves a big mark on the play. The role of women in this and many other Shakespearean plays has to do with the unattainable. My old University professor used to call it "the Madonna/whore complex" women were either pure and unattainable or the opposite. Usually after the protagonist has discovered is error in judgment, the woman is dead or gone. Leontes realizes that his slanders were wrong and his wife goes back to being virginal and pure.