The Winter's Tale

Transgenerational Redemption in The Winter's Tale

Shakespearean romances are characterized by conclusions in which all conflicts are happily resolved. It is easy to see these resolutions as humorous but unlikely contrivances which the author invents to neatly tie together loose ends. There is sometimes, though, a deeper structure of conflict and resolution than may at first be obvious; such is the case in The Winter's Tale. The central conflict in The Winter's Tale is the violation of Nature on the part of the patriarch of the old generation, Leontes. Nature in The Winter's Tale is best understood as the ordered character of the universe. This is expressed in a three-tiered, hierarchically ordered structure with the divine at the apex, the monarch next, and the common man at the base. Nature is essentially static in a vertical direction, that is, an individual cannot rightly move from a lower level to a higher or vice-versa. Nonetheless, Nature does require a horizontal mobility demonstrated through the continuance of time. A violation of either vertical stability or horizontal perpetuation affronts Nature and will be punished. While Leontes' first violation is vertical in nature, it is his horizontal violation which is the greater problem.

Leontes, consumed by...

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