Leontes in The Winters Tale
Leontes becomes prisoner to the story he has created in his own mind concerning Hermione's adultery. He begins the play as a loving husband, abruptly changes his mind and decides she is having an affair and just as quickly begs for forgiveness and gets his wife back.
In the beginning of the play Leontes speaks to his wife with love and asks her help in keeping his childhood friend in town a bit longer. With very little provocation Leontes abruptly changes his mind and creates a scenario where his wife Hermione is suddenly a villain. He begins to use vulgar words and imagery to describe his wife “that little thinks she has been sluiced in ‘s absence, and his pond fished by his next neighbor”(1.2.242). Here he suggests that his wife has been physically unfaithful. Early in the play he simply rages on and on to anyone who will listen that his wife is worthless and her lover needed to be killed. Even when his close ally Camillo tries to plead for Hermione's innocence saying “but I cannot believe this crack to be in my dread mistress, so sovereignly being honorable” (1.2.390). Leontes tells Hermione “you had a bastard by Polixenes” (3.2.90). Leontes has come to the point of no return and has finally shown that he is not even pretending to deal with reality anymore.
There is another dramatic change in Leontes when he believes his actions have caused the death of his son and his wife. He begins to understand how jealousy has taken over his life and been his downfall, but he feels this information has come too late. He says “The causes of their death appear, unto. Our shame perpetual” (3.3.263). Leontes has come full circle and has accepted that he is the cause of all the sadness in his own life. His rage is now directed only at himself. He has learned a great deal from the hell he put himself through and is now a penitent man.
Cleomenes tells the King “Sir, you have done enough, and have perform'd A saint-like sorrow: no fault could you make, Which you have not redeeem'd” (5.1. 1). Leontes abruptly changes again. This time he is full of repentance and new found knowledge that everything that is happened is his own fault. He does not believe that he deserves the kindness of his friends and the people of his kingdom telling Cleomenes “have done the time more benefit and graced your kindness better” (5.1.25). He accepts the sudden reappearance of his wife as a miracle “if this be magic, let it be an art” (5.3 137). Leontes asks forgiveness from both Hermione and Polixenes saying “What, look upon my brother! Both your pardons” (5.3.184).
Leontes changes the lives of everyone around him because of thoughts that he simply could not get out of his head. He wouldn't get out of his own way long enough to see that he was being irrational. He suffered and suffered throughout the play bringing everyone else along with him, he is of course the King. In the end people forgave him and reunited him with his loving dutiful wife who patiently waited 16 years for him to get out of his own way long enough to realize he was wrong.
Scene 1 beginning of the play where we first meet Hermione and Leontes
Lighting - the lighting should be soft and bright with pale pinks and light blues.
Set - this set should be light and airy full of flowers and trees and things that remind you of spring and happiness.
Staging people should be close together and speaking openly with smiles on their faces
Acting the actors should be happy and open smiling and at ease
Music the music classic love songs playing softly in the background
Costumes & Color the women's colors should be pink and white showcasing happiness and virtue with undertones of spring, the men should be dressed in pale blue and green.
Scene 2 Middle of the play Leontes begins to rage
Lighting spotlights on Leontes when he is speaking all the other house lights off black stage
Set dead of winter no trees no flowers no graphs inside sparse furniture made of something hard like wood or concrete
Staging all backers whispering and looking pensive and frightened far away from the King
Acting everyone needs to look scared with their shoulders slumped
Music foreboding music was somber tone's
Costumes & Color dark red for Leontes, all the women in gray or black
Scene 3 Leontes realizes he is a fool
Lighting blue and bright white
Set somber dark sparse that suddenly thrust into light once his wife reappears
Staging people begin getting far apart in whispering and by the end they are staying close together and happy
Acting the full range of emotions from complete sadness to absolute joy at seeing their queen again
Music again the full range of music from sad intensive to complete joy and happiness
Costumes & Color blue for all the men and white for all the women showcasing their chastity in virtue