The Winter's Tale
Leontes goes through many transformations in William Shakespeare's play. He began as a loving husband and then his entire personality changes when he believes his wife is having an affair. At the end in a supernatural twist his wife is returned to him and all is forgiven on both sides. Leontes could have saved himself years of anguish and shame by using his head and asking more questions of his dear loving, faithful wife. Irrational jealousy is at the heart of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.
Leontes has his hissy fit of jealousy very suddenly in the beginning of the play. Leontes feels insecure about many things including his wife. Perhaps he believes his wife only loves him because he is a king. Polixenes is also a king and that may threaten his relationship with Hermione. Hermione is at the end of the pregnancy, perhaps he feels neglected by his wife because her attentions are drawn not only to his friend but her new baby. The King feels insecure about his relationship with his wife and his best friend and lashes out at them both. Leontes says to Camillo “But that’s past doubt: you have, or your eyeglass is thicker than a cuckold’s horn” (1.2.332). Leontes is acting like a tyrant even to his closest allies and friends. Leontes tells Camillo “you're changed complexions are to me a mirror” (1.2.457). In this scene with Camillo the extent of his irrational behavior has become clear to his once faithful servant that Camillo decides to leave.
Leontes is even more convinced that he is right when his right-hand man Camillo escapes to Bohemia. The King pronounces that Camillo knew all about Hermione's adultery all along and is a “false villain whom I employed was pre-employed by him” (2.1.60). The King has allowed his jealousy to take over his entire thinking. The King believes that Camillo only agreed to kill Polixenes to buy himself some time so they can plot together to assassinate him. Leontes does not have a single person who agrees with him. Antigonus tells him “ and I wish, my Liege you had only in your silent judgment tried it, without more overture” (2.1.207). As Camillo is leaving town he realizes that nothing can get through to an irrational jealous man saying “you may as well for bid this see for to obey the moon” (1.2.513). The Oracle Apollo could not even tell Leontes truths that he wanted to hear. Even after Apollo told him Hermione was completely innocent he blurts out “There is no truth at all i’ th’ oracle. / . . . This is mere falsehood” (3.2.153).
As quickly as the jealous rage came it blew out to sea. Leontes has come to the conclusion that he was wrong all along and that everything that has befallen him has been his own fault. In a supernatural twist of fate Paulina shows him a statue that looks like Hermione saying “comes it not something near ?” (5.3.25).Once he believed his entire life was over and he simply had nothing else to live for his wife magically reappears. Leontes says “if this be magic, let it be an art” (5.3.137). Hermione forgives him for everything he has done instantly and somehow accepts his offer of forgiveness when he states”What, look upon my brother! Both your pardons” (5.3.184).
Leontes allowed his jealousy to take over his entire life. Because he was the King his sadness and irrational jealousy took over the lives of all of his countrymen as well. Hopefully he learned a lesson from his irrational behavior and he will make an effort to never act in such a disgraceful manner again.
Scene 1 will be the most difficult to stage because the entire play goes from loving joy to hateful rage almost instantly. The lighting should be happy and bright with bright vibrant colors across the stage. All of the actors should be in their finest clothes and jewels showing off the happiness and abundance of the land. Very quickly the lights need to dim and red filters need to be put on the white spotlights for Leontes speeches where he thinks about his wife's infidelity. All of the actors should be frightened and pensive until the next scene.
Scene 2 is the height of the Kings rage. All of the actors should have changed into gray and black. The somber mood should be seen on all the actors faces where it is clear that they are afraid of their King and his madness. There should be very few props everything should be barren and without color or joy of any kind. Leontes especially should be void of any color. His outfit should be completely gray and black his mood somber at all times. Only when he is speaking should the lights be anything but dim on the stage.
Scene 3 is as abrupt as the first scene. The beginning of the scene should be gray and brown with very little joy. When Leontes discovers the statue of Hermione all the women's to come out wearing white or pink showcasing their loyalty and virtue. The lighting should then go up dramatically with a brightly lit stage full of flowers and soft colors. The King should take off his heavy gray robe to reveal a Bright white or gold suit of close that reveals his happiness and his joy at rediscovering his wife. Hermione should be dressed only in white to showcase her virtue.