‘‘PAULINA CLEARLY STANDS OUT AS THE HEROINE OF WINTER’S TALE’’.HOW FAR DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS OPINION?
The uniqueness of Winter’s Tale is not only in how it is able to weave a story of fantasy with such conviction, but also its sharp realism. One of the tools used to achieve this feat is through the characterization as found in a character like Paulina, who incidentally is not the queen, but wields so much power that one is bound is to compare her to influential characters like Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth in other Shakespeare’s plays.
In making Hermione, the abused queen of Leontes, a rather mild and subservient character, Shakespeare is able to bring into prominence the character of .Ordinarily, the audience would have expected the audacity and boldness of Paulina to be displayed by the queen in her own defence. However in the submissive posture of the queen, she earns her own dignity by being stoic, thereby contrasting vividly the foolishness of Leontes. It in this situation that Paulina emerges to say and exhibit rightly all the qualities the queen ought to exhibit .In Paulina, we see a woman who loves her queen with all devotion to the detriment of her own life and family, ready to risky her own life to see that the queen is vindicated. One of such bold moves is her persuasion of Hermione in prison to release her new born baby to her, thinking that by the time, the king is confronted by the innocence of a baby, he would have a change of heart. Unfortunately, the plan fails and this results to the main verbal exchange between the king and Paulina. In Paulina we see and hear all Hermione could have been and said.
Though the Winter’s Tale could be classified a tragedy, in most Shakespearean plays, the protagonist is often matched by an antagonist. Paulina perfectly fits into this role as she stands against all that the king stands and rightly too. For a deluded king Leontes who is so consumed by jealousy of his wife’s infidelity, it only takes a courageous character in Paulina to let him see that his wife is faithful to him. Though Paulina does not achieve the desired effect of changing the mind of the tyrant king, her opposition triggers a lot of actions of far-reaching consequences such as Perdita being sent to Bohemia and even the death of Hermione. All these initially appear to have negative consequences, but in the long run, they contribute to the successful resolution of the play’s conflicts. In Paulina amidst the timidity of the courtiers who have either been subjugated or chased into exile, she becomes the lone voice of reason in the court.
Even when the king regrets the folly of his action, occasioned by the wrath of Apollo in the demise of his heir apparent, Mamillius and later Hermione, Paulina is at hand to guide the king. Though initially ferocious in anger against him, Paulina’s humane side is displayed in being understanding. The king could not but confess in humility to her: ‘O grave and good Paulina, the great comfort that I have had of thee’. It is this goodwill which the king feels he owes her that makes him abide by the promise not to marry another woman without her consent. Though initially the implication of this promise is not known, but later better understood with the resurrection of the queen later in the play.
Though Paulina’s presence is restricted to Sicilia, her influence extends beyond its border even to Bohemia. It is this advantage that places her in the position to help resolve the conflicts and this gives the play a happy ending. In ensuring that Leontes does not marry, Paulina is imbued with some magical power to cause the resurrection of Hermione, thereby reconciling her with the king. Through this, a perfect ending is given to the play; Perdita’s identity is revealed and restored to her parents, in pursuance of Florizel to Sicilia, Camillo and Polixenes are reconciled with Leontes. One should also not miss the fact that the mystery and the supernatural built round how Paulina is able to restore Hermione back to life casts her in the mould of a heroine.
Though an enigmatic character, in Shakespeare’s eagerness to make Paulina a heroine, there are times when her portrayal appears almost exaggerated. For example, she confronts the authority of a tyrannical Leontes without any consequence and even the fantasy of restoring Hermione back to life appears quite melodramatic.However, where other characters that would have contended for the slot of a heroine with Paulina such as Hermione and even Perdita are often seen and not heard, Paulina definitely fits in perfectly into this position.