The winter s tale the romance of innocence
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The Winter’s Tale : The Romance of Innocence. In our first class on The Winter’s Tale , we noted that recent critics have grouped the play with Pericle s, Cymbeline , and The Tempest , calling them all “Romances” characterized by:. A discovery of lost royalty

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The Winter’s Tale : The Romance of Innocence

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The winter s tale the romance of innocence

The Winter’s Tale:The Romance of Innocence


The winter s tale the romance of innocence

In our first class on The Winter’s Tale, we noted that recent critics have grouped the play with Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Tempest, calling them all “Romances” characterized by:

  • A discovery of lost royalty

  • Princesses with almost divine virtue and beauty

  • Characters near death restored to life

  • A disaster in a prince’s life mended many years later through the agency of young, beautiful, and innocent people

  • Pastoral scenes


The winter s tale the romance of innocence

How “innocent” are Florizel and Perdita?

A) Very innocent  E) Not innocent at all


The winter s tale the romance of innocence

How are we to respond to the fact that the two lovers knowingly go behind the backs of their “fathers,” Polixenes and the Shepherd, in pursuing their love?


Art versus nature the debate between polixenes and perdita

Art versus Nature: The Debate between Polixenes and Perdita

In the middle of the sheep-sheering feast, just before Autolycus enters peddling his trinkets/ballads, Perdita hands out flowers to her guests, and we enter into an extended philosophical debate between Polixenes and Perdita over whether the art of grafting is natural or unnatural (and thus a form of bastardy): pp. 68-69; 4.4.77-108.


The irony of this debate is that

The irony of this debate is that:

  • According to Perdita’s argument, she should not be allowed to marry Florizel.

  • According to Polixenes’s argument, Perdita should be allowed to marry Florizel.

  • According to Perdita’s argument, Florizel should marry her only for her beauty.

  • A and B

  • All of the above


The winter s tale the romance of innocence

Why do you think Shakespeare foregrounds so prominently the debate between Art and Nature?

How does the insertion of the rogue Autolycus into the sheep-sheering feast, with his pack of trinkets and ballads, influence our response to this debate?

So whose side is Shakespeare on: Art or Nature?

A) Art  E) Nature


How does autolycus help advance for the play s audience its romance of innocence

How does Autolycus help advance for the play’s audience its romance of innocence?

  • He exchanges clothes with Florizel (for money) so Florizel can escape undetected from Bohemia to Sicilia with Perdita.

  • He sells art that encourages people to believe in wondrous happenings as “true.”

  • He helps the shepherd and his son (for money) get onboard Florizel’s ship and thus escape threatened death in Bohemia.

  • He is open to chance and change, which are a part of the natural workings of Time.

  • All of the above.


Making the romance of innocence

Making the Romance of Innocence

  • After the “fall” of the first half of the play, wherein mankind’s, and especially, womankind’s “sullied” nature is rediscovered by Leontes, “innocence” (literally in the character of Mamillius) is killed off.

  • It can never be reborn as “pure” innocence.

  • It can only be much recovered when the best of nature and opportune time ally with art/craft.

  • The result is not a bastard innocence, but it is “mixed,” in the same way the ending of the play mixes gain with loss, joy with sorrow:

    Our king, being ready to leap out of himself for joy of his found daughter, as if that joy were now become a loss, cries, “Oh, thy mother, thy mother.” (p. 106, 5.2.52-55)


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