Feminist Perspective of Paulina in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

707 Words 3 Pages
A Feminist Perspective of Paulina in The Winter's Tale

Feminist criticism explores gender themes in literature, assesses the worth of female characters, promotes unknown women writers, and interprets the canon from a politically-charged perspective. Shakespeare has proven more difficult to categorize than other white male masters of the written word, precisely because of the humanity of his female characters. Critic Kathleen McLuskie urges feminists to "assert the power of resistance, subverting rather than co-opting the domination of the patriarchal Bard" (McLuskie 106). Yet many feminists find strength in Shakespeare. Irene Dash, for instance, proclaims that "Shakespeare's women characters testify to his genius .... they
…show more content…
Daly re-defines crone as a "survivor of the perpetual witchcraze of patriarchy" and describes hags as "haunting the Hedges/Boundaries of patriarchy, frightening fools and summoning Weird Wandering Women into the Wild" (Daly 114,136). For daring to speak the truth, for refusing to be silenced until her message is conveyed, Paulina receives furious threats from the patriarchal ruler. Neither husband nor King can deter Paulina from her vow to use "that tongue I have" with "boldness from my bosom" (II.ii.51-53).

Feminism demands role models who not only critique the system but also prescribe alternatives and take concrete action. After forcing Leontes' to face the brutal result of his jealousy, Paulina assumes behind-the-throne control. Leontes agrees to marry again only with her permission, despite the pressure to produce a heir. As Carol Thomas Neeley describes, Paulina changes from "shrew to wise counselor and engineers the penance that will transform his [Leontes'] tragic actions to a comic conclusion" (Neeley 223). Combining magic with wisdom, Paulina becomes goddess-like by breathing life into the statue of Hermione. Paulina fulfills a multitude of feminist expectations, both action-based and symbolic: she confronts the patriarch, she defends the sisterhood, she speaks

Related Documents