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Scheherazade
07-13-2008, 06:23 PM
Please post your thoughts and questions regarding Act III in this thread.

Scene I (http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/winter/6/)

Scene II (http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/winter/7/)

Scene III (http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/winter/8/)

Charles Darnay
07-13-2008, 06:46 PM
Anyone wonder why it was a bear that pursued Antigonus and not a lion, which thematically would be more fitting?

Quark
07-13-2008, 07:15 PM
I'm not sure why a bear was chosen, nor do I know how they would have staged such a direction. As fun as releasing a live bear in a crowded theatre may be, I doubt they actually went that far. Maybe they had someone in a bear suit do the chasing.

Charles Darnay
07-13-2008, 09:16 PM
I'm not sure why a bear was chosen, nor do I know how they would have staged such a direction. As fun as releasing a live bear in a crowded theatre may be, I doubt they actually went that far. Maybe they had someone in a bear suit do the chasing.

In modern day productions it is either a guy in bear suit or a mechanical bear, however it is speculated that since back in the day theaters like the Globe were also used for bear-bating, a tame live bear would have been used. This is actually one argument for why it was a bear but I don't really by that. As shown in "Midsummer's Night Dream" Shakespeare was no stranger to people in animal costumes (people in lion costumes might I add)...hi9s name is Leontes!!! It would have made so much sense!

Quark
07-13-2008, 09:55 PM
In modern day productions it is either a guy in bear suit or a mechanical bear

A robotic bear? That would be cool, but it would also be an expensive prop. Who was in charge of the budget when they ordered that?


Shakespeare was no stranger to people in animal costumes (people in lion costumes might I add)...hi9s name is Leontes!!! It would have made so much sense!

Oh, that's what you were getting at. I was a little confused at first.

papayahed
07-13-2008, 10:07 PM
And why kill off Antigonus anyways? He defended the queen and the newborn.

Charles Darnay
07-13-2008, 11:09 PM
And why kill off Antigonus anyways? He defended the queen and the newborn.

The death of Antigonus and the sailors is kind of interesting. It is the only other death beside Mamillius' and unlike the latter's death which had many consequences (Hermione's "death" and Leontes' repenting) Antigonus' death has no consequences, no one really cares about it, it happens in an absurd way and it immediatly proceeded by the clown discussing life. The clown also makes light of the death (as Shakespearean clowns often do). One potential reason for this is because the focus is shifting away from the tragic Sicilia and to pastoral Bohemia - the last shreds of the tragic court are being shed - Antigonus dies, Perdita lives.

Quark
07-14-2008, 12:09 AM
One potential reason for this is because the focus is shifting away from the tragic Sicilia and to pastoral Bohemia - the last shreds of the tragic court are being shed - Antigonus dies, Perdita lives.

Yeah, this happens because of the dramatic shift. I think you're right to point to Antigonus as part of the tragic court even though he's not willfully involved. He dies to mark the transition between tragic downfall and comic reconciliation. To get more specific, though, he dies because of he's the person who carries Perdita to Bohemia. Before Antigonus even leaves, he already know that this might be the end for him. Hermione appears to him the night before he leaves and tells him


"For this ungentle business,
Put on thee by my lord, thou ne'er shalt see
Thy wife Paulina more" (34-36)

Her curse explains the main reason for his death. The audience might consider this a harsh punishment for the guy just doing his job, but his grudging assent is contrasted with the direct dissent of both Camillo and Paulina. He comes up a little lacking in a play with those two.

bouquin
07-14-2008, 03:06 AM
Anyone wonder why it was a bear that pursued Antigonus and not a lion, which thematically would be more fitting?



Perhaps because there are no lions in Bohemia?

Quark
07-14-2008, 07:28 PM
Perhaps because there are no lions in Bohemia?

Probably not, but there isn't a coast to Bohemia either. I think he could have gotten away with a Bohemian lion, if he wanted to. The audience would have had to think for a second to get the connection between Lion and Leontes to get it, and so I figure Shakespeare would have considered it a stretch.

Anyway, before we get overly-engrossed in the bear/lion, I want to hear what people think about the trial and the oracle. Why does Shakespeare have the truth come from the oracle? Is it a just neat way of making Leontes realize the truth, or does it have a greater significance?

Virgil
08-02-2008, 11:56 AM
In my opinion Act III Scene 2 is where I think this play fails to become a great play. Let me see if I can walk through the scene.

Wemstart with a court of justice, and of course we know that what is transpiring is injustice. Hermione offers a defense, but knowing it to be useless appeals to a higher justice:

...But thus: if powers divine
Behold our human actions, as they do,
I doubt not then but innocence shall make
False accusation blush and tyranny
Tremble at patience. (28-32)
Yet she tries to explain. Leontes' contiues with the accusation that she was in conspiracy with Camillo. And then an interesting and puzzling exchange:

HERMIONE
Sir,
You speak a language that I understand not:
My life stands in the level of your dreams,
Which I'll lay down.

LEONTES
Your actions are my dreams;
You had a bastard by Polixenes,
And I but dream'd it. As you were past all shame,--
Those of your fact are so--so past all truth:
Which to deny concerns more than avails; for as
Thy brat hath been cast out, like to itself,
No father owning it,--which is, indeed,
More criminal in thee than it,--so thou
Shalt feel our justice, in whose easiest passage
Look for no less than death.
The puzzling part is the question of dream. Does Shakespeare really mean delusion? I read it that way.

And she goes on to appeal to a godly power for justice:

But yet hear this: mistake me not; no life,
I prize it not a straw, but for mine honour,
Which I would free, if I shall be condemn'd
Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else
But what your jealousies awake, I tell you
'Tis rigor and not law. Your honours all,
I do refer me to the oracle:
Apollo be my judge!(116-121)

And it so turns out that Apollo's oracle proclaims her innocent. At first Leontes refuses to accept it:

LEONTES
There is no truth at all i' the oracle:
The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood.
But suddenly the news of Max's death arrives and Hermione swoons and appears dead. And lo, the King changes:

LEONTES
Apollo's angry; and the heavens themselves
Do strike at my injustice.

HERMIONE swoons

How now there!

PAULINA
This news is mortal to the queen: look down
And see what death is doing.

LEONTES
Take her hence:
Her heart is but o'ercharged; she will recover:
I have too much believed mine own suspicion:
Beseech you, tenderly apply to her
Some remedies for life.

Exeunt PAULINA and Ladies, with HERMIONE

Apollo, pardon
My great profaneness 'gainst thine oracle!
I'll reconcile me to Polixenes,
New woo my queen, recall the good Camillo,
Whom I proclaim a man of truth, of mercy;
For, being transported by my jealousies
To bloody thoughts and to revenge, I chose
Camillo for the minister to poison
My friend Polixenes: which had been done,
But that the good mind of Camillo tardied
My swift command, though I with death and with
Reward did threaten and encourage him,
Not doing 't and being done: he, most humane
And fill'd with honour, to my kingly guest
Unclasp'd my practise, quit his fortunes here,
Which you knew great, and to the hazard
Of all encertainties himself commended,
No richer than his honour: how he glisters
Thorough my rust! and how his pity
Does my deeds make the blacker!
Now here's problem number one. After all that has occured, jailing of Hermione and bringing her to court and suddenly he's changed? He has "too much believed [his] own suspicion." He's ready to have her hanged and suddenly he's changed? And Camillo is now a "man of truth"? Well, this is just too convenient to swallow.

And then Paulina outlines a case against Leontes.

PAULINA
What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
What wheels? racks? fires? what flaying? boiling?
In leads or oils? what old or newer torture
Must I receive, whose every word deserves
To taste of thy most worst? Thy tyranny
Together working with thy jealousies,
Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle
For girls of nine, O, think what they have done
And then run mad indeed, stark mad! for all
Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
That thou betray'dst Polixenes,'twas nothing;
That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant
And damnable ingrateful: nor was't much,
Thou wouldst have poison'd good Camillo's honour,
To have him kill a king: poor trespasses,
More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon
The casting forth to crows thy baby-daughter
To be or none or little; though a devil
Would have shed water out of fire ere done't:
Nor is't directly laid to thee, the death
Of the young prince, whose honourable thoughts,
Thoughts high for one so tender, cleft the heart
That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
Blemish'd his gracious dam: this is not, no,
Laid to thy answer: but the last,--O lords,
When I have said, cry 'woe!' the queen, the queen,
The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead,
and vengeance for't
Not dropp'd down yet.
And of course the case against the King's injustice is solid. And the King will try to repent and make retribution, if not to the poor dead, but to their spirits in their afterlife:

LEONTES
Thou didst speak but well
When most the truth; which I receive much better
Than to be pitied of thee. Prithee, bring me
To the dead bodies of my queen and son:
One grave shall be for both: upon them shall
The causes of their death appear, unto
Our shame perpetual. Once a day I'll visit
The chapel where they lie, and tears shed there
Shall be my recreation: so long as nature
Will bear up with this exercise, so long
I daily vow to use it. Come and lead me
Unto these sorrows.
So we come to problem number two. Is this justice? His actions have led to the death of people and he'll go to the chapel and pray for them. He was ready to hang Hermione on suspicion, and this is his punishment. Ultimately it comes down to this: do we pity Leontes in any way? If Leontes was mentally ill as I think the level of his delusions of the first two acts would suggest, then yes we could have pity for a person who beyond his power could not help his delusions. But because he changes and all of a sudden sees his injustice, then he appears to have been a completely sane man. It was all his error from which the action hangs. Well, then how could anyone feel pity for him? I certainly don't. And how does his retribution amount to resolving his sins? Not enough for me. I feel nothing for Leontes after the second Act and that is problematic.

Compare Leontes with McBeth who is tricked by the gods into his actions, or Lear who is an old man who is incapable of thinking straight, or Othello who has been duped into his crime. Each has a rationale for their errors. If you do not have the mental illness as an excuse, what rationale does Leontes have? None.

Scheherazade
08-14-2008, 06:02 PM
I think Antigonus dies so that whereabouts of the baby cannot be traced. If he had gone back, Leon could have wanted him to bring her back and there would be no play.

Janine
08-14-2008, 06:25 PM
In my opinion Act III Scene 2 is where I think this play fails to become a great play. Let me see if I can walk through the scene.

Wemstart with a court of justice, and of course we know that what is transpiring is injustice. Hermione offers a defense, but knowing it to be useless appeals to a higher justice:

Yet she tries to explain. Leontes' contiues with the accusation that she was in conspiracy with Camillo. And then an interesting and puzzling exchange:

The puzzling part is the question of dream. Does Shakespeare really mean delusion? I read it that way.

And she goes on to appeal to a godly power for justice:

And it so turns out that Apollo's oracle proclaims her innocent. At first Leontes refuses to accept it:

But suddenly the news of Max's death arrives and Hermione swoons and appears dead. And lo, the King changes:

Now here's problem number one. After all that has occured, jailing of Hermione and bringing her to court and suddenly he's changed? He has "too much believed [his] own suspicion." He's ready to have her hanged and suddenly he's changed? And Camillo is now a "man of truth"? Well, this is just too convenient to swallow.

And then Paulina outlines a case against Leontes.

And of course the case against the King's injustice is solid. And the King will try to repent and make retribution, if not to the poor dead, but to their spirits in their afterlife:

So we come to problem number two. Is this justice? His actions have led to the death of people and he'll go to the chapel and pray for them. He was ready to hang Hermione on suspicion, and this is his punishment. Ultimately it comes down to this: do we pity Leontes in any way? If Leontes was mentally ill as I think the level of his delusions of the first two acts would suggest, then yes we could have pity for a person who beyond his power could not help his delusions. But because he changes and all of a sudden sees his injustice, then he appears to have been a completely sane man. It was all his error from which the action hangs. Well, then how could anyone feel pity for him? I certainly don't. And how does his retribution amount to resolving his sins? Not enough for me. I feel nothing for Leontes after the second Act and that is problematic.

Compare Leontes with McBeth who is tricked by the gods into his actions, or Lear who is an old man who is incapable of thinking straight, or Othello who has been duped into his crime. Each has a rationale for their errors. If you do not have the mental illness as an excuse, what rationale does Leontes have? None.


I only read part of your post, but I totally get your drift, Virgil, and this is where I have the most trouble with this play - Leonte's turn around; it takes place in minutes, actually seconds, which to me is very strange. He wants to repend immediately, and expects to be forgiven. It just is not believable. The thing is, he is so rash in both actions - condeeming his wife and friend and then asking complete forgiveness. For God's sake he caused the death of, possibly three people, or so he thought it at this point: his wife, his son, and his newborn babe. In reality, he only caused the death of his son and the man send to transport the babe to a remote area, so fate would or would not intervene, but easily the baby also could have died.
I agree with you, Scher, had not Antigonous died, the baby might have been traced and found. I don't even see that Leonetes ever considers that factor, at the time of his plea for forgiveness, do you? The other problem I have with this play, is that the time span now jumps to a much later time and yet Shakespeare failed to take time between Leonete's rash actions and accusations of his wife to the time he would repent. That seems too odd to me. And he only repends when people fall down dead around him; what kind of rependence is that? This part of the play seems very 'shallow' to me. I watched the play twice now, on video, and each time that I get to this part, I try hard to believe it, but I just can't; so you bring up a lot of good points here, Virgil.

Scheherazade
08-15-2008, 07:29 AM
I think in all the turmoil that ensues, the baby is almost forgotten. Had Antigonous returned, people would have remembered her, I guess, and it would have been in character for Leon to start looking for her in his attempt to repent and undo his mistakes. By removing Antigonous, Shakespeare is simply removing that possibility for the sake of the continuity of the play.

I am not sure if we are supposed to feel any sympathy for Leon; Shakespereare makes no attempts to make him look agreeable throughout the play. He is someone to show contempt for and even his sudden realisation and attempts to be "good" are not welcome because they are too late and, like Virgil points out, too costly.

Virgil
08-15-2008, 07:55 AM
I don't have any sympathy for Leon. If he were truely mentally ill in the first two acts, then I can see how some sympathy is warrented. But I don't think Shakespeare understands mental illness, though I do think he is replicating it. The death of Antigonous, who is characterized as a bright and life loving boy, is the saddest part of the play, and yet it seems very minor. I don't think it is minor. It is an event from which no justice can be established. Antigonous is dead because of the actions of Leon and though Leon changes for the good, Antigonous is still dead.

kasie
08-15-2008, 02:20 PM
SPOILER ALERT!!!

If Antigonous doesn't die, there can't be the neat resolution of pairing off Paulina in the last act....

I wrote a reply to Virgil's post some time ago and my computer played silly wotsits and deleted it for me when I tried to post it. I'll see if I can remember what I thought at the time....

I think the problem we have with the first three acts of AWT is a real time problem - we are sitting reading the play and mulling over it: in a theatre we would be watching the action unfold before our eyes and would, I think, be more prepared to take it as given, letting the momentum of the performance carry us with it. We might think about it afterwards and wonder about the inconsistency and unlikelyhood of events but by that time we would have seen all the action and would know how the rest of the story resolves itself. These early scenes are a preparation of things to come, not the whole story - if the Leontes/Hermione story were the sole central action of the play, it would be a tragedy and would end in Leontes spending the rest of his days in mourning and this early part would have to be fleshed out more fully to justify the dramatic action. As it is, to go back to the idea of real time, the audience at the first production, with no idea of the outcome, would know this could not be the whole story (or they had paid for a very short play!) and would accept this is a sketchy outline of events as a preparation of something more to follow.

Given the shorthand aspect of this part of the play, I personally don't have too much of a problem with Leontes' behaviour - it's irrational, both the jealousy and the quick repentence. It might be a bout of temporary breakdown, self-induced by jealousy - the plea 'while the balance of the mind was disturbed' used to be a mitigation of a verdict of guilty in English Law and kept many a murderer from the gallows, albeit sending him/her to a sentence of imprisonment for life or 'detention in a place of safety at Her Majesty's pleasure'. (The phraseology may not be correct word for word, but that's the gist of it!) Its function is to provide the background to the second part of the play.

Is it worth bearing in mind that this is a late play, first performed in 1611 and drama was changing by this time? It was written eight years into James I's reign, plays performed at court were becoming masques with more dancing and music, and less verbally dramatic content, possibly because the Queen, Anne of Denmark, did not speak fluent English and preferred less verbal entertainments. The second part of the play has a masque-like quality and lends itself to all sorts of dancing and musical presentations.

re: the bear - I'm sure it was written to be a cameo part for one of the next-door neighbours! Some of the bears were quite tame and were themselves well-loved 'stars' at the time - I seem to remember reading, but I'm sorry I can't remember where, that the bears were popular and familiar figures in the area, few died in the bear-pit, it was the dogs that were mauled, and most lived to quite a peaceful old age. (Virgil - what's the Latin tag about 'other times, other ways'?)

Janine
08-15-2008, 03:21 PM
SPOILER ALERT!!!

[QUOTE]If Antigonous doesn't die, there can't be the neat resolution of pairing off Paulina in the last act....

Yes, true and that is part of the comedy, seeing how it is all resolved so neatly at the end.


I wrote a reply to Virgil's post some time ago and my computer played silly wotsits and deleted it for me when I tried to post it. I'll see if I can remember what I thought at the time....

I hate that when the computer does that stuff.


I think the problem we have with the first three acts of AWT is a real time problem - we are sitting reading the play and mulling over it: in a theatre we would be watching the action unfold before our eyes and would, I think, be more prepared to take it as given, letting the momentum of the performance carry us with it. We might think about it afterwards and wonder about the inconsistency and unlikelyhood of events but by that time we would have seen all the action and would know how the rest of the story resolves itself. These early scenes are a preparation of things to come, not the whole story - if the Leontes/Hermione story were the sole central action of the play, it would be a tragedy and would end in Leontes spending the rest of his days in mourning and this early part would have to be fleshed out more fully to justify the dramatic action. As it is, to go back to the idea of real time, the audience at the first production, with no idea of the outcome, would know this could not be the whole story (or they had paid for a very short play!) and would accept this is a sketchy outline of events as a preparation of something more to follow.

The statement I bolded up in your commentary I totally agree with. I have watched the play on DVD, but somehow I kept thinking that if I was sitting in the actual audience, I would find the play more believable and dynamic as a play. I would put it into that 'context' and take it as it comes and accept it. I know perfectly, just what you mean by your comment.


Given the shorthand aspect of this part of the play, I personally don't have too much of a problem with Leontes' behaviour - it's irrational, both the jealousy and the quick repentence. It might be a bout of temporary breakdown, self-induced by jealousy - the plea 'while the balance of the mind was disturbed' used to be a mitigation of a verdict of guilty in English Law and kept many a murderer from the gallows, albeit sending him/her to a sentence of imprisonment for life or 'detention in a place of safety at Her Majesty's pleasure'. (The phraseology may not be correct word for word, but that's the gist of it!) Its function is to provide the background to the second part of the play.

Good observations and commentary. That is true that he is irrational in each action - in jealousy and then his quick repentence, so that is he indeed sane at the point of the second. I don't think so. In fact in the play I saw he was still portrayed as a wretched soul and hardly a man - still very much demented in his manor. I think the play I saw showed him as more mentally derranged and this helped to put forth a more believable plot.


Is it worth bearing in mind that this is a late play, first performed in 1611 and drama was changing by this time? It was written eight years into James I's reign, plays performed at court were becoming masques with more dancing and music, and less verbally dramatic content, possibly because the Queen, Anne of Denmark, did not speak fluent English and preferred less verbal entertainments. The second part of the play has a masque-like quality and lends itself to all sorts of dancing and musical presentations.

So this was actually a late play of Shakespeare's? I was wondering where it fell in the body of his work. Thanks for that information and insight.
Yes, the second half is full of silliness, sometimes bawdry, even somewhat obscene and much playfulness, gaiety - so opposite the first half of the play.



re: the bear - I'm sure it was written to be a cameo part for one of the next-door neighbours! Some of the bears were quite tame and were themselves well-loved 'stars' at the time - I seem to remember reading, but I'm sorry I can't remember where, that the bears were popular and familiar figures in the area, few died in the bear-pit, it was the dogs that were mauled, and most lived to quite a peaceful old age. (Virgil - what's the Latin tag about 'other times, other ways'?)

That is quite interesting, too. Thanks for the insight. I wondered why he used a bear.