Printer Friendly

"Ne'er was dream so like a waking": the temporality of dreaming and the depiction of doubt in The Winter's Tale.

When leontes examines the mysterious statue of Hermione in the final scene of The Winter's Tale, he comments out loud on what he thinks he sees. His statements are notable not only for their attention to detail--"Would you not deem ... that those veins / Did verily bear blood?" (5.3.64-65)--but for their tendency to resist making certain judgments about the statue: "The figure of her eye has motion in't / As we are mocked with art" (5.3.67-68). (1) What would these comments have meant for the early modern spectator watching the play in what Tiffany Stern has described as the "visually charged" environment of the theater? (2) And what effect would Leontes's words have had on the visual experience of the spectator, who, standing or sitting as much as forty feet from the stage, most likely would not have been able to see the statue with as much detail as Leontes could? (3) In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare dramatizes for spectators the gradual adoption of a set of skeptical ethics, culminating in the final scene that demonstrates Leontes's refusal to make judgments based on his sense impressions and his resolution, instead, to rest in uncertainty.

Like many others, I have been deeply influenced by Stanley Cavell's brilliant readings of Shakespeare, not least his account of Leontes's turn to faith about Hermione by the end of The Winter's Tale. But in this essay, I want to question his claim that "If The Winter's Tale is understandable as a study of skepticism--that is, as a response to what skepticism is a response to--then its second half must be understandable as a study of its search for recovery," an assertion that characterizes not only the play's engagement with doubt, but much of the ongoing criticism focusing on faith and the final scene of The Winter's Tale. (4) Many critics have pointed to the final scene's seeming embrace of the Catholic reverence for the visual image: Gary Waller, for example, identifies Hermione with the Virgin Mary "renewed and transformed" in post-Reformation England, and Michael O'Connell argues that the scene appropriates faith in miracles for a secular setting, confirming fears of antitheatricalists and iconoclasts alike by "press[ing] an audience into idolatry." (5) Others have focused instead on the play's connection to a Reformed Pauline faith, embodied, of course, in the character of Paulina, who famously commands Leontes to "awake" his "faith" just before the statue of Hermione appears to come to life (5.3.95); Huston Diehl, for example, argues that Shakespeare deliberately appropriates the Pauline rhetoric often used by antitheatricalists to create a reformed aesthetic of the theater, maintaining that by making his Pauline figure a woman, the playwright both "arouses and counters the antitheatricalists' fears that theatre bewitches." (6) Richard McCoy draws on a Reformed understanding of the sacrament, in which change occurred "in the heart and soul of the recipient" rather than the bread and wine of the Eucharist, to argue that the play demands not religious, but poetic faith, which "requires the active and energetic participation of every onlooker, on stage and in the audience." (7) Still others have highlighted instead the seeming tension between the conflicting Protestant, Catholic, and pagan forces at the end of the play: Julia Reinhard Lupton argues that the final scene reanimates Catholic idolatry within the secular theater, its "language and visual staging at once markfing] and distanc[ing] the 'Christianity' of the scene as Catholic," while Walter S. H. Lim explains the play's use of countervailing religious doctrines as the staging of "early modern England's encounter with the boundaries of the (un)knowable." (8) Many of these readings link the awakening of faith in this final scene to the sense of wonder it creates for Perdita, whose profession to kneel before the statue appears dangerously close to Catholic devotional practice, and for Leontes; as Paulina comments, "I like your silence; it the more shows off / Your wonder" (5.3.21-22). (9) But to focus solely on the final scene of the play as it inspires leaps of faith, whether idolatrous or not, is to ignore, alongside his silence, Leontes's own registered skepticism about the statue, which acts as a kind of check on his sense of wonder. In his refusal to make any judgments about the statue's lifelikeness, he keeps himself at a willed distance from it even as he wishes to pronounce it alive. In a play that stages a mixture of Protestant aesthetic, Catholic idolatry and worship, and classical myth, the culminating scene finally pushes past the boundary of the knowable, staging, in the statue of Hermione, a visual spectacle that can be seen, though not understood. In his reaction to the statue and the questionably miraculous and ultimately unresolved return of his wife, Leontes embraces not the faith to which Paulina urges him, but skepticism itself as an ethical code; his ability to resist making certain judgments about the statue of Hermione offers an education for the play's spectators in the process of living with, and resting in, uncertainty.

On what, then, would the early modern spectators of this play have been able to draw in order to understand and perhaps even identify with Leontes's disciplined experience of skepticism? The watershed moment for the emergence of classical skepticism in the early modern period is often said to be 1562, the year Henri Estienne translated Sextus Empiricus's second-century AD work Outlines of Pyrrhonism from Greek into Latin, making the principles of Pyrrhonean skepticism widely available to Europe's intellectuals. (10) By means of several examples, Sextus evokes the central tenet in the skeptical discipline of the Greek philosopher Pyrrho (c. 360-270 BC): contradictory sense impressions must lead one to uncertainty about the actual nature of anything in the external world. Sextus highlights, too, that Pyrrhonism resists the dogmatic assertion of Academic skepticism that nothing at all can be known and instead strives for the tranquility, or ataraxia, that comes as a result of resting in one's own uncertainty. (11) While Pyrrhonism as Sextus described it and as it was reconsidered and reimagined in the early modern era is crucial to The Winter's Tale, I wish in this essay to consider alongside the skepticism of the intellectual elite the less erudite uncertainties that early modern English theatergoers would have brought with them into the playhouse, and in return, how Shakespeare engages, displays, and questions those associations in this play. Early modern drama actively engaged spectators' beliefs about the uncertainties of vision by shaping their experiences of sight. Since, as Erika T. Lin argues, "[Drama] both represents material reality and constructs the interpretive principles through which that reality is to be understood," early modern drama makes the conditions for a skeptical viewing experience possible by drawing on and reinterpreting the doubts and anxieties about vision familiar to its spectators. (12) Rather than the recovery from the doubt Leontes feels about Hermione, which all too quickly turns into his certainty that she has been unfaithful, I will argue that the point of entry into uncertainty as a skeptical problem in The Winter's Tale is Antigonus's dream in 3.3. As Stuart Clark points out, dreams were thought of as "primarily visual in character" from the classical era onward; in the early modern era, especially in the writing of Michel de Montaigne and Rene Descartes, dreams became an epistemological problem because they were understood as a "visual paradox--the paradox of not being able to tell the difference between true and false visual experiences." (13) But, we might ask, were dreams understood and experienced as visual problems, or even paradoxes, by early modern theatergoers, and if so, how? As Carole Levin and others have demonstrated, the explanations for the causes of dreams were manifold and competing in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. (14) By dramatizing Antigonus's uncertainty about his dream, Shakespeare stages cultural doubts about the origin and meanings of dreams in early modern England.

At the time Simon Forman described seeing The Winter's Tale performed at the Globe Theater, in May of 1611, uncertainty about the origin and meanings of dreams--caused by the multiple and competing explanations for them--swirled through early modern England. The belief that dreams could be divine in origin had certainly not yet disappeared from post-Reformation England; as Keith Thomas notes, "vivid and repetitive dreams" were thought to be supernatural in origin, as well as to hold prognosticatory power. (15) As such, guides to dream interpretation were extremely popular throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: a Latin edition of Artemidorus' third-century CE work, Oneirocritica, was available in England by 1546; it was translated into English in 1606 and went through twenty-four editions by 1740. Thomas Hill's The Moste Pleasaunte Arte of the Interpretacion of Dreames, based on Oneirocritica, was published possibly in 1558, though the earliest extant edition was published in 1576; it went through seven editions in 50 years. (16) In the work's dedication, Hill foregrounds the importance of distinguishing between "vain" and "true" dreams: while true dreams forecast events to come, vain dreams simply reflect the dreamer's state during the previous day. (17) And English physicians had inherited a history from Aristotle onward of providing explanations for the natural causes of dreams, though in 1562, physician William Bullein pointed to a variety of causes for dreams in his explanation of how humoral compositions could affect their content:
   Now whether it be dreame, illusion, vision. &c. as some do say, or
   the effects, or works, of the fower complexions, as the cholerike
   man, to dreame of Fyre, fighting &c. The flegmatike, to dreame of
   water. &c. And so in the other two complexions, or as Artemidorus
   in hys booke of dreames sayeth, they do presage, diuine, or shew
   before, what thynges do follow, or come after, good or bad. (18)

An ambivalence about the cause of dreams overlays Bullein's apparent focus on the humours, typifying sixteenth-century England's cultural skepticism regarding dreams and their origins.

Thomas Nashe makes even more strongly skeptical statements about dreams in Terrors of the Night, or a Discourse of Apparitions, published in 1594. (19) He initially appears to take an Aristotelian position on dreaming, arguing that dreams are merely the product of thoughts remaining from the previous day, rather than apparitions of divine or demonic origin: "A dreame is nothing els but a bubling scum or froath of the fancie, which the day hath left vndigested; or an after feast made of the fragments of idle imaginations." (20) But Nashe closes his pamphlet on dreaming with an anecdote about a man who reported having "miraculous waking visions" when he lay down for the night; rather than dismissing the visions as dreams, Nashe qualifies the claims he makes earlier in his work, admitting, "whether of true melancholy or true apparition, I will not take vpon me to determine." (21) With this reservation, Nashe adopts a Pyrrhonian dispositional conclusion, ultimately refusing to offer his judgment about what the experience actually was. (22)

Though Hill, Bullein, and Nashe approach the problem of properly crediting dreams from different perspectives, all of these writers exhibit a studied ambivalence about whether dreams are produced simply by natural causes and therefore can tell the dreamer nothing meaningful, or whether they might be able to forecast future events. Clark identifies these kinds of concerns about dreams as part of an Artemidorian, or moral, tradition, while he denominates the other form of dream commentary, typified in the writing of Descartes and Montaigne (which I will examine below), as epistemological. (23) The epistemological tradition was skeptical; it was concerned with whether it was possible to distinguish dreaming from waking with certainty. Clark contends that though the Artemidorian tradition of dream commentary was much more popular than the epistemological one, "the two traditions were never entirely separate"; he further argues that in the intellectual debates of the early modern era, one finds "the possibility of their convergence." (24) While I agree wholeheartedly with Clark that the moral and epistemological concerns of early modern dream commentary converged in intellectual debates of the period, I want to stress their coexistence in popular texts about dreaming, as well. While most of these texts do not explicitly point to the problem of distinguishing dreaming from waking (though Nashe's Terrors is an important exception), they do seek to assign with certainty the origin of one's dreams from a range of several competing possibilities. The process, as Richard Saunders admitted in 1653, was often fraught, as "many dreams are ambiguous, double sensed, incertain, and doubtful." (25) The desire to determine the origins of one's dreams thus shares the epistemological concerns of distinguishing dreaming from waking: is it possible to discern the source of a dream--whether divine or natural, true or false--and if so, how does one do it? These are epistemological questions, and in order to answer them, as Levin explains, early modern writers on dreams "tried to develop criteria by which someone could tell if the dream came from the devil, from God and the angels, or simply from severe indigestion." (26) In other words, the popular uncertainties of the Artemidorian tradition of dream commentary were not distinct from the intellectual skepticisms of Montaigne or Descartes; they occupied the same epistemological register.

In the years before Descartes conducted the famous thought experiment recorded in his First Meditation, a skeptical exercise that took as one of its starting points his inability to distinguish between his dreaming and waking states, it was Montaigne who treated dreaming most seriously as a skeptical problem. (27) Though Montaigne's writing on dreams is less likely to have been part of the early seventeenth-century theatergoer's constellation of associations with dreams than the medical, divine, and prognosticatory explanations for them, even after the publication of John Florio's English translation of the Essayes in 1603, the French philosopher's writing did directly influence Shakespeare. It has been well established that the playwright was a reader of Montaigne; his nearly direct borrowings from Florio's translation in The Tempest demonstrate this relationship most clearly. Shakespeare does not appear to borrow directly from Montaigne's writing on dreams, yet his dramatization of an ambiguous dream vision in The Winter's Tale is given special resonance when placed next to Montaigne's writing because both authors treat carefully the specific complexity of incorporating one's dreams into waking life while at once attempting to maintain a clear distinction between the two states. (28) Before turning to Shakespeare's dramatization of dreaming in The Winter's Tale, I will first consider how, for Montaigne, dreams blur the border that divides them from waking life.

As he does elsewhere in his work, Montaigne treats the muddled difference between dreaming and waking explicitly in "Of the Lame or Cripple" (an essay which considers more generally the influence of the mind on unreliable sense impressions), where he relates a story about a man who dreamed he was a packhorse, and as a result, became one. (29) The story causes Montaigne to allow for the possibility that dreams can have material consequences for the dreamer, so that "dreames may sometimes be thus incorporated into effects." (30) Even so, Montaigne resists simply equating the material effect of dreams--in other words, their continuation into waking life--with the willed actions of waking reality: "I cannot possibly believe," he maintains, "that our wil should [during dreams made real] therefore be bound to the lawes and justice." (31) His relation of this story is a concise representation of his interest in dreams throughout the Essayes: over and over again, he focuses on dreams as they appear in one's waking life; they are relics of past experience, distinctive in kind from waking life, yet curiously mingled with it.

Though Montaigne refuses to simply equate dreaming with waking, he does take a position more skeptical than that held by conventional early modern natural philosophy when he contends that the commixture of dreams with waking life blurs the distinction between the two states. (32) In "An Apologie of Raymond Sebond," Montaigne claims, "When we dreame, our soule liveth, worketh and exerciseth all hir faculties even, and as much, as when it waketh; and if more softly, and obscurely; yet verely not so, as that it may admitte so great a difference, as there is betweene a darke night and a cleare day: Yea as betweene a night and a shadow." (33) In this formulation, the soul's operation while one is dreaming is not clearly distinguishable from its operation while one is awake. The result, however, is not that dreaming approximates waking life, but instead, that waking life starts to seem more like dreaming: the clearness of waking life becomes obscured by shadow. Here, the dream invades waking life as it does in "Of the Lame or Cripple"; it muddles the distinction between waking life and dreaming by making the activity of the soul while one is awake resemble that of a dream. But even though dreaming may parallel waking experience as it happens, the process of recollecting that experience after one is awake is extremely fraught, as Montaigne describes in "Vpon Some Verses of Virgill": "The next morning, I can well call to minde what colour they [the dreams] were of, whether blyth, sad, or strange; but what in substance, the more I labour to finde out, the more I ouerwhelme them in obliuion." (34) Although Montaigne attempts to make his dreams a part of waking life through recollection, he cannot do so clearly and completely; he recollects the atmosphere of his dreams rather than their content. Enough of his dreams remain in his memory that he continues to try to recall them, but to no avail. As they are faintly remembered in waking life, dreams continue to exist with a paradoxically ambiguous autonomy even while they are reconciled with waking experience.

Shakespeare's depiction of dreaming in The Winter's Tale is built upon the complex circulation of information, associations, and uncertainty about dreams--as well as the ambiguity of the passage from dreaming to waking, a familiar experience whether or not one had read Montaigne--that would have followed early modern spectators into the playhouse. (35) Shakespeare devotes the most extended attention to dreaming in the play in 3.3, in which Antigonus describes a dream vision: the ghost of Hermione appeared to him, he reports, and commanded him to leave the infant Perdita in Bohemia. Antigonus's recounted dream resembles the many prognosticatory dreams that, as Marjorie Garber notes, forecast future events in Shakespeare's early works. (36) At the same time, however, the dream appears to be simply a repetition of Leontes's earlier command that Perdita be abandoned in "some remote and desert place" (2.2.174), and in this sense, coheres with the natural philosophical theory that dreams were composed out of the material of the previous day. Is the dream prognosticatory, then, or merely repetitive? From the very beginning of Antigonus's report there is tension about what function his dream vision fulfills, which, by the end of it, is only intensified. For though Antigonus's report feels repetitive, it does reveal one new piece of information, in addition to giving Perdita her name: by bringing Leontes's already-stated command into the present moment of the play, Antigonus's dream specifies its location--Bohemia. The play's shift to the pastoral setting of Bohemia thus occurs within this ambivalent middle ground of dreaming, in which the origins of waking action become curiously unclear: had Antigonus already planned to leave Perdita in Bohemia, or did he make the trip in order to obey his dream vision? Would the carrying out of such orders even be possible, given that Antigonus says his dream occurred only the night before? How long is the journey from Sicilia to Bohemia's nonexistent shores? As it does with many others, The Winter's Tale leaves these questions resolutely unanswered, rendering what initially appears to be either a prognosticatory dream vision or the mere repetition of past events something else entirely unclear: what Antigonus's experience was, though he remembers it so vividly, is uncertain.

Antigonus's dream description illuminates neither past nor future events of the play, then, but his present uncertainty about his sleeping or waking state when he saw the figure of Hermione. (37) At stake at this moment of the play is Antigonus's doubt about the nature of what he has seen, not the content of the command uttered by (the real or false) queen. By overlaying Antigonus's uncertainty about his waking state onto the tests of determining Perdita's origin, as well as whether or not to save her (both of which Antigonus conspicuously fails), Shakespeare translates the morally uncertain moment into one of radical epistemological doubt. (38) In describing his dream, Antigonus quickly qualifies his assertion that he does not believe in ghosts by acknowledging that what he saw was nearly undeniably real: "ne'er was dream / So like a waking" (3.3.17-18). Here, Antigonus registers his two opposing thoughts about his experience: either it was real, and the product of waking life, or false, and the product of a dream. As his speech goes on, he continues to entertain both possibilities.

After describing that he saw a ghost-like Hermione enter his cabin, Antigonus emphasizes that the experience not only seemed real, but was: "I did in time collect myself, and thought / This was so and no slumber" (3.3.37-38). But as he goes on, Antigonus complicates this assertion: "Dreams are toys, / Yet for this once, yea superstitiously, / I will be squared by this" (3.3.38-40). Antigonus's statement, "dreams are toys," coheres with his earlier assessments about what he thinks he saw, as well as his dismissal of the power and reality of dream visions. But the use of the pronoun "this" twice in lines 37-40, first in reference to what he saw as part of a waking vision, or "no slumber," and then as part of his conciliation that he will believe in dreams this once, captures Antigonus's uncertainty about the nature of his experience: was the "this" a dream or (more unlikely) a waking vision? The ambiguity of the pronoun enacts Antigonus's epistemological confusion by grammatically muddling the distinction between dreaming and waking, casting the two states in the same light even as Antigonus tries to maintain their separation. Though it lacks the circumstantial consideration of Sextus Empiricus or the systematic inquiry of Descartes, Antigonus's delay in coming to the reluctant conclusion that Hermione's appearance was a true experience to be obeyed is a skeptical performance of its own, a willed consideration of opposed possibilities in relation to each other that exposes the difficulty of discerning the difference between dreaming and waking.

But Antigonus's uncertainty does not emerge immediately; his doubt becomes clear to him only after he pauses to analyze what he has seen. He indicates that his first, immediate reaction to what he saw was fear, and that it took some time for him to be able to question the validity of his dream: "Affrighted much, / I did in time collect myself" (3.3.36-37). His seemingly straightforward explanation deserves further examination. What does it mean to "collect oneself" after a dream, and what are the constituent parts collected? To gather together the pieces of one's own experience in this context suggests a process of recollection similar to Montaigne's attempt to bring his dreams into his waking life. The "vaine image[s]" Montaigne recalls from his dreams, I want to argue, express the same kind of doubt Antigonus feels regarding his own dream; he knows he has seen something, but he cannot collect, with his waking mind, enough information about the nature of what he has seen to rid himself completely of his uncertainty about whether he was awake or asleep when he saw Hermione. Is it possible, then, that what Antigonus calls the collection of the self is really a gradual collection of doubt, the gathering of uncertainty into the waking mind?

It is a strange notion, but one that I think is further supported by Montaigne's description of a self that is collected, but not single or coherent: "My selfe, who professe nothing else, finde therein so bottomlesse a depth, and infinit a varietie, that my apprentisage hath no other fruit, than to make me perceive how much more there remaineth for me to learne." (39) This formulation of the self as variously composite is striking when placed next to Antigonus's description of a self composed through collection. This collection process, the composition of the self to which Antigonus alludes, is very much analogous to the process of waking up: it is the storage of the pieces of a dream one can still recall in the memory--the collection of those pieces to become a part of one's waking life--while it is, at the same time, the recognition that a complete collection of the dream into one's waking life is not possible. In this sense, the self is composed both by parts of one's waking life and dreaming life, and the necessarily incomplete collection that results cannot but engender doubt about the nature of one's own existence.

What are the consequences of this kind of unsettling waking experience, one that is figured as a collection of doubt, rather than certainty? The main plot of The Winter's Tale, of course, is overtly concerned with doubt, specifically, as Cavell has famously put it, Cartesian skepticism about one's own existence transformed into moral doubt about others: "The matter for drama ... is to investigate the finding of a wife not in empirical fact lost, but, let me say, transcendentally lost, lost just because one is blind to her--as it were conceptually unprepared for her--because one is blind to himself, lost to himself." (40) In this case, we might ask: how does Leontes's doubt about Hermione fit into his waking life? Is there a clear distinction between Leontes's waking and dreaming states, or is the line between them blurred? Leontes does not explicitly describe his dreams anywhere in the play, as Antigonus does; however, during her trial, Hermione describes her own waking existence as Leontes's dream:

      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 dreamed it.


Hermione's allusion to archery--"level" refers to the target at which the archer aims--calls to mind Leontes's lines in 2.3, when he admits he cannot punish Polixenes: "The harlot king / Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank / And level of my brain; plot-proof" (2.3.4-6). But Hermione, Leontes asserts, "I can hook to me" (2.3.6), and his sneering retort in 3.2 is a demonstration of his arrow aimed and shot at his wife. Standing in the level of Leontes's dreams, as Hermione acknowledges, makes her a spectacle for Leontes to observe and judge, her language in the midst of her powerful defense anticipating her appearance as a statue in the final scene of the play. Leontes's rhetorical emphasis on dreaming at this moment of the play becomes a glimpse into his own inward state; as Jennifer Lewin argues, "he [Leontes] suggests that he cannot imagine her [Hermione's] actions or Hermione herself as literally existing anywhere else but inside his own delirious mind. Her existence turns him inward because she frighteningly embodies what is uncontrollable and unknowable about other people; that is all he can know about her." (41)

Leontes insists over and over again in these early scenes on the veracity of his senses, as if to imply that his certainty about Hermione's infidelity is firmly part of waking reality and not the product of a dream. His derisive denial of any existence for Hermione beyond the level of his brain, however, is a crucial lynchpin in his transition from moral doubt about her to certainty that she has been unfaithful. What is it about Hermione's actions as his dreams that affords Leontes this confidence? In "Dreaming, Motion, and Meaning: Oneiric Transport in Seventeenth-century Europe," Mary Baine Campbell describes the kind of knowledge dreams, and especially prophetic dreams, were thought to offer. She centers her investigation on descriptions of dreams given by Jerome Cardano, the Italian mathematician and astrologer, and Descartes, whose series of prophetic dreams in 1619 are now described as the catalyst that set him down the road to developing his new science. According to Campbell, Cardano's dreams "invoke a form of the interpretive sublime," (42) not unlike Descartes's formulation of "clear and distinct perception" in his Third Meditation. (43) In her estimation, these dreams created the tantalizing possibility of direct and immediate knowledge that did not require the passage of time to become apparent and certain: "It is an epistemological desire [...] to know instantly and without mediation, the desire of the mind to move at the speed of light." (44) For Leontes, the dream seems to offer the possibility of knowledge that does not require time to pass and unfold, to make clear gradually the information necessary to make sound judgments, or even to rest in the recognition of one's own uncertainty. (45) Dreams allow one instantaneous knowledge, and more importantly, they allow the dreamer complete certainty; as Lewin argues, Leontes's "former self becomes the dreaming self, the self dreaming of omniscience because it deeply fears its own shortcomings." (46) While Antigonus' recognition of doubt is concomitant with the process of waking, in describing Hermione's existence as his dream, Leontes remains firmly within a world where the possibility of unmediated, instantaneous knowledge still seems attainable. His error in judgment about Hermione's infidelity, then, happens in a kind of dream state; Leontes does not allow enough time to pass for him to recognize the essential uncertainty surrounding the question he asks about his wife.

The experience of time and the doubt that results is, from the play's opening scenes, folded into the very mechanisms of theatrical representation in The Winter's Tale. Though the first scene of the play refers to Polixenes's stay in Sicilia in terms that evoke a timeless, continuous present--"they have seemed to be together, though absent; shook hands as over a vast; and embraced as it were from the ends of opposed winds" (1.1.28-31)--Polixenes's statement at the opening of the second scene that "Nine changes of the watery star hath been / The shepherd's note since we have left our throne" (1.2.1-2) abruptly reveals that nine months have passed between his arrival in Sicilia and the present moment of the play. In a play where much fuss will later be made over a gap in time, one feels as if this first gap has been deliberately passed over without mention. The visual spectacle of the scene, however, invites spectators to fill it in. For Hermione is also onstage in 1.2, conspicuously nine months pregnant; the effect of Polixenes's words at this moment is to raise, in the minds of the audience watching and listening to the play, the uncomfortable thought that perhaps Hermione is pregnant by Polixenes, that she has been unfaithful to her husband. And this, of course, is exactly the same thought that Leontes has about her, which he makes clear as he comments on her interactions with Polixenes to Camillo:
      Is whispering nothing?
   Is leaning cheek to cheek? Is meeting noses?
   Kissing with inside lip? Stopping the career
   Of laughter with a sigh?--A note infallible
   Of breaking honesty.


The emphasis on Hermione's advanced pregnancy, combined with Leontes's own registered judgment that her interactions with Polixenes are sinister rather than innocent, demonstrates for audience members what Hermione looks like to Leontes: an unfaithful wife, about to give birth to a bastard. The layering of Leontes's perspective over the one afforded the spectators from their positions in the theater invites them, with Leontes's guidance, to view Hermione as a spectacle, though in this moment, what he purports to see goes beyond the external and visual to make a judgment about her inward state. His perspective, in other words, finds in the visual spectacle of Hermione the ocular proof of her infidelity. (47)

The perspective from which Leontes and the play's spectators view Hermione does not remain shared for long, however; spectators quickly become obliged to rethink and reject Leontes's visual interpretation of Hermione's behavior and pregnant body. The spectators of the play are left, then, with two distinct perceptions of--and judgments about--Hermione that cannot be reconciled with each other. In this visual and interpretive irreconcilability, Shakespeare dramatizes how the same thing can look different to two different sets of eyes; the moment stages, in other words, skeptical spectatorship. The author of a short essay called The Sceptick, first published in 1651 though likely circulated at the close of the sixteenth century, makes the case for exactly this kind of uncertain seeing; using a skeptical topos drawn from Sextus' Outlines, he argues that objective knowledge cannot be guaranteed by sight because the eyes, as instruments of vision, vary from viewer to viewer: "As these instruments [of sense] are affected as disposed, so doth the imagination conceit that which by them is connexed unto it. That very object which seemeth unto us white, unto them which have the jaundice seemeth pale, and red unto those whose eyes are bloodshot." (48) Different eyes necessarily offer different sense impressions to the imagination. The opening of the second scene of The Winter's Tale is a dramatization of exactly this problem; for the skeptical spectators of this play, as they first doubt Hermione's faithfulness then come to believe it, the force of this argument is that the eyes are not guarantors of certain knowledge. Leontes's error, then, is his belief that what he imagines to be true about Hermione is objective, certain, and not dependent on subjective and variable sight.

What happens to Leontes, then, after he allows himself to consider the possibility that his wife has been unfaithful to him? Shakespeare dramatizes the speed at which Leontes's mind moves after his doubt about Hermione is realized in lines that are often cited as some of the most notoriously difficult to parse in his work. After looking at his son, he addresses the possibility that his doubt may be the product of his own mind:
      May't be
   Affection?--Thy intention stabs the centre,
   Thou dost make possible things not so held,
   Communicat'st with dreams--how can this be?--
   With what's unreal thou coactive art,
   And fellow'st nothing. Then 'tis very credent
   Thou mayst co-join with something, and thou dost,
   And that beyond commission, and I find it,
   And that to the infection of my brains
   And hard'ning of my brows.

   (1.2.137-46, emphasis mine)

Leontes suggests that though jealousy may join with something unreal, and thereby make it believable, it can also hook itself to something real (as Leontes later vows to do to Hermione), confirming the truth of the jealous experience. The veiled meaning and difficult syntax of these lines, combined with the abruptly jarring shift to the direct address to Affection, dramatize a condition of the mind that Montaigne argues is common to everyone: "Men mis-acknowledge the naturall infirmitie of their minde. She doth but quest and firret, and vncessantly goeth turning, winding, building and entangling her selfe in hir owne worke; as doe our silke-wormes, and therein stiffleth hirselfe." (49) In Montaigne's argument, the incessant, and inherent, turning of the mind prevents one from coming to certainty. Leontes's doubt is dramatically registered in this scene, but he does not recognize it as a natural infirmity of his mind, or, in other words, a necessary part of his waking life. While Antigonus recognizes the necessity of his doubt in the time that passes as he wakes up, Leontes asserts his immediate certainty lies in his mind's communication with dreams. Leontes's doubt and jealousy are not simply represented as an increase in the speed of the working of his mind, then, but as an abrupt leap forward into a dream. Campbell makes this point clear: "The dream is seen as having leapt years of earthly time and experience, fast-forwarding to a time the still-inexperienced reason may know but not yet understand." (50) Leontes's leap forward in time, an attempt to know with certainty a fact about Hermione that he cannot, is a break with his waking existence and an entry into a dream. And because her life remains at the level of his dreams during and after her trial, even after the presentation of the oracle that pronounces her innocent, he does not go through a process of awakening to recognize the irresolvable uncertainty surrounding the question he asks. For Leontes, the dream's promise of immediate access to knowledge obfuscates the doubt that, as it moves through time, waking life necessarily creates.

The Winter's Tale, of course, covers the passage of an extraordinarily large amount of time, though its spectators are only allowed to glimpse the beginning and end of the sixteen years the plot encompasses. As Cavell points out, the personified figure of Time who emerges in the play's fourth act "may present itself as a good-humored old man, but what he speaks about in his appearance as Chorus in this play is his lapse, his being spent, as if behind our backs." (51) How, then, might Time's own assertions cohere with the play's earlier dramatizations of the desire for instantaneous certainty in dreams and the counteracting collection of doubt through waking life? Time asserts that a wide gap of time in the play will be passed over, and also that the errors made in the first half of the play will be unfolded--in other words, revealed or made clear, or in a moral sense, made right--in the second half. But the unfolding of error, along with the promise of wrongs made right, carries with it a visual connotation of extension and increase, one that implies not a solution to error, but instead, its very opposite: the display of error increased in its enormity and left unresolved. As I shall argue, the end of The Winter's Tale confronts the sixteen years folded up by Time's gap, unfolding the very errors of the first half of the play by transforming them into the visual spectacle of the statue of Hermione, which Leontes admits, in his reluctance to claim that it is alive, is unknowable. Rather than providing, finally, a sense of certainty, the last scene of the play instead exposes not just the failure of the dream to provide immediate knowledge, but the inevitability of doubt in the waking passage of time. (52)

In act 5 of the play, the status of Hermione's existence, much like that of her fidelity as it is located in her visible pregnancy in 1.2, is uncertain, though on this occasion the question seems like it should not inspire any doubt at all: has she remained in hiding during her sixteen-year absence from the world of the play, or has she died and come back to life? As Leonard Barkan argues, the question seems like one that could have been easily resolved, and the answer to why Shakespeare instead "run[s] such risks with dramatic verisimilitude" lies in "the significance of a statue that comes to life." (53) For my purposes, however, the importance of Shakespeare's risk lies in exactly its ability to make possible an impossibility, and as a result, to call into question the most basic assumptions about one's ability to be certain about anything, both on the part of the characters in the play, as well as the spectators watching it. As I mentioned at the opening of this essay, Leontes comments on his perception of the statue of Hermione with astonishing clarity--he famously remarks that "Hermione was not so much wrinkled, nothing / So aged as this seems" (5.3.28-29) and asks "Would you not deem it breathed, and that those veins / Did verily bear blood?" (5.3.64-65)--but more noteworthy is his resistance to making any final judgment about whether the statue is alive or not. He frames all of his comments about the statue as questions or statements of seeming, drawing attention to the liveliness of the statue while at once retreating from such a possibility. But these comments do more than simply register Leontes's own skepticism; they direct and shape the viewing experience of spectators as they look at the statue, as well. Just as 1.2 put Hermione on display as she appeared to Leontes, the final scene of the play once again allows spectators to see the statue as he does, though at this moment, his descriptive language encourages spectators to view the seeming liveliness of the statue with a concurrent and unrelenting awareness of the deceptive quality of appearances. Leontes's vision registers the spectacular ambiguity of the statue--which seems at once actually alive and merely art's mocking version of liveliness--and allows spectators themselves to look, to borrow language from another one of Shakespeare's plays, "with parted eye, when everything seems double" (4.1.188-89). (54) This mode of seeing, "with parted eye," is strikingly similar to sight as it is described in The Sceptick: from one perspective, the statue looks alive; from another, it does not. It is also exactly the kind of seeing Leontes himself denigrated as he observed Hermione in 1.2, calling Camillo a "hovering temporizer" as a response to Camillo's unwillingness to confirm Hermione's infidelity and instead "with thine eyes at once see good and evil, / Inclining them to both" (1.2.300-303). The doubled seeing that produces uncertainty occurs, as Leontes indicates in his insult, through time. The dramatization of Leontes's uncertainty about the nature of the statue, his own drawn-out hovering over whether or not it is alive, is thus a final instruction in the play's education in the ethics of skeptical vision: the intricacy of his description, combined with his unwillingness to make any perceptual judgments about the statue, enacts the experience of uncertainty for spectators through Leontes's eyes. To see doubly, as the result of doubt accumulated over time, is to see skeptically.

What, then, does Leontes's uncertain perspective, shared by the spectators of the play through his commentary on what he sees, mean for the onstage spectacle of the statue of Hermione? Barkan points to Hermione's necessary fragmentation in his argument about the rediscovery of and fascination with antique sculpture in the Renaissance. He defines the fragment as that which "has been robbed of its completeness by time"; even complete works, he argues, "become fragments if they brandish an identity without fully revealing it." (55) Even after she is re-presented to the world of the play as alive after sixteen years of absence, the nature of Hermione's absence and return is not fully revealed. The only indication Hermione gives of where she has been for the past sixteen years is to tell Perdita that she has "preserved" herself, but it is unclear what that word means in this context (5.3.127); Hermione certainly does not clearly answer the question of whether or not she has died or remained alive while absent from the world of the play. (56) Her reticence contributes to an identity that is not, and cannot be, known completely, although it has been presented--even brandished--on the stage in the form of a statue. In this sense, the last scene of the play is the visual presentation, and analysis, of the fragmentation of one's existence by time as a necessary condition of living in and through it. Hermione's continuity has been fractured as a result of living in time, and when she returns to the world of the play, she must come back as a fragment--essentially unknowable, even as she is displayed onstage as a spectacle.

The final scene of the play dramatizes Leontes's recognition of his own uncertainty about Hermione in the form of his self-conscious statements of doubt regarding the nature of the statue. His awakening, then, coincides with Hermione's; the process by which Antigonus describes collecting himself in time in act 3 is exactly what Leontes does regarding Hermione in this scene, and this is exactly what he could not do sixteen years earlier. (57) And it is no accident that Hermione's "awakening" is a spectacular occurrence that, in itself, reveals nothing about the nature of her disappearance: the awakening registers this gap in knowledge and makes no effort to close it. Though Leontes sees it happen, it remains unclear what the awakening means. This, of course, is not the only perspective given to the presentation and awakening of Hermione's statue: for Paulina, the occasion is an opportunity to "awake [one's] faith" (5.3.95). (58) But as Kathryn Lynch argues, Shakespeare's radical skepticism finds "finally an opening for the possibility of belief, and belief that finds its grounds within, rather than outside, itself." (59) This possibility of belief within the confines of skepticism, as dramatically represented in The Winter's Tale, is the recognition and collection of doubt throughout one's waking existence. So while Paulina's words are an ethical prescription, they are not a description of what is visually presented onstage in the figure of Hermione. Her very presence announces an existence that cannot be fully known by others, an uncertainty that is a necessary consequence of an existence lived through time. Indeed, even the focus on Hermione's wrinkles seems to highlight this fact; when Leontes observes that "Hermione was not so much wrinkled, nothing / So aged as this seems" (5.3.28-29), he draws attention not only to the amount of time that has passed in the world of the play, but to the folding-in and recession of Hermione's own outward and visually discernable appearance. (60) Her wrinkles are the visual version of the sixteen-year gap in the play, but they are also a reminder that, though the dream holds the desirable promise of transcendent, immediate knowledge, in its movement through time, waking life is pervaded by essential and irreparable uncertainty.


(1.) Citations from William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, ed. John Pitcher (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2010).

(2.) Tiffany Stern, "'This Wide and Universal Theatre': The Theatre as Prop in Shakespeare's Metadrama," in Shakespeare's Theatres and the Effects of Performance, ed. Farrah Karim-Cooper and Tiffany Stern (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2013), 13.

(3.) For more on the dimensions of early modern theaters, see Mariko Ichikawa, The Shakespearean Stage Space (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 1-17.

(4.) Stanley Cavell, Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 198. Both David Hillman and Anita Gilman Sherman include Cavell's reading of The Winter's Tale, for example, in their recent studies of the play's encounters with skepticism. Hillman's work on embodiment relies heavily on Cavell's understanding of the play's ending as a return from skepticism to the social world; Hillman argues that The Winter's Tale "portrays the imagined recovery of a world in which language is accepted as emerging from the interior of the body and in which mutual corporeal inhabitation is a newfound possibility." See Hillman, Shakespeare's Entrails: Belief, Scepticism and the Interior of the Body (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 52. Sherman, by contrast, argues that Shakespeare dramatizes in Paulina the vindictiveness of memory, which is displaced only by the "therapeutic forgetting" of skeptical wonder--what Sherman calls the "intimations of empiricism." Sher man, Skepticism and Memory in Shakespeare and Donne (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 65, 85. And though he does not invoke Cavell explicitly, James A. Knapp shares his understanding of the ending of The Winter's Tale as a rejection of skeptical solitude: Knapp argues that the final scene of The Winter's Tale stages interpretive engagement as the ethical response to the demand from another person, maintaining that though Leontes's early judgment about Hermione is wrong, "the fact that he makes a choice constitutes the ethical nature of his character contra indeterminacy, against endless deferral." While I agree that the final scene of the play encourages interpretive judgment on the part of both Leontes and the play's spectators, I argue that Leontes's choice ultimately to resist any judgment about the statue is itself an ethics, not of stasis or endless deferral, but of the acceptance of living with uncertainty. See Knapp, "Visual and Ethical Truth in The Winter's Tale," Shakespeare Quarterly 55, no. 3 (2004): 253.

(5.) Gary Waller, The Virgin Mary in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Literature and Popular Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 171; Michael O'Connell, The Idolatrous Eye: Iconoclasm and Theater in EarlyModern England (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 141. See also David N. Beauregard, who argues that Shakespeare "reflects a Catholic theological perspective" in the structure of The Winter's Tale, which is organized around the "Roman Catholic sacrament of penance, following the movements of contrition, confession, and satisfaction." Beauregard, Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2008), 109.

(6.) Huston Diehl, "'Does not the stone rebuke me?': The Pauline Rebuke and Paulina's Lawful Magic in The Winter's Tale," Shakespeare and the Cultures of Performance, ed. Paul Yachnin and Patricia Badir (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008), 76. See also Roy Battenhouse, who characterizes Paulina's embodiment of Paul as gradual over the course of the play, arguing that "once Paulina's sense of mission shifts from denunciation to an aiding of Leontes ... she manifests arts characteristic of a mature pastor." Battenhouse, "Theme and Structure in The Winter's Tale," Shakespeare Survey 33 (1981): 137. By contrast, James Kuzner considers Montaignian skepticism in his study of The Winter's Tale to argue that the version of Pauline faith that emerges in the play is "thoroughly nonconfessional," consisting instead in the acceptance of one's own "epistemological weakness." Kuzner's reading of the final scene focuses on Leontes's wonder regarding the statue of Hermione, a state of enrapture to which he is passively transported, and an event "that he cannot evaluate properly but to which he means to remain faithful." While I agree that Leontes recognizes he cannot make a judgment about the statue and avoids doing so, I will stress that that recognition, as an ethics, continues for Leontes past the point of wonder, registering instead as the skeptical ability both to collect one's doubts and live with them. See Kuzner, "The Winter's Tale: Faith in Law and the Law of Faith," Exemplaria 24, no. 3 (2012): 266, 274, 273.

(7.) Richard McCoy, "Awakening Faith in The Winter's Tale," in Shakespeare and Early Modern Religion, ed. David Loewenstein and Michael Witmore (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 221, 227.

(8.) Lupton, Afterlives of the Saints: Hagiography, Typology, and Renaissance Literature (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 207; Walter S. H. Lim, "Knowledge and Belief in The Winter's Tale," Studies in English Literature 41, no. 2 (2001): 327. While this essay does not explicitly focus on doubt in the early modern era brought on by confessional clashes, religious uncertainty was a crucial fea ture of the period's skepticism in both intellectual and popular cultures; indeed, Richard Popkin characterizes the Protestant Reformation as a skeptical crisis in response to the breakdown of "a criterion for true and certain religious knowledge." Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 3.

(9.) See, for example, Waller, The Virgin Mary, 176; Kuzner, "Faith in Law and the Law of Faith," 272; and Sherman, Skepticism and Memory in Shakespeare and Donne, 85. T.G. Bishop treats the subject of wonder in The Winter's Tale at length in Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

(10.) For more on the recovery and transmission of Pyrrhonism in Renaissance Europe, see Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle, 17-43; Charles Schmitt, Cicero Scepticus: The Influence of the Academica in the Renaissance (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1972), 18-77; and Lucio Floridi, "The Diffusion of Sextus Empiricus' Works in the Renaissance," Journal of the History of Ideas 56, no.1 (1995): 63-85.

(11.) For more on the philosophy of Pyrrhonism, see Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes, The Modes of Scepticism: Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985),10-30; and Alan Bailey, Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), 119-46.

(12.) Erika T. Lin, "Popular Worship and Visual Paradigms in Love's Labors Lost," in Religion and Drama in Early Modern England: The Performance of Religion on the Renaissance Stage, ed. Jane Hwang Degenhardt and Elizabeth Williamson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), 92.

(13.) Stuart Clark, Vanities of the Eye: Vision in Early Modern European Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 302, 303.

(14.) See Carole Levin, Dreaming the English Renaissance: Politics and Desire and Court and Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), esp. 33-60. See also Peter Holland, "'The Interpretation of Dreams' in the Renaissance," in Reading Dreams: The Interpretation of Dreams from Chaucer to Shakespeare, ed. Peter Brown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 125-46; and Per Sivefors, "'All this tractate is but a dream': The Ethics of Dream Narration in Thomas Nashe's The Terrors of the Night," in Textual Ethos Studies, or Locating Ethics, ed. Anna Fahraeus and Ann Katrin Jonsson (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), 161-74. Janine Riviere documents the growing skepticism regarding the prognosticatory power of dreams in the seventeenth century in "'Visions of the Night': The Reform of Popular Dream Beliefs in Early Modern England," Parergon: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies 20, no.1 (2003): 109-38. In a similar vein, Mary Baine Campbell points to the shift in regarding dreams as experiences belonging to the realm of thought rather than embodied sight; Enlightenment philosophy's focus on mechanism, she argues, relegated the status of dreams as sources of certain knowledge merely "to that of individual physiological delusion rising from digestive vapors." Campbell, "The Inner Eye: Early Modern Dreaming and Disembodied Sight," in Dreams, Dreamers, and Visions: The Early Modern Atlantic World, ed. Ann Marie Plane and Leslie Tuttle (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 34.

(15.) Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 128.

(16.) For more on the reception of Artemidorus in the Renaissance, see S. R. F. Price, "The Future of Dreams: From Freud to Artemidorus," Past and Present 113 (1986): 3-37. For an outline of the difficulties of dating Hill's work, see Holland, "'The Interpretation of Dreams' in the Renaissance," 129 n10.

(17.) Thomas Hill, The Moste Pleasaunte Arte of the Interpretacion of Dreames (London, 1576), A2r-A2v.

(18.) William Bullein, Bullein's Bulwarke of Defense against all Sicknesse, Soarenesse, and Woundes that doe Dayly Assaulte Mankinde (London, 1562), J6v. For more on medical explanations for dreams in sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury England, see Karl H. Dannenfeldt, "Sleep: Theory and Practice in the Late Renaissance," The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 41, no. 4 (1986): 414-41; and Levin, Dreaming the English Renaissance, 33-60.

(19.) Nashe, it is worth noting, was familiar with classical skepticism, and Pyrrhonism specifically. In his 1591 introduction to Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella, he mentions a recent English translation of Sextus's Outlines. See Thomas Nashe, Introduction to Astrophel and Stella, by Philip Sidney (London: Thomas Newman, 1591), A4v.

(20.) Thomas Nashe, Terrors of the Night, or a Discourse of Apparitions (London: William Jones, 1594), C3v.

(21.) Ibid., G1v.

(22.) See also Holland's account of Terrors of the Night, in which he points out that Nashe registers a wide range of possible origins of dreams while making "no substantial attempt to discriminate among the competing theories." Holland, "'The Interpretation of Dreams' in the Renaissance," 130. Levin historicizes Nashe's ambivalence regarding dreams to similar effect, arguing that he "has his foot in both worlds, medieval as well as modern," by at once dismissing the prognosticatory power of dreams and assenting to the possibility that the devil used dreams to torment sinners while they slept. See Levin, Dreaming the English Renaissance, 45.

(23.) As Clark outlines it, the Artemidorian tradition was concerned with the dream world, which was "either morally true or morally false; according to the universally adopted early modern categories, dreams were either sent by God for a good purpose or sent by the devil for an evil one, or produced by morally neutral (or at least ambivalent) natural causes." By contrast, the dream state, with which Clark explains philosophers such as Descartes and Montaigne were concerned, "was epistemologically paradoxical; it consisted of experiences, predominantly visual, which seemed to be true (in the sense of being real) but were objectively false." Clark, Vanities of the Eye, 308-9.

(24.) Ibid., 308.

(25.) Richard Saunders, Physiognomie (London: Nathaniel Brooke, 1653), 235.

(26.) Levin, Dreaming the English Renaissance, 62.

(27.) As Descartes initially contends, "When I think about this [the similarity of dreaming and waking experiences] more carefully, I see so clearly that I can never distinguish, by reliable signs, being awake from being asleep, that I am confused and this feeling of confusion almost confirms me in believing that I am asleep." See Rene Descartes, Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings, trans. Desmond M. Clarke (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 19.

(28.) For more on the specific connection between Shakespeare, Montaigne, and Renaissance skepticism, see Terence Cave, "Ancients and Moderns," in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism Volume III: The Renaissance, ed. Glyn P. Nor ton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 417-25; and William Hamlin, "What Did Montaigne's Skepticism Mean to Shakespeare and His Contemporaries?," Montaigne Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum 17, no. 1 (2005): 195-210.

(29.) Michel de Montaigne, The Essayes or Morall, Politike and Millitarie Discourses ofLo: Michaell de Montaigne, trans. John Florio (London: Edward Blount, 1603), 616. Though Montaigne does not acknowledge it, his source for this story is almost certainly Book 18, Chapter 18 of Augustine's City of God. While Augustine describes a discrepancy between the sleeper's interpretation of events--that he was dreaming when he imagined himself to be a packhorse--and others who describe those same events as if they had actually occurred, Montaigne conflates the two distinct, contradictory interpretations of dreamer and others into a singular paradox for the dreamer. For Montaigne, dreaming as a skeptical problem is centered solely on the attempt (and failure) of the self to maintain coherence in the face of inconsistent experience. See Augustine, The City of God, Books XVIIXXII, trans. Gerald G. Walsh and Daniel J. Honan (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), 108.

(30.) Montaigne, Essayes, 616.

(31.) Ibid., 616.

(32.) The more conventional view held, as Ann Marie Plane and Leslie Tuttle explain it, that "the sleeping human soul lacked its full capacity to exercise reason," while the imagination proceeded uninhibited, reworking in fantastic combinations the material of the previous day. See Plane and Tuttle, Dreams, Dreamers, and Visions: The Early Modern Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 12. As Robert Burton explained in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), "In time of sleep this faculty [the imagination] is free, and many times conceive strange, stupend, absurd shapes, as in sick men we commonly observe." The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Holbrook Jackson (New York: New York Review of Books, 2001), 159. See also, for example, The Atheist's Tragedy, in which Charlemont expresses a similar view of the imagination's role in the production of dreams when he at first tries to explain the appearance of his father's ghost by means of natural causes: "Our boiling fantasies / Like troubled waters falsify the shapes / Of things retained in them, and make 'em seem / Confounded when they are distinguished. So / My actions daily conversant with war, / The argument of blood and death, had left,/ Perhaps, th'imaginary presence of / Some bloody accident upon my mind, / Which, mixed confusedly with other thoughts, / Whereof th'remembrance of my father might / Be one, all together seem / Incorporate, as if his body were / The owner of that blood, the subject of / That death, when he's at Paris and that blood / Shed here." Cyril Tourneur, The Atheist's Tragedy, in Four Revenge Tragedies, ed. Katharine Eisaman Maus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 2.6.46-60.

(33.) Montaigne, Essayes, 347.

(34.) Ibid., 492.

(35.) Indeed, Roger Ekirch argues that the segmentation of a night's sleep into two major periods, common in pre-industrial Western European societies, allowed sleepers to reflect on dreams and visions much more immediately and vividly than they would have been able to had they slept through the night until morning. See Robert Ekirch, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), 300. (36.) Marjorie Garber, Dream in Shakespeare: From Metaphor to Metamorphosis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 16.

(37.) As Stephen Orgel says of this moment, "Roman Catholic thinking admitted the existence of ghosts, but Protestantism was sceptical and in the official view, ghosts were delusions produced by the devil. To the drama of the period, however, they were indispensable, and Antigonus keeps all options open." Orgel, The Winter's Tale (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 153.

(38.) The location--Bohemia--in which he is to leave Perdita, Antigonus explains, convinces him that she is a bastard: "I do believe / Hermione hath suffered death, and that / Apollo would--this being indeed the issue / Of King Polixenes--it should here be laid / Either for life or death, upon the earth / Of its right father" (3.3.40-45).

(39.) Montaigne, Essayes, 640.

(40.) Cavell, Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare, 204 (emphasis his).

(41.) Jennifer Lewin, " 'Your Actions Are My Dreams': Sleepy Minds in Shakespeare's Last Plays," Shakespeare Studies 31 (2003): 188.

(42.) Mary Baine Campbell, "Dreaming, Motion, and Meaning: Oneiric Transport in Seventeenth-century Europe," in Reading the Early Modern Dream: The Terrors of the Night, ed. Katharine Hodgkin, Michelle O'Callaghan and Susan Wiseman (London: Routledge, 2008), 17.

(43.) Descartes, Meditations, 31.

(44.) Campbell, "Dreaming, Motion, and Meaning," 17.

(45.) Theresa Krier argues that time in The Winter's Tale speeds up from Leontes's perspective after he acknowledges his doubt about Hermione in "The Triumph of Time: Paradox in The Winter's Tale," Centennial Review 26 (1982): 341-53, esp. 348. Though I agree with her point that time does increase in speed at this point of the play, Leontes's entry into a dream state represents, to my mind, a crucial break from continuous, speeding time to instantaneous knowledge.

(46.) Lewin, "Sleepy Minds," 187.

(47.) Leontes himself explicitly makes the interpretive leap beyond what he can see as he describes watching Hermione and Polixenes interact to Camillo. After first commenting on behavior that he can see, he then moves beyond those appearances to what he thinks they mean, though he presents this evidence as if it is ocular: "Skulking in corners? Wishing clocks more swift? / Hours, minutes? Noon, midnight? And all eyes / Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only, / That would unseen be wicked? Is this nothing?" (1.2.287-90).

(48.) "The Sceptick," in The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1829), 2: 548-49. The Sceptick is often attributed to Walter Ralegh, though no evidence of his authorship exists before the essay's posthumous publication in 1651. The essay is essentially a loose translation of Book I, Chapter 14 of Sextus's Outlines of Pyrrhonism; for the argument that the essay may come from the same lost English translation of Outlines of Pyrrhonism to which Thomas Nashe alludes in 1591, see William Hamlin, Tragedy and Scepticism in Shakespeare's England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 48-54.

(49.) Montaigne, Essayes, 625.

(50.) Campbell, "Dreaming, Motion, Meaning," 23 (emphases hers).

(51.) Cavell, Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare, 193.

(52.) This reading of Time's instrumentality in the production and increase of error diverges from more traditional interpretations of Time's function in the play, which often emphasize the personified figure's resemblance to the iconographic and emblematic Time of Shakespeare's sonnets. For more on the resemblance of Time in The Winter's Tale and the sonnets, see Stanton B. Garner, "Time and Presence in The Winter's Tale," Modern Language Quarterly 46, no. 4 (1985): 347-67; Inga-Stina Ewbank, "The Triumph of Time in The Winter's Tale," in The Winter's Tale: Critical Essays, ed. Maurice Hunt (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995), 139-55; and John Pitcher, introduction to The Winter's Tale (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2010), 79-81. For more on the representation of time in the sonnets themselves, see Jonathan Hart, "Conflicting Monuments: Time, Beyond Time, and the Poetics of Shakespeare's Dramatic and Nondramatic Sonnets," in In the Company of Shakespeare: Essays on English Renaissance Literature in Honor ofG. Rlakemore Evans, ed. Thomas Moison and Douglas Bruster (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), 177-205.

(53.) Leonard Barkan, " 'Living Sculptures': Ovid, Michelangelo, and The Winter's Tale," English Literary History 48, no. 4 (1981): 639-67; 641.

(54.) William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, ed. Harold F. Brooks (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2007).

(55.) Barkan, Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 119, 124.

(56.) Of course, Rogero's earlier comment that Paulina has visited the "removed house" where the statue is located "privately twice or thrice a day, ever since the death of Hermione," is a broader hint about where Hermione has been for the past sixteen years (5.2.103--5). To recall these lines after Hermione's seemingly miraculous appearance in 5.3,1 would argue, adds to, rather than resolves, the mystery surrounding her disappearance from and return to the world of the play.

(57.) See also Diehl's argument regarding Leontes's awakening that "although the scene appears to present a miraculous resurrection--the dead Hermione comes to life--it marks that miracle as a fiction and uses it to dramatize a different kind of rebirth, one that is internal to Leontes (who, from a theological perspective, could be said to undergo a kind of Pauline spiritual regeneration, the mortifying of the 'old man' and the 'quickening' of the 'new man')." "The Pauline Rebuke and Paulina's Lawful Magic in The Winter's Tale," 82.

(58.) As Sherman argues, "Paulina is a confident knower--passionate, headstrong, and full of conviction, never shown internally debating or pondering a choice. Her grasp on the truth of past events defeats the doubts of Leontes." See Skepticism and Memory in Shakespeare and Donne, 72.

(59.) Kathryn Lynch, "Baring Bottom: Shakespeare and the Chaucerian Dream Vision," in Reading Dreams: The Interpretation of Dreams from Chaucer to Shakespeare, ed. Peter Brown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 123.

(60.) As Kenneth Gross argues of Leontes's focus on Hermione's wrinkles, "the scene registers ... not just the loss of a young bride but the loss of an older woman, that is to say, the loss of a space of time in which a husband and wife could grow old together." Kenneth Gross, The Dream of the Moving Statue (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 101.
COPYRIGHT 2016 Associated University Presses
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2016 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Robertson, Lauren
Publication:Shakespeare Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jan 1, 2016
Previous Article:"Bid the players make haste": speed-making and motion sickness in Hamlet.
Next Article:Taking Exception to the Law: Materializing Injustice in Early Modern Literature.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |