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"Our praises are our wages": courtly exchange, social mobility, and female speech in The Winter's Tale.

What happens when a woman speaks at court? Early modern representations of female courtly speech are notoriously fraught with contradiction. In Stefano Guazzo's The Civile Conversation, for instance, the perfect courtier Anniball Magnocavalli describes the speech of the exemplary court lady as follows: "her talke and discourses are so delightfull, that you wyll only then beginne to bee sory, when shee endeth to speake: and wishe that shee woulde bee no more weary to speake, then you are to heare. Yea, shee frameth her jestures so discretely, that in speakyng, shee seemeth to holde her peace, and in holding her peace, to speake." (1) While the words of the lady arouse the courtier's desire for more, her body and its gestures help to give the impression of chaste silence. The chiasmus in Anniball's description is a perfect illustration of the double injunction, to speak and remain silent at the same time, placed on the female voice in early modern representations of the Renaissance court.

Ann Rosalind Jones has examined the ambiguities that pertain to the fate of the early modern court lady in conduct books more generally. (2) Courtesy literature of the sixteenth century, she argues, contains complex attempts at handling the discrepancies between the norms of the court and patriarchal discourse about women found in medicine, law, philosophy, and religion. Whereas the court applauded the clever conversation of the lady, other cultural constructions of femininity stressed women's natural inferiority and connected chastity with silence. (3) Because of the pervasive association of female public speech with sexuality, court ladies had to perform their duties with a great deal of deliberation. In Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, Julian de Medici points out that the lady of the palace ought to be "more circumspect and to take better heed that she give no occasion to be yll reported of, and so to beehave her selfe, that she be not onlye not spotted wyth anye fault, but not so much as with suspicion. Bicause a woman hath not so manye wayes to defende her selfe from sclaunderous reportes, as hath a man." (4) For that reason, the court lady is, says Jones, "advised to defend herself through a calculated rhetoric of words and gestures" (43). As in The Civile Conversation, this construction of the ideal court lady combines with a reluctance to represent actual female speech, and women do not join in the process of prescribing courtly behavior. (5)

When Shakespeare used the Sicilian court as his setting for The Winter's Tale, the paradoxes of courtesy theory inevitably came into play. The popularity of romance plays, or tragi-comedies, as a genre among theatergoers in the first decades of the seventeenth century suggests a nostalgic appreciation of Greek romances and their Christianized versions in medieval courtly narratives. Leo Salingar recounts a host of medieval dramatizations of "persecuted queen" stories as a background for the later romance plays. (6) A Jacobean representation of a Sicilian court would evoke not only these "old tales," but also the courtly ideals of the Italian courtesy books. The most important of these, Castiglione's Il cortegiano (1528), Guazzo's La civil conversatione (1574), and Giovanni della Casa's Il galateo (1559), had all been translated in the second half of the sixteenth century, although they were also read in their original. While the number of editions of Il cortegiano and Thomas Hoby's translation suggests that these books were not as tremendously popular in England as, for instance, in France, a wealth of contemporary references shows that they were widely known, especially among the upper ranks. (7) These influential texts on courtly behavior and conversation offer valuable insight into early modern perceptions of the mechanics of social identity and self-presentation at court. Whether we choose to read The Winter's Tale as an artistic rendering of a "foreign" court or as a dramatic representation with connections to the English court, courtesy books provide us with an important cultural context for the play, known to the more privileged of the theatergoers at the Globe and especially to the play's audience at the court of King James. (8)

King James's court, with its reputation for corruption and its large contingent of powerful Scottish courtiers, was perceived as very different from the more ordered Elizabethan court. The unprecedented number of honors and titles sold by James in an attempt to bind the political elite to the court and improve his finances, along with the career possibilities for individuals of less than aristocratic birth at court, meant that to many Jacobeans the court seemed a highly unstable arena where social degree was not so much determined by birth as by money and royal whim. (9) At the same time, James's emphasis on the Divine Right of Kings countered this impression in the case of the king himself with an essentialist notion of royalty as ordained by God. The ostentation of the court is supposed to fulfill two contradictory functions at once, the confirmation of the king's unique position and the advancement of the individual interest of ambitious courtiers.

In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare explores the contradictory constructions of gender and class that emerged from the Stuart court and the courts of early modern Europe in general. The play begins by showing the court to be a place where social identity is constructed through public, rhetorical performance. I use the term "performance" here to denote an early modern awareness of self-presentation as not necessarily directly reflective of inner identity but determined by social constraints and strategic considerations. The play explores a social, specifically courtly, identity that it presents as a product of performing, distinguished from behavior that is consistent with and reflective of one's "nature." (10) The importance of performance at court allows the queen to speak with a degree of freedom not normally afforded to women. But the connection between female speech and promiscuity, so prominent outside the court, becomes a catalyst for a crisis in which no one's position is secure and even royal power is opened up to question--the courtly emphasis on rhetorical display and public performance leads to a situation in which upward and downward social mobility becomes possible for everyone.

The oracle puts an end to this situation by re-stabilizing social position and assigning divinely ordained identities to the members of the royal household. Ultimately, this is not sufficient; a reformation of female courtliness is needed to restore harmony. Perdita's speeches, a product of birth rather than education, contrast with Hermione's rhetorical skills of the first act. And in the statue scene, Hermione regains her position as queen by presenting her courtly audience with a changed voice. Both women's speeches make clear that the female courtly voice is in the end no longer characterized by playful performance, but by a denial of its own rhetorical character. Hermione's performance as a statue serves to secure social position, making royalty once again a product of birth, divine choice, and essence.

Ultimately, Shakespeare makes clear that the female courtly presence has shifted from a verbal to a visual register. Unlike words, gesture anchors social position and avoids the dangerous association between female speech and sexuality. In presenting us with this shift, The Winter's Tale uncovers a complicated, reciprocal relationship between gender and class, suggesting why the issue of female speech haunts the courtesy literature of the period: female courtliness is a measure of social mobility at court. If women are allowed to speak with too much freedom, this indicates that social position also lacks firm grounding. The problem of class in an arena that thrives on public performance is "solved" through gender, by having women relinquish their former courtly voice and accept the limitations imposed on them at court. The significance of the play's reconfiguration of female courtliness and its connection with class has not been noted in criticism of The Winter's Tale. Feminist critics have studied the female presence in the play, but not in its specific courtly context. (11) The recent, mostly new historicist effort to establish contemporary political contexts for the romances has resulted generally in a concentration on the issue of kingship and contemporary views of James I, without making a connection with the gender issues at stake. (12)

Courtesy literature of the period highlights the importance of rhetoric to social position at court. Guazzo's courtiers in The Civile Conversation repeatedly compare courtly communication with monetary exchange, making verbal expression a salable commodity that can be used for self-advancement and is not inherently linked to birth. The melancholy William, brother of the author and accomplished courtier, expresses distaste for the crowds in the royal courts, at places of judgment, and on the marketplace. He likens the court, where "an infinite number of Courtiers assemble together, to talke and devise of many matters," to the city with its "numberlesse multitude walking upp and downe in every place, keeping a continuall mercate, where there is no other talke but of buying and selling." (13) William claims that traders and courtiers engage in conversation for two purposes, "to maintain and increase their wealth, and to mend their estate" (117). In both locations, men are driven by ambition, for the accumulation of riches or for higher social standing, and words help "buy" a better position. The comparison of civil conversation with trade is made again, more positively, by his friend Anniball, whose task it is to rescue civil conversation from William's complaints. Yet, both worry about the extent to which courtly speech has been subjected to rhetorical inflation. William remarks that "Many Courtiers carie that litle peece of suger in their mouthes, and it may bee saide, that their money seemeth to bee Golde, although in the touche it is found to bee silver, or baser mettall" (126). This means that the listener can no longer take words at face value, but has to assess whether the words are themselves counterfeit, proving the upward mobility of the speaker. Paradoxically, then, the use of eloquence to distinguish the courtier from the "vulgar sorte" (123) has made words into unreliable means of assessing social identity.

Guazzo's courtiers see eloquence as an inevitable part of their self-presentation, but given the primacy of rhetorical performance at court, they are anxious about the value of speech as evidence of "true" identity and intention. This type of equivocation is typical of courtesy literature of the period. These books tend to move back and forth between descriptions of aristocratic identity as a product of birth and prescriptions for correct elite behavior, which show class to be a product of learning and performance. In Ambition and Privilege Frank Whigham writes that courtesy theory fulfilled a double function for its Elizabethan readership. For the Elizabethan elite, he argues, courtesy books helped formulate an exclusionary identity to alleviate concerns about social mobility. Their descriptions of courtliness as an inimitable ideal widened the gap between the aristocracy and the upwardly mobile. However, the general circulation of these books made them open to consumption by ambitious young men, who could use the detailed descriptions of life at court to try to emulate aristocratic behavior. At Elizabeth's court, according to Whigham, "Elite status no longer rested upon the absolute, given base of birth, the received ontology of social being; instead it had increasingly become a matter of doing, and so of showing.... The principal strategy of self-manifestation in such a frame is the ostentatious practice of symbolic behavior taken to typify aristocratic being" (32-33). In other words, as position at court became more a question of merit and less of aristocratic birth, courtiers faced what Whigham calls "a rhetorical imperative of performance" to establish and maintain their social position (32). The complaints of Guazzo's courtiers indicate that the potential for social mobility in such an environment makes the question of hierarchy and what grounds social position a pressing one because the value of words as indicators of inner "truth" is lost.

Establishing the parallel between verbal and monetary exchange, Guazzo's courtiers show their awareness of the extent to which the importance of performance turns courtly conversation into a linguistic marketplace in which anyone with the appropriate currency may gain a powerful position. The Winter's Tale too presents the imperative of performance as problematic in its effect on the social hierarchy at court. The opening scene shows that the prolonged presence of a foreign king and his entourage has intensified the need for elaborate verbal exchange. In the context of hospitality, the courtiers utter the language of money to alleviate the sense of potential difference between the kings and therefore between themselves, using words to establish and maintain social position. Words are openly recognized as symbolic currency even when the courtiers deny that there is a need for equal exchange: Camillo thanks Archidamus for his lengthy speech with his phrase, "You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely." (14) The stilted speeches in the opening scene serve to advance the position of the individual speaker, but what gives them a moral grounding is that at the same time they confirm the status and authority of the royal family. The mutual compliments become a confirmation of the ties that bind the two kings and their courtiers. The form of courtly praise for the two kings is significantly symbolic and visually oriented. Even with the mediation of diplomacy and the "interchange of gifts, letters, loving embassies" the kings are imagined in physical proximity: "they have seem'd to be together, though absent; shook hands, as over a vast; and embrac'd, as it were, from the ends of oppos'd winds" (1.1.28-31). The courtly language of royal power imagines the "affection" between the kings nostalgically in the form of a wordless tableau, in childhood as in adulthood. In other words, the courtiers use a double, contradictory discourse that embraces the language of money, a slippery language which produces social position, and a nostalgic, romantic language to reflect an idealized relationship between the monarchs that is supposed to be fixed.

The silent proximity of the two kings in the opening speeches by the courtiers contrasts with what we see in the scene immediately following. The royals are involved in courtly dialogue themselves, and their conversation turns out to be a much more open playing field than that of the courtiers. They are acting in accordance with the courtly logic of self-presentation, but because they do not depend on endorsement by their superiors for social advancement, their words are not constrained by court ideology and the performative element surpasses the substantive aspect of their words. Guazzo's Anniball cautions against this possibility when he discusses the need for courtly eloquence: "for that wee are so much the more esteemed of, by howe muche our Civilitie differeth from the nature and fashions of the vulgar sorte, it is requisite that wee inforce our tongue to make manifest that difference in two principall thinges: in the pleasant grace, and the profounde gravitie of woordes" (123). The elaborate speeches by Polixenes illustrate what happens when courtly grace has become more important than gravity. Invited by Hermione to talk of childhood and respond to her idea of Leontes as "the verier wag o' th' two" (1.2.66), he engages in playful exaggeration to counter the suggestion of mischief:
   We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' th' sun,
   And bleat the one at th' other. What we chang'd
   Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
   The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
   That any did. Had we pursu'd that life,
   And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
   With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven
   Boldly, "Not guilty"; the imposition clear'd,
   Hereditary ours.


The general view of this passage is that Polixenes presents female sexuality as ending a male childhood of comforting sameness. Along with many other feminist and psychoanalytic readings of the play, Janet Adelman's reading has convincingly shown how these courtly speeches work on multiple levels, prominently featuring sexual references that resonate with Hermione's pregnant state and conveying the culture's underlying anxieties about female sexuality. She writes that the female body becomes the sign of disruption in this "idealized male pastoral," a formulation which neatly sums up the critical consensus on the speech. (15)

While Polixenes's joke hints at a more serious male unease about female sexuality, the passage should also be read for its significance to courtly repartee. In anticipation of the crisis to follow, the speech shows how the importance of rhetorical performance undermines royal power and therefore social stability both in sexual and in non-sexual ways. The Bohemian king uses the symbolic equality of the two kings, so prominent in the courtly language of the opening scene, to depict childhood as a time of perfect, because tautological communication: the two lambs bleating at each other merely exchange innocence for innocence, that is, one word for the same word. The language of children is presented as devoid of meaning and therefore of rhetorical purpose. The pastoral childhood contrasts with the implied "fall" into courtly rhetoric paralleled by the sexual fall of man. By setting up an opposition between a presexual, prelinguistic childhood and the present dialogue, the speech captures the ways in which courtly conversation is corrupted in the sense that it is sexualized. The sexual, flirtatious content of the passage itself, of which Polixenes and Hermione are clearly aware, is shown to be acceptable in courtly conversation. That this is true for the court at large, and not just for Polixenes and Hermione, becomes clear when we witness the exchanges of Mamillius and Hermione's ladies. Graham Holderness has pointed out that the boy is engaged in sexually charged talk with the ladies, who "invite him with sublimated licentiousness into the sexual games of courtly love" (201). The pervasive sexual undertones of dialogue between men and women at court even includes the young prince, whose behavior belies Polixenes's notion of royal childhood as innocent.

The sexual nature of courtly conversation is the subject of the speech but also displayed by it. At the same time, the speech makes clear that courtly exchange threatens to undercut the ideology that supports the royal position of unquestioned authority. Polixenes draws on the very imagery of childhood that is used by the courtiers in the first scene to idealize the monarchs. In doing so, he gives it socially strategic rather than moral and political significance, using the concept for entertainment value. Leontes will, moments later, employ the notion of childhood again, this time to convey a threat. The "twinned lambs" image is frequently read as evidence of Leontes's state of mind with respect to the ideal male relationship, although the king never refers to childhood in those terms. (16) Instead, he depicts it as a time when he was "unbreech'd, / In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled, / Lest it should bite its master, and so prove / (As [ornament] oft does) too dangerous" (1.2.155-58). Here, childhood is marked by barely contained phallic violence. Clearly, royal childhood has lost the political value it had in the opening scene, and it has become a conveniently open construct, employed to prove sexual and social dominance in the rhetorical battle that is such an important part of courtly pastime. The fact that childhood is used to score points rather than to underscore the symbolic stature of the kings means that the imperative of rhetorical performance that governs the court alters the discourse that is at the basis of royal power.

The contributions of the queen to the conversation locate the disruptive quality of the courtly constructions of social identity specifically in terms of gender. Thus, the play reveals that the nature of the determination of social position at court leads to a situation in which women speak with a degree of freedom that conflicts with patriarchal notions of femininity. By virtue of her position as queen, Hermione's behavior is supposed to be the epitome of sophistication and courtly display, but as a woman, she is controlled by a more rigid set of demands. In The Interpreter (1607), the legal dictionary repressed for its absolutist opinions in 1610, John Cowell captures the duality of the identity of the queen by marriage:

Queene (Regina) is either shee that houldeth the Crowne of this Realme by right of blood, or els shee that is maried to the King. In the former signification shee is in all construction the same that the King is, and hath the same power in all respects. In the other signification shee is inferiour, and a person exempt from the King. For shee may siew and be siewed in her owne name. Yet that shee hath, is the Kings, and looke what shee looseth, so much departeth from the King. (17)

Unlike the "ungendered" queen by birth, the queen by marriage poses an interpretive problem. She is both a member of the royal household whose behavior is material to the king's authority and a female. Legally, she is a separate, "inferiour" subject, who may sue in her own name, but her possessions and losses affect the king. She is an ordinary woman who, by virtue of marriage, has attained exceptional status of great significance to the position of the king. Stephen Orgel has pointed out that Cowell's dictionary, although it reflected James's absolutism, was most likely repressed because it engaged in a process of demystification, explaining what was better left unexplained. (18) This seems to be the case for this definition of the queen: the duality of the queen by marriage, ordinary woman and exceptional wife, is denied in courtly rhetoric found in courtesy books. Her position as one of many women is not mentioned, while her exemplary courtliness and natural beauty are highlighted to serve as the justification for her unquestionable place in the royal household. Placing the fashioning of the ideal queen outside the domain of the courtier, Castiglione's Julian declares that it would be sufficient to name her--the ideal and the real queen are synonymous (215). As a result, the queen by marriage faces the task of publicly performing in a way that denies her individuality as a woman and affirms her "natural" status as queen and paragon of perfect courtliness. The problem of social position at court is reflected in the predicament of the queen whose place in the household is not based on birth but on royal choice.

The Winter's Tale makes the duality of the position of the queen by marriage crucial to the crisis that unfolds. The importance of rhetorical performance to the court permits Hermione to contribute with remarkable freedom to the conversation of the two kings. The playfulness allowed in these circumstances leads to an impressive demonstration of the queen's verbal mastery. Her comments are suggestive of the ways in which courtly exchange offers women the opportunity to transcend their fixed status in the male-dominated hierarchy of the court by means of speech, even if they have to be commissioned to perform by the man in charge. The social equality afforded in courtly exchange becomes evident when the queen makes her famous claim, "a lady's `verily' is / As potent as a lord's." (19) In the spirit of rhetorical contest, Polixenes's reference to man's fall as a result of female sin does not offend Hermione. She reads the remark as a challenge and responds to the patriarchal charge with another challenge: "Th' offenses we have made you do we'll answer" (1.2.83). In jest, the queen is able to refute the apparatus of patriarchal discourse summoned up (equally jokingly) by Polixenes.

The double injunction for women quickly asserts itself when Leontes tries to re-establish control over Hermione's speech. On the surface, he remains in the context of polite conversation with his guest, when he praises her success in persuading Polixenes to stay, claiming that she "never spok'st / To better purpose" (1.2.88-89), except when she uttered the marriage vow. But at court, this reminder of the female condition does not lead to silence. Hermione responds with a complicated reflection on the contradictions involved in her status of simultaneous sovereignty and inferiority, all the while speaking in the terms of playful entertainment of her royal guest. Commenting on the extent to which the relation of women to language is marked by ambiguity, she interrupts her husband's attempt to silence her with a witty provocation:
   cram's with praise, and make's
   As fat as tame things. One good deed dying tongueless
   Slaughters a thousand waiting upon that.
   Our praises are our wages. You may ride's
   With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere
   With spur we heat an acre.


In his discussion of courtly counsel in the play, Stuart Kurland has overlooked this moment. Posing as courtly advisor to the king, Hermione creates a situation in which Leontes himself faces the female dilemma: he is told both to speak and to remain silent. The queen imposes this double-bind by urging him to praise women because they are in need of moral guidance, while evoking the language of over-feeding associated with a life of luxury. Praise, she tells him, makes for good deeds and fat women. In addition, she comments on the female exclusion from the economic realm: "Our praises are our wages." The passage highlights the ambiguous relation of the queen to praise. Ostensibly, praise serves to confirm the unique position of the queen, but the term "wages" shows that it also keeps her dependent on male endorsement for her livelihood. The phrase resonates with the recurrent use of the language of money at court. As silent receivers of praise, women are not allowed to engage in the exchange of symbolic currency in the network of male host-guest relationships. Implying that praise helps to maintain male authority over women, this representation of women as domesticated animals and silent consumers of language is of course contradicted by Hermione's own virtuosity in constructing the metaphor.

Once allowed to speak, Hermione is not only in a position to engage fully in a rhetorical competition with men, but she is also permitted to question her own status in full view of the court. She shows that praise of women is open to alternative interpretation, that its use is ideological and political, and that it helps to keep her, as a woman, in her rightful place. In doing so, she deliberately fails to distinguish between praise of herself as a queen and as a woman. Consequently, she deprives praise of the queen (along with praise of women in general) of its "natural" place in courtly discourse. The danger of engaging in courtly conversation for the queen is not merely that she may be subject to suspicions of promiscuity by virtue of the fact that she speaks, but also that she has been allowed to offer an interpretation of her own position that is not sanctioned by the ideology of the monarchy. In doing so, she herself has given the precedent for the exposure of her body and voice to other cultural constructions of femininity.

Part of the difficulty critics have felt in understanding Leontes's jealousy is its sudden onset in what seems to be a mature relationship. His outbursts are often seen as a form of inadequacy, in understanding the language of others in general or in comprehending courtly language in particular. While readings that place the blame for Leontes's crisis with his individual personality are of course valid in their own right, they may run the risk of overlooking the cultural and institutional aspects of his breakdown. Without pretending to give a comprehensive explanation for Leontes's crisis, I feel that the significance of the immediate context of courtly exchange is often underestimated. His jealousy is less a violation of courtly ethics than the outcome of a situation in which an emphasis on rhetorical performance has destroyed ideological certainties. (20) From the first expression of his suspicions to Camillo, royal power is subject to questioning. This is not only true for Polixenes, who, like a courtier and not like a king, finds that his "favor ... begins to warp" at court (1.2.365), but also for Leontes himself, who is suddenly addressed with the informal "thee" by Camillo in a way that has puzzled editors (1.2.324).

Rereading the dialogue of Polixenes and Hermione as a perversely encoded, public performance of illicit sexuality, Leontes explains the behavior of the queen by denying her royal status and drawing instead on the patriarchal link of female speech and performance to promiscuity. (21) Courtly performance has been brought down to the level of the everyday deceit of the "vulgar sort." Much like in Henry VIII, every interpretive shift at court is marked by a female public performance to confirm the collective nature of the consequences. Graham Holderness writes, "The experience of tragic suffering, which folds Leontes in onto a tormenting subjectivity, draws Hermione out towards performative communication" (214). But we have to remember that these are forced performances in front of increasingly larger groups of men, which confirm and intensify the degeneration of female courtliness. At each of these moments of humiliating display, Hermione tries to gain control over the public's view of her behavior, sidestepping the king and addressing the rest of the spectators directly. At trial, she points out the incongruity between her position as a queen and her exposure to a general audience, describing herself as "A fellow of the royal bed, which owe / A moi'ty of the throne, a great king's daughter, / The mother to a hopeful prince" (3.2.38-40). The attempt to recover her former position involves a reestablishment of her own dual place in the patriarchal hierarchy as sexual partner and wife, daughter, and mother, combined in each instance with the royal status attached to these conventional categories of female identity. Her efforts to acquire some measure of control over Leontes's court recalls Queen Katherine's behavior in Henry VIII. Similarly refusing to show feminine tears, Katherine decides she will not be forced to perform in a court ruled by Wolsey, telling him, moments before walking out, "I do refuse you for my judge" (2.4.118). Hermione shows more concern for her general audience as she appeals to divine spectators who will confirm her innocence. In doing so, she places those present in the famous dilemma of the Jacobean subject: whether or not to obey the king if he abuses his royal prerogative and acts in disagreement with the religious beliefs that are at the basis of his position. (22)

Ironically, the king's attempt to exclude Hermione from the court enhances his own isolation, for the courtiers remain committed to the rhetoric of nobility and chastity with respect to the queen. Antigonus shows his perfect courtliness, when he declares that he will "geld" his daughters if this accusation is true. Unable to reconcile Leontes's discovery with normative praise of the queen, he can only deduce that if the queen is untrue, all women must be--the interpretive reversal of Leontes's suspicion. This reluctance brings Leontes to the realization that he has now made himself subject to the judgment of the court. Guazzo's Anniball argues that the deeds of monarchs are "altogether without the compasse of our judgement, and alwaies mistaken of us" (203). The need for such a statement makes clear that in actual practice such judgment is frequently made. The addition of the proviso that this is true for rulers "by nature" rather than "by violence" indicates that Anniball grants absolute authority only to the monarch whose status is derived from birth. It is significant that George Pettie chose to insert his praise of Queen Elizabeth just before this passage, suggesting that the translator felt the need to establish her position beyond question before the possibility of judging a ruler is even touched on. (23) Leontes has suffered a loss of the prerogative of royal birth once he has made himself subject to courtly judgment. From a ruler "by nature," he becomes a ruler "by violence." The culmination of the monarchical crisis is his rejection of the oracle. It heralds the complete secularization of his government and therefore a loss of the divine endorsement that underpins his authority. The courtly emphasis on performance has resulted in extreme social fluidity.

Nevertheless, the oracle is the first sign that social order will be restored at court. In contrast with the ambiguity of courtly conversation, the oracle provides the court with a text in control of its own meaning: "Hermione is chaste, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, his innocent babe truly begotten, and the King shall live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found" (3.2.132-36). Assigning absolute identities for each of the members of the royal household involved, the oracle breaks with the playful nature of the courtly language heard in the first act. Each of the royals takes on a fixed stature, losing individual agency in self-presentation as they are placed beyond signification for any purpose other than that already contained within the text. Once Mamillius's death is announced, followed quickly by Hermione's supposed death, the oracle asserts itself as an unavoidable frame of reference for the explanation of future and past events. From here on, royal position at court will be grounded in the truths stated in the text.

In the pervasive critical tradition that reads the Bohemian scenes as a benign and liberating transformation of the Sicilian scenes, Paul Alpers has described the fourth act of The Winter's Tale as a reworking of the crises at court to save the "possibility of exchange," that is "the possibility of action and utterance that establish connections between separate persons." (24) Alpers finds in the pastoral scenes a freedom of exchange that contrasts with the stifling atmosphere at court. He shows that it is important to distinguish between the actual pastoral figures and those who are merely temporarily seen to be such (in varying degrees, ranging from Perdita's pastoral status to Florizel's disguise). Yet, the notion of pastoral as courtly self-representation brings on the question whether these scenes involve a liberating form of disguise and temporary suspension of courtly identity, as Alpers argues, or an equally mediated and overdetermined mode of representation. Even if courtly rules are momentarily transformed into pastoral codes, Alpers's reminder of the close ties between court and pastoral helps us to see that, in their own way, the Bohemian scenes contribute to the play's reformulation of the courtly feminine ideal. Compared with Hermione's wit, Perdita's speeches signify a move away from the courtly spirit that allowed for a radical insistence on female equality in the first act. Instead, Perdita is unaware of her own ancestry and therefore of her rightful place in the social hierarchy. With all the obvious pointers in the direction of her noble birth, Perdita is firmly convinced of her lowly status. Her modesty is given expression in the admission that she cannot speak well, to amount to a transformation of the female voice. Perdita's humility in speech and manner is always paired with a natural superiority that is noticeable to everyone. Unlike the highly sophisticated court lady, who has to give the impression of chastity while calculating the effect of her behavior on her audience, Perdita manages to combine the image of modesty, obedience, and chastity with a new type of courtly self-display: a physical and pastoral performance that denies that it is a performance, presenting the audience with social behavior that is the result of "being" rather than "showing" and a rhetoric that hides its own rhetoricity.

Florizel's declaration of love helps construct this new ideal. Foreshadowing Hermione's final performance, his praise of endless repetition of speech, song, and dance deprives Perdita's voice of its independent power to signify. He turns her into what Maurice Hunt has called a "speaking picture." (25)
   What you do
   Still betters what is done. When you speak, sweet,
   I'ld have you do it ever; when you sing,
   I'ld have you buy and sell so; so give alms;
   Pray so; and for the ord'ring your affairs,
   To sing them too. When you do dance, I wish you
   A wave o' th' sea, that you might ever do
   Nothing but that; move still, still so,
   And own no other function. Each your doing
   (So singular in each particular)
   Crowns what you are doing in the present deeds,
   That all your acts are queens.


By locating female beauty in the symbolically significant daily acts, Florizel creates an ideal that is unconventional, yet inherently courtly. Whigham notes that at the Elizabethan court, the actions that seem most trivial are subject to courtly signification to enhance elite identity. Perdita's unawareness of the grace of her acts lifts her courtliness above Castiglione's sprezzatura, used by the courtier "to cover art withall and seeme whatsoever he doth and sayeth to do it wythout pain, and (as it were) not myndyng it" (59). The covering of art, the seeming, and the inclusion of the phrase "as it were" make clear that sprezzatura is itself of course a performative concept. In the 1561 edition, Hoby translates the word as "Reckelesness" (59); in the 1588 version, he makes his anxiety over the concept even clearer when he replaces recklessness with "disgracing." (26) Beyond suggesting feigned recklessness or a pretended lack of care, the word disgrace points to the notion of grace as an attribute that requires effort that needs to be hidden from view, but it also puns on the "disgrace" involved in courtly performance. Perdita's courtliness, not a product of upbringing, is presented as true, natural behavior, lacking the deliberation involved in sprezzatura. For that reason, her courtesy outdoes that of Castiglione's courtier in that it is not a product of performance but a grace derived from birth.

In putting forward this new ideal, the play mystifies female courtliness by locating it in the body rather than in words. Florizel's description of Perdita proceeds from female speech to song, and finally to the purely physical dance, to locate her queen-ness in her movement. Hunt writes, "Paradoxically, Perdita's deeds become physical words unintentionally excelling not only her restrictive ways of thinking and speaking but her special `flower speech' as well" (100). Even if we do not agree with Hunt's presentation of this transformation as an artistic achievement on Shakespeare's part, his observation allows us to see that the effect of Florizel's speech is to modify the female courtly voice. Significantly, it comes just after one of Perdita's least courtly expressions of love for the prince, which contains an unexpectedly sexual depiction of Florizel in her arms. While that moment is remarkable in itself, it is important that Florizel quickly "corrects" it with a representation of courtly femininity that will be more closely aligned to Perdita in the rest of the play. Perdita follows his tribute with a correction of her own, warning him of a possible sexual interpretation of his speech and the fear that Doricles might be wooing her "the false way" (4.4.151). The impression of stillness in movement combined with the chaste words constructs a model of femininity that is closely affiliated to Guazzo's image of the lady who "frameth her jestures so discretely, that in speakyng, shee seemeth to holde her peace, and in holding her peace to speake" (241). In other words, the Bohemian scenes represent female courtliness as both self-evident and natural, impossible to imitate and therefore impossible to question or to undermine, and, above all, physical rather than verbal. Perdita's character establishes a crucial link between nobility and birth. Elite identity is no longer fluid because it has now been firmly placed within the confines of the female body, from where it cannot be removed. (27)

Under the guidance of Paulina, Leontes and his court are reformed in the absence of the female members of the royal family. As a third female voice heard at court, Paulina's seems to represent a shift away from the courtly eloquence of Hermione and the pastoral modesty of Perdita. David Schalkwyk, Graham Holderness, and others have remarked on the empowerment of the female voice in her case. (28) Certainly, the fact that a lady from the court is seen to speak so openly and powerfully to the king seems to suggest a subversive potential that conflicts with the general requirements of female speech. The character of Paulina, however, is excepted from the injunctions placed on the female voice in a variety of ways. She rules at the court when Leontes has lost his authority and it is in need of reform. Her rejection of the flattery and politic advice of Leontes's male courtiers suggest that her position as main advisor to the king signifies a departure from the former ways of the court and from the manners of its courtiers. As a female character, she is distinctly uncourtly. In dramatic terms, she is partly a comic and partly a dangerous figure, whose characterization derives from, but can never be pinned down to any one of, a range of marginal female figures, such as the shrewish wife, the midwife, the widow, and the witch.

In terms of her own sexual behavior, Paulina is less likely to be accused of promiscuity (in spite of her public speech) as a result of her age and social status as mother and widow (for most part of the play). (29) When she first accuses the king, he tries to harm her credibility in sexual, gendered terms by accusing her of being a shrew, witch, and bawd, but his own position has already been affected so deeply by his suspicions of Hermione that he is unable to expel her from the court. Once Leontes sees his mistake in accusing Hermione, Paulina is given powerful male sanction for her speech, as the king makes up for his earlier attempts to silence the queen. Yet the notion of Paulina as poised outside of the courtly realm remains present in her own and others' remarks even after Leontes accepts her as his main advisor over the conventional courtiers. D'Orsay W. Pearson has traced the connections between the character and witchcraft, showing convincingly that "her own actions and suggestive dialogue sustain it; as the play progresses, the accusation becomes increasingly a real possibility." (30) In other words, even as Paulina is instrumental to the change in female courtliness that is effected in the course of the play, she remains herself a slippery, marginal character to whom the ideal is not applied.

While it is important to recognize potential moments of female subversion, Holderness and Schalkwyk underestimate the extent to which Paulina's voice after Hermione's "death" is determined by the boundaries set by Leontes's suspicion and serves its purpose in transforming perceptions of women other than herself. Paulina helps to renew the female courtly ideal by rendering the connection between female speech and female sexuality irrelevant to the queen. When Leontes evokes the image of Hermione's ghost, Paulina carefully avoids giving it a voice and draws attention to her beauty. Substituting her own voice, she counteracts the suggestion of the king's possible marriage to another woman:
   Were I the ghost that walk'd, I'ld bid you mark
   Her eye, and tell me for what dull part in't
   You chose her; then I'ld shriek, that even your ears
   Should rift to hear me, and the words that follow'd
   Should be "Remember mine."


Leontes's reply, "Stars, stars, / And all eyes else dead coals!" (5.1.67-68), shows that the glorification of Hermione's beauty proceeds by denigrating other women's bodies. In brief, Paulina does not argue for faith in female constancy and speech as such, but teaches the king to differentiate between women's bodies in general and the queen's body in particular, to rescue Hermione from association with lower-class female bodies and their uncontrollable sexuality. In this context, Leontes's violent claim that Hermione's ghost would "incense me / To murther her I married" (5.2.61-62) is endorsed by Paulina, whose discourse is of a darker kind than is sometimes allowed for in criticism. Her strong, verbal presence prepares the way for the restoration of courtly femininity to reputability at the end of the play, but is itself in disagreement with the ideal. To restore social harmony at court, a radically different female voice is allowed to be heard temporarily, until Perdita and Hermione are once again present.

Numerous readers have noted a shift from the verbal to the visual in the final scenes. In contrast with Cymbeline and Pericles (and with other more conventional recognition scenes), the audience is not given the elaborate proof of identity, the realization of misidentification by Polixenes, and the narratives of past events by lost family members themselves. Instead, bystanders provide the explanations, representing the monarchs as speechless with emotion and part of a verbal tableau of purely physical recognition. In the final act, courtly language becomes indicative of its own inadequacy as different characters testify to a preference for gesture as a means of expression during a moment of great emotional intensity (a preference that can itself ironically only be conveyed in language). The assertion that language is inferior to sight serves a social purpose for the entire court, which learns to redefine its relationship to courtly speech and to reappraise the centrality of the female body as evidence of social position.

During the statue scene, courtly dialogue is given a position of secondary importance to the spectacle when the female body takes center stage. In an important article, Abbe Blum coins the phrase "monumentalizing women" for this process, which she detects in Shakespeare's romances and tragedies, and which "entails the relinquishment of the woman's voice" (100). Blum claims the act of monumentalizing is on one level a form of commemorating, which, she writes, "fixes value, assigns noteworthiness, and ... arises in part from a desire to possess what lies beyond possession--to render certain and permanent what is unknowable, unavailable, lost" (99). The resurrection of the queen by means of collective praise contrasts with Hermione's witty speech on the use of praise to pacify women in the first act. Therefore, the ceremony marks not only Leontes's renewed recognition of his wife, but also Hermione's own acceptance of her relation to language at court on the basis of the restrictions imposed on the female voice. In this respect, it is of course significant that the reconciliation with Leontes takes the form of a speechless reenactment of courtship and a wordless embrace.

Prompted to speak by the courtiers in order to prove that she is alive, Hermione utters her famous maternal blessing:
   You gods, look down
   And from your sacred vials pour your graces
   Upon my daughter's head! Tell me, mine own,
   Where hast thou been preserv'd? where liv'd? how found
   Thy father's court? for thou shalt hear that I,
   Knowing by Paulina that the oracle
   Gave hope thou wast in being, have preserv'd
   Myself to see the issue.


As readers of the play have observed, the speech is inconsistent with the events of the third act. Hermione was herself present at the reading of the oracle and did not need to hear from Paulina about the fate of her daughter. The speech does not perform on a rational level. Its purpose is to heal the ruptures that have devastated the Sicilian court and caused the travesty of the law and the secularization of government. To have this effect, Hermione's blessing invokes yet again the presence of divine spectators, this time firmly establishing the court as a space that is subject to supervision of the gods, who "look down" upon the sacralized space of recognition.

In the conventional terms of the parental blessing, Hermione asks for divine "graces" to be poured on her daughter's head. In the course of the play, this term has been used no less than twelve times up to this point, throughout in different senses, as Bruce W. Young has shown. (31) The slipperiness of the word is indicated by the fact that it is used by a range of characters, from Hermione (who says it in jest, but also at her trial) to Autolycus, who frightens the shepherd and his son, in picturing for them Polixenes's response to "An old sheep-whistling rogue, a ram-tender, to offer to have his daughter come into grace!" (4.4.776-78). Denoting divine and human favor, riches and upward social mobility, civilized behavior and beauty, the primary meaning of "grace" in the play is courtly, not religious. Castiglione's use of the term, a notorious bone of contention for critics, is similarly ambiguous. Lord Cesar asks Count Lewis for advice on grace, the indispensable attribute of the courtier and the lady of the palace, "bicause you have saide sundry times that it is the gift of nature and of the heavens, and againe where it is not so perfect, that it maye with studye and diligence be made muche more" (56-57). The Count, who repeats that grace is "not to be learned," claims, "perhaps I am able to tel you what a perfect Courtyer ought to be, but not to teach you how ye should doe to be one" (57). Shortly thereafter, he obliges, however, and tells his audience how grace can be acquired: "even as the bee in the greene medowes fleeth alwayes aboute the grasse chousynge out flowres: so shall our Courtyer steale thys grace from them that to hys seming have it, and from ech one that percell that shal be most worthy praise" (58). The courtier assembles parts of ideal behavior to constitute his own, stolen grace. Subject to imitation, yet contingent on birth, the concept of grace embraces all the contradictions of the courtesy theory of the period.

Similarly, in The Winter's Tale grace can be a result of performance and an attribute of birth, as the word points to a spectrum of meanings between intention and passivity, remaining impossible to pin down on the side of courtly ideal or divine benefaction. In Hermione's final speech, by contrast, the significance of grace is unmistakably restricted to the religious sense, emphasizing the fact that courtly grace has been overcome by divine grace. The notion that grace is not learned but a sign of divine endorsement of noble birth (and ultimately passed on, as Young notes, through the mother's mediation in the parental blessing) is first suggested in the pastoral scenes, then reaffirmed in the recognition scene, and finally stated explicitly in the statue scene, to refigure female courtliness as God-given proof of royal essence. This use of grace helps end and prevent social mobility and perilous female speech.

For these reasons, the significance of Hermione's blessing is to be found in its restorative function in binding the courtly community together. Her questions addressed to Perdita take on a similar role. Reminiscent of the lambs in Polixenes's speech, she offers the possibility of exchange in language that is "innocent" and thrives on tautology. As her repetition of the word "preserv'd" indicates, the queen's questions do not initiate a dialogue, but establish a bond between mother and daughter to bridge the gap that has opened up among the members of the royal family. The type of language needed for this purpose is singular in meaning, in contrast with the sexually ambiguous courtly exchanges of the first act. Leontes's final speech promises a return to verbal exchange at court, as he tells Paulina to "Lead us from hence, where we may leisurely / Each one demand, and answer to his part / Perform'd in this wide gap of time, since first / We were dissever'd. Hastily lead away" (5.3.152-55). It is difficult to imagine what form renewed conversation at court will take, but the king's last words suggest that linguistic exchange between members of the royal family will no longer be limited to the public arena of the court. Now, it has become necessary to find an off-stage, private space.

While the final scene achieves a naturalization of the female courtly ideal and a re-mystification of royalty, the question of social mobility lingers on the margins of the play. The comic speeches of the clown, "a gentleman born" before his father (5.2.139), show that these newly made gentlemen do not pose a serious threat to the exclusivity of royal identity at court. Simon Forman may not have been credited with great insight as a critic of the Jacobean theater, but his recorded impressions of The Winter's Tale bring out the importance of rhetorical performance to the play:

Remember also the Rog that cam in all tottered like coil pixci / . and howe he feyned him sicke & to haue bin Robbed of all that he had and howe he cosoned the pot man of all his money, and after cam to the shep sher with a pedlers packe & ther cosoned them Again of all ther money And howe he changed apparrell wth the kinge of bomia his sonn. and then howe he turned Courtiar &c / beware of trustinge feined beggars or fawninge fellouse. (32)

Whereas Forman's suspicion of beggars has been the subject of much attention, it has not been noted that his mistrust is directed equally at "fawninge fellouse" who reside, presumably, at court. It was commonplace in the period to identify flattery with courtiers, so it is not surprising that Autolycus is an ex-courtier. Tracts such as A Discourse Against Flattery (1611) describe "fawning hypocrisy" as "base merchandise of words" and warn sternly against flattery at court because it endangers the commonwealth. (33) Autolycus's status as a peddler as well as an ex-courtier link the presentation of words as money in the courtesy literature and the opening scene of The Winter's Tale with the peddler-trickster's ability to sell his wares and his words to unsuspecting victims.

Given the materiality and therefore the unreliability of clothes as signifiers of rank, an effective rhetorical performer like Autolycus is impossible to place socially. The trickster, beggar, peddler, and ex-courtier capitalizes on the effective speech needed to function well in each of these professions. Even after he has been banished from the court, Autolycus continues to profit from it when the unsuspecting Florizel and Camillo provide him with the means to turn courtier again. His trickery is profitable not only because he has access to the apparel needed to fool others, but also because he can deny the significance of his clothes when necessary. He deceives the clown by claiming that a villain called Autolycus has put the filthy rags he wears on him, controlling the interpretation of his apparel by the unsuspecting gull. Forman's caution against "feined beggars" and "fawninge fellouse" highlights this thematic parallel between the trickster and the courtier. In the end, the rogue, whose past association with the royal family is caused by the court's emphasis on verbal performance, ends up in mock-service to the shepherd and the clown and joins their ranks as a harmless comic figure. His muted responses in the last encounter with the rustics indicate that here too, a performing voice has been transformed. (34)

The Winter's Tale employs different dramatic registers for its representation of the relation between class and gender at court. Social harmony is restored by means of a renunciation of playful conversation and an appreciation of gesture and tableau as less disruptive, ideologically more effective courtly means of confirming royal authority. Yet, the play seems conflicted about this resolution. While Perdita's courtliness is entirely natural, Hermione's performance as a statue suggests that there remains a performative aspect to courtly self-presentation. And, as is the case with so many Shakespeare plays, the ending is marked by a sense of loss, of life, of the female voice, and of entertaining and playful conversation. Acted in front of a royal audience, as The Winter's Tale was twice, the play may have constituted an act of persuasion that amounted to a reformulation of courtly ideals for the benefit of the royal family and the unstable court of King James. Whether it was seen as such or not, the play explores the contradictory constructions of class and gender that emerged from the Stuart court and the courtesy literature of its day. Shakespeare shows that the behavior of women is a crucial means to gauge the social order and that a reconfiguration of courtly femininity serves to anchor social hierarchies and harness elite identity. In Henry VIII Shakespeare would turn yet again to the subject of courtly performance and social mobility, combined with a concentration on the significance of the female presence at court to the political authority of the monarch. Voicing the feelings of many, Herschel Baker writes in his Riverside introduction to the play, "Henry VIII is very strong in pomp and pageantry ... Some of these elaborate display pieces--notably the coronation and the christening--are so frankly theatrical that they do not require the spoken word, but only sights and sounds; and others, even where the focus is dramatic, are so formal in their presentation that they have the weight and texture of tableaux." (35) It seems that this historical examination of the mechanics of social life at court begins where The Winter's Tale left off. (36)


(1) Guazzo, 241. I quote throughout from the published version of the Elizabethan translation by George Pettie. His translation of the first three books came out in 1581; the fourth book, translated by Bartholomew Young, appeared with the others in 1586. The Civile Conversation of M. Steeven Guazzo, 2 vols., introd. Sir Edward Sullivan (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1925). All quotations are taken from the first volume.

(2) "Nets and Bridles: Early Modern Conduct Books and Sixteenth-Century Women's Lyrics," in The Ideology of Conduct: Essays on Literature and the History of Sexuality, eds. Leonard Tennenhouse and Nancy Armstrong (New York: Methuen, 1987), 39-72. See also Jones's book The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe, 1540-1620 (Indiana U. Press, 1990), ch. 1.

(3) Jones perceives a shift from the feminine ideal of courtesy theory, the witty court lady who was adept at self-display, to the obedient, silent housewife of the 17th-century bourgeois marriage manual. Joan Kelly has argued, however, in her influential essay "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" that Castiglione's work already represents a setback in its depiction of the feminine ideal in comparison with the relative freedom and independence of the feudal lady as the object of courtly love. Women, History and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly (U. of Chicago Press, 1984), 19-50.

(4) Hoby, 216. Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from a published version of the 1561 edition of Hoby's translation, The Book of the Courtier, introd. Walter Raleigh (London: David Nutt, 1900).

(5) In the first three books of The Civile Conversation, women are absent altogether while the description of Anniball's ideal courtly lady is not accompanied by any comment on the substance of her speeches. See for discussions of the courtly female's silence in The Courtier, Valeria Finucci, The Lady Vanishes: Subjectivity and Representation in Castiglione and Ariosto (Stanford U. Press, 1992), Pamela Joseph Benson, The Invention of the Renaissance Woman: The Challenge of Female Independence in the Literature and Thought of Italy and England (Pennsylvania State U. Press, 1992), 73-90, and Joan Kelly.

(6) See chapter 2 of Salingar's Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy (Cambridge U. Press, 1974).

(7) Il cortegiano was translated in 1561, La civil conversatione in 1581, and Il galateo by Robert Peterson in 1576. Whigham argues that all were considered part of a unified corpus alongside Elizabethan courtesy literature in Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory (U. of California Press, 1984), 26-27 and fn 99, 198-99. It should be noted that Guazzo does not limit himself to the representation of ideal courtly behavior. As John Leon Lievsay writes, The Civile Conversation describes and prescribes conduct "for all levels of society in a world in the process of becoming.... Guazzo envisages civic man in his total relationships." Stefano Guazzo and the English Renaissance, 1575-1675 (U. of North Carolina Press, 1961), 44. For specific discussions of the influence of The Civile Conversation and The Courtier, see Lievsay and Peter Burke's The Fortunes of the Courtier: The European Reception of Castiglione's Cortegiano (Pennsylvania State U. Press, 1996).

(8) Court performances of The Winter's Tale were held by the King's Men on November 5, 1611 and during the Christmas celebrations in 1612 (E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols. [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945] 4:125, 127). David M. Bergeron speculates on the significance of these performances in light of recent events in the royal family, such as the death of Prince Henry, in Shakespeare's Romances and the Royal Family (U. Press of Kansas, 1985), 157-78.

(9) See Neil Cuddy, "The Revival of the Entourage: The Bedchamber of James I, 1603-1625," in The English Court: From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War, ed. David Starkey (London: Longman, 1987), 173-225, and David Starkey's introduction to the collection, "Court History in Perspective," 1-24. Starkey characterizes James's personal "managerial" style as "participatory," that is, "marked by the rapid rise and fall of councillors and favourites, repeated crises and more or less open faction war" (9). Linda Levy Peck argues of the Stuart court that "corrupt practices ... became a matter of increasing concern in the early seventeenth century." Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 5. Cf. also for information on the sale of honors and titles, Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), ch. 3.

(10) While contemporary theorists like Judith Butler see performativity as a permanent and pervasive condition, the Renaissance text does not, although the court is often perceived in terms of performance. My concern here is with how and why the play locates certain types of behavior and social identities as a product of performance. Cf. for the relevant theory on the subject, Judith P. Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990) and Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (New York: Routledge, 1993) and the helpful introduction to Performativity and Performance, eds. and introd. Andrew Parker and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (New York: Routledge, 1995), 1-18.

(11) Though this essay is informed by feminist work on The Winter's Tale, it moves beyond these readings to consider the play specifically in light of female courtliness. Work by Carol Thomas Neely, Abbe Blum, and Lynn Enterline has been useful to my thinking about the female presence in the play. However, both Neely and Enterline see the ending of the play in their own ways as overcoming the limitations imposed on the female voice earlier on. Blum and others, like Peter Erickson and David Schalkwyk, have made the case for the play's final "containment" of female power, an argument that minimizes the ambiguity of the ending, which has allowed for such diametrically opposed views of its politics. Cf. David Schalkwyk, "`A Lady's `Verily' Is as Potent as a Lord's': Women, Word and Witchcraft in The Winter's Tale," ELR 22 (1992): 242-72, Peter Erickson, Patriarchal Structures in Shakespeare's Drama (U. of California Press, 1985), Carol Thomas Neely, "The Winter's Tale: The Triumph of Speech," SEL 15 (1975): 321-38, rpt. in Maurice Hunt, ed., The Winter's Tale: Critical Essays (New York: Garland, 1995), 243-57, Abbe Blum, "`Strike all that look upon with mar[b]le': Monumentalizing Women in Shakespeare's Plays," in The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon, eds. Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky (U. of Massachusetts Press, 1990), 99-118, and Lynn Enterline, "`You speak a language that I understand not': The Rhetoric of Animation in The Winter's Tale, "SQ 48 (1997): 17-44.

(12) Some of these essays prove that Carol Thomas Neely's critique of new historicism is still relevant. See "Constructing the Subject: Feminist Practice and the New Renaissance Discourses," ELR 18 (1988): 5-18. For topical (or "local") readings, David Bergeron's chapter on the play in Shakespeare's Romances and the Royal Family, Stuart M. Kurland, "`We need no more of your advice': Political Realism in The Winter's Tale," SEL 31 (1991): 365-86, Donna B. Hamilton, "The Winter's Tale and the Language of Union, 1604-1610," Shakespeare Studies 21 (1993): 228-50, and chapter 4 of Constance Jordan's Shakespeare's Monarchies: Ruler and Subject in the Romances (Cornell U. Press, 1997). For an approach to the topic of the court in the play from a wider perspective, see Graham Holderness's very useful chapter, "The Winter's Tale: Country into Court," in Holderness, Nick Potter, and John Turner, Shakespeare, Out of Court: Dramatizations of Court Society (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 195-235.

(13) Guazzo, 117-18. Jean-Christophe Agnew cites part of this passage to support his claim that Guazzo chose the marketplace as the "ideal locale" of his civil conversation. This is not borne out by the text, which reviews a wide spectrum of settings. Moreover, the words quoted by Agnew are not spoken by Magnocavalli, the advocate of civil conversation, but by the more pessimistic William Guazzo, whose description of the comings and goings of marketplace, legal court, and royal court is far from enthusiastic. Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theatre in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750 (Cambridge U. Press, 1986), 77.

(14) 1.1.17-18. All quotations from Shakespeare follow The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edition, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997). Stanley Cavell has drawn attention to the frequent use of words from the realm of money in the play. Many of the words he mentions (like money, coin, treasure, purchase, commodity, exchange, dole) occur, predictably perhaps, in the fourth act, when the setting shifts to Bohemia. Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge U. Press, 1987), 200-01. For Cavell the significance of the use of these terms is universal and philosophical, whereas I stress the specificity of the setting. In Patriarchal Structures, Peter Erickson examines the importance of royal entertainment and its transformation by the female presence.

(15) Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest (New York: Routledge, 1992), 221. Other readings of this passage in these terms are found, among many others, in Murray M. Schwartz, "Leontes' Jealousy in The Winter's Tale," American Imago 30 (1974): 250-73, 257; Erickson, Patriarchal Structures, 154; Carol Thomas Neely, Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays (Yale U. Press, 1985), 194; Stephen Orgel, Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge U. Press, 1996), 15-16.

(16) Many critics simply shift the significance of the speech from Polixenes to Leontes. In Impersonations, for instance, Stephen Orgel writes, "The childhood world to which Leontes imagines himself returning has been described by his royal guest and inseparable childhood friend Polixenes as both Edenic and presexual" (15). In M. M. Mahood's book on Shakespearean puns, the attribution of the passage is completely muddled: "Leontes is able to recall a primeval innocence when he was `Boy eternal'" (151). This misquotation is simply a literal form of the general critical conflation of Polixenes's speech with Leontes's mindset. See Shakespeare Word Play (London: Methuen, 1957).

(17) John Cowell, The Interpreter, 1607, facsimile edition (Menston, Yorks.: The Scolar Press, 1972), sigs. Ggg4v-r.

(18) See Orgel's introduction to the Oxford Shakespeare edition of The Winter's Tale (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 13.

(19) 1.2.50-51. Schalkwyk provides an elaborate discussion of the phrase in the context of poststructuralist theory.

(20) An aggravating circumstance is the lack of privacy at court. In this respect, the play diverges, from its source: in Robert Greene's Pandosto, it is the very possibility of crossing the boundary between hospitality and too private familiarity (158) that brings on the king's jealousy. Bellaria, "the flower of courtesy," gradually develops an intimate friendship with the royal guest, "oftentimes coming herself into his bedchamber to see that nothing should be amiss to mislike him. This honest familiarity increased daily more and more betwixt them ... Bellaria would walk with him into the garden, where they two in private and pleasant devices would pass away the time to both their contents" (157). By contrast, the garden in The Winter's Tale is a place where Hermione and Polixenes offer to "attend" the king (1.2.178). Robert Greene, "Pandosto: The Triumph of Time," An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction, ed. Paul Salzman (Oxford U. Press, 1987), 151-204, 158.

(21) Katherine Eisaman Maus has noted that the "voyeur" motif recurs often in dramatic representations of female promiscuity of the period. She compares the cuckold's anxieties with the period's attitudes' towards theatrical performance in general. "Horns of Dilemma: Jealousy, Gender, and Spectatorship in English Renaissance Drama," ELH 54 (1987): 561-83.

(22) Constance Jordan examines this vexed issue and its discussion in Jacobean political tracts specifically in relation to The Winter's Tale in Shakespeare's Monarchies.

(23) This move by Pettie is of course highly pertinent in light of Elizabeth's own problematic status as queen "by birth." Cf. Orgel on this subject in his introduction to the Oxford edition of the play (29-31) and Lievsay on Pettie's translation and his minor and major intrusions into the original.

(24) Paul Alpers, What Is Pastoral? (U. of Chicago Press, 1996), 221. Cf. Kurland's insightful remark, in a footnote, that the sheep-shearing festival "is in some respects a miniature of court, with its own well-defined hierarchy, prescribed roles, traditional symbols, and elaborate etiquette" (383n.29).

(25) Shakespeare's Romance of the Word (Bucknell U. Press, 1990), 101.

(26) Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. Sir Thomas Hoby (1588), Everyman edition (London: Dent, 1928), 46.

(27) Cf. Pandosto, in which Dorastus wonders of Fawnia, "how so courtly behavior could be found in so simple a cottage" (179).

(28) Schalkwyk sees this period of "female rule" as "an inversion, a form of carnival or grotesque, that might itself have been designated a form of enchantment" (27). This use of Bakhtinian vocabulary is misleading because the status of Paulina's word cannot simply be explained as a comic inversion of what is partly tragic (particularly when the audience still believes Hermione has died). It also seems problematic to employ the term "carnivalesque" and even "grotesque" for instances when women's words are validated.

(29) Dorothea Kehler claims that in Paulina's case, "as in so much of Western literature, power over men is accorded the neutered woman." "Shakespeare's Emilias and the Politics of Celibacy," in In Another Country: Feminist Perspectives on Renaissance Drama, eds. Dorothea Kehler and Susan Baker (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1991), 157-78, 165.

(30) "Witchcraft in The Winter's Tale: Paulina as `Alcahueta y vn Poquito Hechizera,'" Shakespeare Studies 12 (1979): 195-213, 202.

(31) See "Ritual as an Instrument of Grace: Parental Blessings in Richard III, All's Well That Ends Well, and The Winter's Tale," in True Rites and Maimed Rites: Ritual and Anti-Ritual in Shakespeare and His Age, eds. Linda Woodbridge and Edward Berry (U. of Illinois Press, 1992), 169-200.

(32) Simon Forman, "The Bocke of Plaies and Notes therof per formane for Common Policie," passage reprinted in The Riverside Shakespeare, Appendix C, no. 20, 1968.

(33) A Discourse Against Flatterie (London, 1611), A7v.

(34) Ronald W. Cooley, who stresses Autolycus's vagrancy, sees The Winter's Tale as incapable of containing the rogue. His is one of the few arguments that explore the play's treatment of class issues. "Speech versus Spectacle: Autolycus, Class and Containment in The Winter's Tale," Renaissance and Reformation 21,3 (1997): 5-23. See also for very informative discussions of the different cultural discourses to which the character of Autolycus refers, Barbara A. Mowat, "Rogues, Shepherds, and the Counterfeit Distressed: Texts and Infracontexts of The Winter's Tale 4.3," Shakespeare Studies 22 (1994): 58-76, and William C. Carroll, Fat King, Lean Beggar: Representations of Poverty in the Age of Shakespeare (Cornell U. Press, 1996), 168-79. Both discuss how the subplot involving Autolycus firmly connects the play to Jacobean England.

(35) Baker calls the characterization in the play "weak." Herschel Baker, "Henry VIII," introd, to The Famous History of The Life of King Henry the Eighth, The Riverside Shakespeare, 1025.

(36) I would like to thank Meredith Skura, Edward Snow, and Lloyd Kermode for their helpful comments and their willingness to read and reread different versions of this essay.
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Author:van Elk, Martine
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Critical Essay
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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