Shakespeare and Psychoanalysis: Loss and Transformation in The Winter’s Tale - Part II - Transformations

by Murray M. Schwartz

August 25, 2005


In the following pages, I begin by examining the role of Paulina and the ironic reversals of the trial scene, in which Leontes' revenge is transformed into a promise of reparation. I then turn to the Bohemian scenes, in which Shakespeare enacts socially viable alternatives to Leontes' private magic, and, finally, I return with the play to Sicily, where Leontes, recovered from his jealousy, meets the embodiments of his wishes. My purpose is to show how Shakespeare transforms the fears and realities of loss into the theatrical revelation of fulfillment, and how we as audience are brought into collusion with his theatrical design.


Part II




The following interpretation of The Winter's Tale extends and elaborates my essay on Leontes' jealousy which appeared in American Imago (Vol. 30, Fall 1973, pp. 250-273). Since my interpretation of the play is largely sequential, the earlier essay is not reproduced here, and this introduction summarizes the section already published and describes the general context and structure of what follows.

I argue that a close examination of the text and of relations between characters reveals a complex fabric of motives for Leontes' paranoid response to his fear of separation from idealized others. Although usually dismissed by critics of The Winter's Tale as motiveless, Leontes' madness can be explained as an attempt simultaneously to act out and to repudiate fears of sexual and social violence. In the first acts of the play, he expresses and denies the violations of sexual decorum that are dialectically opposed to the sacred over-evaluation of woman in Renaissance imaginations. Unlike his double (or 'brother'), Polixenes, who avoids his ambivalence by idealization, and unlike the other courtly men, who reflect this over-evaluation, Leontes follows a regressive path toward the object of his ambivalent desires, Hermione, and he attempts to destroy her in order to re-unite himself with a fantasized ideal maternal figure. At the root of his paranoid jealousy is a fear of maternal engulfment, symbolized by the spider (II. i. 39-45).'1 His actions, then, are responses to this fear. What Freud said of Schreber applies to Leontes: "The delusional formation, which we take to be the pathological product, is in reality an attempt at recovery, a process of reconstruction."2

Leontes attempts to restore ideal femininity by a private, unsharable magical process. Shakespeare, however, confronts him with a spokesman for the play's ideal values, Paulina, and then with the oracle of Apollo. When his attempt at recovery fails with the death of his son, he reverses himself and vows to mourn Hermione and Mamillius, mother and son, and thus to "recreate" himself.

In the following pages, I begin by examining the role of Paulina and the ironic reversals of the trial scene, in which Leontes' revenge is transformed into a promise of reparation. I then turn to the Bohemian scenes, in which Shakespeare enacts socially viable alternatives to Leontes' private magic, and, finally, I return with the play to Sicily, where Leontes, recovered from his jealousy, meets the embodiments of his wishes. My purpose is to show how Shakespeare transforms the fears and realities of loss into the theatrical revelation of fulfillment, and how we as audience are brought into collusion with his theatrical design.


I have shown that Leontes' jealousy stems from ambivalent desires rooted in the earliest of human relationships. This is not to say that he is 'really' an infant disguised as a king, but that oral ambivalence provides a coordinated paradigm for his extreme behavior. He desires and fears maternal presence, and he seeks the absolute correspondence of fantasy and reality characteristic of the time when the boundary between self and not-self was fluid and dependent on the 'feedback' of the external world. As his desired omnipotence fails, he is made to confront the play's most aggressive human embodiment of his ambivalent wish, Paulina.

Paulina, like her husband, is entirely Shakespeare's creation, with no counterpart in Greene's Pandosto. 3 Her psychological function is indicated by the ways in which her role fluctuates, in intensity and verbal orientation, in accordance with Leontes' psychic condition. When he is adamant, she is; when he denies, she asserts; when he complies, she softens. She possesses him in the way a projected super-ego would, by attacking, watching, reminding, insisting on the imperatives of the ideals she embodies. Her aim is to focus the articulation of exemplary values before the threat of their imminent rupture.

      Paulina functions as a mediator, and, like all ultimately successful comic mediators, she combines the characteristics of what she defends and what she manifestly opposes. When she enters the world of the play (at II. ii), Leontes has already confined Hermione in prison in his desperation to contain the feminine representative of contamination. Paulina arrives at the prison to gain access to the Queen, and immediately becomes the self-appointed instrument of her confined mistress. She functions positively to negate the negative identities Leontes has projected on to mother and child. Her ethical narcissism makes her the spokesman for the play's most significant manifest values.

      As her name implies, Paulina embodies religious adherence to the purity of the material ideal, the" law and process of great nature" (II. ii. 60). From her first appearance, she assumes the role of the maternal super-ego and throughout the play, until the final lines spoken by Leontes, she acts to bind him to that ideal in all its mythic fullness.

This child was prisoner to the womb, and is

By law and process of great nature, thence Free'd and

enfranchis'd; not a party to

The anger of the king, nor guilty of

(If any be) the trespass of the queen. (II. ii. 59-63)

In the ideal of "great nature," Paulina conflates the process of birth with the legal terminology that allies her thinking with Leontes'. Equating the womb with a prison and birth with freed on merges the biological process of creation with the cultural boundaries that define (and confine) courtly life. Paulina is manifestly absolving the infant from guilt, but her metaphor expresses the very fantasy Leontes responds to, the fantasy that maternal care is a confinement, a punishment. "Great nature" sanctions a freedom the womb denies; by elevating biological reality to the realm of cultural myth, Paulina becomes the guarantor of values that transform sexual ambivalence into supra-personal law. The child is then "innocent" by virtue of its dissociation from personal violation or guilt.

      Paulina's hyper-sensitivity to violations of "great nature" seems, however, directly contradicted by her modes of self presentation. Before the trial scene (III. ii.), the negations of Leontes' violence come most powerfully in the form of her verbal violence in the name of the ideal.4 In the play's first half, Leontes and Paulina are made to collude in dramatizing polar tendencies of the myth of feminine purity, each seeming a devil (or" heretic" [II. iii. 114]) to the moral absolutism of the other. They share the quality of fixity that implicitly denies human actuality, with its inevitable ambivalent emotions, in favor of aggressive intrusion into the private space of others. As A. D. Nuttall puts it, "entry-forcing" is Paulina's forte.5

"Entry-forcing," in psychoanalytic terms, implies phallic motives, and there is no shortage of phallic-agressive as well as oral imagery associated with Paulina. She embodies intensely the linguistic potency first associated with Hermione: "If I prove honey-mouth'd, let my tongue blister, /And never to my red-look'd anger be/The trumpet any more" (II. ii. 33-35). A few lines later, she expresses her intentions in language that equates phallic and maternal images: 'I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from't/As boldness from my bosom" (II. ii. 52-53). This unconscious equation of feminine and phallic potency defines the language spoken by and associated with her in the court caught up in the web of Leontes' jealousy. Leontes calls her" A callat/Of boundless tongue" (II. iii. 109), tells Antingonus that he "wilt not stay her tongue" (II. iii. 109), and later, when the oracle can no longer be rejected, submits to her verbal punishment: "I have deserv'd/All tongues to talk their bitt'rest" (III. ii. 215-216). Paulina is imagined to contain precisely that aspect of feminine power Leontes sought to eject magically in the image of the spider (II. i. 39-45), the power to render him passive and to overwhelm him psychically.

      Paulina's function as the external counterpart of Leontes' terrors is confirmed by his indirect acknowledgement of her inexcludability: "I charg'd thee that she should not come about me/ I knew she would" (II. iii. 43-44).6 Her physical and verbal intrusiveness is bound to be experienced by him as an assault on his masculinity, his autonomy and his kingly omnipotence. When she penetrates his chamber (II. iii.), "with words as medicinal as true" (37), against his command that" None should come at him" (32), we witness the confrontation of a 'child-bearing' woman (not the play's only visual pun) and a man whose psychic torment centers on just that image. In the labile world of fantasy, the woman with the child is, for Leontes, a masculine figure, "A mankind witch!" (68) and Paulina reinforces this fantasy: "I say good queen, / And would by combat make her good, so were I/A man, the worst about you" (59-61).7 Negations also affirm affirm and Leontes is in no condition to make distinctions between fantasy and reality. Being outside the confrontation (if we are, psychologically, outside it), we may find Paulina's uncontrolled tongue comic, but Leontes finds the image of his horror confirmed in the face of combat. Her "medicine" is a form of persecution. Paulina's therapy by verbal and visual assault results, not in reconversion and nurturance, but only in the intensification of the anxieties she comes to quell. When she proclaims the great difference between Leontes' madness and the truth of his issue ("...once remove/The root of his opinion, which is rotten/As ever oak or stone was sound" [II. iii. 80-90]), her proof is the identity of father and child:


      Behold, my lords,

                    Although the print be little, the whole matter

A copy of the father: eye, nose, lip;

The trick of's frown; his forehead; nay, the valley,

The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek; his smiles;

The very mold and frame of hand, nail, finger. . .

         (II. iii. 97-102)

But, as I have shown, for Leontes, identity masks ambivalence, and ambivalence denied is transformed, Lear-like, into rage. Paulina's insistence on the identity of father and child incites him first to command that the child be "consum'd with fire" (II. iii. 133)8 and then, in a mitigating alternative, to order it banished" strangely to some place/Where chance may nurse or end it" (II. iii. 181-182). The femininity of the child adds irony to Paulina's failure. Shakespeare has confronted Leontes in his paranoid rage with a super-ego that threatens to infantilize him by exposing the infantile symbol of his ambivalent wishes. Leontes duplicates his unconscious fear in commanding that the child be exposed to oral deprivation. To accept Paulina's truth would be to equate himself with his feminine issue, to contradict his masculine ego. But, like Posthumus, Leontes must be "re-created" before he can accept so radical a re-definition of himself. Paulina, as we shall see when we come to the last act, will succeed where first she fails.

The Trial Scene: Revenge Reversed

In the climactic scene of the play's first half (III. ii.), Leontes seeks to sanction his regressive confusion in the form of a public trial. Public ritual has become the vehicle of intrapsychic, personal motives. In this context of communal differentiation between innocence and guilt, Leontes "attempts to masquerade as his victim's superego."9 In acting out his fantasy, Leontes attempts to displace Apollo’s affirmation of socially recognized identities. The trial scene dramatizes Leontes' failed paternity by confronting him with the strength of the family myth that will actually sanction personal and collective continuity in the play. Leontes' jealousy becomes, then, part of a larger rhythm, a regression that serves the transcendent superego he attempts to violate. The trial scene, in short, reflects the larger strategy by which Shakespeare designs this play, the strategy of making a regressive attack on hierarchic pieties into a reconfirmation of hierarchic stability.

Leontes' confusion of criminal and judge is apparent in his opening lines:


This sessions (to our great grief we pronounce)

Even pushes 'gainst our heart: the party tried

The daughter of a king, our wife. and one

Of us too much belov'd. Let us be clear'd

Of being tyrannous, since we so openly

Proceed in justice ... (III. ii. 1-6, italics added)

In announcing his procedural openness, Leontes establishes the terms of his own trial. As the scene proceeds, we move from Hermione's vigorous defense against his accusations to an indictment of Leontes himself and, dramatically speaking, from ritual fom1ality to frenetic action, as Leontes' defensive projections fail to withstand their consequences. By re-enacting his disease as ritual, Shakespeare differentiates Leontes' profane play from Apollo's sacred one.

      Hermione's defense exemplifies the cognitive clarity Leontes lacks; her language eloquently enacts her capacity to transform a personal defense into generalized virtues. Hers is a consciousness under strong ego control. Feminine virtu finds its voice in her character.

Since what I am about to say, must be but that

Which contradicts my accusations, and

The testimony on my part, no other

But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me

To say ‘not guilty’: mine integrity,

Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,

Be so receive’d. But thus, if powers divine Behold our human actions (as they do),

I doubt not but innocence shall make

False accusation blush, and tyranny

Tremble at patience. (III.ii.22-32)

She clearly perceives the difference between herself and the perception of herself by her accuser, the difference between the trans formative powers of a private fantasy and the shared imagination of parental protection, .. powers divine." Hermione tests reality from the position of a collective myth of parental perfection. If the trust of "powers divine" leads her to allegorize her immediate situation, such allegorization is not a regressive substitute for an immediate reality, but a way of coping with the threat that reality poses, a positive defense against sexualized distortions. Her faith in transcendent parental authority distinguishes the wished-for embodiments of childhood desire from" our human actions," whereas Leontes confuses these realms.

      Hermione claims her integrity and honor as derivatives of her obedience to ideal internalized paternal imagos. Three times we are reminded that she is the daughter of a king. (In Shakespeare, the chaste woman is finally imagined as the daughter of a benevolent father.)10 As the oracle of Apollo is summoned, she articulates the difference between lost paternity and Leontes' dislocated revenge:

The Emperor of Russia was my father:

O that he were alive, and here beholding

His daughter’s trial! That he did but see

The flatness of my misery, yet with eyes

Of pity, not revenge! (III.ii.119-123)

Justice, when it lacks the communal sanction of a transcendent myth, becomes personal revenge.11 Apollo's "vengeance" (IIII.ii.201) will reconstitute the identities distorted by Leontes' disease, but not before Hermione speaks his indictment:

The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,

I do give lost, for I do feel it gone,

But know not how it went. My second joy,

And first-fruits of my body, from his presence

I am barr'd, like one infectious. My third comfort

(Starr'd most unluckily) is from my breast

(The innocent milk in it most innocent mouth)

Hard out to murder... (III. ii. 94-101, italics added)

The failure of paternity is here powerfully identified with the violation of oral expectations, the negation of "comfort," "favor," "first-fruits," "innocent milk." Leontes has created what he feared most deeply, has become a catastrophic "mother" to the mother of his children, and like Macbeth has transformed the ceremonies of innocence into poisoned nurturance. Earlier his infanticidal fantasy directly echoed Lady Macbeth ("The bastard brains with these my proper hands/ Shall I dash out." [II. iii. 139-140]), and now the consequence of his failed nurturance is the repudiation of his paternal authority:

                                                    Your honors all,

I do refer me to the Oracle:

Apollo be my judge!                     (III.ii.114-116)

For Shakespeare paternal authority involves at its very center the benevolent control of maternal care, the" delicate," "sweet," "fertile," "ceremonious, solemn and unearthly" ministration of the potentially violent powers associated with an unconscious maternal imago, and here associated with Apollo (in III.i.1-7). Leontes is controlled by that imago internally, and the result is the direct, though symbolic, intervention of the violated ideal. The oracle delivers the reversal of Leontes' reversal of ideal identities:12

Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless; Camillo a true

subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant... (III.ii.132-133)

Each is equated with a defining attribute that unites essence and appearance, the person and the person's socially recognized reality. What more potent transformation of bodily, sexual, boundary-confusing personal experience is possible? Apollo is literally un-embodied, present only in words.

       Leontes flatly denies Apollo's pronouncement: "There is no truth at all i' th' Oracle" (III. ii. 140), calling upon himself the full violence of Apollonian justice:


Servo     The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear

    Of the queen's speed, is gone.

          Leon.     How! gone?

Servo     Is dead.

Leon.     Apollo's angry, and the heavens themselves

    Do strike at my injustice. (III. ii. 144-147)

These lines link Apollonian anger with the son's death and the son's death with the internalization of the mother's violation. Yet they also contain deeper symbolic resonance. Insofar as he identified Mamillius with his phallic potency, Leontes is symbolically castrated, and insofar as his son represents his childhood self, his "injustice" meets with symbolic (and, shortly afterward, real) maternal deprivation. The queen's "speed" is, moreover, ambiguous. The Arden edition note equates it with Hermione's "fate" or "fortune," but "speed" is associated in the play with the power of action itself, with general potency.13 In this sense, "mere conceit and fear/Of the queen's speed" becomes a symbolic crystallization of Leontes' psychic condition as well as his son's. Apollo's anger projects the paternal response to the sons' (Leontes' and Mamillius') "conceit and fear" of maternal power. Immediately, Hermione faints, and we are led to believe her dead. Then, only then, does Leontes recover the consciousness of differences:

                                    Apollo, pardon My great profaneness 'gainst thine Oracle.

I'll reconcile me to Polixenes,

New woo my queen, recall the good Camillo. . .

                                                (III. ii. 153-156)


The enactment of his jealousy is reduced to "great profaneness" against the paternal words, as he re-assimilates himself to the sacred view of pure identities and vows to reconstitute lost relationships. What follows is a recitation of his crimes and a vivid statement of the difference between anal violation and Polixenes' pietistic purity:

                                                              …how he glistens

Through my rust! and how his piety

Does my deeds make the blacker. (III. ii. 170-172)


In the rest of the scene Leontes is reduced almost to speechlessness (infantilized) as Paulina delivers the most powerful feminine attack in the play. He accepts and encourages her verbal punishment, a complete reversal of his sadistic intentions into their passive, masochistic counterpart. Paulina levels at him a recapitulation of his crimes (crimes she could not have known literally), culminating in a terrifying judgment:

                                            A thousand knees

Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,

Upon a barren mountain, and still winter

In storm perpetual, could not move the gods

To look that way thou wert. (III. ii. 210-214)

These words convey absolute helplessness, in the context of absolute oral deprivation, to recover parental presence; they evoke the impotence of infancy in a world of lost omnipotent possibility. For Leontes that psychic reality is the equivalent of his psychic murder of Hermione. Shakespeare, in making this psychic reality a literal dramatic fact for us, makes the omnipotence of thoughts and the dramatic world converge. In the world of the play and in the experience of it, murderous fantasy and reality are united in the announcement of Hermione's death. We are made, in the moment before Leontes vows to "recreate" himself through the ritual of mourning, to experience the world as he did.

The Coast of Bohemia

      Leontes leaves the world of the play to return in the final act, a figure of repentance. Then an immediate transposition occurs, a shift in scene that both separates us from his inner process of reparation and resymbolizes the central components of that process in a displaced, distanced context. In the economy of the play this scene forms a pivot, a psychic landscape that shifts central tensions from the inner world of Leontes to the outer Bohemian boundary between land and sea.

(What better location for restructuring boundary confusion than a coast, the place that demarcates fluidity and solidity, change and fixity, and also brings them into interplay?) For if Leontes embodies the unsuccessful struggle to reconcile the desire for sacred, nurturant maternity with the violence associated with its loss, we encounter the expressions of these split possibilities on the Bohemian coast. Sacred maternity returns in Antigonus' vision of Hermione and finds duplicate expression in the attributes of her child, while catastrophic loss is projected as the action of the sea and the pursuit by the bear. Here, at the structural center of the play, "great difference" intensifies to cosmic proportions.

      Antigonus stands alone on the stage, surrounded by impending violence. As the storm gathers to engulf him and his ship, he delivers the play's longest single speech, a further indication of the immense value words hold in Shakespeare's struggle against projected violence. Within his speech Hermione appears in a dream (a double defense), a ceremonial figure whose rage over loss is brought under control in alternating physical and verbal articulation:

                                    To me comes a creature,

Sometimes her head on one side, some another;

I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,

So fill'd, and so becoming: in pure white robes,

Like very sanctity, she did approach

My cabin where I lay: thrice bow'd before me,

And, gasping to begin some speech, her eyes

Became two spouts; the fury spent, anon

Did this break from her. . . (III. iii. 19-27)

In what Antigonus and the audience suppose is death, Hermione claims her full power, the power of the "immortal object,"14 the sanctified mother who confers identity on her child. This internalized image of the mother combines frightening daemonic power with maternal care; her purity and ceremonial actions suggest the figure of the Virgin Mother. When she speaks, her words absolve Antigonus of personal responsibility even as they enforce the verdict of an archaic logic of retribution:

                                                    'Good Antigonus,

Since fate, against they better disposition,

Hath made thy person for the thrower-out

Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,

Places remote enough are in Bohemia,

There weep, and leave it crying: and, for the babe Is counted lost for ever, Perdita,

I prithee, call't. For this ungentle business,

Put on thee by my lord, thou ne'er shalt see

Thy wife Paulina more: (III. iii. 27-36)

The speech rationalizes its speaker's grief in a highly defended mode, for it is a speech within a speech, doubly distanced from the immediacy of natural violence. Its logic argues for the correspondence of "fate" and consequential action, a magical structuring of action determined by transcendent (that is to say, displaced) forces. Antigonus has become an actor in a play no person writes. Yet the speech, even as it clearly differentiates Antigonus from his role in the play of fate, also abandons the distinction between personal" disposition" and punishment. He is to be punished as an instrument, not as a person, and his sentence-death, seen as separation from a woman-is not mitigated by his manifest intentions. Leontes himself has become the agent of transcendent forces in this restructuring of relationships; only the child Perdita embodies the correspondence of essence and appearance, conferred identity and recognized character.

      The psychology of the whole play, however, is governed by such a deeply rooted terror of and wish for maternal power that even mental transgressions inflict total punishments. Antigonus may be merely the vehicle of his master's wishes, but he does share with Leontes a belief in Hermione's guilt: "…poor wretch,/That for they mother's fault art thus expos'd/ To loss and what may follow" (III. iii. 49-51). In believing that Leontes' delusion is reality, that the child is Polixenes', that he is performing the will of Apollo in separating mother and child, Antigonus recapitulates the play's central crimes. All this serves to identity him, beneath his apparent logicality, with Leontes in his pathological condition. Shakespeare's defensive displacements can be ruthlessly ironic.

      The response to his mental crimes comes in the form of Shakespeare's most startling dramatic action: "Exit, pursued by a bear." Taken in by the idea of maternal transgressions, Antigonus is quite literally taken in by a bear. Oral rage materializes in dreamlike response to the expression of maternal imperfection. In the psychology of The Winter's Tale, the only stable guarantee of external nurturance is the absolute, pre-rational, internalized acceptance of feminine inviolability. Any expression of ambivalence, however logically cast on a manifest level, leads to broken relationships, physical violence, or death.

      "Exit, pursued by a bear." Oral violence is not only externalized but depersonalized and dehumanized, so that its expression becomes a function of the" natural" world, outside the civilization of the court, and outside human control. Separated from the matrix of nurturant society, Antigonus, like Lear, encounters not indifference, but the transformation of nurturance into projections of parental anger

("the skies look grimly" [III. iii. 3], "thou'rt like to have / A lullaby too rough" [III. iii. 54-55]). The bear may stand for Leontes in his rage, but it also stands for the surrender of that rage to the natural world, a Shakespearean strategy of deadly sport. Shakespeare, as Norman Holland points out, seems to be engaged in a visual pun on "bear."15 What the men of the play cannot" bear" (feminine bearing, childbirth) pursues them; what produces a "barne" also threatens engulfment. The bear" is " Leontes in the partial sense that it embodies the mother he embodies psychically and who, in turn, embodies his representative. It is no accident that Antigonus was the one to identify wolves and bears with nurses (II. iii. 186-188).

      The domestic aspect of this Shakespearean sport emerges in the Clown's taste for metaphor:

Now, now: I have not winked since I saw these sights:

the men are not yet cold under water, nor the bear half

dined on the gentleman: he's at it now. (III. iii. 103-105)

To make the violence of engulfment bearable, Shakespeare has the Shepherd and his son displace the violence of the storm (itself an expression of displaced violence) to language; he shifts emphasis from the sight of engulfment to an account of it, and from the account to the teller:

I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages, how it takes up the shore! But that's not to the point. O, the most piteous cry of the poor souls! sometimes to see 'em, an not to see 'em; now the ship boring the moon with her main-mast, and anon swallowed with yest and froth, as you'd thrust a cork into a hog's head. And then for the land-service, to see how the bear tore out his shoulder-bone, how he cried to me for help and said his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. But to make an end of the ship, to see how the sea flap-dragoned it: but first, how the poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them: and how the poor gentleman roared, and the bear mocked him, both roaring louder than the sea or weather. (III. iii. 88-101)

Highly defended as it is, the Clown's fantasy plays with the deepest anxieties of the play. If we take our clue from the erotic meaning of "service"16 we can recognize a fantasy of sexual contact suffused with boundary anxieties, as the feminine ship, phallic and penetrating, is itself swallowed like a phallic cork in a hogs-head. Highly charged sight followed by disappearance, alternating activity and passivity, the confusion of phallic and oral language, the Clown's intermixture of sea-and-land-service, bodily and natural violence, his own fantasy and the external event-all this creates a transposed re-enactment of Leontes' confusion, Hermione's" fury" and Paulina's curse. We may also imagine Shakespeare sinking the maternal " vessel" he fears. In any case, on land and sea the fantasized concomitants of Leontes' ambivalent wish for fusion are exorcized. Yet the shame associated with Leontes' fantasy of sexual contact enacted by surrogates for himself dissolves in this re-enactment of his anxieties. The Clown's speech, in its self-conscious diction, its stylized mixture of subjectivity and objective reporting, and in its balance (at the end) of action and response, transforms archaic terrors into structured art. It thus forms a miniature of the transformative strategy of the whole play.

Other important transformations occur in the scene's second half. Perdita, magically exempt from the catastrophic effects of the storm and the bear, comes to embody the essence of the wish for dual unity initially symbolized by the" twinn'd lambs" of Polixenes' childhood fantasy. The Shepherd, who immediately replaces Antigonus in the paternal role (only these two are called" old man" [III. iii. 106-107, 119]), has come in search of " two of my best sheep" (65-66); the sheep have been frightened by youths, with whom the Shepherd associates sexual transgressions ("getting wenches with child" [61-62]), and adolescent aggression; their behavior exposes the sheep to the" wolf" (66) of the extra-civilized world. When he finds the child, she (and the riches that come with her, for the Shepherd is avid for wealth) is found instead of his sheep. "Let my sheep go" (124), he says to his son. This symbolic act of exchange signifies, I think, the abandonment of the substitute for the original unity with the mother (the masculine bond of the boyhood myth) in a return to the symbol of the original unity itself, the maternal child. In the marvelous economy of this exchange, Shakespeare enacts a benign version of the regressive rhythm Leontes followed. Now the curse of death (sexualized violence) cannot impinge on the desire for life.17

"Now bless thyself: thou met'st with things dying, I with things new-born" (112-113). Here, in the pivotal line of this pivotal scene, union and separation of death and life, disintegration and revitalization, come together in the shape of language. To keep "things dying" (associated with winter, sexual confusion and boundary loss) separate from" things re-born" (associated with spring, and patterned, lawful creativity) and to bring them together through the structured mediation of art comprises the Shakespearean strategy for mastering his love-hate relationship with an archaic mother child matrix and its cultural embodiments. If the Clown's description of the storm and the bear exemplifies the transformation of the dangers adhering to this matrix, the Shepherd's line exemplifies the broader strategy of balancing the opposites symbolically to allow for symbolic interplay. As we shall see, this more inclusive strategy is central to the repopulation of the play's world in the long sequence of the pastoral.

The Figure of Time

      To close gaps, Shakespeare first widens them. On the coast of Bohemia he widened the spatial distance between the locus of conflict and its reenactment, and now, in the figure of Time, he widens the gap between the past and the future, infancy and adolescent blossoming, and he bridges it simultaneously. As A. D. Nuttall says, "Shakespeare's Time chorus is an unashamedly allegorical figure who has stepped out of an altogether older type of drama, perhaps with some assistance from the fashionable world of the Masque."18 The fact of Time's Time's appearance announces Shakespeare's theatricality, makes his play self-reflexive, restores authorial awareness. In other words, Time reconstitutes the awareness Leontes lost of the difference between action and the consciousness of it as " acting" in the theatrical sense. Time, before he speaks, says, "This is a play."19 In a play so preoccupied with the effects of time, close attention to the nature of Time offers clues to the dynamics of Shakespeare's theatricality:

I that please some, try all: both joy and terror Of good and bad, that makes and

unfolds error, Now take upon me, in the name of Time,

To use my wings.                                     (Iv. i. 1-4)

      The figure of Time presents itself not merely as the active agent of pleasure but also as the agent of judgment. Time is inclusive (" joy and terror," "good and bad," "makes and unfolds"), in sharp contrast to the exclusive priorities of the play's earlier action. Time's power is authorial in all the senses Shakespeare's authorial presence makes itself felt in the play. One aspect of this presence is its paternal omnipotence, the" power/To o'erthrow law, and in one self-born hour/To plant and O'erwhelm custom" (7-9). Another is the power of fantasy to "make stale/The glistering of this present, as my tale/Now seems to it" (13-15), the power to declare "great difference." This authorial presence can abolish the claims of time itself, can make the reality of separation into the timeless space of a dream, "and give my scene such growing/ As you had slept between" (16-17). Time embodies in words the paradox that will be realized in the final scene, the capacity of time, imagined as timeless, to deny time. In the world of The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare makes acceptance of this paternal image the condition for our reception of his reversal of imagined loss.

      But if the figure of Time is invested with the powers of a self-sufficient paternal image, this figure also reverses the roles of parent and child by inviting us to indulge his transgressions of reality:

Impute it not a crime

To me, or my swift passage, that I slide

O'er sixteen years. . . (4-6)

Here we are the parental figures. In making us the judges of Time, Shakespeare, in effect, invites our complicity in his authorial fantasy. This is not mere rhetoric, but a pre figural strategy that will come to full fruition in the final scene. Seductive tact and theatrical decorum invest the mystique Paulina will direct then, and now we are invited to dignify the techniques she will use. Shakespeare plays Time to use our trust to sanction his.

                                               Of this allow,

If ever you have spent time worse ere now;

If never, yet that Time himself doth say,

He wishes earnestly you never may. (29-32)

With this authorial perspective we enter the world of Bohemia.


Avoiding Separation

      Act IV, scene ii, the structural counterpart of the Sicilian departure scene (I. ii), re-presents the play's central preoccupation with separation and revises its earlier consequence. This time no woman is called upon to mediate the king's desire for the continuous presence of his friend. The scene dramatizes the avoidance of separation in the context of masculine idealizations. Camillo, whom Polixenes promised to respect "as a father" (I. ii. 461) in exchange for lifesaving passage from Sicily, now occupies the position of Polixenes in the earlier scene; he seeks reunion with his lost country and master. Polixenes, now in the position of Leontes, openly confesses the absolute dependency he feels. Here the dependency relationship so precariously desired by Leontes finds rich expression:

Pol.    As thou lov'st me, Camillo, wipe not out the rest of thy services by leaving me now:

           the need I have of thee, thine own goodness hath made; better not to have had thee than thus to want thee. (10-13)

Like Leontes, Polixenes claims total love, and obliquely suggests that a break in continuity is a form of aggressive denial of what was given in the past. Implicit in his avowal of need is the threat that separation will evoke the loss of love. In the economics of such love, the actual presence of the needed other is the only guarantee against emotional reversal, and Polixenes promises fuller payment of thanks in exchange for the guarantee he requires: "… to be more thankful to thee shall be my study; and my profit therein, the heaping friendships" (18-20).

      Polixenes dreads separation from the sources of his continuous well-being. In the course of this short scene he equates separation with death, recalls the loss of Leontes' queen and children and devises a strategy for preventing the loss of his son.21 As we might expect, his fear for his son focuses on feminine power, in language that again recalls Leontes: "...I fear, the angle that plucks our son thither" (46-47). Separation is prevented when the two men unite in the artifice of disguise; they agree to become the concealed embodiments of paternal vigilance. In Bohemia change and loss are mitigated by strategies for linking dependency to artifice, as we shall see more fully in the pastoral. Polixenes succeeds where Leontes failed because he can defer Camillo's wish for reunion in the interest of his own wish for the recovery of his absent son, and he can do this without the aid of a woman. Shakespeare makes the recovery of masculine trust the pre-requisite for the validating of trust in women. Where such masculine trust is displayed, the ground is prepared for the reversal of paranoiac fears.

Bohemian Play

Before we enter the pastoral festival, Shakespeare introduces his most playful embodiment of subversive action, Autolycus. His presence in the play indicates how full is Shakespeare's control of the sacrilegious terrors of Leontes' jealousy, for Autolycus is permitted to play with and play on the sexuality and boundary confusions that threaten courtly life. Shakespeare's rhythmic patterning of threat and defense is nowhere clearer than in the fact of his presence. From the moment of his opening song, he celebrates the triumph of spring over winter, nurturance and sexuality over the violent splitting of the two:

When daffodils begin to peer,

With heigh! the doxy over the dale,

Why then comes in the sweet 0' the year,

For the red blood reigns in the winter's pale.

         (IV. iii. 1-4)

      Autolycus is "out of service" (IV. iii. 14), and his response to separation completely lacks the anxiety of the courtly characters. Instead of clinging to the sources of physical and emotional supplies, Autolycus plays with his fears, and he makes changes his constancy, directionlessness his direction, role playing his role:

But shall I go mourn for that, my dear?

    The pale moon shines by night:

And when I wander here and there,

   I then do most go'right.       (IV. iii. 15-18)

Through him Shakespeare restores a childlike sophistication to the play, making the open expression of super-ego anxieties and the fear of violence into resilient forms of mastery.

      Autolycus means" very wolf." He presents himself as a " snapper-up of unconsidered trifles" (IV. iii. 26), true to his paternal heritage, for he was" littered under Mercury" (25). Mercury, we remember, stole the oxen of Apollo in his infancy, charmed Apollo with songs, and was worshipped by shepherds. For Autolycus orality-aggressive and musical-is a form of family loyalty, not family violation. When he encounters the Clown on the way to buy food for the festival, we see a fine example of his strategic use of his deprived condition. He presents himself as the victim of robbery, aggression and body mutilation (as Leontes did), indeed, as a victim of himself (91-97), in order to get what the Clown has, money. To gratify himself, he announces a projection of himself as the tormentor of himself, a neat parallel of Leontes' abortive script. After his pocket is picked, the Clown becomes for Autolycus the embodiment of oral gratification, four times called" sweet sir" (78, 107, Ill, 114). Autolycus makes narcissistic needs into displays of dependency in order to control his victim.

      Autolycus functions as a parodic foil to the masculine anxieties of the court. A creature of surfaces, and of words, he is a veritable grab-bag of perverse fantasies. He exhibits himself and his wares with a theatricality that is the counterpart of Leontes' paranoid projections. Leontes assimilates surface behavior to private fantasy; Autolycus provides the surfaces (sheets in the double sense, cloth and paper) upon which others project their desires:

Lawn as white as driven snow, Cypress black as e'er was crow,

Gloves as sweet as damask roses,

Masks for faces and for noses. . . (IV. iv. 220-223)

Leontes is taken in by his own fantasy; Autolycus uses fantasies to take in others. As he tells us after the festivities, his profit derives from the idolatry of his victims:

Ha, ha! what a fool Honesty is! and Trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman! I have sold all my trumpery: not a counterfeit stone, not a ribbon, glass, pomander, brooch, table-book, ballad, knife, tape, glove, shoe-tie, bracelet, horn-ring, to keep my pack from fasting: they throng who should buy first, as if my trinkets had been hallowed and brought a benediction to the buyer. .                (IV. iv. 596-603)

The artifice of signs of love which the opening scene announced as the symbolic expression of union comprises Autolycus' means for preying on the narcissism of others. He renders his prey helpless with theatrical displays, visual and verbal fantasies, an ironic reduction of Shakespeare's own theatrical powers. He acts out playfully one side of Shakespeare's ambivalent relation to the religious stance the play finally affirms. Idolatry, he tells us, is a form of sexual vulnerability: ".. .you might have pinched a placket, it was senseless; 'twas nothing to geld a codpiece of a purse. .." (IV. iv. 610612). And its actual effect is the admiration of "Nothing" (615), actual deprivation, and the illusion of feminine wholeness:

Pins, and poking-sticks of steel,

What maids lack from head to heel. (IV. iv. 228-229)

For those who. cannot believe the gaps in their mistresses, Autolycus is the man to see.

      In the manipulative strategies of Autolycus, Shakespeare also displaces and contains the perverse fantasies Leontes projected on to intimate family relationships. Now these fantasies become the stuff of art, not the realities of courtly life:

Aut. Here's one, to a very doleful tune, how a usurer's wife was brought to bed

        of twenty money-bags at a burden, and how she longed to eat adders' head

        and toads carbonadoed. (IV. iv. 263-266)

The primary process illusions of Leontes' jealousy have been transformed in a secondary process context-the art form of the ballad-and once this" art space" is secured Shakespeare makes the fantasy of perverse birth and feminine engulfment an ironic indulgence at the expense of his pastoral characters:

Mop. Is it true, think you?

Aut. Very true, and but a month old.

Dor. Bless me from marrying a usurer! (Iv. iv. 267-269)

We can laugh at their gullibility because Shakespeare has restored the difference between play and reality. Bateson succinctly defines this difference: "In primary process, map and territory are equated; in secondary process, they can be discriminated. In play, they are both equated and discriminated."22 Such a capacity to play depends on tolerating the separateness of self and other at the very moment that separateness is denied in fantasy. In the Sicilian court the equation of map and territory (Leontes' madness) confronts its polar opposite, the absolute discrimination of private fantasy from public myth (Paulina's and Apollo's stances). In the pastoral play of Bohemia the" great difference" lies in the process of playing itself, the interplay of equation and discrimination of pure identities and perverse or dangerous transformations. As we shall see, in a way very different from Autolycus', this interplay is central to the central symbolic person of the play, Perdita.23

The Pastoral Re-Vision

      The pastoral festival of The Winter's Talc offers us a resilient defense against the sexual and familial dislocations dramatized earlier. It comprises a full-scale play-within-the play, and it can be divided easily into five acts.24 The pastoral offers us a defense against boundary anxieties in the fullest psychoanalytic meaning of the term defense, by transforming those anxieties into coordinated expressions that contain those anxieties in the rhythm of the form itself.

      Notice, for example, the two dances that temporarily suspend the action of the plot. The first is a dance of shepherds and shepherdesses and it comes after Perdita has given her flowers to the others, as if to celebrate the completion of her role in the festival. The second, a dance of twelve satyrs, complements the first, in the sense that it acts out a rough and phallic rhythm, as if to introduce the rupture of the festival mood that follows. Shakespeare does split this world, but my point is that he does it in ways that integrate the surface rhythm of the play and its defining motives. A symbolic union of opposites is expressed in the formal interplay of the pastoral world itself.25

      Another way to say this is to evoke the term coined by Phyllis Greenacre in her studies of creative capacities, "collective alternates." She defines this as a capacity to realize "a communion with outer forms which reflect inner feelings,"26 a synthesis of objects and rhythms external to the self with inner objects, relationships and rhythms. In the pastoral world of The Winter's Tale, I believe, Shakespeare achieves such a synthesis. To take one further example, consider part of Florizel's idealization of Perdita:

                 ... 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. (IV. iv. 140-143)

To call this his wish for an ideal mother is accurate (more on that later), but what I am concerned to point out now is the way in which the lines create the rhythm they are about. When we listen to that rhythm do we not hear the motion of the wave? Do we not hear, also, the echo of Leontes' erupting madness, now transformed into its opposite?

                    . . .my heart dances,

But not for joy-not joy. (I. ii. 110-111)

The pastoral rhythm re-forms the earlier rhythm in the context of an image of continuity, creating a micro-dramatic reflection of the continuity of relationships the play itself enacts.

      Such a synthesis indicates one central aspect of Shakespeare's relation to his material, and it is the formal correlative of the central relationship realized in the space of the pastoral, the relationship between Florizel and Perdita. Until interrupted by Polixenes' modulated re-enactment of Leontes' jealousy, they exist in and energize a relationship that reconstitutes the same constellation of motives and defenses we saw displayed earlier in the play; and that constellation is not merely displayed but is richly performed. Although often read in a quasi-allegorical mode the pastoral includes characters who can be felt as personalities. The pastoral play-within-the-play can be seen as a revision in a double sense; it returns us symbolically to the idealized dual unity wished for in Sicily, and it changes the dramatic fate of that ideal bond. In Florizel Shakespeare imagines a son who shares with the fathers of the playa need for a symbiotic reflector. He projects the most fully articulate expression of dependency on a sacramental other. Perdita is for Florizel what Hermione failed to be in Leontes' fantasy, and in his worship of her imagined self, Florizel fulfills Leontes' vow at the moment of repentance, the vow to .. New woo my queen..." (III. ii. 156).

      Florizel begins with characteristic language:

These your unusual weeds, to each part of you

Do give a life: no shepherdess, but Flora

Peering in April's front. (IV. iv. 1-3)

In barely three lines he has expressed the essence of his idealizing imagination; he equates Perdita's visual surface with her actual vitality, negates her social status in favor of a mythical identity, and displaces his visual interest on to its object. If she is Flora, he, Florizel, exists in an idealized symbiosis with her.27 Like a child's narcissistic relation to an idealized mother imago, his relation to Perdita reflects his own need for an externally continuous source of identity. Such a reflection precedes the formation of a separate self.

                                        For I cannot be

Mine own, nor anything to any, if

I be not thine. To this I am most constant,

Though destiny say no.      (IV. iv. 43-46)


Constancy consists in absolute fixation on this timeless imago.

       The image of the woman as an external source of continuity has its developmental roots in what Rene A. Spitz has called the primal dialogue of mother and child.28 In the early months of life, we seek a correspondence of inner and outer presence, a "fit" between self and other that permits separation and fusion of identities to alternate until separation can be accepted. The acceptance of separation, however, involves a paradox, for it only occurs if the mother is internalized as a constant imago for the child. Separation involves a psychic denial of separation. If the mother is feared as engulfing or catastrophic, this process of separation can result in the need for an external, idealized maternal presence which serves as a defense against the possibility of inner regression. In Leontes, we see this regressive process and in Florizel the restoration of the relationship that obviates the regression by realizing the wish for external continuity.

      Consider Florizel's beautiful evocation of Perdita's vitality once again:

                                    When you do speak, sweet,

I'd have you do it ever: when you sing,

I'd 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. (IV. iv. 136-146)

Perdita, that which was lost in Leontes' madness, is re-created in this speech. Florizel wishes for a woman whose change is continuity, not loss, whose functions are her essence, whose expression is song and dance. He would re-create in the media of her art an image that transcends the possibility of the separation dramatized earlier, the violent splitting of appearance and reality, illusion and fact. He would have her be that fusion. This fantasy seems, in the moment we absorb it, utterly to reverse the terror of maternal engulfment. Yet he presents the fantasy explicitly as a wish. The reversal of Leontes' condition works within the dynamics of that condition, but Florizel repeats the wish for fusion from the perspective of successful defense against its catastrophic variation.

To see the defensive aspect of Florizel's idealizations, consider what he needs to negate. Perdita is to be "Nothing but" her idealized self, .. no shepherdess, but Flora. ".. Apprehend/ Nothing but jollity" (Iv. iv. 24-25) , he tells her. In response to her recognition of the demands of social hierarchy, he speaks in extremely revealing images:

                                                                Be merry, gentle

Strangle such thoughts as these with anything

That you behold the while. (IV. iv. 46-48, italics added)

To strangle the thought of separation with anything beheld (a word that suggests visual attraction and the idea of holding and being held) bespeaks the anxiety he wards off by fixating on her ideal self. Turning toward external images of positive inner wishes defends against inarticulate inner dangers. In being the ideal screen for the projection of those inner wishes, Perdita is for Florizel what Florizel was for his father:

My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all

He makes a July's day short as December;

And with his varying childness cures in me

Thoughts that would thick my blood. (I. ii. 168-171, italics added)

Like Florizel, Polixenes creates in his son an image of external transformations to diminish the reality of time and to defend against unspecified inner disease. Loss is denied by the multiplication of a potentially infinite number of roles for the significant other play. Florizel, like his father and Leontes, is a playwright in fantasy.

At least two further aspects of this complex masculine strategy deserve our attention. The first concerns the way which the idealization of the other involves a kind of feedback to the self, a self-idealization. Florizel counters the threat of the father by identifying himself with the transformations of the gods:

                            The gods themselves,

Humbling their deities to love, have taken

The shapes of beasts upon them:

Jupiter Became a bull, and bellow'd; the green Neptune


A ram, and bleated; and the fire-rob'd god, Golden

Apollo, a poor humble swain,

As I seem now.                             (IV. iv. 25-31)

We can read these lines in an Oedipal context and see Florizel identifying with the aggressor as a defense against the incestuous aspect of his maternal fixation. Indeed, he tells us that he is purer and more controlled than those paternal models of sexuality (II. 32-35). But his self-aggrandizement also mirrors his idealization of Perdita, allows him to fantasize a utopia of two, and confuses humility with the dismissal of paternal reality. In psychoanalytic terms, a pre-Oedipal dynamic, narcissistic mirroring, informs the Oedipal conflict.29

      The second aspect of this masculine strategy concerns Florizel's actual response to the threat of separation. He clings to the ontological security of his ideal bond (see IV. iv. 464-465), and implies that separation is equivalent to a violent loss of potency:

                                            It cannot fail, but by

The violation of my faith; and then

Let nature crush the sides 0' th' earth together,

And mar the seeds within!      (IV. iv. 477-480)

Like Lear and Leontes, he imagines the alternative to Perdita's nurturance as a violent attack from the maternal source itself, the very" nature" with which Perdita is so richly identified. Like Leontes, he globalizes that fantasy, but now the poles of the fantasy have been reversed, and his" faith" in Perdita becomes, like a counter-phobic defense, the alternative to " perdition" (IV. iv. 379).

      Like Leontes' also, but reversed, is his defense in action against the threat of separation; he reaches for another artifice, another transformation of human actuality into superhuman (childhood) terms. Leontes sought Camillo in a plot to poison Polixenes, and when Camillo offers to provide the plot in which Florizel can be delivered to safety, he responds with the dynamic opposite of his fear of " natural" violence:

May this, almost a miracle, be done?

That I may call the something more than man

And after that trust to thee. (IV.iv.535-537, italics added)

In the economy of the play, when defenses are restored, idealization precedes trust. Supernatural identities convert passive helplessness (" . . .the slaves of chance, and flies/Of every wind that blows" [IV. iv. 541-542]) into active control. Florizel's reversal of Leontes' pathological dependency depends on finding an artifice to which he can submit, a masculine "plot" that transforms the threat of impotence into a form of omnipotence.30

     In the lovers' flight from Bohemia, Camillo plays surrogate playwright, but only because Shakespeare has made another kind of revision of the play's earlier conflict into the occasion for its reversal. Polixenes interrupts the communion of Perdita and Florizel (symbolically a repetition of the mother-son communion Leontes had violated) after prompting his son to include the father in his celebration. The moment of interruption is significant, for its revives the inception of Leontes' jealousy. Observe the sequence:

Shep.      Take hands, a bargain

              And, friends unknown, you shall bear witness to't.

               I give my daughter to him and will make

              Her portion equal his.

Flo.       O, that must be

              l' th' virtue of your daughter: one being dead,

              I shall have more than you can dream of yet;

              Enough then for your wonder. But come on,

              Contract us 'fore these witnesses.

Shep.                                         Come, your hand;

              And, daughter, yours.

Pol.                               Soft, swain, awhile, beseech you;

             Have you a father? (IV. iv. 384-393, italics added)

Polixenes and Camillo are about to witness the clasPing of hands, but the symbolic gesture does not occur. As I have shown in discussing Leontes' jealousy, the clasping of hands is an over-determined sight for Shakespeare. It can activate (I) an image of communion transcending separation (I. i. 29-30); (2) an image of boundary confusion in which self and other are co mingled" sexually (I. ii. 108-109);31 (3) the idea of an exclusive bond, in relation to which any other or witness is imagined as a potential rival for maternal nurturance.

      Polixenes interrupts this feared and wished-for touching of hands to assert his paternal prerogative in this communal ritual:

Methinks a father

Is at the nuptial of his son a guest

That best becomes the table. (IV. iv. 395-397)

His plea is for symbolic inclusion, a sign of symbolic continuity, without which he is nothing:

                       … reason my son

Should choose himself a wife, but as good reason

The father (all whose joy is nothing else

But fair posterity) should hold some counsel

In such a business. (IV. iv. 407-411, italics added)

Florizel "yield[s] all this" (411), yet co for some other reasons" (412) their difference remains absolutely un-negotiable. Is there not, beneath the social difference of Florizel and Perdita, an identity of father and son at play in this dispute? Their Oedipal rivalry ("one being dead") is based on what they have in common, a total investment in external signs of their continuity. Each sees all of his well-being in another, and each acts as if difference from all were nothing.32

      As with Leontes, the fear of exclusion leads to a paranoid transformation of ideal relationships. Polixenes reveals himself suddenly and acts out a short version of Leontes' madness. He converts the purity of Florizel into baseness, the loyal Shepherd into an "old traitor" (421), Perdita into a "fresh piece/Of excellent witchcraft" (423-424). As he exits, he directs at Perdita the threat of death Leontes attempted to execute in relation to Hermione:

            If ever henceforth thou

These rural latches to his entrance open,

Or hoop his body more with thy embraces,

I will devise a death as cruel for thee

As thou are tender to't. (IV. iv. 438-442)

His imagery again recalls Leontes', the" gates" (I. ii. 197) opened against his will, the fear of feminine enclosure. Polixenes threatens to repeat the past, and for a moment we may feel that the cycle of over-and under-evaluations could revolve forever, like the seasons of the year. But we have seen a pattern in the first half of the play. When an idealized, narcissistic investment in another fails to include an internalization of the father's" counsel," the paternal words ultimately thought of as Apollo, then the consequence is a conversion of sacred relationships into their profane opposites, and Shakespeare's response to this conversion "downward" is to re-convert the possibility of libidinized violence into another form of paternal control. In Sicily, Leontes failed to see Apollonian idealizations, libidinized sacred relationships, and was finally confronted with the oracular version 01: true knowledge. Now Polixenes has been excluded, has turned ideal relationships into their opposites, and Shakespeare has Camillo reassert paternal control against the possibility of loss.

      Camillo's plot serves various purposes. It enables him to "re-view Sicilia, for whose sight/[He has] a woman's longing" (IV. iv. 666-667) and to re-unite himself with Leontes (". . .whom/I so much thirst to see" [IV. iv. 513-14]), in short, to fulfill his own oral desires. It enables Florizel to maintain his symbiosis with Perdita, .. from the whom.../ There's no disjunction to be made" (IV. iv. 529-530). It makes violation of the father's command into an indirect fulfillment of the father's wish for continuity, makes change into a form of constancy. It converts deception into a vehicle for the revelation of ideal identities, puts" art" in the service of "nature," as the final scene does.

      Camillo's plot transforms the identity of father and son into a means of re-union rather than a break in continuity. In his fantasy the son becomes a self-conscious representative of the father rather than an alternative to him:

       Methinks I see

Leontes opening his free arms and weeping

His welcome forth; asks thee there 'Son, forgiveness!'

As 'twere i' th' father's person. (IV. iv. 548-551)

      By impersonating his father, Florizel can replace him without really replacing him. In other words, masculine artifice has become a strategy for making difference coincide with identity. It is as if Shakespeare were saying that the art of men (his art), the making of plots, disguises and idealized roles, provides the only alternative to the loss of continuity he associates with uncontrolled feminine power. Active patterning of "nature" makes "nature" a source of ceremonial fulfillment; the fantasy of exclusion or unmediated submission makes " nature" persecutory. Florizel can preserve his idealized mother identification only within the context of its transformation in a masculine distribution of roles. Camillo, makes his wish for oral union coincide with the lovers' union by conceiving a play in which they all will bear a part. The "law and process of great nature" (II. ii. 60) is the fruit of this masculine defensive transformation of feared maternal powers. "I see the play so lies," says Perdita, "That I must bear a part." To which Camillo replies, "No remedy" (IV. ii. 655656).33


In the economy of The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare celebrates ideal femininity in the character of Perdita. His split conception of woman, so often represented in the form of opposing characters, is transformed in this play into a collated expression of opposites. This economy, it seems to me, corresponds to Shakespeare's fuller capacity to accept the (idealized) feminine part of himself, the" woman's part" he had denounced in Cymbeline and raged against in Lear. This is not to say that his conflict over feminine powers is resolved (it never was), but that we see a movement toward what Marion Milner calls" encompassing ambivalence, instead of using the defense of splitting and projection."34

      Perdita displays the absolute internalization of parental decorum. She thinks of patriarchal authority is a sacred don nee of existence. For her, the pseudo-speciation35 of social hierarchy, with its absolute differentiation of "noble" and "vile," projects an unquestionable structure of relationships. When Florizel, characteristically dismissing the claims of hierarchy to which he will finally be accommodated, blesses the time of their meeting, Perdita immediately expresses her concern for differences:

                          Now Jove afford you cause

To me the difference forges dread (your greatness

Hath not been us'd to fear): even now I tremble

To think your father, by some accident

Should pass this way, as you did: O the Fates!

How would he look, to see his work, so noble,

Vilely bound up? (IV. iv. 16-22, italics added)

The difference forges dread: this line, with metallic certainty, restores the taboo Leontes broke. The look of the gods that Paulina claimed Leontes had lost irretrievably in his psychic murder of Hermione returns in the consciousness of her child. " The sternness of his presence" (I.24) guarantees the stability of psychic and social boundaries. The son becomes "his work," the father's creation. Perdita's femininity depends for its realization on the acceptance of this archaic, biblical image of the father. Her charm derives from her flexibility within patriarchal control.

      Perdita recalls the" power of the king" (IV. iv. 37) to Florize1, and periodically she reminds us that her nature serves a paternal will:

                 Sir, welcome:

It is my father's will I should take on me

The hostess-ship 0' th' day. (IV. iv. 70-72)


     I see the play so lies

That I must bear a part. (IV. iv. 655-656)

Her language (" take on me," "must bear ") indicates how well she knows her place, how firmly rooted the paternal super-ego is in her mind. As Frye points out, Shakespeare gives Perdita four fathers in the course of the play, "a real one, a putative one who later becomes her father-in-law, a fictional one, Smalus of Lybia in Florizel's tale, and a shepherd foster-father."36 In other words, although she is never without paternity, her changing fathers indicate the fluctuating status of the ideal that remains the same for her.

      Even Perdita's apparent contradiction of hierarchic differences voices her faith in paternal presence. When Polixenes (repeating Leontes) sexualizes her symbiotic bond with Florizel, she counters hi violation of differences (echoing Hermione) with an assertion of paternal benevolence:

I was about to speak, and tell him plainly,

The selfsame sun that shines upon his court

Hides not his visage from our cottage, but

Looks on alike.               (IV. iv. 444-447)

Like her mother, Perdita appeals to the transcendent presence of the Apollonian "visage," the pure father who protects differences by supervising (watching over) the decorum of social identities.37 In identifying Polixenes' artifice as a violation of this paternal watchfulness (Apollo "hides not"), she reconstitutes the illusion that uniform protection coincides with hierarchic stability, the central illusion of the Shakespearean family romance. It is no accident that, immediately following her resilient expression of Apollonian faith, she renounces the dream of changing status:

                                                … this dream of mine

Being now awake, I'll queen it no inch farther,

But milk my ewes, and weep. (IV. iv. 449-451)

Perdita's relation to paternal authority encompasses opposites without resolving the contradiction between hierarchic differences and identical, paternal benevolence. Her function is to embody the myth, not transcend it, for in the myth lies Shakespeare's strategy for coping with the terror of psychic and social boundary confusion. Just as Camillo's plot forms a way of making violation of the paternal will into a vehicle for its gratification, Perdita's character symbolizes the way in which Shakespeare puts the fear of maternal engulfment in the service of sacred continuities. Perdita encompasses sexual differences (virginal and erotic) , social differences (shepherdess and" queen "), mythic differences (Flora and Persephone), and, in imagistic terms, differences in the substances of life itself (earth and water). In family terms, Perdita brings together continuity and difference, being a daughter who also embodies the mother. In dramatic terms, she enacts the interplay of personal and super-personal roles that Leontes had transformed into the usurpation of public roles by private fantasy.

      To encompass irreconcilable opposites requires ritual. Erik Erikson's summary of ritual functions seems almost a description of the pastoral play Perdita presides over:

     There is a reconciliation of the irreconcilable in all ritualizations, from the meeting of lovers to all manner of get-togethers, in which there is a sense of choice and ease and yet also one of driving necessity: of a highly personalized and yet also a traditional pattern; of improvisation in all formalization; of surprise in the very reassurance of familiarity. … Only these and other polarities assure that mutual fusion of the participants and yet also a simultaneous gain in distinctiveness for each.38

As the pastoral sequence opens, Perdita expresses both the customary nature of the ritual to be performed and its psychological basis:

                         …but that our feasts In

every mess have folly, and the feeders

Digest it with a custom, I should blush

To see you so attir'd; swoon, I think, To

show myself a glass. (IV. iv. 10-14)

In her acceptance of the occasion, she defines the very transformation Leontes had violated, the transformation of oral gratification into social form; "custom" formalizes what otherwise would create shame or display intolerable narcissistic ornament.39 The occasion fuses its participants in common desires ("every mess") while it maintains the hierarchy of social roles, brings together sameness and difference, nature and culture. Perdita's part in the ritual is to maintain her distinctiveness while she simultaneously allows herself to be assimilated to a traditional role.

      The Shepherd defines her role as the polymorphous maternal one:

Fie, daughter! When my old wife liv'd, upon

This day was both pantler, butler, cook,

Both dame and servant; welcom'd all, serv'd all;

Would sing her song, and dance her turn; now here

At upper end o' th' table, now i' the middle;

On his shoulder, and his; her face o' fire...


Come, quench your blushes, and present yourself

That which you are, Mistress o' th' Feast. (IV. iv. 55-68)

Perdita will discharge this consummate part in the place of an absent mother, yielding to her father's fantasy while maintaining her perspective on the occasion. 'When Camillo equates the sight of her mythologized self with oral fixation, she shows herself to be her mother's daughter by deflating his idealization:

Cam.   I should leave grazing, were I of your flock,

               And only live by gazing.

Per.                                                       Out, alas!

              You'd be so lean that blasts of January

           Would blow you through and through. (IV. iv. 109-112)

Like Hermione, she validates her ideal self in action without losing her sense of real consequences, and she becomes her role even as she retains a self-conscious awareness of its trans formative powers:

Methinks I playas I have seen them do

In Whitsun pastorals: sure this robe of mine

Does change my disposition. (IV. iv. 133-135)

With this awareness of ritual boundaries, Perdita restores to the play an integrated capacity for symbolic expression that recognizes itself; this is the sublimated counterpart of Autolycus' sexual displays, and the reversal of Leontes' regressive performance.

      When Leontes became absorbed in his paranoid fantasies, he sought to force the others in the court to conform to them. Perdita reverses this strategy also; she enacts the Elizabethan wish for ideal correspondences, giving each person the flowers that" fit" (IV. iv. 78) his or her biological condition. Her ritual assimilates the human time that leads to death to the cyclical time of allegorized nature, implying that rebirth inevitably follows loss, "summer's death" leading round to "the birth/ Of trembling winter" (IV. iv. 8081). The cyclical reality of oral childhood in transposed to the stage in cosmic terms. In language and. symbolic action Perdita expresses the communal artifice that obviates the fear of loss and separation by saying, in effect: "Loss (winter, separation, death, oral deprivation or violence) is real but merely part of the inexorable process of re-creation (reunion, life, oral communion). Continuity involves separation, life requires death." By idealizing this cyclical process, Perdita symbolically structures the polarities of the play's earlier action.20 The myth of natural correspondences contains ambivalence toward loss by " revolving" it in seasonal recurrence.

      Perdita rejects the superficial narcissism of cosmetics (IV. iv. 99-103), yet she embodies the transformed narcissism that identifies nature and culture, making" great creating nature" (IV. iv. 88) a reflection of human growth. Her flowers symbolize sexuality without the bodily anxieties that saturated Leontes' mind. Within the context of ritual order, she can recall erotic anxieties, because they are distanced by the allegorical and mythological modes of the occasion.

The marigold, that goes to bed wi' th' sun

And with him rises, weeping… (IV. iv. 105-106)

                                          … pale primroses,

That die unmarried, ere they can behold

Bright Phoebus in his strength (a malady

Most incident to maids) . . . (IV. iv. 122-; 25)

This allegorical eroticism makes the pain and shame of sexual relationships seem impersonally beautiful. We can participate in her fantasies of erotic disappointment and attraction as if the fears evoked by the earlier action were simply instances of eternal possibilities.

      In relation to Florizel, Perdita expresses and negates the fear of maternal malevolence that possessed Leontes:

Per.                            O Proserpina,

            For the flowers now that, frighted, thou let'st fall

            From Dis's wagon!


                                   O, these I lack,

            To make you garlands of; and my sweet friend,

            To strew him o'er and o'er!

Flo.                         What, like a corpse?

Per.     No, like a bank, for love to lie and play on:

            Not like a corpse; or if-not to be buried,

            But quick, and in mine arms. (IV. iv. 116-132)

On a manifest level, Perdita does not wish to be Proserpina, but to possess her lost flowers and to transform them into ornaments of her love. She emphasizes her "lack" of supplies, her wish for abundance.40 But she also evokes the violence of rape, the deflowering of a young virgin whose names means "the bringer of destruction," and she provokes Florizel's association of her abundant giving with death.41 The virgin Proserpina becomes the goddess of death after she is deflowered. These associations crystallize the fear that feminine sexuality renders men impotent, that erotic ornament can smother its object.

      Perdita negates this fantasy first by identifying Florizel with the earth. He becomes the field of love (unconsciously, I think, the maternal body); then she implies that death and life are reversible: "Not like a corpse; or if not to be buried,/ But quick…" Like Proserpina, Perdita contains in this fantasy both the power to destroy him and to bring him to life. He becomes the space she plays on and the one she plays with. In psychoanalytic terms, she becomes the mother of very early childhood, who, not differentiated psychically from her child, still is imagined to create and destroy his existence. The Proserpina myth recreates this condition as a natural cycle, and Perdita provides an immense reassurance against its catastrophic potential.

      With the opposites of creation and destruction formalized by ritual, and with Perdita and Florizel brought into the structure of Camillo's plot, Shakespeare has brought the play around to the idealized condition violated by Leontes. Now it is time to return to Sicily.

Return to Sicily

      Royalty's Repair

      Act V brings us back to the court. This time the transition from one symbolic space to another involves no violence, and instead of the boundary anxieties we witnessed on the coast of Bohemia, we are introduced to a setting governed by words.42 Leontes, consigned to absence for sixteen years, is presented to us as a figure of exemplary repentance. He has been transformed in his absence, and we see only the result of a process for which the Bohemian interval has substituted. Leontes is not, however, an isolated exemplum of virtues restored. He sits between Paulina on the one hand and Cleomenes and Dion on the other, like a figure in a psychomachia hearing the externalized voices of himself urging different futures. The scene, until the announcement of Perdita and Florizel, presents us with an iconographic representation of Leontes' still conflicted condition.

      In the language of religious economics Cleomenes urges Leontes to "forgive [him] self " (V. i. 6); he has "paid down/ More penitence than done trespass" (II. 3-4). The masculine superego that enforces forgiveness expresses itself in an anal mode; Leontes has" done enough, "performed, "redeem'd" and "paid down" his internalized debt. As we would expect, this debt-consciousness is a response to the fear of oral catastrophe:

Dion.                      . . .consider little,

            What dangers, by his highness' fail of issue,

            May drop upon his kingdom, and devour

            Incertain lookers on. (V. i. 26-29)

In these lines Shakespeare condenses a central dynamic of the play. Paternal continuity (the potency of the king) , "royalty's repair" (V. i. 31), transforms the fantasy of engulfment into "present comfort" and" future good" (1. 32). To insure the integrity of the body politic requires the propagation of "his most sovereign name" (1. 26), a supra-personal defense against the fear of communal disintegration. Dion urges Leontes to substitute another queen for Hermione, not in renunciation of her imagined virtues, but to prevent the fantasy Leontes conceived in his jealousy from being realized. "To bless the bed of majesty again/With a sweet fellow to't" (II. 33-34) is to restore symbolic parentage sanctioned by the gods as a protection against externalized oral aggression.

      Paulina voices a different mystique, one which captures Leontes' compliance. As the embodiment of the maternal super-ego and the voice of Apollo, she dismisses the possibility of active reparation:

If, one by one, you wedded all the world,

Or from the all that are, took something good,

To make a perfect woman, she you kill'd

Would be unparrallel'd.          (V. iv. 13-16)

Hermione cannot be replaced, no substitute created in reality to undo her psychic murder. Paulina's totalistic sensibility proclaims perpetual frustration, unless Leontes surrender completely to the" sweet purposes" (1.36) of the gods and the words of the Oracle. For her, Hermione's death is the consequence of Leontes' murderous wish; she appeals to him on the level of psychic omnipotence, and he accepts her control:

She I kill’d! I did so: but thou strik’st me

Sorely, to say I did: it is as bitter

Upon thy tongue as in my thought. (VI. 16-18, italics added)

Paulina has become the externalized voice of his inner orientation; the correspondence is restorted between her oral aggression and his masochistic penance. Leontes has been brought into accord with her infantilizing power. He accepts her "monstrous" (1.41) logic with the memory of the very gratification she withholds:43

                                            O, that I ever

            Has squar’d me to thy counsel! Then, even now,

I might have look’d upon my queen’s full eyes,

Have taken treasure from her lips. (V.i.51-54)

In the logic of the fantasy being enacted, to accept bitterness is to earn the primal gratifications of infancy; Leontes' imagery shows how constant his yearning for that primal relation to the mother remains.

      In his acquiescence to Paulina, Leontes rejects the advice of his masculine ministers. He reveals, instead, the terribly powerful fantasy of Hermione's psychic reality:

Leon.   No more such wives; therefore, no wife: one worse,

            And better us'd, would make her sainted spirit

            Again possess her corpse, and on this stage

            (Were we offenders now) appear soul-vex'd,

            And begin, 'Why to me?'

Paul.                                             Had she such power,

            She had just cause.

Leon.                           She had; and would incense me

            To murder her I married. (V. i. 56-62, italics added)

The "sainted spirit" of the mother would incite him to murder. To marry would risk repeating the past by becoming the instrument of an internal demonic saint. The inner structure of Leontes' psyche has not changed; his re-conversion to the sacred view of the mother contains all the ambivalence it did before. What has changed is his relation to the mystique Paulina embodies. Now their polar opposition has become a consonance of voices.44 Leontes now accepts the symbiotic dependence he had attempted to refuse:

        Whilst I remember

Her, and her virtues, I cannot forget

My blemishes in them, and so still think of

The wrong I did myself.       (V. i. 619)

      To prevent the return of violence, the ideal image of the mother must be actualized in reality. This is the function of art. "Unless another,/ As like Hermione as is her picture,/ Affront his eye" (V. i. 73-75), the opposite of this artificial identity will return. Paulina's mystique makes the identity of art and" nature" the only way of insuring the difference between violence and sacred persons.

      Ironically, Paulina's mystique is both violated and realized immediately after Leontes accepts her words. A servant enters to announce" the most peerless piece of earth" (V. i. 94), Perdita:

                 This is a creature.

Would she begin a sect, might quench the zeal

Or all professors else; make proselytes

Of who she but bid follow.        (V. i. 106-109)

Like the action of a dream, Leontes' wish for sacred nurturance materializes before his eyes. The daughter who is also the mother, and the son who is also the father make it possible for Shakespeare to fulfill the wishes of all his courtly characters. In literally disobeying Paulina by turning immediately to a substitute for Hermione, the men of the court symbolically collude with her. In accepting the loss of his children, Lcontes embraces their symbolic embodiments:

      Most dearly welcome!

And your fair princess,-goddess-O'alas!

I lost a couple, that 'twixt heaven and earth Might thus have stood, begetting

wonder, as You, gracious couple, do. (V. i. 129-133)

      The action of the play, like an idealizing mirror, reflects and reverses the condition of the past. In ironies almost too numerous to recount, Shakespeare makes violations into vehicles of obedience. Here Leontes transforms Perdita and Florizel into visions of ideal, desexualized potency ("begetting wonder"), representatives of "a holy father" (V. i. 169), while they act out their deception of Polixenes and offer him a family romance that makes Perdita a dark woman, the Lybian daughter of a "warlike" (1.156) father. Idolatry and deception go hand in hand.

      But all the ironic differences at play in these final scenes are predicated on identifications. When Polixenes is announced, he becomes for a moment the violent father, threatening the Shepherd and Clown" With divers deaths in death" (V. i. 201), and Florizel, true to his heritage, immediately suspects Camillo of betraying him (I. 192). This time Leontes takes up the role of mediator to forestall violence, and in the process transforms his own incestuous desire into advocacy of the son's wishes:

Leon.                          I'd beg your precious mistress,

            Which he counts but a trifle.

Paul.                          Sir, my liege,

            Your eye hath too much youth in 't; not a month 'Fore your queen died, she was more worth such gazes Than what you look on now.

Leon.                          I thought of her,

            Even as these looks I made; [To Florizel] But your petition Is yet unanswer'd. I will to your father. . . .


                                                                    (V. i. 222-228)

Leontes unconsciously expresses his incestuous wish in the act of renouncing it, because Perdita "is" Hermione but also a generation gap removed from him. Florizel, the duplicate of his father (see V. i. 123-125), seems his adversary at this moment. Even Paulina, in evoking the difference between mother and daughter, associates the two and provokes Leontes' expression of sameness.

      The same underlying identifications that generated the violence of the first part of the play now generate the mediations of its ending. The children from whom Leontes could not differentiate himself now mirror his own narcissistic wishes as they mediate between the fathers, and Leontes, as a childless father, now mediates between Polixenes, his surrogate, and the children he identifies as surrogates for his own.45 When sacred differences are restored, the violence of the past (unconsciously associated with archaic images of parental sexuality) is transformed into the continuity of generations (unconsciously linking the children with archaic images of parental providence).

      Shakespeare has integrated his characters' motives and their actions, so that the correspondence of psychic and dramatic realities is restored. Leontes' fulfillment requires no compensatory apologetics because its price has been extracted within himself, and in the actual loss of his son. The Winter's Tale both accepts and symbolically restores Leontes' loss only after enacting and transforming the full dynamic of the father's madness. The past is not merely edited by denial but transformed by the idealizing strategies of art.

Verbal Reunions

Shakespeare gives us the art of his family romance while letting us know that he knows the difference between the art of his play and the infantile fantasies of Tom which it derives and to which it responds. As A. D. Nuttall says, "Shakespeare conciliates our belief in the implausible."46 He does this partly by displacing our sense of absurdity to the scene before the last, and by playing with the confusion, ambivalence and grotesque potential of his regressive material. Act V, scene ii works like a preventive rehearsal, offering us a verbal version of the experience of reunion and a parody of magical changes in status involving his low characters. The fantasies of courtly fulfillment he is enacting" like an old tale" (V.ii. 28) are inseparable from their childhood roots (" monstrous to our human reason" [V. i. 41]), and Shakespeare objectifies, and so contains, the responses that can threaten our absorption.

      Consistent with Shakespeare's inclusive strategies, there are multiple dimensions to the language of this scene. In emphasizing the loss and restoration of sacred relationships, he brings together the globalized language of creation and destruction and the emotional correlatives of his characters' condition:

... there was speech in their dumbness, language in their very gesture; they looked as they had heard of a world ransomed, or one destroyed: a notable passion of wonder appeared in them; but the wisest beholder, that knew no more but seeing, could not say if th' importance were joy or sorrow: but in the extremity of the one it must needs be. (V. ii. 13-19)

Like a condensed miniature of the whole play, these lines recapitulate an essentially preverbal experience of opposites. Absolute alternatives converge in language: "ransomed" or "destroyed," "joy" or "sorrow." We cannot tell opposites from one another. Great differences come together, and the only difference between parent and parent, parent and child, is the visual difference of surfaces, the artifice of culture:

There was casting up of eyes, holding up of hands,

with countenance of such distraction, that they

were to be known by garment, not by favour. (V. ii. 47-50)

The participants in the reunions are merged by common emotion, and this regressive loss of boundaries is balanced for us by the efforts of symbolization in words. Shakespeare "lames report to follow it, and undoes description to do it " (V. ii. 58-59) .

      In another dimension of the reports, the Gentlemen display the linguistic narcissism that has characterized courtly men throughout the play. We can laugh at their exaggerated virtuosity even as we recognize it as a way of managing the violent potential of the occasion:

... they seemed almost, with staring on one another, to tear the cases of their eyes. . . (V. ii. 11-12)

But O, the noble combat that 'twixt joy and sorrow was fought in Paulina! She had one eye declined for the loss of her husband, another elevated that the Oracle was fulfilled. (V. ii. 72-76)

The emotions of the courtly characters become grotesque in this language, and Paulina becomes a kind of living allegory.47 The dignified motives of the royal persons become their "greatness of affection" (1.102), and the ambivalence of loss and union becomes the occasion for the display of balanced paradoxes: "...she did, with an 'Alas,' I would fain say, bleed tears, for I am sure my heart wept blood" (11. 87-89).

      The Gentlemen also echo the preoccupation with birth that had tormented Leontes:

... Heard the old shepherd deliver the manner how. . . I make a broken delivery of the

business. . .

... he can deliver you more.

... if ever truth were pregnant by circumstance. . .

... some new grace will be born. . . (V. ii. 3, 9, 27, 31, 110, italics added)

The cumulative effect of this language is to activate a fantasy of birth in our minds and to equate that fantasy with the action of the play. In other words, it seems to me that Shakespeare has succeeded in doing what Leontes only fantasized, symbolically realizing the masculine counterpart of feminine creation. He has become the "mother" of his own play, or, rather, he is playing at being the "mother" of his play while retaining an ironic perspective on the absurdity of his artifice. In psychological terms, such irony at the expense of his characters indicates yet another transformation of his ambivalent attitude toward the maternal creative and destructive powers he has dramatized within the play. Shakespeare, like Julio Romano, "would beguile Nature of her custom" (V. ii. 98); he would indulge that narcissism. But he includes a critique of his indulgence in the form of its enactment.48

In Paulina's House

      In the final scene of the play, Paulina takes the royal persons into her house, a reversal of her former intrusiveness. She becomes the director of Shakespeare's final illusion and his final enactment of great differences. Her audience-and we are included-will experience a deception unparalleled in Shakespeare's works, for Paulina will play fully upon our regressive wishes before she delivers her gratifications. Paulina's unreal magic is the obverse of Leontes' madness. He projected an inner world of subjective, unsharable images; she, like Shakespeare, constructs a collectively shared illusion and gratifies the royal community's wishes. Leontes substituted the forbidden knowledge of maternal malevolence for the communal identities of sacred figures; she stages an illusion that allows her audience to witness its ideals. "The art itself is nature" (IV. iv. 97) because Shakespeare uses his art to gratify his audience's idealized wishes, not, as so many critics who choose to idealize Shakespeare's idealizations believe, because some abstract generalization about the power of art is being demonstrated.49

      Leontes, in fantasy, had "drunk, and seen the spider" (II. i. 45). Now Paulina reverses this catastrophic sight by staging an overdetermined spectacle of maternal constancy and change. The statue, Hermione’s "dead likeness" (V. Hi. 15) embodies stillness (sameness) and deprivation (the mother as cold stone). It also embodies, for that part of our minds that colludes with the illusion of Hermione's death, the masculine narcissistic fantasy of the" perfect woman" (V. i. 15), for stillness and cold rigidity unconsciously imply both power and impotence.50 The mother-as-statue cannot be lost, neither can she give. In this sense, Paulina's "magic" makes her the midwife of the masculine creation that focuses the ambivalence of the play.

      The statue of Hermione fixates vision. The scene's language is saturated with visual references as the characters take in and are taken in by the illusion of preserved feminine integrity.

As she liv'd peerless,

So her dead likeness, I do well believe,

Excels whatever yet you look'd upon,

Or hand of man hath done. . . (V. iii, 14-17)

Even Paulina's pun on " peerless" expresses the correspondence between Hermione's remembered status and the visual locus of her power. The statue evokes the primal power of a mother whose image fascinates "a looker on" (1.85) and activates mirror responses in the beholder. As the statue stands like stone, so do its witnesses. In this respect, Shakespeare has created the theatrical equivalent of our earliest responses to the image of the mother.51

Even more, the statue provokes a constellation of associations related to the earliest provident relationship between self and other. Leontes finds in its silence the correlative of his deepest wish:

Childe me, dear stone, that I may say indeed

Thou art Hermione; or rather, thou art she

In thy not childing; for she was as tender

           As infancy and grace.      (V. iii. 24-27)

"Infancy and grace." The correspondence between childhood wish and religious fulfillment could not be more complete. As he looks up, Leontes also finds in the statue the equivalent of the nurturance he had confused with poison:

For this affliction has a taste as sweet

         As any cordial comfort. (V. iii. 76-77)

" "Would I were dead" (1.62), he says, as Paulina (now " sweet" [1.70]) , encourages his reverie, his wish for fusion with the maternal imago. Paulina's" affliction" has become the "pleasure of that madness" (1.73) which denies differences to recover the illusion of oneness without which Leontes is nothing. Both Perdita and Leontes would deny the lifelessness of the statue, Perdita to " implore her blessing" (1.44), as if she were the Virgin, and Leontes to kiss it, as if he could create what he desires. We feel for a moment their hallucinatory absorption, their absolute trust in its provisionary powers.

      But we also feel a detachment enforced by Paulina's very unreligious emphasis on the wet surface of the statue and on the fact that it is her possession, private property m her gallery of artifacts. Paulina, the provident woman, is inseparable from Paulina, the manipulator of regressive states. When she promises to bring the statue to life she embodies the profound superficiality of Shakespeare's theatrical power:

        It is requir'd

You do awake your faith. Then all stand still:

Or-those that think it is unlawful business

I am about, let them depart.        (V. iii. 94-97)

"Faith," writes Brigid Brophy, "consists in maintaining a fantasy in the teeth of reality."52 Or, we can say, for Shakespeare, faith consists in maintaining our trust in the presence of its violation, for Paulina's magic is no magic at all. It is required that we abandon and know the difference between the illusion of omnipotence and the reality of deception. It is required that we be the audience of a play.

      Leontes validates this" faith" in the conditional mood

of his acceptance of Hermione:


0, she's warm!

If this be magic, let it be an art

Lawful as eating. (V. iii. 109-111)

" If this be magic. . . . " To accept art as oral fulfillment and to know the difference is the final Shakespearean transformation of loss. "She embraces him!/She hangs about his neck!" (II. 111-112), like the narcissistic ornament he fantasized usurped by Polixenes, but now the reality of her warm body transforms that fantasy, and the fact of her age marks the reality of time. Shakespeare's conditional magic makes a "monstrous" deception into a real coincidence of infantile wishes and the ego's acceptance of loss.

      In the final moments of the play loss is again accepted and denied, as Paulina now "an old turtle" (1.132), offers to mourn Antigonus, and Leontes rescues her by giving Camillo to her as a husband. But even here Shakespeare's double relation to his play can be heard in Leontes' words:

        Thou has found mine;

But how, is to be question'd; for I saw her,

As I thought, dead; and have in vain said many

A prayer upon her grave. I'll not seek far

For him, I partly know his mind-to find thee

An honourable husband. (V. iii. 138-143, italics added)

She has repaired his loss, and he will repair hers; in this they are the same. But his generosity is different, for it points to the immense price paid" in vain" by his ritual mourning. In the theatre of Shakespearean fulfillment we are" precious winners all" (1.131), but we are also the children of the gods who seek gratification and find it only after denying and accepting our difference from them and their deceptive powers. We, too, have thought Hermione dead; and we have been deceived. But in accepting that illusion we, too, have transformed loss into the art of continuity.

      It is as if Shakespeare were saying, in the play as a whole, and most intensely in the final scene: "I accept this wish for fusion with the creative and destructive mother of infancy, and I also renounce it. I accept the triumph of time over myself and also wish to transcend it in the form of art, my creation of symbolic continuities. I affirm and deny the reality of time and I fulfill the wish for the immortal bond even as I see my play for what it is, the magic of the unattainable." Finally, Shakespeare, in denying and accepting time, looks toward reality and fantasy simultaneously, toward loss, the beginning of death, and toward re-creation, its negation. He gives us nothing and all.


                                            "We have Art in order not to perish of Truth."53


Works Cited


1  Quotations from and references to The Winter's Tale follow the Arden edition (London, 1965).


2  Standard Edition, XX, p. 71.


3  Shakespeare's transformation of his source establishes a symmetry of roles characteristic of his dramatic imagination. Antigonus and Paulina duplicate the husband and wife roles played by Leontes and Hermione, allowing them to act as representatives of their socially higher counterparts, and allowing Shakespeare to use them as surrogates for those they serve. They complement and duplicate aspects of Leontes and Hermione and, depending on the context of action, they can focus our (displaced) responses to the king or queen or they can be seen as means of isolating those responses, keeping them from direct expression in relation to Leontes or Hermione. They serve as defensive figures in this double sense.


4  Space does not permit a full explication of this dynamic of counter violence. For a provocative discussion of the relation between violence and identity, see Heinz Lichtenstein, "The Malignant No: A Hypothesis Concerning the Interdependence of the Sense of Self and the Instinctual Drives," in The Unconscious Today, ed. Mark Kanzer (New York, 1971,) pp. 147-176.


5  Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale (London, 1966), p. 32.


6   Paulina's psychic function is further confirmed at Ill. ii. 188-189, as she

proclaims Leontcs' crimes.


7  Later, when Leontes softens, Paulina becomes feminine (Ill. ii. 220-221) .

She and Leontes can only be fully understood in relation to one another.


8  The play's imagery of fire and water partially locates the motives played out in Leontcs' madness. Fire, like water, dissolves

boundaries; its action is .. oral," since fire " consumes" its source. Leontes would consume Paulina and the child, uniting the motive to merge and the motive to destroy.


9   Charles W. Socarides, .. On Vengeance: The Desire to 'Get Even’,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, XIV (1966), p. 371.


10  This implies that, psychologically, the sexuality of the daughter is a function of the psychic condition of the father. In Shakespeare, only a father whose libidinal wishes have been isolated and controlled rather than acted out can find symbolic continuity in the person of his daughter. Consider Rosalind and Duke Senior, Shylock and Jessica, Cymbeline and Imogen, Prospero and Miranda.


11  This dynamic is carefully analyzed by David P. Willbem in “The Elizabethan Revenge Play: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry,” (unpublished dissertation) University of California at Berkeley, 1973.


12  That the oracle, like the witches' prophecies in Macbeth, expresses one side of an underlying ambivalence is implicit in the psychology of oracular utterances. Fenichel wrote: “Consulting an oracle, in principle, means either forcing permission or forgiveness for something ordinarily prohibited or an attempt to shift the responsibility for the things about which one feels guilty onto God. The oracle is asked for a divine permission, which may act as a counterweight against conscience" (Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis [New York, 1945], p. 270.)


13  See Erik Partridge, Shakespeare's Bawdy (New York, 1960), entry under "speed."


14  See Roy Schafer, Aspects of Internalization (New York, 1968), pp. 220­-236, “The Fates of the Immortal Object." Schafer describes how unconsciously, death is always imagined as a change in location. He writes (p. 223), referring to death wishes: ”The 'killed' object lives on basically unchanged, as a vengeful spirit (Freud, 1913); in other words as a primary presence, even though a 'dead' one, it testifies to the psychic indestructibility of the object." In romance modes of representation, such 'presences' can have the status of agents of action as well as thought.


15  The Shakespearean Imagination (Bloomington, 1964), p. 294. The association of bears with women and catastrophic orality goes back to The Comedy of Errors ("As from a bear a man would run for life,/So, fly I from her that would be my wife." [III. ii. 153-154]), and is used to articulate Lear's tortured consciousness of deadly extremes: "Thou'dst shun a bear;/But

if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,/Thou'dst meest the bear i' th' mouth” (King Lear, III. iv. 9-11). Early in The Winter's Tale, Leontes had introduced the idea of oral retribution in relation to childhood wishes; identifying himself with his son, he speaks of his .. dagger muzzl'd/Lest it should bite its master" (I. ii. 156-157) .


16  See Partridge, op. cit., entry under “service”


17  When the violent consequences of the fantasy of sexual violation have been split from the product of sexual union, the child, Shakespeare is free to reinforce playfully the sense of Perdita as a product of sexual transgression. “This has been some stairwork, some trunk-work, some behind-door work,” says the Shepherd (III.iii.73-75). Enforcing this split is essential to creative paternity in Shakespeare. Is this not why the failure of fathers leads to his tragedies of catastrophic boundary confusions? And is this why the authorial presence is so powerfully felt by so many readers and critics in scenes like this, when the split is being dramatized schematically? Fathers (and authors) can play, and create plays, only when their hunger Is contained or displaced. In this scene, the Shepherd is avid for the gold the child brings, while the bear carries the burden of direct oral desire: “…they are never curst but when they are hungry” (II.iii.128-129).


18  Shakespeare: The Winters Tale (London, 1966), p. 38.


19  For a discussion of the structure of such playing as this, see Gregory Bateson, “A Theory of Play and Fantasy," in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (New York, 1972), pp. 177-193.


20  It is just such inclusiveness that Leontcs denounces when he says to Camillo: “I say thou liest, Camillo, and I hate thee,/Pronounce thee a gross lout, a mindless slave,/Or else a hovering temporizer that/ Can'st with thine eyes at once see good and evil,/Inclining to them both" (I. ii. 299-304).


21  Notice how Polixenes characteristically depersonalizes his fear of loss: .. Kings are no less unhappy, their issue not being gracious, than they are in losing them when they have approved their virtue" (IV. ii. 27.29). One of Shakespeare’s stylistic defenses in The Winter's Tale is to transform personal loss into" typical" loss, stating what is painful for an individual as if it were the attribute of a class.


22  A Theory of Play and Fantasy," op. cit., p. 185


23  Space does not permit a complete analysis of Autolycus' parodies of courtly anxieties and strategies, but we may notice two others in passing: (I) He is seen to concretize the projective-introjective pathology of Leontes: ".. .he utters them as he had eaten ballads, and all men's ears grew to his tunes" (IV. iv. 186-188, italics mine), and (2) he parodies the emphasis on correspondences which is realized in action in the high plot, especially in the Florizel-Perdita relationship (see the Servant's speech, IV, iv. 193.195). Anyone who doubts that Autolycus' wares function symbolically to deny the" foul gap" (IV. iv. 199) of women should examine the Servant's description of his ballads (iv, iv. 196-202), in which" dildoes and fadings" substitute for less euphemistic utterances, and he might also notice that the Clown equates clothing with female genitals in his warning against socially dangerous behavior: "Is there no manners left among maids? Will they wear their plackets where they should bear their faces?" (IV. iv. 244-246) .


24  Act I (11. 1-167), from the beginning through the dance of shepherds and shepherdesses; Act II (11. 168-343), from the announcement of Autolycus through the dance of satyrs; Act III (11. 344-442), from the encounter of Florizel and Polixenes until Polixenes exits, the climax of the" play; " Act IV (11. 443-669), from Perdita's response to Polixenes through the beginning of the enactment of Camillo's plot; Act V (II. 670-843), a parody of Act IV, in which Autolycus parallels Camillo and plays with the Shepherd and the Clown.


25  I have in mind as I respond to this aspect of the pastoral the final chapters of Marion Milner's The Hands of the Living God (New York, 1969). Milner discusses the capacity to allow for an interplay of opposites and to keep psychic boundaries fluid as an indication of emergence from a schizoid state. In this interplay, Shakespeare seems to have gone further than any of his characters with the possible exception of Perdita. In other words, the resilience and plasticity that the pastoral as a whole communicates to me does not seem duplicated in my experience of any of the characters.


26  "The Childhood of the Artist: Libidinal Phase Development and Giftedness," in Emotional Growth: Psychoanalytic Studies of the Gifted and a Great Variety of Other Individuals (New York, 1971), Vol. II, p. 494.


27   Northrop Frye recognizes this fusion in the names Flora and Florizel. "Recognition in The Winter's Tale," in Shakespeare: 'The Winter's Tale': A Casebook, ed. Kenneth Muir (London, 1968), p. 194. The ideal symbiosis of the two is reinforced by the Shepherd's comment on their identity:.. I think there is not half a kiss to choose/ Who loves another best" (IV. iv. 177.178).


28  The First Year of Life (New York, 1965), p. 86.


29  Ironically, it is Polixenes who points up the defense by exaggeration involved in Florizel's professions of faith: “How prcttily the young swain seems to wash/The hand was fair before!" (IV. iv 367-368).


30  In Florizel's exuberant response to the strategy of rescue, Camillo becomes a saver of life, identified indirectly with Apollo the Healer:  “Camillo,/ Preserver of my father, now of me,/The medicine of our house..." (IV. iv. 586-588) . Do we not see in this strategy an indication of one of Shake­speare's motives in writing the play? He makes a potentially catastrophic inner reality into an omnipotent plot in which he is free to fantasize transformations of his inner world into its variations and opposites even as he remains aware of the potentially tragic sources to which he is responding. Of course, this can only be speculation, but psychoanalysis has taught us to recognize creative acts as a response to the fear of inner collapse. See, for example, Joan Riviere, .“The Unconscious Phantasy of an Inner World Reflected in Examples from Literature," New Directions in Psycho-Analysis, ed. Melanie Klein, Paula Heiman and R. E. Money-Kyrle (New York, 1955), pp. 343-369.


31  Consonant with the reconstitution of ideal relationships, however, Shakespeare makes the" mingling bloods" (1. ii. 109) Leontes imagined into “mingle[d] faith" (Iv. iv. 461) in the Shepherd's lamentation. These are the only times he uses the word in the play.


32  The "all or nothing" vision, like so much else in the play, has its psychoanalytic analogue in very early development. See Klaus Angel “The Role of the Internal Object and External Object in Object Relationships, Separation Anxiety, Object Constancy and Symbiosis," International Journal at Psycho-Analysis, LIII (1972), p. 541-546. Polixenes' reasonable diction, his appeal to common sense, harbors a total claim for his own archaic needs. We could explain Florizel's exclusion of his father in social terms, but this would beg the question of their conflict, since (I) the social difference is minimized by the Shepherd and (2) the social difference is an expression of the psychological conflict and cannot explain it. All oedipal rivalry, we might add, depends on shared wishes, as we can see in the etymology of the word “rival." Elsewhere Shakespeare shows that he knew this; see Hamlet,!. i. 12. 13, where "rivals" means "sharers,"


33  After authority is restored, Shakespeare again plays with change, or transformation. Florizel" becomes" Autolycus, the thief and shape-shifter, by wearing his clothing (IV. iv. 632-647). All the characters change to remain the same as Shakespeare puts their fears in the service of their wishes. The pastoral sequence ends with a parody of the motif of constancy ill change (IV. iv. 832ff).


34  After authority is restored, Shakespeare again plays with change, or transformation. Florizel" becomes" Autolycus, the thief and shape-shifter, by wearing his clothing (IV. iv. 632-647). All the characters change to remain the same as Shakespeare puts their fears in the service of their wishes. The pastoral sequence ends with a parody of the motif of constancy ill change (IV. iv. 832ff).


35  For a discussion of the concept of “pseudo-species" see Erik Erikson's Gandhi's Truth (New York, 1969), pp. 430-431.


36  Recognition in The Winter's Tale," op. cit., p. 190.


37  Perdita's lines can also be read in a different way. If we take “sun” to be a pun, she is saying that the son, Florizel, unlike his father, does not hide his "visage" behind disguises to maintain the difference between high and low, court and cottage. This reading makes Florizel's subsequent disguise in Autolycus' clothes ironic, and it makes the action contradict Perdita's words, just as Polixenes' words about marrying a “gentler scion to the wildest stock" (IV. iv. 93) are contradicted by his actions. It was Lcontes who first identified the son with a heavenly image: ”Look on me with your welkin eye: sweet villain!”


38  Play and Actuality," in Play and Development, ed. Maria W. Piers (New York, 1972), p. 142.


39  The relationship between shame and transformation or metamorphosis is brilliantly explored by Heinz Lichtenstein in “The Dilemma of Human Identity: Notes on Self-Transformation, Self-Objectification, and Metamorphosis." Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, XI (19611), pp. 173-223.


40  Perdita's consciousness of her" lack" is introduced by a distinctly phallic notion of virginity. To the shepherd girls she says: "…  that wear upon your virgin branches yet/Your maidheads growing. .." (IV. iv. 115-116). The latent content of these lines asks us to imagine undeflowered girls as still possessing the phallus. The lines also equate clothing with the possession of "virgin branches," a notion that links Perdita's thought with Autolycus'.


41  Holland recognizes Perdita's double nature in his discussion of the play. The Shakespearean Imagination, pp. 297-298.


42  The play's transitions from one space to another follow the paratactic structure of dreams. When the conditions for a transposition of events have been dramatized, the event in another place which meets those conditions is dramatized.  “A conditional in the dream-thoughts," Freud wrote,  “has been represented in the dream by simultaneity: 'if' has become 'when.''' The Interpretation of Dreams, S. E., IV. p. 335.


43  Gilles Delcuze's summary of the strategies of the masochist fits the relationship between Leontes and Paulina perfectly. “The masochist waits for pleasure as something that is bound to be late, and expects pain as the condition that will finally ensure (both physically and morally) the advent of pleasure. He therefore postpones pleasure in expectation of the pain that will make gratification possible. The anxiety of the masochist divides therefore into an indefinite awaiting of pleasure and an intense expectation of pain." Masochism: An Interpretation of Coldness and Cruelty (New York, 1971), p. 63. The essence of masochism, in its formal aspect, is suspense. In the tip-all scene, Shakespeare makes us all masochists.


44  At lines 54-55 and 60.61 Shakespeare literally has them complete one another’s lines, as if one voice were speaking. At line 62, Shakespeare has Paulina identify with Hermione. Psychologically, Leontes merges with Paulina and with Hermione; they are at-one.


45  C. L. Barber notes that reconciliation with the father must precede reconciliation with the mother, as Shakespeare reverses the path Leontcs followed in his regression. “Thou that beget'st him that did thee beget': Transformation in Pericles and The Winter's Tale,” Shakespeare Survey, 22 (1969), p. 67,


46  Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale (London, 1966), p. 58.


47  I am indebted to Professor Arthur Efron for pointing this out to me.


48  A further critique is embodied in the second half of the scene, as the Shepherd and Clown exercise their newly born status on Autolycus. They parody the courtly obsession with family relationships and with swearing constancy. They also parody Shakespeare's obsession with" hands," with idolatry, with clothing, with creation out of nothing, and with words. All this becomes their "preposterous estate" (1. 147). Shakespeare’s formal mastery of his material seems complete.


49  Even as sensitive a critic as Michael Goldman, in his recent book Shakespeare and the Energies of Drama (Princeton, 1972) speaks only in terms of the relative powers of art and life, without ever asking what the “unexpectedly rewarding corner of life" (p. 129) Shakespeare leads us to might refer to in our own experience. Goldman, along with William Matchett (" Some Dramatic Techniques in 'The Winter's Tale,''' [Shakes­peare Survey 22 (1969), pp. 93-107]), focuses only on the manifest strategies of the play. In this, they miss, along with almost the whole tradition of criticism of the play, the full dynamic that a psychoanalytic reading reveals.


50  In Norman O. Brown's summary, "To be turned into stone symbolized not only erection, but also castration:' (Love Body [New York, 1966], p. 49). The statue, however, is not merely genital but also oral. It is "piercing" (V. iii. 34) to Leontes' soul and “Strike[s] all that look upon with marvel" (1.100), but it evokes the primary, oral potency of the mother. On both levels, the image is an ambivalent one.


51  In “Play and Actuality' (Play and Development, p. 137) Erikson points out that the root of "theater" is thea, meaning "a sight." Thea is related to thauma, "that which compels the gaze." Shakespeare seems to have distilled the essence of theater in the final scene. Rene Spitz, in his con­tribution to the same book, writes: "Vision and only vision reconciles the permanence of objects with their impermanence in space. And finally only vision can transform the objects which are perceived into a coherent, continuous and gap-free universe" ("Fundamental Education," Op. cit., p. 57) . Spitz is writing of infantile perception, but the final scene builds on the power of vision to bridge the "gap of time" (1. 154) by evoking infancy without denying adulthood.


52  Black Ship to Hell (New York, 1962), p. 182.


53  Friedrich Nietzsche, Werke, 23 vols. (Milnchen, 1922), XIX, p. 229.

To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Murray M. Schwartz "Shakespeare and Psychoanalysis: Loss and Transformation in The Winter’s Tale - Part II - Transformations". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. Available May 24, 2024 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: January 1, 2005, Published: August 25, 2005. Copyright © 2005 Murray M. Schwartz