“Behold, and say ‘tis well”: The redemptive moment in Shakespeare’s "The Winter’s Tale "

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Adam Mickiewicz University

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In Shakespeare’s romance The Winter’s Tale there is a fundamental sense of mutability imposed by the passage of time. Things come into being and they pass into oblivion; sorrow glazed over by prayers for grace, joy tempered by the remembrance of loss. Within a complex time-scheme of past, present, and future, joy and sorrow remain inextricably entwined, and this is what lends this most melancholy play such a profound emotional intensity. Youth, beauty, happiness; these qualities remain evanescent at the somber close of the play. Tragedy is not purged by laughter, there are no traces of escapism; the awareness of the reality of time, of the inexorable moral responsibility for losses beyond recovery, is what makes the graces received all the more keenly felt, more wondrous. This sense of wonder arises from an elaborate resurrection scene in which, simultaneously cold and warm, at once eternal and ephemeral, Hermione’s marble, the finest symbol of the romance conception of time, is wooed into being. Exploring the structural function of time in the play and its relation to this redemptive moment, in which Hermione’s body comes to represent a translation into human terms of a Neoplatonic idea of cosmic order, reveals how the play, beyond offering an idle meditation on art and nature, articulates a profoundly moral vision of existence, and will supply a useful framework for further critical investigations of both the play itself and Shakespearean romance as a whole.




Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, time, art, nature, Neoplatonism


Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, vol. 53 (2018), pp. 115-128



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego