English 366C, Section F01: Shakespeare's Comedies and Romances   >   The Winter's Tale   >   Paulina's marriage To the previous page To the next page

The Winter's Tale: Paulina's marriage

Writing on the Shaksper listserv, Michael D. Friedman commented:

From: Michael Friedman
Date: Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 11:46:00 -0400
Subject: Re: SHK 12.1321 Camillo and Paulina

My own feeling is that when something in a Shakespeare play seems to come "out of the blue," one certainly can try to use elements of production to try to make it seem less startling, but you might want to consider whether this lack of preparation is the whole point. Here's an edited version of a couple of paragraphs near the end of a forthcoming publication of mine, in a chapter called "The Taming of the Shrews":

Paulina, who provided verbal censure on Hermione's behalf, now withdraws from this role and announces her intention to spend the rest of her life mourning her dead husband: "I, an old turtle, / Will wing me to some withered bough and there / My mate, that's never to be found again, / Lament till I am lost" (5.3.134-37). Even though Paulina has always assumed that Antigonus perished with the infant Perdita (5.1.42-44), no proof of his death exists until the Clown's testimony confirms his demise (5.2.60-67). Now that her status as a widow is clear, she imagines the rest of her life as a condition of perpetual verbal activity, lamenting her lost mate like a turtledove forever singing a mournful dirge.

Leontes, however, has other plans for his counselor. Since Paulina is now eligible to marry, the King exercises his prerogative as the matchmaking Authority figure and, like his predecessors in the comedies of forgiveness [Two Gents, Much Ado, All's Well, and Measure], impels the Shrew toward marriage and its implied limitations on female speech: "O, peace, Paulina! / Thou shouldst a husband take by my consent, / As I by thine a wife . . / . . Come, Camillo, / And take her by the hand" (5.3.137-39, 145-46). Leontes negates Paulina's plans for a lonely but verbally independent retirement from the institution of matrimony by imposing upon her a husband to manage her tongue. Like Beatrice before her, quieted by the command "Peace! I will stop your mouth," the former wife of Antigonus hears "O, peace, Paulina!" and does not speak a word in response to Leontes' subsequent proclamation of her match with Camillo.

The fact that nothing in the text before this moment prepares us for this pairing reveals the cultural imperative that the Shrew must not be allowed to speak unbridled for the rest of her days. Camillo has already demonstrated a flair for manipulating difficult people, which bodes well for his ability to govern Paulina in a way that Antigonus was never able to accomplish. Thus, in The Winter's Tale, the Shrew diverges from the path followed by the talkative woman in the comedies of forgiveness, but her final destination remains the same, the verbal subordination of marriage.

    (Reproduced by permission of the author.)

To the previous page Top To the next page

This page last updated on 1 December 2002. © Michael Best, 2002.