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How does the patrirachy fail to protect its subjects in The Winter's Tale?

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heathe77 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:14 AM via web

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How does the patrirachy fail to protect its subjects in The Winter's Tale?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 25, 2011 at 7:13 PM (Answer #1)

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Much attention has been paid to the way in which the two kingdoms in this play are both patriarchies. Ironically, it is the efforts of Leontes to protect and to preserve his patriarchal power that cause him to fail to protect his citizens. To engender male heirs that can inherit the position of power, Leontes needs Hermione to be faithful to him, but his jealousy causes him to punish Hermione for her supposed adultery and also to neglect his son, Mamilius, resulting in his death. Clearly these actions of Leontes shows his lack of care and his failure to carry out his role as King and look after his people, as it produces massive instability for his kingdom.

However, also critics point out the way in which patricarchal power is restored towards the end of the play, as the way in which key, strong female characters such as Paulina, Hermione and Perdita move from being figures who challenge male patriarchal authority to being supportive female figures who are less aggressively critical of male power.

The patriarchy therefore fails to protect its subjects through the way in which Leontes behaves as a result of his consuming jealousy. The impact of this is to place his kingdom in a very precarious position, as his heir dies and he punishes his queen for a crime she didn't commit.

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