"What Means Sicilia? He Something Seems Unsettled": Sicily, Russia, and Bohemia in The Winter's Tale
R. W. Desai, University of Delhi
The opening scenes of The Winter's Tale bring together royalty from three different regions in Europe: Leontes, king of Sicily, which is in the extreme south, in the Mediterranean region; his wife, Hermione, daughter of the Emperor of Russia in the northeast; and Polixenes, king of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, also in the northeast. This joining of geographical regions has its counterpoint in the contemporary joining of the regions of literary and other forms of cultural discourse. New Historicism has challenged the long established assumption, theorized by New Criticism, that "Art" is an autonomous aesthetic region which transcends the society, ideology, and culture that forms its matrix. Denying this, New Historicism insists upon a different methodology, a cultural criticism that refuses to see literature and history as two distinct entities since such differentiation is a product of our own phenomenological cultural conditioning which can be altered if our perspective is shifted. My purpose here is to attempt to shift our perspective on The Winter's Tale to show how Renaissance notions of ethnicity play a crucial part in the play's aesthetic.