Act 3 Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale Essay

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Act 3 Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

In Act 3 Scene 2, Shakespeare uses the climax of the courtroom scene as a device to conclude the first half of the play. The preceding acts lead up to the courtroom scene where many of the audience’s questions are answered. Will Hermione be found innocent? And will Leontes realise and admit his mistakes?

Both the courtiers’, present in this scene and the audience reach the courtroom scene with the expectation that sanity will prevail.

Act 3 Scene 2 is central to the developing plot on several grounds.

The court scene is the catalyst for Leontes’ change in manner. Leontes changes from pompous to instantly rational and humble as a result
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The play needs to sustain energy but the tone of the play is left considerably low. The plot needs to move on, preferably away from Leontes and Sicilia. From an audience’s point of view, the daily penitence of Leontes is not enough to maintain their interest. There is a need to develop the plot further and Shakespeare does this successfully with the introduction of new characters and by moving the story 16 years further. Florizel and Perdita’s romance is a welcome change in tone and injects new life into the plot.

Act 3 Scene 2 contains a series of revelations that will shock the audience. The first revelations we encounter are the oracle’s proclamations.

“Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless”

Each of the oracle’s verdicts are delivered by the officer in short utterances, separated by commas which incur a small pause between each verdict. These grammatical devices cause each verdict to be delivered with great impact and in turn increase the audience’s shock.

Hermione’s relief, ‘Praised!’ will mirror the audience’s at the oracle’s announcements.

This relief is shattered by Leontes’ denial of the oracle and is replaced with shock at Leontes’ request that “the sessions shall proceed”. The audience will believe that because of Leontes’ previous abuse of power, he will ensure Hermione the ‘guilty’ verdict

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