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Faith and Redemption in The Winter’s Tale

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As parishioners transformed church teachings into everyday practice during the late Tudor period, once doctrinally clear notions of faith, forgiveness, and grace became muddied. The Winter’s Tale reflects this complication in that Shakespeare both draws on the Catholic and Protestant understanding of these concepts, and underpins the action of the play with a notion of grace as flowing from faith that is both rational and emotional, scriptural and iconographic. The play represents this multivalent understanding of faith by disrupting audience expectations of genre and gender. The pastoral is not free from courtly corruption. Paulina’s admonitions issue from the mouth of a woman. Ultimately, Hermione does not simply intercede and offer comfort; she breaks the constraints genre would place on her, and becomes the source both of forgiveness and grace. Consequently, the source of Leontes’s greatest anxiety is also the source of his redemption, and that source is wife, mother, Mary, and Christ.

Affiliations: 1: Northern State University


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