Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Role of Disguise in The Winter's Tale

Disguise is an element that is often present in play in order to add to dramatic prowess. Disguise refers to the manner in which characters in the play, alter their appearance to prevent disclosure of their identity. In the play, The Winter’s Tale, the characters employ the use of disguise, to reveal truths about themselves and each other.

Perdita is the begotten daughter of King of Sicilia, Leontes. After being abandoned, she was raised by a goodly shepherd in Bohemia. She is a clear example of unintentional disguise due to her unknown status when she was found. She grows up as a Shepherd girl and is later pursued by the Prince of Bohemia, Florizel who is oblivious to her royal blood but falls in love nonetheless. When her disguise is revealed however, it does not alter the relationship that was developed between herself and Florizel. Florizel disguises himself as a commoner; however, he is a prince as Perdita is a princess. However, this disguise is intentional as to ensure that Perdita’s love is true and not guided by promise of wealth. This disguise shows Florizel underlying distrust in women who are not of “royal blood” as he feels unsure if they can love a prince for his character and not his social stature.

King of Bohemia, Polixenes and Camillo disguise themselves in order to investigate the reason for the prince’s absence in his royal curt. Polixenes displays his over protective and imperious traits as he disguises himself to spy on Florizel. The disguise reveals that the welfare of Florizel is considered dearly by his father. It is rather an extreme action for a King to carry out but gives the audience insight to the depth of a father’s love.

Autolycus disguises himself as various characters in the play which adds comedy to the play, as the audience knows something that the characters are not conscious. The peddler traits of Autolycus are highlighted in every scene that he is present and lightens the former winter struck mood that was littered in Acts 1-3. He is first seen disguised as a nobleman who was allegedly robbed by a man who shares the same likings as himself, however, the Shepherd’s son, Clown, falls into his deceptive trap and is robbed by the clever thief. His deceptive antics, however aid in revealing various truths hidden in the play such as Perdita’s true identity.

Shakespeare often employs the use of disguise to heighten dramatic agility and The Winter’s Tale is no different. The underlying truths that are hidden within the play are effectively revealed by the use of this literary element.

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