The Importance of Time in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale Essay

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The Importance of Time in The Winter's Tale

Leon. No foot shall stir.

Paul. Music, awake her; strike! [Music]

Tis time; descend; be stone no more; approach;

Strike all that look upon with marvel. Come!

I'll fill your grave up: stir, nay, come away:

Bequeath to death your numbness; for from him

Dear life redeems you. You perceive she stirs:

--The Winter's Tale (V.iii.98-103)

Unlike most of Shakespeare's earlier plays, The Winter's Tale moves from tragedy to comedy. The disastrous consequences of Leontes' jealousy and tyranny are resolved by the passing of time. Only after sixteen years can the two royal families come together again. Time also plays a significant role in the reading of the
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In many instances of the play, Leontes' requests are not heeded to, despite his position as king. When Leontes wants Camillo to poison Hermione, Camillo does not do as he says. Instead, he runs off with Polixenes, buying precious time for everyone. Camillo and Polixenes evade death, and Hermione is given enough time to stage a death so that she can avoid being killed also. Camillo's noble defiance gives everyone valuable time; the key factor which allows people to take shelter from Leontes' tyranny.

The second half-line of line ninety-eight consists of a trochee and two iambs: "Music, awake her; strike!" Since the only varying foot of the latter half-line is the trochee, "music," Shakespeare seems to be emphasizing the significance of music. In a sense, music is a representation of time because it is defined by its time signatures, which designate much of its rhythmical patterns. Music is also the magical element that accompanies the transformation of the still Hermione into the living Hermione, which makes it an agent of change. In other words, Shakespeare conveys that music, or time, has the power to change. Paulina calls for the music to "awake her" (98), and it does. Time is the essential element that frees Hermione from the bondage of her hiding.

In line ninety-nine, Paulina is summoning Hermione from the statue. She indicates that it is time for Hermione to reveal herself. The line begins