Leonates’ jealousy is major feature which leads the story. Shakespeare, being a dramatist of great tragedies, always attracts the attention of the readers by his great tragic characters who are always alive and inculcated in the mind and imagination. As for Leontes personality is concerned, is of equal calibre as it always runs with our emotions and creates a great impression in our minds because the drama starts and ends with him. His character plays dimensional roles of a father, a husband and a friend who dominates all other minor and major characters who are directly and indirectly linked with him. It is his character who destroys different characters. He, being a husband, is affectionate and lovable and marries Hermione after a long courtship.
Both are passing a very smooth and loveable life but \things start changing by the arrival of Polixenes. The weakness of Leontes’ character starts becoming prominent when he has a groundless suspicion about his beloved wife and their conjugal life starts destroying. Further, fate also strikes him hard when his wife dies by the death news of her son which breaks him both outwardly and inwardly. This is the result of these deaths which makes him conscious of his fault and he starts repenting upon his rude and suspicious behaviour. He is so severe in his penance that he decides not to marry till death.
Though, he is a good father, husband and friend yet there are some germs of evil in his character. His Jealousy which starts from a groundless base and which devastates all his plus points. Being the readers, we all do not start feeling sympathy and honour for him when we get to know the misery of Hermione which is about the throwing off the newly born baby girl, the sudden death of Mamillius and the ill treatment of his old friend Polixenes. Though there is evil in his character which arises spontaneously, yet he is not completely a lost soul because his repentance shows germs of goodness in his character.
Though, his cure is very slow of 16 years, yet luckily he gets back what he has lost. In the place of his dead Mamellius, he receives Florizel through his marriage to Perdita.
The jealousy of Leontes had been the object of much controversy among the various critics. Some critics are of the view that his jealousy was sudden, fierce and self – destructive and others give reason to it by the event in which Polixenes agrees to stay more when the queen of Sicillia insists on him. He accuses her as faithless to her husband and orders to put her in prison. As she was pregnant, she gives birth to a baby girl but he refuses to admit her and says that it is the fruit of their conjugal relations rather he gives orders to Antigonus to take the baby and kill her.
His jealousy reaches at the peak. when he disagrees & disgraces the oracle of Apallo. For all these, he has to undergo a very hard time when Hermione dies after hearing the death news of her son. These heartbreaking and troublesome consequences set him in the position to think that he is wrong and here he starts coming to the right path and declares that he would not marry again throughout his coming life.
There are also some cited or references in the course of the drama which can be quoted to prove his jealousy as gradual but not as instant. By nature, he has suspicions not only to his wife but also to others. At one occasion, he inquires Camillo:
“Have not you seen, Camillo?
(But that’s past doubt: you havė or your eyeglass).
Is thicker than acuekold’s horn) or heards?”
(For to a vision so apparent rumour cannot be mute) or thought?
These lines show that he has been watching the growing relation between Herinione and Polixenes for a long time and his anger also grows constantly. He is also conscious that now. This relation has also become the topic of the town and every courtier is also discussing it. Camillo who still upholds the honour and fidelity of the queen but Leontes becomes harsh and angry on it and says Violently:
“Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? Is meeting noges?
Kissing with inside lip? Stopping the career
Of laughter with a sigh (a not infallible of breaking honesty)? Horsing foot on foot? Skulking in corners? Wishing clocks more swift?”
So, it can be said that all these familiarities which are noticed by Leontes, can be the observation of a single day and moreover, he is fully aware of the intensity of the charge against his queen. It is also argued that he could not have disgraced his wife and children without a solid and apt proof but the ray of suspicion enters into him which ultimately increases his suspicions. Comparing Leontes to Othello, a prominent critic says that Shakespeare depicts Leontes as a man who is just as far removed as Othello from the traditional jealous husband of stage.
So, we see that Shakespeare presents Leontes in such a character whose jealousy sales up quite promptly and vanishes just as suddenly by the shocking death news of Mamillius which leads him to the right path. In Othello, we observe that as the suspicion erupts, it becomes a settled conviction of his wife’s guilt. But in contrast with the Moor, his love for his wife does not continue, but soon gives way to hate. Here, we find that there is no conflict in his mind between love for his wife and a wish for revenge, only the urge to destroy her in order to regain his peace of mind.
To a great extent, Othello and Leontes suffer alike and not to a great extent but to some an extent both Hermione’s & Desdemona’s case is the same. Both are married as a result of love affairs and are dearest to their husbands. Though both are innocent yet are badly disgraced by their husbands. Both love their men wholeheartedly and absolutely and both suffer by their beloved husbands a great deal. The husbands of both these are suspicious about them that they are involved with their friends.
As far as the endings of these dramas are concerned, the ending of Othello is more pathetic and tragic than the ending of this drama. Othello is a tragic play while “The winter’s Tale” is a dramatic romance. Here, there is no lago to blame for his misfortunes. In the case of Leontes, we see that he is not deceived by others like Othello but he is self deceived. Leontes is a man of changeable personality who changes himself and comes towards the restoration after hearing the news of death of his son & wife while Othello remains hard hearted till the ending and ultimately.commits suicide, on the other hand, the jealousy of Leontes is exaggerated by Herminoe’s insistance of Polixenes to prolong his stay:
“Will you go yet?
Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
Not like a guest: so you shall pay your fees,
When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?
My prisoner? Or my quest? By your dread verily:
One of them you shall be.
After hearing all these. Polixenes has no choice but to reply.
Your guest, then, madam;
To be your prisoner should impart offending:
Which is for me less easy to commit than you to punish.”
Leontes who is of suspicious nature, becomes jealous of such words and charges her of adultery with Polixenes and even does not admit her newly born girl but considers this baby as the fruit of her conjugal relation with Polixenes ultimately sends her to jail. When Hermione is proved to be innocent by the oracle of Apollo and thus Leontes punishment starts.
Hermione’s speech affects every heart and her request is granted, the oracle of Apollo is read out:
“Hermione is chaste: Polixenes is blameless; his. innocent babe truly begotten: and the king live with out and heir: if that which is lost be not found”
To conclude this topic it can be said vehemently that it is suspicious nature of Leontes which is the basic weak point of him, gives birth to a suspicion about her beloved wife and this jealousy gives a quick start to the action which as proceeds, we see that Leontes is a changeable and a restorable character who comes to the right path as he listens the death news of his son and wife – as compare to Othello who remains determined and stone hearted till at the end of the play.