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“There is no tongue that moves”


II. The Silenced vs. the Outspoken:

The “Tongue-tied” Queen and Tongue-freed

“Mankind Witch”

Indeed, Shakespeare presents in

The Winter’s Tale


contrasting historical images of early modern women healers:

the “tongue-tied” queen Hermione as a silenced and powerless

woman healer, and Paulina, a self-proclaimed “physician,” as a

wrathful, witch-like, threatening one (2.3.54). The humiliated

Hermione might embody a persecuted historical woman healer,

one who must be her family and society’s primary caretaker, as

shown in the scenes where she merely obeys her husband’s

commands and cares for the young child; however, she is

falsely accused due to the success of her powerful rhetoric,

even though it should have helped to maintain the friendship

between Leontes and Polixenes. On the other hand, the

witch-like healer Paulina can represent a historical woman

practitioner with her restorative powers, just like a magician-

artist figure who can transform base metals into gold.

At the beginning of

The Winter’s Tale

, Leontes’s Sicilian

court is overwhelmed with the language of illness, with

“infection,” “disease,” “sickness” and the madness of the king’s

sudden jealousy, his delusion that his wife has been unfaithful

to him, and the fatal effects of that madness on both his son,

Mamillius, and (apparently) his wife. Leontes’s charges that the

innocent queen is an “adulteress,” a “bed-server” and a

“traitor” in the same scene (2.3) are fantasies with no basis in

fact; his sending her to jail is a purely arbitrary act of the sort

we see in numerous cases of innocent, and perhaps also wise,

early modern women who were accused of witchcraft and

other sorts of “impurity.” In other words, Hermione’s trial is

solely the product of, in Paulina’s words, “[t]he anger of the

King” which was sparked by “the trespass of the Queen”

(2.2.62-63). This was a female


or “crossing,” an