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16

E

UR

A

MERICA

Polixenes re-confirm her status as the “kind hostess” (1.2.60)

and not his jailor. Polixenes’s negativity is finally dissolved

when Hermione forces him, once again with her gentle and

restorative tongue, to acknowledge that to choose to stay

would be to choose to continue the innocence and purity in

the old young days between the two kings (“What we changed

/ Was innocence for innocence; we knew not / The doctrine of

ill-doing, nor dreamed / That any did,” 1.2.68-71), where

“purity” may be contrasted with that “impurity” of “mingling

bloods”

14

which threatens to breed corruption and disease.

While the “enchanting” Hermione’s deft use of wit and

words puts an end to the polite disagreement between the two

kings, her rhetorical talent also lands her in jail, and forces her

to appear in court and be formally accused of being unchaste.

Leontes invokes his privilege as man and king

a doubly

patriarchal justification

by relying not on any legal evidence

but merely on his imagination (“dreams,” 3.2.77), not on any

law but only on his own tyranny (“’Tis rigor and not law,”

3.2.111), just like those authorities in the College of Physicians

who had silenced the voices of female practitioners in the early

modern period, and deprived them of their freedom. Leontes,

like those regulating authorities and licensed physicians in the

medical world, will stop at nothing to drive Hermione, like an

unlicensed woman healer, out of the legal domain and also,

insofar as he sees her as an enchantress, out of the medical one

as well. As for losing one’s legal right to practice medicine and

facing a term in jail, we note that in 1421 legislation was

placed before the Parliament in England to confirm “that no

Woman use the practyse of Fiysk [medicine] under . . . payne

of long imprisonment” (Green, 1989: 449).

14

Huston Diehl notes that a fear of mingling, “and of the impurity that results

from it, pervades Shakespeare’s late romance,” in reference to Leontes’s

rage at the beginning of

The Winter’s Tale

where he proclaims: “To mingle

friendship far is mingling bloods” (2008: 69).