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“There is no tongue that moves”


Hermione is condemned because of the unintentional

transgressive charms of her “tongue,” just as the tongues of

real women (and witches) in the Tudor and Stuart society were

seen as being poisonous, contaminating, evil. More specifically,

a women’s mouth was thought to be one of the entrances of

hell. The device used for punishing women found guilty of evil

speech, that is, for scolding their “unruly member,” was the

“scold’s bridle,” an iron collar with a metal bit that pressed

down on the victim’s tongue to prevent her from talking.


However, in

The Winter’s Tale

Shakespeare, knowing that

woman’s tongue had long been seen as something cursed and

evil, made it a curative body part, a healing female organ that

could retell this winter’s tale of death as an old tale of rebirth,

an old tale of women healers’ midwifery.

If Hermione’s docile and triumphant tongue is the cause

of Leontes’s sudden jealousy, as it led him to restrict both her

body and her speech by imprisoning her, Paulina’s sharp

tongue effectively “purges” the king’s infected or perverted

powers of perception and understanding. Unlike condemned

women healers such as Hermione, Paulina is a bold speaker

with a “boundless tongue” (2.3.92) which immediately

demonstrates its curative powers.


She speaks to the plagued


For scholarship on the scold’s bridle, see Lynda E. Boose, “Scold’s Bridles

and Bridling Scolds: Taming the Woman’s Unruly Member,”



vol. 42 (1991: 179-213), and for discussions of early modern

woman’s tongue as the representation of evil, see J. L. Simmons’, “The

Tongue and its Office in

The Revenger’s Tragedy

” in 1977, pp. 56-88; Carla

Mazzio’s, “Sins of the Tongue” in 1997, pp. 53-79; and Peter Stallybrass’s,

“Reading the Body:

The Revenger’s Tragedy

and the Jacobean Theater of

Consumption” in 1991, pp. 210-20.


However, my finding here is not in accord with Mary L. Livingston’s

discussion, in “The Natural Art of

The Winter’s Tale

” (1969), of the impact

of Paulina’s speech, which emphasizes more the relationship between art

and the nature of words, as exemplified by Perdita and the comic Autolycus

in the pastoral scene. Though Livingston indicates that language “is a kind

of magic which can be used for good or evil ends,” she then describes the