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king in an authoritative manner which resembles his own, her

tone of voice seemingly that of any prestigious physician. And

indeed, she does claim to be his physician:


Good my liege, I come

And, I beseech you hear me, who professes

Myself your loyal servant,

your physician


Your most obedient counselor, yet that dares

Less appear so in comforting your evils

Than such as most seem yours

I say, I come

From your good queen. (

emphasis added

, 2.3. 52-58)

Paulina is a woman physician whose medicine is both her

words and her wit, and one with high moral standards who

sees the health of the court as being more important than her

own life

ever aware as she is that, as a woman healer, she

herself could be accused at any time. Shakespeare has created

Paulina as a strong and self-sufficient individual, for those early

modern women who became physicians and counselors found

“no real models in the social or political context, nor does such

a figure appear in the courtesy books,” implying as it does

“moral and intellectual superiority” (Asp, 1978: 145). Paulina,

then, proves herself as an exceptional woman healer, carefully

and wittily deploying various “medical” treatments that are

administered according to the degrees of the king’s illness.

Eventually she humbles Leontes, forcing the insane tyrant

to repent his sins. Throughout the play Paulina remains,

among all those in the court, the only suitable

physician-counselor for the king. This is because, unlike the

noblemen, she has fully refined the use of her healing woman’s

language, her woman’s tongue with its positive medical and

rhetorical failure of Paulina this way: “neither truthful words not the silent

form of innocence can move a mad king” (1969: 344). However, the

present study argues that Paulina’s speech not only


the king but also

(metaphorically) cures him.