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“There is no tongue that moves”


skillful early modern midwives before her, Paulina predicts the

hour of Hermione’s (re)birth and prepares for it with her

unique remedy: a play. This performance tests the effects of

the purging of Leontes’s infection, that is, of his great remorse,

for a complete purification would ensure the life of the

newborn infant, in this case a revived Hermione.

Like an observant midwife, Paulina senses Leontes’s

desire to see his wife again when he tries to stop her from

closing the curtain after he sees her statue: his wanting to see

her is a sign that this is a propitious time for Hermione to be

(re)born (5.3.59). The lifelike statue of Hermione serves both

to remind him of his past guilt (“I am ashamed. / … My evils

conjured to remembrance” 5.3.38,40) and as the sole cure for

his deep sense of remorse (“No settled senses of the world can

match / The pleasure of that madness” 5.3.72-73). Leontes’s

destructive madness has now been transformed into a

“pleasure of madness”

a renewed love for his queen


their separation has lasted just long enough. This is shown in

the way he gazes attentively and affectionately at her wrinkles,

veins, and eyes, as if each part of her has become integrated

after she had been “decomposed” (as well as discomposed) by

his angry rhetoric years earlier. At this point, then, Paulina the

healer feels Leontes may be allowed to touch his living queen

again, just as he has been touching her statue-like body and

remarking on its warmth (“Oh, she’s warm” 5.3.109). That is,

she knows the penitent Leontes is ready for Hermione to be

“reborn” and that this is the right moment for her, as midwife,

to perform the ritual that will bring this rebirth about.


It is required

You do awake your faith. Then all stand still.

On; those that think it is

unlawful business

I am about, let them depart. (

emphasis added,