metaphorically in the case of Florizel, who escaped from his
father’s oppressive court. Indeed, although “[t]he earliest
historians of English midwifery were physicians whose
accounts were inevitably weighted in favour of the male
professional” (Evenden, 2000: 2), Shakespeare has clearly
given his women healers and midwives a very special status.
Thus he has his character Paulina perform the crucial act of
magical and alchemical midwifery, the (re)birth of Hermione,
an operation supported by Leontes (“Proceed. / No foot shall
Paulina alone is in charge of the process of this symbolic
(re)birth, which takes place in the “chamber” of her own house.
In the beginning she commands: “Music, awake her; strike! /
’Tis time” (5.3.98-99). As she announces Hermione’s (re)birth
with the sound of music, the other characters on stage along
with the theater audience enter a world of harmony, holiness,
and healing. All are invited to witness this holy moment and to
acknowledge its political, religious, and moral legitimacy, so as
not to have the slightest suspicion that “evil” magic is involved
here. Guiding the “delivery” carefully, Paulina marks each step
with her commanding yet professional voice. Finally she
awakens Hermione from the state in which Leontes had
imprisoned her, animating the queen by inviting her to become
“Free and enfranchised” (2.2.61) like a newborn baby.
Descend. Be stone no more. Approach.
Strike all that look upon with marvel. Come,
I’ll fill your grave up. Stir, nay, come away,
Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
Dear life redeems you. (5.3.99-103)
With Hermione’s first movements, Paulina hastens to justify
her magic spell by saying it is not evil, perverted or against
nature, but rather “lawful” and in accordance with it:
. Start not. Her actions shall be holy as
You hear my spell is lawful. (5.3.104-05)