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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

stir” 5.3.96-97).

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)