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I understand not” (3.2.76). His words seem absurd, irrational,

and incomprehensible to her. In fact she is at a linguistic as

well as moral impassé, as Leontes has wrongly accused her of

being morally impure and unchaste, and of having an unclean

body due to the effect of her words. The insulting words he

speaks to the “innocent”


Hermione certainly intensifies the

absurdity of his jealousy. In this scene, we may interpret

Leontes’s unjustified, even mad jealousy as being primarily

grounded in the war between the sexes, although he

rationalizes it as being based on the more tangible, traditional,

moral and “legal” issue of a wife’s chastity. More specifically,

what really vexes Leontes is his male anxiety about the

mysterious and persuasive power of women’s speech that

seems to transgress the boundary of his sovereignty.

Though a number of scholarly criticisms on

The Winter’s


center on female language, and though Shakespeare

explicitly tells us that Paulina delivers “words as medicinal as

true” (2.3.36), the investigation of woman’s voice in terms of

its therapeutic importance in the play has somehow been

neglected. Lynn Enterline, in her article, “’You speak a

language that I understand not’: the rhetoric of animation in

The Winter’s Tale

,” focuses on the analysis of the female

(embodied) voice and subjectivity within the Ovidian-Petrarchan


However, regarding Hermione’s innocence of adultery, Howard Felperin

asks “on what authority do we assume . . . that Hermione is in fact innocent

of Leontes’s suspicions in the opening act? Why do we take for granted, . . .

what can never be proved but only denied. . . ?” This gives us a contrasting

viewpoint and has led to speculation about the legal basis for determining

that a particular act is a crime. For Felperin, Hermione’s case is grounded in

Pauline Christianity: “We have proceeded on the ‘conventionalist’ grounds

delimited on the one side by Anglo-Saxon law (which presumes formal

innocence until guilt is proved) and on the other by Pauline Christianity

(which is based precisely on the evidence of things not seen)” (1990: 190).