Insists that she is the pond fished by his neighbor

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insists that she is the pond fished by his neighbor, the spider at the bottom of his cup, anything but a human being. He tears her son from her arms and almost dashes her newborn daughter’s brains out, only at the last minute deciding instead to expose her to wild beasts. Marxistsnote that tragedy in the play comes from the royals and aristocracy, with their tendency to view women and children as property, and their obsession with control and public prestige. Marxists and cultural materialists celebrate the play’s ebullient underclass of labourers, shepherds and shepherdesses, all of whom are linked to the untroubled realm of pastoral and festival. The advent of King Polixenes and his counsellor into the happy shearing feastis the advent of unjust privilege, threats, misogyny, snobbery, cruelty, and other signs of class oppression. Admirers of the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin particularly celebrate this play for theenergies of its ebullient rural folk and its carnival underworld, both of which implicitly or5
overtly threaten hierarchical order and the aristocratic point of view. Autolycus the trickster prefers theft to service, anarchy to obedience, and trickery to law. His joyous imperviousness to established order, and his ability to come out on top no matter whose side (temporarily) he is on, parody and mock the coercive rule of Polixenes and Leontes, who attempt to assert tyrannical power through spectacles of violent public punishment. Furthermore, Autolycus and the rural peasantry embody the lower class refusal of idealization – an idealization to which the upper class subscribes, and which in this play serves only to promote destructive ideas of purity and perfection. In this view, the energies of the simple, earthy and unassuming minor characters provide the life-affirmingelement in the play, while the heads of state represent the death-force. King Leontes casts out his own newborn child to be devoured by wild beasts; but the old Shepherd and his son find her, take her home, and raise her lovingly as family. This highlights the injustice and absurdity of aristocratic ideas regarding the people and their unfitness to rule themselves. Leontes’s vicious injustice and absolutism, contrasted with the virtues of unassuming shepherds, could serve to validate a popular revolt against aristocratic control of the body public. Psychoanalytic critics inthe 1980sand more recent Queer theorists focus chiefly onKing Leontes, some arguing that a violent and long-deferred homoerotic love for his childhood friend, now King Polixenes, is the real motive behind his irrational jealousy. Some observe that Hermione lives alone with Paulina for sixteen years, in what might easily be a same-sex erotic arrangement, adopted in part as a response to the brutal behaviour of both Leontes and Antigonus. Others are interested in a Freudian “primal scene” between Hermione and Polixenes, played out in Leontes’s imagination, and echoed by his son, Mamillius. Later psychoanalytic critics have attempted readings based

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