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A sad tale’s best for winter

 | 
Yan Brailowsky
, 
Anny A. Crunelle
, 
Jean-Michel Déprats

Le visuel et la statue

“The Fixure of her Eye has Motion in’t”: The Discerning Ekphrasis of Hermione’s Statue in The Winter’s Tale

Michele de Benedictis

Résumé

Le débat sur l’art et la nature qui oppose Polixenes et Perdita à l’acte 4 demeure ouvert, tandis que sa reprise à l’acte 5, avec l’apparition de la statue animée, lui apporte un degré de complexité supplémentaire en y ajoutant la dimension théâtrale.

Texte intégral

1The botanical and metaphorical controversy between Polixenes and Perdita over Art and Nature seems to end inconclusively, their respective arguments left in a state of suspension, as no persuasive, single perspective distinctly emerges :

Perdita [...]
the fairest flowers o’th’season
Are our carnations and streaked gillyvors,
Which some call nature’s bastards ; of that kind
Our rustic garden’s barren, and I care not
To get the slips of them.
[...] For I have heard it said
There is an art which in their piedness shares
With great creating nature.

Polixenes
Say there be,
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean ; so over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock,
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art
Which does mend nature-change it rather-but
The art itself is nature (4. 4. 81-97).

  • 1 . ra’Iffat, The Concepts of Nature and Art in the Last Plays of Shakespeare, New Delhi, Shakti Mali (...)

2In Perdita’s conservative view, Nature should preserve and respect its original forms and life cycles ; it abhors such man-made, artificial practices as grafting and hybridizing species. The manufactured beauty of carnations and streaked gillyvors (“nature’s bastards”) infringes the natural laws of generation, and is regarded as an arrogant penchant for altering the genuine essence of things. A biological purist, Perdita rises in indignation against whatever might corrupt the fixed paradigms of Nature to forge counterfeited specimens through art, in contravention of the absolute authority of natural creation-a rightful authority illicitly spoiled and dethroned by the resourceful crafts of mankind. Perdita extends this discourse to face painting and cosmetics, which she regards as forms of imposture obscuring the transparency of natural beauty,1 a natural beauty she embodies as Flora, the pagan goddess of flowers and the spring season.

  • 2 . For the Baconian elements in Polixenes’considerations, see Colie Rosalie, Shakespeare’s Living Ar (...)
  • 3 . Puttenham George, “Of Ornament”, in The Arte of English Poesie (1569, 1589), Lumley John (ed.), N (...)

3Polixenes counters her rigorous postulates with other Renaissance commonplaces. Art, he claims, can legitimately modify Nature in order to correct its deficiencies and work for human welfare. Manipulative activities are called for whenever Nature discloses signs of inclination towards primeval chaos and necessitates artificial aid to preserve its order. This continuous process of improvement and transformation-though originating in an external intervention-is all the more legitimate, Polixenes contends, as Art operates within the same realm as Nature and with the instruments that Nature supplies. In Polixenes’opinion, Art accomplishes nothing more than Nature would ; it stems from, and complies with Nature, without threatening its (purportedly) fixed status.2 Art never aspires to overthrow Nature but acts in partnership with it as a form of second natura naturans. For these reasons, crossbreeding and hybridization are welcome as further means to enhance the potential of fertile Nature, mediating with its elements to enrich an innate tendency towards ever-greater variety. This seems to recapitulate George Puttenham’s views in the Arte of English Poesie (1589), in which, through a series of similes relating to the vegetable realm and gardening activities, he holds it that Art represents a conventional aid to Nature, “a means to supply her wants, by renforcing the causes wherein she is impotent and defective.”3 Nevertheless, these antithetical viewpoints, once extended to the human sphere of lineage and class relationships, entail paradoxical consequences. Branded “a bastard” by Leontes (2. 3. 75), Perdita fails to defend her current situation and to support, at least ideologically, the expectation of a legitimate union between a lowborn maiden-as she then regards herself-and a noble prince like Florizel. Polixenes only endorses crossbreeding within the framework of botanical theory ; but when applied to human intercourse, his enlightened precepts give way to a more conservative standpoint : his son Florizel must not infect the roots of their family tree with a humble slip of shepherd stock (4. 4. 422-428).

4These conflicting arguments are made virtually pointless by the final stage revelations : as a titled princess of royal blood, Perdita can marry Bohemia’s scion. Thanks to the harmonious reunion of two royal branches, everything follows its natural regenerative course while the artificial, conventional order of social class is preserved without impairing the established structure of a standardized microcosm. Yet, even as the pastoral romance completes its course towards the postponed agnitio, the subject of the interaction between Nature and Art leaves an ambiguous legacy of unresolved questions that complicates the audience’s response to aesthetic and dramatic issues in the final scene.

  • 4 . The Third Gentleman’s praise of visual art reverses Enobarbus’description of Cleopatra’s on a bar (...)

5The enthusiastic report of the Third Gentleman in Act 5 scene 2 suggests a glorious outcome to the question of Art competing for vividness and realism with the work of Nature.4

The princess hearing of her mother’s statue, which is in the keeping of Paulina-a piece many years in doing and now newly performed by that rare Italian master, Giulio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could put breath into his work, would beguile nature of her custom, so perfectly he is her ape. He so near to Hermione hath done Hermione that they say one would speak to her and stand in hope of answer (5. 2. 92-100).

  • 5 . This is lessened by the use of verbs in the subjunctive and the conditional (had, would, could), (...)
  • 6 . There are no extant statues by Giulio Romano. However, that he created painted statues goes undis (...)
  • 7 . Martinet Marie-Madeleine, “The Winter’s Tale et Giulio Romano”, in Études Anglaises, vol. 28, n°3 (...)

6The artist, like a demi-god or a skilful ape, has so deftly counterfeited Nature that one could mistake the statue for a real person.5 The reference to Romano is further evidence of the statue’s lifelike splendour : the only example of a contemporary artist mentioned in the Shakespearean canon, Giulio Romano, Raphael’s favourite disciple, was renowned for the astonishing quality of trompe l’oil effects in his works-paintings, engravings and carvings.6 Giorgio Vasari commends his skill in pictorial illusion, claiming that his painted statues were so true to life that they seemed to breathe.7 Nevertheless, the difference between Vasari’s and the Third Gentleman’s accounts is significant with regard to their ontological prerequisites : while Vasari’s account relies on a direct contact or experience which testifies to an existing work of art, that of the gentleman only consists of the sensational report of a masterpiece the speaker has not seen, and which moreover has no existence beyond the fictional confines of drama-a condition of double absence.

  • 8 . For an exhaustive study on the theory and history of ekphrasis see Krieger Murray and Krieger Joa (...)

7The Third Gentleman emphatically uses ekphrasis for his description of Giulio Romano’s masterpiece. Ekphrasis, the narrative description of a visual work of art inserted within a fictional literary text8 as in the description of the shield of Achilles in Homer’s Iliad, or of Arachne’s web in Ovid’s Metamorphoses is akin to prosopopoeia. Narrative ekphrasis usually extends over long segments interrupting the course of the plot. At the heart of the device is the implied comparison between the representative potential of literature and painting. Likewise, ekphrasis reveals that the poet and the painter use similar figurative forms, as metonymy, synecdoche, metaphor or symbolism, indirectly expressing the multiple semantic levels interwoven in their works.

  • 9 . Heffernan James, Museum of Words : The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery, Chicago, Unive (...)
  • 10 . On the concept of aesthetic self-deception in The Rape of Lucrece, see Dundas Judith, “Mocking th (...)

8Renaissance poets revived this tradition, conforming to the rhetorical approach of the Ancients : ekphrastic sections always take inspiration from fictitious works of art, and offer the verbal illusion of an object present to the reader as well as witnessed by a reliable observer. Shakespeare deals with the issue of ekphrasis in The Rape of Lucrece (1594), where the heroine projects her tribulations onto a wall painting depicting the fall of Troy.9 Here, exploring the innermost facets of ekphrasis, Shakespeare shows how the subjective description of a work of art, voiced by an anguished Lucrece, is coupled with the dramatic account of the disturbing impact of the object on the observer’s sensibility. Collapsing the distinction between reality and representation, Lucrece lends words to, and enters into a dialogue with, painted figures, assuming their poses and expressions, only to realize, after acknowledging the dangers of mimetic art, how visual conceits can trouble a frail and suggestible mind in a moment of gnoseological bewilderment.10

  • 11 . Shakespeare also experiments with ekphrasis in Cymbeline (2. 2. 18-45), where Jachimo describes a (...)

9Fifteen years later, Shakespeare developed the resources of ekphrasis within a theatrical framework,11 extending the interplay of mimetic levels of representation to the multiple interaction of characters and audience, by means of a visual medium that extends the paragone between poetry and painting to the sensory evidence of stage action. Therefore, the account of the Third Gentleman acts as a prelude to the crucial scene involving the key-characters and their dynamic reaction to ekphrastic motifs.

  • 12 . Matchett William H., “Some Dramatic Techniques in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shake- spspearearspeare (...)

10Shakespeare highlights this turning point by obliquely matching it with the previous episode :12 off-stage events are verbally reported in act 5, scene 2 as a sort of miraculous sequence of pictorial photograms of the moving re-union of Leontes, Perdita, Polixenes and Camillo after sixteen years. The action is completely dependent on iconographic words. Devoid of visual support, relying only on a discursive account equivocally resembling an old-fashioned tale (5. 2. 28, 60), the audience is left to reconstruct images in their minds, while the narrators additionally confess that words are inadequate to represent these moments as they were acted, being too incomplete a medium to convey such a touching experience (55-57).

  • 13 . In An Apology for actors (1612), John Heywood points out the peculiar power of theatre to turn sp (...)

11Act 5, scene 3 reverses these coordinates and, physically advancing Hermione’s statue on the stage, vibrantly sets before us the icon itself at the core of the dramatic action, no longer a spoken, but a speaking picture, a visual signifier communicating directly with our-and the characters’- visual perception. The final scene increases the relevance of figurative emblems within theatrical motion, allowing the speaking picture of Hermione’s statue-although at first silent for the sake of suspense-to interact overtly on the stage, coalescing the power of pictorial effects with the intensity of dramatic dialogues and performed action, the same synergic formula that is at the heart of theatrical magic.13

  • 14 . The customary point of reference for this aesthetic theory is the Horatian motto “ut pictura poës (...)
  • 15 . Sidney Sir Philip, An Apology for Poetry, or, The Defence of Poesy, Sheperd Geoffrey and Maslen R (...)
  • 16 . Kiernan Pauline, Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 6 (...)

12The concept of speaking picture comes from Sir Philip Sidney’s theories about poetry in A Defence of Poesy (1575). The finest patterns of poetry, Sidney declares, are able to merge the codes of discursive language with the visual enargeia of pictorial images into an overall experience. Thus, poetry itself becomes an inclusive form of art, a speaking picture14 available both to the senses and the imagination. Sidney also asserts in his theoretical axioms that poetic Art is predisposed to create a second, alternative Nature, directly depending upon the first, capable of elevating the bronze age condition of decayed reality to the golden realm of ideality.15 Yet, this noble ambition, Sidney acknowledges, does not coincide with the return to something that has been lost : the golden world is in fact the nonexistent product of human imagination and of contrived art, an objective whose absence should not however incite the poet to desist from attaining it-or at least from coming close to it.16

  • 17 . To express the statue’s erotic power the author hints to Ovidian commonplaces usually connected w (...)

13The impact of Hermione’s figurative simulacrum is soon impressed on Leontes’eyes as Paulina unveils the statue. The features of the sculpture are so similar to the original that Leontes is plunged in ekphrastic ecstasy, contemplating, almost in a state of trance, the grace and beauty-even the sensuality condemned so far as a mark of female lust-of his “deceased” wife fixed in marble.17 His amazement mirrors the seductive effects of a magnificent work of art on a compromised sensibility unable to analyse this aesthetic vision from an objective stance :

Would you not deem it breathed, and that those veins
Did verily bear blood ?[...]
The fixure of her eye has motion in’t,
As we are mocked with art. [...]
No settled senses of the world can match
The pleasure of that madness. Let’t alone. [...]
What fine chisel
Could ever yet cut breath ? Let no man mock me,
For I will kiss her (5. 3. 64-80).

  • 18 . This pun recurs in The Winter’s Tale to underscore the causal affinity between “to mock”, in the (...)

14Aware of being “mocked with art”- albeit not the type of art he thinks-and probably mocked18 as well by such as observe his morbid behaviour, Leontes nonetheless persists in the pleasure of gazing at the statue, absorbed in his dramatic ekphrasis, and explicitly endeavouring to realize for himself the utopian dream of mi- metic art : to believe the queen is alive, breathing, and warmly pulsing, despite the hard layer of stone interposed between his exalted illusion and the apparent reality.

  • 19 . On the question of partial exegesis, forced analogies and uncontrolled interpretations of visual (...)

15The habit of applied reading, commonly associated in the Renaissance with the critical interpretation/appropriation of a visual work of art, reverberates in Leontes’passionately subjective comments on the icon he beholds. This is explicable as no work of art, however mimetic, was held self-sufficient or hermetically finished. It needed instead a whole range of individual responses to add new significance or judgments to its material form. The observer’s eye, especially one as emotionally involved as Leontes, will naturally reply to visual and aesthetic solicitations with a personal interpretation, inducing a proliferation of distinct meanings not manageable within a single perspective.19 The process of ekphrasis accordingly entails a dual tension : as Leontes’restless point of view modifies the perception of the statue, so the sculpture’s ascendancy undermines the observer’s response to it.

  • 20 . See Pandosto’s attempted incestuous rape of his (not yet identified) daughter.

16Sixteen years earlier, blinded by prejudice, Leontes had proved inept at interpreting ekphrastically the features of another (biological) work of art, and at identifying the imprint of their natural source. In Leontes’visual misreading, the infant Perdita had none of his lineaments and could only be the outcome of her mother’s adulterous affair (2. 3. 95-107). Conversely, when Perdita returns, Leontes instinctively recognises in the handsome shepherdess the lovely physiognomy of his wife (5. 1. 129-133, 224-227).20

  • 21 . See Snyder Susan, Shakespeare : A Wayward Journey, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 2002, p. (...)

17Besides, further complications endanger Leontes’control of his faculty of discernment before the statue’s material epiphany. The atmosphere of blissful, intimate contact converts Hermione’s figure to another form of subjective idealization in her husband’s thought : originally demonized as a shameless adulteress in spite of the oracle’s verdict, now Hermione’s identity-mirrored in the sculpture-is endowed by Leontes with an aura of sanctified devotion. Sixteen years of absence have contributed to forge the idealised image of the queen in the now uxorious king.21 Through the perception of a visual artefact, Leontes seems finally able to recognise the real virtues of his wife, the grace, nobleness, majesty of her figure, made perpetual by the stillness of the statue. What in the past Leontes could not recognise in the natural temper of a living character, he now acknowledges through the mimetic filters of plastic art and ekphrastic experience.

  • 22 . Paulina’s chapel was preceded by a private gallery exhibiting different works of art (“many singu (...)
  • 23 . Jensen Phebe, “’Singing Psalms to Horn-pipes’: Festivity, Iconoclasm, and Catholicism in The Wint (...)

18The most delicate consequences of this approach is the correlation of Leontes’behaviour in Paulina’s “holy” chapel22 with a form of impious iconophilia, blurring the semiotic distinction between the essence of the thing and its artificial visual signs, mistaking the spiritual signified for its material signifier, a form of religious zeal strictly condemned by the Reformed Church as a residue of Popish superstition. The whole scene is imbued with indirect references to the Catholic liturgy, which in the majority of instances depend on the emblematic function of the statue within a worship ritual-Perdita’s kiss as she kneels to the statue, the mariological language with reference to Hermione (5. 3. 42-46, 119-121), and the final Eucharist-like transubstantiation of stone into flesh.23

  • 24 . On the Pygmalion figure in The Winter’s Tale, see also Martindale Michelle and Martindale Charles (...)
  • 25 . On misogyny and the myths of Orpheus and Pygmalion, see Enterline Lynn, “’You speak a language th (...)
  • 26 . Gross Kenneth, “Moving Statues, Talking Statues”, in Raritan, vol. 9, n°2, 1989, p. 14-20.

19Iconolatry shades into mythology. The Ovidian archetype of Pygmalion, infusing life into his adored creation is the first paradigm that comes to mind.24 As in the Pygmalion story, the original reason for the existence of the statue in The Winter’s Tale is an exacerbated form of misogyny. Pygmalion’s disgust for the immorality of women results in the creation of a stone idol endowed with all the virtues that real women have lost.25 The outcome is an idealised simulacrum beyond mimetic art : the statue represents something which has never existed-or no longer exists-in nature, an icon which outdoes natural beauty, embodying in a marble shape the aesthetic and erotic desires of its creator. Visiting the temple of Venus, Pygmalion actually does not ask for a statue to become a real woman but asks for a woman of flesh and blood who would resemble the statue.26 Obsessed by the idealized figure, Pygmalion suffers a specific form of fetishism known as agalmatophilia, the physical attraction for statues and other simulacra - close to Leontes’overwhelming impulse to touch the statue. Aware of the artificial nature of the statue, and notwithstanding Paulina’s admonition (5. 3. 56-61, 69-70), Leontes is subject to a fit of regressive selfdeception inspired by the contemplation and ekphrastic description of his idol, similar to Pygmalion’s morbid care for his marble beloved, as he is led to fondle, dress, and put it to bed as a real partner.

  • 27 . On the question of female silence and misogyny in The Winter’s Tale, see Enterline Lynn, “’You sp (...)

20Yet, notwithstanding these affinities, Leontes’reaction to visual and plastic images differs considerably from Pygmalion’s. While Pygmalion’s attitude towards his silent dummy/doll is solipsistic and narcissistic,27 Leontes wishes to interact with an autonomous and moving figure that is endowed with the specific personality of his “departed” wife : to be fulfilled, his artistic reverie requires a uniquely theatrical combination of dialogue and action, depending on the will of the playwright and not on the observer’s.

  • 28 . On the relationship between Hermione’s statue and funeral effigies, see Belsey Catherine, Shakesp (...)

21The first step in this direction is the implicit disparagement of mimetic art in the context of the scene. The skill of the artist is such that Hermione’s icon miraculously appears sixteen years older. No longer a symbol of timeless perfection, the memorial record of something lost and perpetually remembered as a static photogram,28 her artistic representation acknowledges the passage of time.

22By some sort of transitive property, while the statue seems virtually alive, the observers stand petrified before Romano’s masterpiece. Gorgon-like, Hermione’s statue seems to absorb the vital spirits of her beholders, turning them into stone :

As she lived peerless
So her dead likeness I do well believe
Excels whatever yet you looked upon,
Or hand of man hath done ; therefore
I keep it Lonely, apart. But here it is-prepare
To see the life as lively mocked as ever
Still sleep mocked death.
[ Paulina draws a curtain, and reveals Hermione standing like a statue ]
Behold, and say it say it is well (5. 3. 14-20).

  • 29 . Sokol argues that Shakespeare, by anachronistically mentioning Romano, meant subtly to ridicule t (...)
  • 30 . Shakespeare and the French poet, Bonnefoy Yves and Naughton John T. (eds.), Chicago, University o (...)

23Yet, (un) deserved praise to Giulio Romano for the mimetic realism of the statue stops here ; it must now be acknowledged that the statue is a masterpiece by another artist, and that Romano’s prestigious signature has been used as a stratagem to divert our expectations,29 and was merely imported on the stage as a metaphor of mimetic art at its best. It is time for the real Hermione to interact again with life after sixteen years of suspended animation and dramatic exile, willingly leaving her monumental condition as an idealised/idolised image,30 like Leontes’, whose stony heart has already returned to flesh again, redeemed by his humane, lasting sorrow.

  • 31 . This passage in the Folio concentrates the highest proportion of colons in the canon, probably to (...)
  • 32 . Barkan Leonard, “Making Pictures Speak : Renaissance Art, Elizabethan Literature, Modern Scholars (...)

24After eighty lines of suspense and dramatic tension,31 Hermione finally celebrates the ritual of her symbolic rebirth, obliquely accomplishing what seems to be the telos of ekphrasis : a work of art becoming real, instead of merely aping outward signs of existence. The ekphrastic subject therefore becomes a sensible agent independent of the beholder : no longer depending for her existence on fragmentary verbal narrations/descriptions in the discourse of others, she is the discernible author of her deeds. But this is an occurrence not contemplated in the restricted field of the fine arts. It requires the contribution within stage action of another form of artistic language dealing in speaking pictures.32 The art of the dramatist is what allows the spectacular performance of artificial mimicry and fiction to take place, in a figurative Chinese box of representations that overturns the very premises of ekphrastic theory : at the end of The Winter’s Tale we realize that natural life has disguised itself as a work of art, that it is the living queen who imitated art.

  • 33 . Meek Richard, “Ekphrasis in The Rape of Lucrece and The Winter’s Tale”, op. cit., p. 401-403.

25After realizing that no Giulio Romano statue was ever on display in Paulina’s chapel, we might feel in retrospect that we have been tricked, although this form of deception is completely legitimate in the conventions of theatrical medium. Most probably it is not pure chance that Shakespeare stretched belief in the last scene. He deliberately planned to settle the matter of artistic and dramatic mimetic representation in a paradoxical episode. From the audience’s point of view, the intricate association of identities in Hermione’s statue further complicates the distinction between fictive reality and material evidence : first an actor-and not a female player-appears before us on the stage, performing the motionless part of a statue that is the effigy of the deceased queen he played in the first acts. Then, after we have taken note of Hermione’s marble “disguise”, we find the actor is playing the role of an older Hermione counterfeiting her own features in a fake statue of herself.33

  • 34 . On Paulina’s symbolic function, half way between the pagan priestess and the spiritual guide of t (...)
  • 35 . Jacobean court masques feature a large number of re-animated statues played by actors, as in Thom (...)
  • 36 . Nonetheless, the style of the pseudo-masque staged by Paulina differs from traditional ones : her (...)

26At the heart of this process is Paulina, the successful stage-manager and Shakespeare’s fictional surrogate, who devises a sixteen-year long dramatic mockery. Her scheme relies on dramatic power to manipulate the emotional response of her stage audience in order to effect the final reconciliation.34 Like the director of a court masque, Paulina presides over living players masked as works of art ;35 she revives their destinies by means of a coup de théâtre devised to produce a sense of utmost artificiality and elaborate marvel.36 Her lawful, semi-hallowed magic-as opposed to forbidden witchcraft (5. 3. 88-91, 104-105) is dramatic art, whose compound na- ture is conveyed to the audience through the dynamic convergence of visual immediacy, blank verse and music :

Music ; awake her-strike !
[Music ]
[To Hermione ]’Tis time ; 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. [ To Leontes ] You perceive she stirs.
[Hermione descends ] (5. 3. 98-103).

  • 37 . For the parallels and divergences between the fate of Eurydice and that of Hermione, see Enterlin (...)

27In addition, the distinctive resources of this particular art freely reshape the archetypes inherited from other literary traditions, re-writing the mythical story of Eurydice or Alceste’s release from death.37 Its generosity is manifestly at odds with Pygmalion’s self-centred and egotistical perception of art, originally conceived only to satisfy his solipsistic urges, an art gratified by the vain contemplation of itself.

  • 38 . Lim Walter S. H., “Knowledge and Belief in The Winter’s Tale”, in Studies in English Literature 1 (...)

28Yet, when Paulina requests the radical contribution of her audience in the form of its awakened faith (5. 3. 94-97), she does not summon a form of mystical-or worse, superstitious-belief in miracles but, more metadramatically, she asks us-and the characters-to trust in the secular and natural artfulness of theatre, and to accept its enchanted improbability in order to thoroughly enjoy the performed “tale”.38

  • 39 . Until the end of nineteenth century, the final scene of The Winter’s Tale was often judged unfit (...)
  • 40 . It has been argued by some critics that these manifest inconsistencies might derive from a second (...)
  • 41 . Felperin Howard, “’Tongue-tied our Queen ?’: the deconstruction of presence in The Winter’s Tale(...)

29Every art has its codes : it is not uncommon for drama39 to stage episodes inconsistent with previously stated facts-like the burial of Hermione (5. 3. 139-141),40 or her spectral message in Antigonus’nightmare (3. 3. 15-45), especially as this is a play testing the characters’belief in things not seen, or merely reported, often unreliable and subject to paradox.41 The Winter’s Tale offers a journey in the dramatist’s workshop, together with the epistemological tools to discern Shakespeare’s craft in the flexible use of dramatic conventions and other devices.

  • 42 . See also Meek Richard, Narrating the Visual in Shakespeare, op. cit., p. 174-178.

30Thus, the play does not try to persuade us to believe in its own fictional dimension crammed with artificial tropes, misleading inconsistencies, lack of plausibility and grotesque excesses.42 On the contrary, the ambitions of mimetic and naturalistic art have been condemned when Romano’s lifelike masterpiece turned out to be a natural being. Shakespeare goes even further to illustrate how his distinctive dramatic art can involve other forms of mystification, as he tests the audience’s ability to resist a literal, or conversely, a transcendent reading of the plot. An undue form of empathy or extreme identification with fictional characters may trigger an ekphrastic-like process of self-deception, he suggests, that deserves appropriate mockery for the observer’s naivety.

  • 43 . Frey Charles, “Interpreting The Winter’s Tale”, in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. (...)

31Nevertheless, to be “mocked with [the playwright’s dramatic] art” entails no sceptical disillusion with drama. The Winter’s Tale seeks to evoke a particular mode of suspension of disbelief residing in the awareness of a duplicitous stance of insight, involving both a disenchanted critical distance from the stage and trust in the dramatist’s artistic resources in creating a fictive world. It is an alternative mode which does not pursue mimetic adherence to the real but takes pleasure in representing improbable speaking images-an infrequent instance of finding delight in being mocked. In such delight we appreciate the internal coherence of the play, a coherence whose “unity in proofs” (5. 2. 31-32) ignores the three pseudo-Aristotelian unities that make for plausible, life-like theatre, conflating instead the canons of tragedy and comedy in the unlikely artfulness of romance. This type of experience, engendered by the direct contact with the stage,43 may afterwards produce a derivative form of ekphrasis when the observer/spectator, after he has left the playhouse, recounts his subjective experience of the work of dramatic art, re-telling the story already acted and narrated, but artistically regenerated by each narrated account of it.

Notes

1 . ra’Iffat, The Concepts of Nature and Art in the Last Plays of Shakespeare, New Delhi, Shakti Malik, 1997, p. 84-89.

2 . For the Baconian elements in Polixenes’considerations, see Colie Rosalie, Shakespeare’s Living Art, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1974, p. 270-283.

3 . Puttenham George, “Of Ornament”, in The Arte of English Poesie (1569, 1589), Lumley John (ed.), New York, AMS Press, “English Reprints”, vol. 4, n°15, 1966, p. 308-309 (book III, chap. 25, spelling modernised); see Hall L., The Winter’s Tale : A Guide to the Play, Westport, Greenwood, 2005, p. 127-132 ; and Wilson Harold, “Nature and Art”, in The Winter’s Tale : A Casebook, Muir Kenneth (ed.), London, Macmillan, 1968, p. 151-158.

4 . The Third Gentleman’s praise of visual art reverses Enobarbus’description of Cleopatra’s on a barge on the river Cydnus (Antony and Cleopatra, 2. 2. 209-214). Nature’s beauty outshines the idealized image of Venus’portrayal (“overpicturing that Venus”) intended by the painter’s imagination to “outwork nature”; Meek Richard, Narrating the Visual in Shakespeare, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2009, p. 169-172.

5 . This is lessened by the use of verbs in the subjunctive and the conditional (had, would, could), steering the sentence towards a hypothetical stance. On unveiling the statue, Paulina later uses verbs like “seems”, “appears”, voicing a sense of doubt. It is an ironic paradox that Leontes initially believes that the statue “seems” really alive while she actually “is”; Meek Richard, “Ekphrasis in The Rape of Lucrece and The Winter’s Tale”, in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 46, n°2, 2006, p. 389-406. On the concept of the visual artist competing with Nature, see also Venus and Adonis (289-292), Timon of Athens (1. 1. 37-39) and Cymbe- linline (2. 4. 68-76). See Dundas Judith, Pencils Rhetorique : Renaissance Poets and the Art of Painting, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1993, p. 57-62, 68-75, 81-89. On the scene as successfully achieving “the seemingly impossible feat of staging an Ovidian metamophosis”, see Bate Jonathan, Shakespeare and Ovid, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 235-239, esp. p. 238.

6 . There are no extant statues by Giulio Romano. However, that he created painted statues goes undisputed according to accounts of the period. He worked in Rome and at the court of Duke Federico Gonzaga in Mantua. Particularly famous for his experimental and illusionistic techniques is the fresco painted on the walls of Sala dei Giganti in the Palazzo del Te (Mantua), portraying mythological figures deformed by optical perspective, Romano took part in the staging of dramatic pieces, dealing personally with mimetic sceneries and theatrical properties. He also worked on explicitly pornographic drawings (“I Modi o le 16 Posizioni”) portraying the poses of two lovers during sexual intercourse. His drawings inspired Pietro Aretino for his Sonetti Lussuriosi, printed in 1527 and used as an illustrative supplement in a new edition of I Modi ; see Sokol B. J., Art and Illusion in The Winter’s Tale, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1994, p. 101-114.

7 . Martinet Marie-Madeleine, “The Winter’s Tale et Giulio Romano”, in Études Anglaises, vol. 28, n°3, 1975, p. 257-268.

8 . For an exhaustive study on the theory and history of ekphrasis see Krieger Murray and Krieger Joan (eds.), Ekphrasis : the Illusion of the Natural Sign, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992 ; and Klarer Mario, Ekphrasis : Bildbeschreibung als Repräsentationstheorie bei Spenser, Sidney, Lyly und Shakespeare, Tübingen, Niemeyer, 2001.

9 . Heffernan James, Museum of Words : The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2004, p. 75-89 ; Hulse Clark, “’A Piece of Skilful Painting’in Shakespeare’s Lucrece”, in Shakespeare Survey, vol. 31, 1978, p. 13-22 ; and Roberts Sasha, “Historicizing Ekphrasis : Gender, Textiles, and Shakespeare’s Lucrece”, in Pictures into Words : theoretical and descriptive approaches to ekphrasis, Robillard Valérie and Jongeneel Else (eds.), Amsterdam, VU University Press, 1998, p. 103-120.

10 . On the concept of aesthetic self-deception in The Rape of Lucrece, see Dundas Judith, “Mocking the Mind : The Role of Art in Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece”, in Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 14, n°1, 1983, p. 13-22 ; and Wells Marion A., “’To Find a Face Where All Distress is Stell’d’: Enargeia, Ekphrasis, and Mourning in The Rape of Lucrece and The Aeneid”, in Comparative Literature, vol. 54, n°2, 2002, p. 99-118.

11 . Shakespeare also experiments with ekphrasis in Cymbeline (2. 2. 18-45), where Jachimo describes and records the visual inventory of Imogen’s bedchamber, as well as her naked body ; see Coussement-Boillot Laetitia, « et l’ekphrasis : une esthétique de la copia », in Emprunt, plagiat, réécriture aux xve, xvie, xviie siècles. Pour un nouvel éclairage sur la pratique des Lettres à la Renaissance, Couton Marie (ed.), Clermont-Ferrand, Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2006, p. 161-170.

12 . Matchett William H., “Some Dramatic Techniques in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shake- spspearearspeare Survey, vol. 22, 1969, p. 93-107.

13 . In An Apology for actors (1612), John Heywood points out the peculiar power of theatre to turn spectators into new Pygmalions, in love with moving pictures, more fascinating than the speaking pictures of poetry or the dumb poetry of visual arts ; see Lamb Mary Ellen, “Ovid and The Winter’s Tale : Conflicting Views towards Art”, in Shakespeare and Dramatic Tradition : essays in honor of S. F. Johnson, Elton William R. and Long William B. (eds.), Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1989, p. 69-73, 82-84.

14 . The customary point of reference for this aesthetic theory is the Horatian motto “ut pictura poësis”, a synaesthetic trope Plutarch had already reversed when defining painting as “a form of silent poetry”; see Land Norman, The Viewer as Poet : The Renaissance Response to Art, University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994, p. 4-10 ; and Gent Lucy, Pic- ture and Poetry, 1560-1620 : Relations between Literature and the Visual Arts in the English Renaissance, Leamington Spa, Hall, 1981.

15 . Sidney Sir Philip, An Apology for Poetry, or, The Defence of Poesy, Sheperd Geoffrey and Maslen Robert (eds.), Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2002, p. 84-86.

16 . Kiernan Pauline, Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 68-85.

17 . To express the statue’s erotic power the author hints to Ovidian commonplaces usually connected with the early modern tradition of narrative poems ; see Ara’Iffat, The concepts of Nature and Art, op. cit., p. 91-95.

18 . This pun recurs in The Winter’s Tale to underscore the causal affinity between “to mock”, in the sense of “to ape”, and “to mock” in the sense of “to deride”, usually at the expense of a dupe exposed to public ridicule ; Berek Peter, “’As we are mock’d with art’: From Scorn to Transfiguration”, in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 18, n°2, 1978, p. 289-295.

19 . On the question of partial exegesis, forced analogies and uncontrolled interpretations of visual artworks, see Quinn Kelly A., “Ecphrasis and Reading Practices in Elizabethan Narrative Verse”, in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 44, n°1, 2004, p. 19-35. Quinn analyzes the subjective response of different characters to ekphrastic experiences in Samuel Daniel’s The Complaint of Rosamond (1592), Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece (1594), and Michael Drayton’s Mortimeriados (1596).

20 . See Pandosto’s attempted incestuous rape of his (not yet identified) daughter.

21 . See Snyder Susan, Shakespeare : A Wayward Journey, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 2002, p. 197-207.

22 . Paulina’s chapel was preceded by a private gallery exhibiting different works of art (“many singularities”). The vogue of artistic collecting was relatively recent in Shakespeare’s England : one of the first to initiate it was Henry Howard, Lord Arundel, collector of continental artefacts and art patron. His gallery was renowned in Jacobean London and displayed various statues ; see Belsey Catherine, The Loss of Eden : the construction of family values in early modern culture, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2001, p. 111-113.

23 . Jensen Phebe, “’Singing Psalms to Horn-pipes’: Festivity, Iconoclasm, and Catholicism in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 55, n°3, 2004, p. 279-306 ; and Tassi Mar- gugueriteritguerite A., The Scandal of Images : Iconoclasm, Eroticism, and Painting in Early Modern English Drama, Selinsgrove, Susquehanna University Press, 2005.

24 . On the Pygmalion figure in The Winter’s Tale, see also Martindale Michelle and Martindale Charles, Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity : an introductory essay, Routledge, London, 1994, p. 77-81 ; and Rico Barbara R., “From’Speechless Dialect’to’Prosperous Art’: Shakespeare’s Recasting of the Pygmalion Image”, in Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 48, 1985, p. 85-95.

25 . On misogyny and the myths of Orpheus and Pygmalion, see Enterline Lynn, “’You speak a language that I understand not’: The Rhetoric of Animation in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 48, n°1, 1997, p. 22-23. The original focus of Pygmalion’s resentment against female shamelessness was the Propetides, a group of Cyprian prostitutes Venus turned into stone for their indecent abuses against the goddess ; Miles Geoffrey, Classical Mythology in English Literature : a critical anthology, London, Routledge, 1999, p. 313-318. The only direct mention of Pygmalion’s figure in the canon is made by the eccentric Lucio in Measure for Measure (3. 2. 43-46). In this case Pygmalion’s self-moving painted statue is metaphorically associated with street prostitution. In 1598 the poet and dramatist John Marston published a satirical short poem entitled The Metamorphoses of Pygmalion’s Image. In this poem the original Ovidian myth is deconstructed in a desecrating parody meant to lessen the aesthetic (and erotic) parable of the original Pygmalion : Marston’s sculptor/artist is nothing but a sexually aroused libertine who frustratingly seeks to subjugate and mould a frozenly, coy, unyielding stony mistress, ironically contradicting every form of idealization of the female body, see Newcomb Lori, “’If that which is lost be not found’”, in Ovid and the Renaissance Body, Stanivukovic Goran (ed.), Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2001, p. 239-246.

26 . Gross Kenneth, “Moving Statues, Talking Statues”, in Raritan, vol. 9, n°2, 1989, p. 14-20.

27 . On the question of female silence and misogyny in The Winter’s Tale, see Enterline Lynn, “’You speak a language that I understand not’: The Rhetoric of Animation in The Winter’s Tale”, op. cit., p. 17-44.

28 . On the relationship between Hermione’s statue and funeral effigies, see Belsey Catherine, Shakespeare and the Loss of Eden, op. cit., p. 89-120 ; and Waage Frederick, “’Be stone no more’: Italian Cinquecento Art and Shakespeare’s Last Plays”, in Shakespeare, contemporary critical approaches, Garvin Harry and Payne Michael (eds.), Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press, 1980, p. 71-78.

29 . Sokol argues that Shakespeare, by anachronistically mentioning Romano, meant subtly to ridicule the emerging fashion within aristocratic circles for importing artistic works, artists and theories from Italy, in an attempt to fill the aesthetic gap with continental figurative arts ; see Sokol B. J., Art and illusion, op. cit., p. 55-58, 85-89.

30 . Shakespeare and the French poet, Bonnefoy Yves and Naughton John T. (eds.), Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2008, p. 28-33, 44-49.

31 . This passage in the Folio concentrates the highest proportion of colons in the canon, probably to communicate a sensation of climactic anxiety ; Coghill Nevill, “Six Points in Stagecraft in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shakespeare Survey, vol. 11, 1958, p. 40.

32 . Barkan Leonard, “Making Pictures Speak : Renaissance Art, Elizabethan Literature, Modern Scholarship”, in Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 48, n°2, 1995, p. 328-334, 339-344.

33 . Meek Richard, “Ekphrasis in The Rape of Lucrece and The Winter’s Tale”, op. cit., p. 401-403.

34 . On Paulina’s symbolic function, half way between the pagan priestess and the spiritual guide of the Pauline tradition, see Diehl Huston, “’Does not the stone rebuke me ?’: The Pauline Rebuke and Paulina’s Lawful Magic in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shakespeare and the Cultures of Performance, Yachnin Paul E. and Badir Patricia (eds.), Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008, p. 77-82.

35 . Jacobean court masques feature a large number of re-animated statues played by actors, as in Thomas Campion’s Lord’s Masque (1613) and Francis Beaumont’s Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn (1613). In both cases these statues do not represent characters coming back to life, but artifacts set in motion by prodigious magic. For the analogies between theatrical moving statues and hydraulically animated automata in Renaissance garden grotto, see Tigner Amy L., “The Winter’s Tale : Gardens and the Marvels of Transformation”, in English Literary Renaissance, vol. 36, n°1, 2006, p. 114-134.

36 . Nonetheless, the style of the pseudo-masque staged by Paulina differs from traditional ones : here the joy of the revelation scene/spectacle cannot completely efface the play’s dark losses. Moreover, the scene is pervaded by macabre allusions to the sphere of death, as in the words of Polixenes and Camillo (5. 3. 111-115); see Gross Kenneth, The Dream of the Moving Statue, University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006, p. 100-108.

37 . For the parallels and divergences between the fate of Eurydice and that of Hermione, see Enterline Lynn, “’You speak a language that I understand not’”, op. cit., p. 25-29.

38 . Lim Walter S. H., “Knowledge and Belief in The Winter’s Tale”, in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 41, n°2, 2001, p. 317-334.

39 . Until the end of nineteenth century, the final scene of The Winter’s Tale was often judged unfit and perceived as a flaw, and sometimes even cut from performance ; Lamb Mary Ellen, “Conflicting Views”, in Shakespeare and Dramatic Tradition, op. cit., p. 86.

40 . It has been argued by some critics that these manifest inconsistencies might derive from a second version of the play, including for the first time Hermione’s “resurrection”, but forgetting to excise the details of her actual death from the previous version, presumably closer to Greene’s original. Usually invoked in support of this thesis is the first extant eyewitness account of the performance-dated 11 May 1611 at the Globe-by the astrologer and charlatan Simon Forman who omits any allusion to the spectacular re-animation of Hermione’s statue from his record of the play ; see Siemon James R., “’But it appears she lives’: Iteration in The Winter’s Tale”, in Publications of the Modern Literary Association, vol. 89, n°1, 1994, p. 10-16.

41 . Felperin Howard, “’Tongue-tied our Queen ?’: the deconstruction of presence in The Winter’s Tale”, in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, Parker Patricia and Hartman Geoffrey (eds.), London, Methuen, 1985, p. 3-18.

42 . See also Meek Richard, Narrating the Visual in Shakespeare, op. cit., p. 174-178.

43 . Frey Charles, “Interpreting The Winter’s Tale”, in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 18, n°2, 1978, p. 307-329.

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