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What atmosphere is created in Act IV and why

Act 4 was to contrast greatly with the previous acts, as the sombre mood of Leontes’ palace is to be cast away in place of more cheerful atmosphere.The play is split up into two parts, and the 2nd half strives to improve upon the dark ambience of the previous few acts – Shakespeare did this so that he could relieve the audience of the tragic events only acts before, and the cheerful environment is also there to compare with the beauty of Perdita and also the “unchaste and un-lustful love” that Florizel and Perdita have betwixt them.This mood shift from Leontes’ palace is immediately highlighted when Time enters, stating that “Leontes leaving…that he shuts himself up,” and mentions that Perdita has “now grown in grace equal with wond’ring…a shepherd’s daughter is what to her adheres” Time also mentions “the son’o’king’s, which Florizel I now name to you.” It is immediately obvious “what follows after is th’argument of time.” (i.e. Florizel and Perdita fall/have fallen in love). This creates a slightly tense atmosphere right at the beginning of Act 4, a crucial stage in the play.The suspicion that the audience has of Florizel and Perdita being in love is immediately confirmed by Polixenes and Camillo – “when saw’st thou the Prince Florizel my son?” “I have eyes under…look upon his removedness…house of a homely shepherd,” and sends a spark of amusement through the audience because their suspicions have been confirmed.The Acts depicting Leontes’ jealousy was in winter, traditionally a cold, unloving time of the year. Act 4 contrasts heavily with this when “daffodils begin to peer…comes the sweet o’the year,” sung by Autolycus prancing and singing along a country road in Bohemia. Imagery is used to set it apart from the winter, “for the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.” The flamboyant atmosphere is also aided by the fact that the time of year “doth set my [Autolycus’] pugging tooth an edge,” and that he is a “snapper-up of unconsidered trifles.”Comedy is also richly served when the Clown (the shepherd son) enters the stage. The clown is as confused and daft as he was previously (“Let me see, every ‘leven whether tods, …what comes the wool to?”). Autolycus, with “a prize, a prize,” immediately sets about his thievish work; this in turn bringing out the good in the clown who helps him. Comedy is laced throughout with the thief’s false face – “good sir, sweet sir…I cannot tell, good sir,” – and the clown’s unwitting idiocy (“dost lack any money?”).The atmosphere throughout the 4 scenes in act 4 differs depending on what is currently happening. The underpinning tone, generally, is one of happiness, as the sheep shearing festival is meant to be a time of great joy. The presentation of the characters is very important to this, with the intertwining love between Florizel and Perdita cropping up throughout the act. This is supposed to counterbalance Leontes’ fury in the first half of the play.The disguising of Polixenes and Camillo also provides comedy, as the audience are the only people who know that they are ‘they.’ Later, when he [Polixenes] reveals himself, an almost melodramatic, and comical moment happens (“Hast thou a father? / I have, but what of him…Let him know’t – [removing his disguise] Mark your divorce, young sir…). However, one of the themes then is one of regret – “Even here undone…O cursed wretch…Undone, undone!” This runs slightly parallel to the first half of the play, as Leontes also accused Hermione of similar events, and later regretted this (negative diction such as “[Polixenes calls Perdita] a witch(craft),” and claims that she shall “have her beauty scratched out.”On a completely different note, the good-humoured nature of Act 4 is emphasised by the descriptiveness of character in it – Perdita is described as “a queen,” “a daughter of most rare note,” and “what you [Perdita] do, betters what you’ve done.” The “queen” is also ironic (as she is really a princess), and this lets slip to the audience the more serious side of the act. Perdita is also likened to flowers, which in turn are symbols of spring and summer – a new beginning – “…the fairest flowers of the season are our carnations and streaked gillivors…Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram, the marigold…”The amount of youthfulness in this play spurs the thought that the act is happy, for in the previous acts, youth is equal to innocence and delight, i.e. Mamillius.The act is littered with positive diction that reflects upon the happiness and joyfulness of the act. The very fact that the love between Florizel and Perdita is genuine (“the gift she looks from me…I have given already”) has a positive impact on the atmosphere. The imagery used, such as “rosemary and rue,” representing regret and bitter repentance, is imaginative and also has an impact upon the play as a whole, (‘regret’ will kick in later). Onomatopoeia in the act also adds to this effect, with sentences like “…now, my fairest friend.” It is syllables like these that differ with the harsh tones that Leontes uttered in jealously (“My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings, if this be nothing.”).Songs and syntax of sentence also assist to show the positive-ness of the sheep shearing festival of Act 4. Autolycus comes in singing, and there is a dance of 12 “saltiers,” and this colourful and visual presence helps to convey the gladness of the act. There is also an argument between Mopsa and Dorcas over the clown, “I was promised them against the feast… he has paid you all he promised…” This provides a lighthearted banter onstage.When Florizel is speaking with Polixenes, the latter asks about his father. This provides the opportunity for ‘quick-fire’ lines – “Have you a father…I have, but what of him…Knows he of this…He neither does nor shall…” This also provides the audience with a chuckle, as the audience knows who is behind the disguise, and Florizel doesn’t.The final part of Act 4 Scene 4 ends with Florizel, Perdita, Camillo, Polixenes, the Clown, the shepherd and Autolycus boarding a ship to Sicilia, and this provides a final kick to the atmosphere (comedy) by the slightly coincidental proceedings happening at the same time for different reasons.The atmosphere in Act 4 goes from intrigue, to joy, to regret, and to excitement of the great unknown, which plenty of comedy fed in throughout. It is to contrast greatly with Acts 1-3, as the whole play is written to be a comedy, and not a tragedy, as one might suspect at the end of act 3.

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