The belief of fate, and the role of the Gods in deciding this fate, was a common conviction held in Jacobean times. It is an occurring theme throughout The Winters Tale, with many references to various Gods and Goddesses being made throughout. In addition, the strength of the values and beliefs held towards prophecy and fate is shown through the faith put into the Oracle, by Hermione and Leontes, as well as their subjects; for example when Hermione is put on trial Leontes believes the words of the oracle over those of Hermione and Polixenes, and Hermione herself suggests that an oracle should be consulted. As well as the symbolic meanings of the various gods, Shakespeare uses various linguistic tools within the extract, these not only convey the characteristics of Florizel and Perdita, but also their feelings about themselves and for each other. Moreover, they are used to reflect other attitudes and values of the Jacobean Period.
Prince Florizel is symbolic of spring, this is reinforced in the line “But Flora peering in Aprils Front,” as Flora is the goddess of nature; furthermore the personification of April, could also be symbolic of the relationship between Florizel and Perdita, as April occurs in spring. Moreover, the reference to Flora could also be symbolic of Perdita’s innocence and beauty, she is compared to nature, and as a result Shakespeare gives the effect that her beauty transcends the earthly. Many peasants in the Jacobean era were very superstitious, and deeply believed in honouring the gods, this is shown in the line “this your sheep-shearing is as a meeting of the petty gods,” as the sheep shearing was a pagan festival, and was a celebration of the gods. Furthermore, the line contains dramatic irony, as Florizel calls Perdita the “queen” of the sheep shearing festival; however the audience are familiar with Perdita’s royal heritage, whereas Florizel is not. In addition Florizel uses the pre-qualifier “petty” to describe the gods, this shows that he values Perdita as superior to the gods; this is further reinforced in the many comparisons Florizel makes between himself and the gods.
Florizel compares himself to Jupiter, in the line “Jupiter became a bull and bellowed,” this is possibly as Jupiter is King of the gods, and Florizel will be King of Bohemia, in the future. Shakespeare employs the use of plosives in the line “became a bull and bellowed,” these are used to reflect strength, and symbolise the strength of Florizel’s love for Perdita. Furthermore, the use of pastoral imagery such as “ram” and “bull” juxtaposes the grand lexis used to describe the gods, for example “Golden Apollo” this suggests the strong contrast between the grandeur with which Florizel associates the gods, and therefore himself, compared to a rural lifestyle or people. Also, Both Jupiter and Neptune are changing to “rams” and “bulls” in the extract, this is symbolic of Florizel’s “transformation” to look like a “humble swain” out of his love for Perdita; this is yet another example of Florizel likening himself to the gods.
In addition, the pre qualifier and compound adjective “fire-robed god” used to describe “Golden Apollo” contains assonance in the “o” sound, as does “Golden Apollo,” the assonance of the ‘o’ is a harmonic sound and further reinforces Florizel’s love for Perdita, additionally this is a comparison of their love as being equal to that of Golden Apollo. Moreover, the line “humbling their deities to love,” suggests that their love transcends even the gods, “deities” is another term for gods.Perdita similarly contrasts her pastoral background with Florizel’s noble status. The rhetorical question, “how would he look to see his work, so noble, vilely bound up?” there is juxtaposition between the words “noble” and “vilely,” this is suggestive of the lower-opinion Perdita holds of her background, in comparison to Florizel’s, this is highly ironic, as the audience know that Perdita is also of a royal background, and it also shows her highly humble nature. Perdita’s humble nature is also shown through her description of herself as a “poor lowly maid,” what’s more this juxtaposes the term “goddess-like;” also she says “pranked up” which displays the mockery and disbelief she shows at being compared to a Goddess, further reflecting her humility. In addition the term “O, the fates!” contains high dramatic irony, as she Perdita is oblivious to the fact that “fate” will reveal that she is really the daughter of a king.
Perdita and Florizel are very equal. They both talk about the Gods and Fates equally; this is because they mirror each other. For example Florizel is a Prince dressed as a humble swain, and Perdita is a princess dressed humbly also, however, Perdita is ignorant of her royal background. Shakespeare employs pronominal usage of “I” and “you” in the speeches of both Florizel and Perdita, to further reinforce the fact that they mirror each other. Perdita is a key example of the theme of not being what you seem; this is seen throughout the novel, for example, it is seen through Autolycus, the rebel, who poses as a nobleman.
Another key theme within the play is that of prophecy, for example Leontes consults the oracle who prophesises that “Hermione is chaste…the king shall live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found.” This is proleptic of the ending, and reconciliation of the play, when the statue of Hermione is revealed, and also of Leontes’ reconciliation with Perdita.In conclusion, both Perdita and Florizel make many references to the Gods and fate.
Shakespeare uses lexis which juxtaposes the pastoral language surrounding Perdita with the grand language surrounding the gods and Fate, this shows both Perdita’s and Florizel’s views on the difference in their background, but also their god-like opinions of each other, therefore reinforcing their strong love for one another. In addition, Shakespeare uses references to fate to create a strong sense of irony within the play, as Perdita is ignorant of her fate as a queen. Finally, the references towards gods and fate create a sense of prophecy; as Shakespeare constantly hints towards the reconciliation which occurs at the end of the play.