1. What role do prophecies and the gods play in the story? Cite specific examples from the play to support your answer
In most Shakespearre plays, ‘the supernatural’ is a theme used to bring out an important aspect of the plot. This is no different in Winter’s Tale as phrophecies,God’s and religious aspects in general, play a vital role in making the play a tragicomedy.
Act 3 of the play begins with a dialogue between Cleomenes and Dion who went to retrieve a prophecy from the oracle in Delphi. Their conversation brings to us the atmosphere of Delphi as they highlighted how wonderful and outstanding the island and its religion/temples were (“Fertile the isle, the temple much surpassing”). This is in contrast with the events to come as it portrays ‘the calm before the storm.’ the role of informing readers of the religious atmosphere alone was to show us the difference between Delphi and Sicilia where there is moral peace and immoral chaos respectively. In a sense it also foreshadows the oracle’s decision or the judgement of the God especially when it was said “Great Apollo-Turn all to the best!”
The prophecy itself plays an extremely important role. This is because it determines the future acts in relation to what happens to several characters,especially,Leontes. If it was not for the oracles prophecy the subsequent actions would not have much meaning since the false accusations would have continued. Leontes’ search or desire for redemption (important part of the play) would be unnecessary.
Moreover,the intial role of the prophecy was to bring justice to Hermione for the loss or damage suffered to her reputation when she was called “an adulteress,” “a traitor,” “a bed swerver,” and other dishonourable things too numerous to mention.
In addition,the most obvious role of the God’s is to make the decision profound,binding and righteous . That way when Leontes is proven to be wrong it would be believed since it came from such a divine source. In essence it validates the judgement and makes Leontes seem more like the ‘jealous tyrant’ that he is.
These religious aspects help to make the plot of ‘Winter’s Tale’ much more interesting and meaningful. Their role is to justify and to prove the importance of trust and not being consumed by the destroyer or relationships known as jealousy.