This is Penny's fourth blog entry for the 2005 production of The Winter's Tale in which she talks about Paulina's relationship with Leontes, her ralationship with Camillo, and the nature of the play itself.
Transcript of Podcast
'Awake your faith’
What strikes me about The Winter's Tale is that it's a play that celebrates being a story. Giles Block [Master of Play for Troilus and Cressida] and I were talking about Troilus and Cressida this morning; I don’t know the play very well yet, but it feels as if Shakespeare gives you the humanity behind well-known events: ‘This is what actually happened…now I’m going to tell you what I think these people were really like.’ Whereas The Winter's Tale enjoys being a story – it can leap over sixteen years in an instant or bring someone back from the dead. When Paulina says ‘It is requir’d/ You do awake your faith’ she's asking everyone on stage to believe in the statue's transformation, but she's also saying to the audience ‘You have to believe in the story’. If they believe, you don’t need to make huge physical alterations for the sixteen-year time lapse, for example: it's enough that the character Time comes on and says ‘This is what's happened, we’ve moved on 16 years.’ It's very dependent on the audience's ability to believe (we might grey our hair a bit too!)
As for rehearsals, now we’re running acts of the play together. The runs are very instructive because the more you put the play together, the more confidence you have that you’re playing the same person in each scene! And that you’re finding the right story to tell from your character's perspective. I haven’t watched scenes that I’m not in, so it's also great to see what everyone else has done and get a sense of the world of the play. We’ll probably run the whole thing from beginning to end by the end of the week.
Relationship with Leontes
Paulina argues with Leontes in the trial scene [III.ii] but their relationship seems much closer next time we see them [V.i]. Her compassion for the king is awakened more at the end of the trial scene than perhaps I thought at first. Her last speech has so many conflicting things in it: compassion and anger and grief. All those things together have to find their own place, which is hard. I’d like to explore their relationship before all this happens… you don’t see me before it all happened, but I’m going in to see a man whom I know very well when I take him the baby [II.iii]. If I can suggest the kind of relationship they might have in normal times during those first few exchanges, they’ll hopefully inform my speech to Leontes at the end of the trial scene. Even though this man has done something so terrible, I can tap back into a relationship with somebody I’ve always liked. That's quite easy because Paul's Leontes is a man of great humanity who goes off the rails. He's incredibly warm and big hearted; when a heart that big is troubled with jealousy, the results are disastrous.
We haven’t pinned down their relationship at the beginning of Act five, scene one (where Paulina makes Leontes swear not to remarry). We play it in different ways as we come to it. I’m not sure how ‘connected’ Paulina and Leontes are by the end of the trial scene and that informs the way they talk to each other in the later scene. At the moment, when Leontes says ‘Come, and lead me/ To these sorrows,’ I leave with him but not in complete empathy with his suffering. I’m still full of grief and shock. Sixteen years later when we next see them together, I feel that Leontes has completely subjugated himself to Paulina as repentance. The lords are desperately worried that there won’t be an heir and the security of the kingdom is at risk. Paulina has to stand up to them and remind them what the Oracle said – basically I think she says ‘Oh look, come on, this is what the Oracle said and that's just tough. Don’t you worry about the crown – the crown will find an heir.’ In one rehearsal she was really fronting it out with the lords whilst Leontes himself was rather left out of it. I think that's basically what's going on: the lords accuse her of not having the country's best interests at heart and she can’t let Leontes marry because she knows Hermione is still alive. They’re jockeying for power over the king and ultimately Paulina wins. After the king promises not to marry unless Paulina agrees, the first thing she does is turn to the Lords:
Then, good my lords, bear witness to his oath.
It's as if she's saying ‘There. Did you hear that?’ As we put the play together, the thread of their relationship will become clearer.
In the last scene, Leontes turns the tables on Paulina and picks her a husband:
Thou shouldst a husband take by my consent,
As I by thine a wife: this is a match,
And made between's by vows.
I think she is absolutely horrified. It could be anybody – it could be the old shepherd! When Leontes chooses Camillo, my Paulina is shocked but it's not an unpleasant shock. I think she's pleased; she definitely likes him. It's a good match, in that she's a voice of good sense and integrity within the court and Camillo is a similar voice of reason in the other scenes so it's as if they become the same person, the two facets of the same ideal. That they should come together is absolutely right, I feel. There's harmony everywhere at the end and the pairing off Camillo and Paulina is part of that. But it's still a tricky moment because I’m not given any lines in response!
Shakespeare's comedies often include a villain who gets his comeuppance at the end of the play, or some kind of little sting in the tail – like Don Jon in Much Ado About Nothing or Malvolio in Twelfth Night. In The Winter's Tale Shakespeare actually ties everything up in a very harmonious way. Of course, nothing can bring back sixteen lost years or Mamillius and that can’t be put right. Antigonus, Paulina's husband, has also died; that's my struggle at the moment – how to do those last lines without sounding dismissive or self-pitying:
I, an old turtle,
Will wing me to some wither’d bough, and there
My mate (that's never to be found again)
Lament till I am lost.
I've got everybody's attention at that last moment, so I get a bit embarrassed saying ‘I, an old turtle…’ I haven’t got the right measure of that line yet but I think it will come. It seems that Paulina accepts the death of Antigonus quite early on – perhaps she's ready to start a new life too.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.