The madness of Leontes : male hysteria and gender instability in The Winter's Tale
Sidman, Caroline Louise.
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Over the course of this thesis, I argue that King Leontes of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale performs the feminine gender through a representation of the disease hysteria. Hysteria within the play thus functions in response to Leontes' initial expressed desires to remove himself from normative heterosexual productivity. Leontes' rejection and fear of adult masculinity might allow him to remain "unbreeched, / In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled" (1.2.154-5). However, the hyper-femininity he then experiences through hysteria reveals that a refusal to ascend to manhood leads to a cessation in lineal progression through the climactic death of his heir Mamillius and the following death of Hermione as the wife that would provide him with future offspring. By exploring sixteenth century conceptions of hysteria, its portrayal by Shakespeare in The Winter's Tale, and twentieth century productions of the play, I argue that not only does Leontes display hysterical symptoms, but he also expresses gender instability as a result of the disease.