Article Title

Epiphanal Encounters in Shakespearean Dramaturgy


Robert L. Reid


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Just before Perdita's reunion with Leontes, a courtly gentleman announces her presence in evangelical terms:

This is a creature,

Would she begin a sect, might quench the zeal

Of all professors else, make proselytes

Of who she but bid follow. (Winter's Tale 5.1.106-09)1

Leontes calls her "princess-goddess!" and thus evokes again her role as "Flora," a part of "great creating nature" (4.4.2, 88). In act 5 she is integrated into the sophistications of courtly Art, which thus claims Nature's wonder as its basis (as in Revelation, the jewelled city-court of New Jerusalem finally discloses an Edenic garden at its core).2 But if, like her precursors (Ophelia, Helena, Isabella, Desdemona, Cordelia, Marina, Imogen), Perdita can revitalize the sovereign and his realm, a second recognition scene more conclusively resolves Leontes's abuse of kingship. The awakened statue moves him from generation to regeneration, reveals divinity not only in nature but in grace, the wonder of Hermione's persistent loving forgiveness. These conjoined discoveries, a magical piece of theater, draw on Shakespeare's most potent dramaturgical device: epiphany, a recognition that awakens faith in spiritual identity, arousing the spiritual body.

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