Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Committee Member

Dr. Will Stockton, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Elizabeth Rivlin

Committee Member

Dr. Erin Goss

Abstract

William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale opens by expressing the friendship of King Leontes of Sicilia and King Polixenes of Bohemia in horticultural terms and explaining how the friendship "branch[es]" with the aid of servants when the monarchs cannot meet in person (1.1.24). The tyrannical Leontes conveys the depth of his relationship to his servant Camillo by discussing the trust that establishes that relationship as a physical connection. He calls Camillo "a servant grafted in my serious trust" (1.2.247). Using lines like these, the play asks us to read its discussion of service in terms of early modern horticultural practice. However, existing criticism lacks an intersection between horticultural and service studies. This project aims to deliver the kind of reading the play asks us to perform. Servants direct monarchs' courses; monarchs read as slips grafted to servants' rootstocks. Tyranny occurs as a natural product of Leontes' attempt to reclaim the agency he has delegated to those around him - severing his grafts to family, friends, and servants - and threatening the livelihood of those who depend on his recognition of their gentility, as the Winter threatens certain flora. John Scholl provides an insightful discussion of the play's emphasis on streaked gillyvors and explains how gardeners perpetuate gillyvor streaks. Building from his work, I demonstrate how Hermione and Perdita read as streaked gillyvors, preserved through Leontes' tyrannical season and restored by servants. As I will show, these streaks manifest as the royals' gentility. This project reveals how The Winter's Tale - servants maintain their monarchs' gentility.

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