Shyla Melwani 6th February 2012
* How does the statue scene participate in the “art versus nature” debate? * |
The Winter's Tale dramatises ideas about the relationship between art (illusion and artifice) and nature (reality and simplicity). Perdita, herself representative of nature's purity, has an instinctive mistrust of those who would seek to improve on nature. According to Harold Wilson, ‘Nature and culture are much alike; for culture changes a man, but through this change makes nature.’
One of the most interesting themes in the play is about nature and what is truly natural. Polixenes and Perdita have a little argument: he thinks she should grow carnations but she rejects them. They do not meet her definition of real flowers because they are man-made. The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate is of long standing, going back at least to the time of Plato. Harold Wilson argued: ‘A clearer parallel for Shakespeare’s conception occurs in one of the answers Plato supplies to the sophistic antithesis of ‘nature’ and ‘art’. Art exists by the nature or by a cause of nature, since, according to the right reason, they are the offspring of mind.’ Currently, developments in psychology and also much more detailed knowledge about our genetic make-up have contributed to the discussion. What is interesting is the ‘conjesture that Shakespeare remarks about ‘nature’ and ‘art’ in The Winter’s Tale may have had some relation to the elaborate discussion of these concepts in the Arte of English Poesie.’
The nature/nurture debate is at the centre of The Winter’s Tale – for ‘nature produces what is useful to human life mixed indiscriminately with thorns and brambles’ (Wilson). The heroine, Perdita, is a princess who has been abandoned at birth and brought up by poor shepherds. However, she grows up with such innate grace that Prince Florizel falls in love with her beauty of person and delicacy of character, declaring that ‘All your acts are...