Leontes Character: Discuss the character of Leontes, the king of Sicilia



Leontes, the king of Sicilia, is a strong but negative character in the early part of the play. He has all the characteristics which may lead to one's fall. He is proud, haughty, tyrannical and unkind. He is weak in decision making and planning. He lacks investigation and builds upon the doubts and suspicions resting in his mind. He doubts his faithful wife; for committing excess, he is inflicted with age long misery of loneliness and self-torture. He is wrapped up in such a deep sense of guilt that he must curse himself ever to come. However, the comical tone of the playwright does present the gravity of his tragic fall in a rather lighter mode.

The personality and mental faculty of the king Leontes lack depth of investigation and understanding necessary for making decisions. He doubts his faithful wife and childhood friend, Polixenes; and the suspicion is adultery. He, without any probe or evidence, is bent upon poisoning his dearest friend. The proofs to his narrow and unscrupulous mind are vague and childish:

"How she holds up the neb, the bill to him!
And arms her with the boldness of a wife
To her allowing husband!"


When Hermione informs her husband that their dear friend has agreed to stay, Leontes feels the pinching jealousy at his heart:

"To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods".

"Leontes wobbles and talks to his son, Mamillius asking him if he resembles his father. From his strange conversation Polixenes asks him if any wrong. But Leontes says that he was recalling his youth from the face of his son.

When Polixene and Hermione have gone he utters in deep jealousy and melancholy tone:

"Whiles other men have gates and those gates open'd,
As mine, against their will."

He ask Camillo, his worthiest and most trustable lord, if "My wife is slippery" and cheating on him. Camillo is shocked to hear this. He considers it a sin to accuse the queen with such words. The king accuses his wife of adultery before Camillo. He requests the king to be careful because it is not good.

Leontes does not stop at this. He forces Camillo to poison his friend and when Polixenes has escaped alongwith Camillo, his rage has no limits. He curses his wife and puts her in prison. He even goes on to abandon his new born baby girl. The curse of heaves falls on him and his dear son dies. As soon as he realizes his folly and excesses, Paulina hides the queen from him. He is once again foolish enough in believing the lady so easily that his wife has passed away.

However, towards the end of the play his happiness returns to him but it is merely tainted happiness which he shall never be able to enjoy and relish with ease and peace of heart as he used to do earlier to the committing of his sinful accusation of his innocent wife.



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