Reason and passion

Shakespeare frequently stresses that it is reason which informs the soul of man and makes humans higher than animals:

  • Because people have a soul, they can aspire to reach beyond their body and mortality.
  • If they debase their soul, and lose their reason – especially through giving way to extreme passion – then they are no better than animals.

In The Winter's Tale, Leontes' loss of reason through jealousy is seen as a disease which strikes suddenly and without apparent cause (see also Disease and healing). It is reflected in his change to a disordered, disturbed style of speech (See: Variations from the norm). When Paulina (in Act II, sc ii) speaks of Leontes' fits of jealousy, she calls them ‘These dangerous, unsafe lunes', implying insanity (from which we get the word ‘lunacy'). Pauline here, and in the next scene, sees Leontes' jealous passion as a form of madness, a loss of reason brought about by uncontrolled passion, and suggests herself as a possible healer. (See also: Disease and healing.)

See also - The nature of humanity in The Winter's Tale:

The chain of being The state as a body Reason and passion Disease and healing
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