Apostasy in The Winter’s Tale
This chapter discusses the phenomenon of ‘de-conversion,’ moving away from a converted state, through the loss of faith, into a sinful one. Many Protestants felt this was likely, even for the elect, and The Winter’s Tale shows the close association between a religious and an erotic loss of faith. As in other Shakespeare plays, the jealous man’s suspicion of his wife marks a refusal to accept, on faith, the holy ‘nothing’ of her chastity; instead, he looks for evidence, which can never be found. In contrast to Leontes’s jealousy, his wife, Hermoine, and his friend, Polixenes, offer an alternative and superior view of Protestant marital chastity that involves integrating the discourses of friendship and marriage and thereby beneficially intensifying the eroticism in both realms.