Leading From the Margins: Paulina in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale


This case allows students to examine leadership styles in Shakespeare’s late tragicomedy The Winter’s Tale, focusing on the character Paulina as an example of a marginalized figure who grows into an effective leader. The Winter’s Tale portrays the jealous king Leontes, who accuses his wife Hermione of committing adultery with his best friend Polixenes. Hermione’s servant Paulina confronts Leontes, but is ineffective in calming him down with her bold criticisms of his behavior. As the play progresses, Paulina becomes a more effective leader, even in her position of relative powerlessness. Although she has no official status or authority, she learns to use patience and persistence to guide the king to become a wiser and more effective ruler, as well as to protect those she cares about. Paulina provides a powerful example of how aspiring leaders in subordinate positions can be strong positive influences, even on those above them.

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