Skip to main content

Hudler, Melissa. "“She dances featly”: Dance as Rhetoric in Act 4, Scene 4 of The Winter's Tale."

Hudler, Melissa. "“She dances featly”: Dance as Rhetoric in Act 4, Scene 4 of The Winter's Tale." Ben Jonson Journal 27, no. 1 (May 2020): 61-83.

In The Muses' Concord, James H. Jensen observes that rhetorical theory and practice ground all the arts of the Renaissance era. This connection is evident in the discourse of rhetorical and dance performance shared between Classical rhetoric treatises and Renaissance dance manuals, which leads one to understand both arts equally as forms of ordered and measured language. The recognition and perspectives of dance as a form of rhetoric contribute much to our understanding of the culture's awareness and economy of nonverbal communication.

The shared elements of rhetoric and dance can be observed in the sheep-shearing festival scene of The Winter's Tale (4.4). A rhetorical reading of this scene conveys the rhetorical quality of dance, as well as its dramaturgical function. Framing this reading is a cultural and historical context that delineates the association between dance and rhetoric as it was understood by Quintilian, Sir Thomas Elyot, and Ben Jonson. Indeed, Perdita's corporeal eloquence communicates an air of nobility out of place in the rustic setting of this scene and misplaced within this assumed peasant. Because Perdita's true identity is discovered soon after (5.2), this scene, with its covert comingling of peasants and aristocrats and its graceful spectacle, can be understood as a pivotal moment that moves the play from its discordant beginning to its harmonious end.

Year of publication: 2020

Full text search

(The full text search always takes place in the entire bibliography. It can be refined afterwards with the filters).

Filter Bibliography