[From the discussion of Daniel Deronda, with reference to Chapter 5, where Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is performed:]
BYATT: I’ve always had a sort of horror of Hermione as a figure of death. I find her deeply alarming. Possibly because Shakespeare invented her, and literary criticism seems quite happy to accept her, as a benign figure of resurrection. She’s in fact somebody who has had all her adult life and the growing up of her children taken from her by being closed in the tomb, and is only allowed to come to life when she’s too old to live her life. And so she is in a sense a real figure of life-in-death, which was Coleridge’s great terror, and which George Eliot understood. A fear of having a life that isn’t a life. Why did Gwendolen not choose to play Perdita?
Why did Mrs Davilow not play Hermione, and Gwendolen play Perdita, watching her mother come to life? Why did Gwendolen play the mother and Mrs Davilow play the magician or witch who kept the woman in the tomb? And the other thing I thought, is that, seeing the scene in terms of arrested energies and released energies, Gwendolen is useless as an artist, she is standing on that pedestal in order to show off a pretty instep. George Eliot tells us this. Nevertheless she’s surrounded by the terrible forces of real art. We have the real artist in the book who is Klesmer, doing a great thunder roll on the piano, we have the greatest English artist, Shakespeare, who is invoked here, there and everywhere throughout this novel as a kind of comparison for what you might be able to do if you do art properly, i.e. produce your energies properly. And here is Gwendolen trying to reduce Shakespeare to her size. But Klesmer says no, I will show you what this truly means, I will make a great banging noise. And this causes the panel to fly open and between the painting, the music and Shakespeare’s deep knowledge of what it meant to be dead and come to life, Gwendolen becomes a statue into which the soul of Fear has entered. In a sense she’s responding to art, without being able to make it. Because she can’t, so she becomes paralyzed.