The Winter's Tale: Notes

The Winter's Tale: Notes

The Winter's Tale: Notes

The Winter's Tale: Notes

Synopsis

What happens when a king is dominated by jealousy? After ruining the lives of those close to him, he finally learns about life and is offered a second chance. A subplot of lovers torn by class differences ends with a measure of happiness, and the final scene of the drama is upbeat.

Excerpt

Archidamus, a lord of Bohemia, tells Camillo, a lord of Sicilia, that should he ever visit Bohemia that he would find great differences between the two countries. Camillo responds that he thinks his king plans an exchange visit during the coming summer.

Archidamus predicts that although their entertainments cannot match Sicilia’s, they will manage to express their love. When Camillo protests the apology, Archidamus emphasizes that he knows that his country of Bohemia cannot produce “such magnificence.” Archidamus then envisions offering drinks that will drug the visitors; if unable to praise their hosts, they will at least not be able to blame them for inadequate “magnificence.”

Camillo then tells Archidamus that Leontes (King of Sicilia) is being so generous because of the great love that he has had for the Bohemian king since childhood. All of the formal, diplomatic gifts that the kings have exchanged during the intervening years of separation have maintained the strong friendship that still binds them. Camillo calls for help from the heavens to maintain this love.

Archidamus comments that no earthly force could be strong enough to alter that love. Then he praises Leontes’ son, Prince Mamillius, as the most promising young man he has ever observed. Camillo agrees, claiming that Leontes’ elderly subjects remain alive only for the joy of observing Mamillius when he grows to adulthood. Archidamus, more realistically, states that the elderly would find a reason to continue to survive even if Mamillius did not exist.

Commentary

The conversation between Archidamus and Camillo establishes the two main settings of the play (Sicilia and Bohemia) and introduces the theme of deep and lasting friendship between the two kings. We can also infer that Leontes possesses natural riches far beyond those of Polixenes (the king of Bohemia). The fact that no single main character appears in this scene forces our initial focus onto the contrasting settings; Sicilia is established as being the preferable location.

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