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Group Readings > The Winter's Tale, ACT 1 Dec 1-7.

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
Discussion of Act 1...begins here

Dec 1-7

I love this play. I think maybe my favorite discussions about Shakespeare's plays have been on this one...

message 2: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
You put me off with limber vows; but I,
Though you would seek to unsphere the
stars with oaths,
Should yet say 'Sir, no going.' Verily,
You shall not go: a lady's 'Verily' 's
As potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?
Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
Not like a guest; so you shall pay your fees
When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?
My prisoner? or my guest? by your dread 'Verily,'
One of them you shall be.

It s so crazy that the men need to have women flirt and brag the ice. Men don't want approval of women they want approval of other men. I suppose to heal and recover the sense of rejection nd failure that the father never gave the son.

""Women have, in men's minds, such a low place on the social ladder ... that it's useless to define yourself in terms of a woman. What men need is men's approval." David Mamet

Yet this husband has to have his wife be the social one and arrange for there to be a time where the men can stay together in this play. The flirting is so silly and requested but then why does he get so angry and fearful of his wife succeeding in flirting and convincing friendship to continue between all the friends.

We were, fair queen,
Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal.
Was not my lord
The verier wag o' the two?
We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun,
And bleat the one at the other: what we changed
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
That any did. Had we pursued that life,
And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven
Boldly 'not guilty;' the imposition clear'd
Hereditary ours.
By this we gather
You have tripp'd since.
O my most sacred lady!
Temptations have since then been born to's; for
In those unfledged days was my wife a girl;
Your precious self had then not cross'd the eyes
Of my young play-fellow.

This is so crazy-making as follows...

Thou want'st a rough pash and the shoots that I have,
To be full like me: yet they say we are
Almost as like as eggs; women say so,
That will say anything but were they false
As o'er-dyed blacks, as wind, as waters, false
As dice are to be wish'd by one that fixes
No bourn 'twixt his and mine, yet were it true
To say this boy were like me. Come, sir page,
Look on me with your welkin eye: sweet villain!
Most dear'st! my collop! Can thy dam?--may't be?--
Affection! thy intention stabs the centre:
Thou dost make possible things not so held,
Communicatest with dreams;--how can this be?--
With what's unreal thou coactive art,
And fellow'st nothing: then 'tis very credent
Thou mayst co-join with something; and thou dost,
And that beyond commission, and I find it,
And that to the infection of my brains
And hardening of my brows.

message 3: by Robert (new)

Robert Barnett | 3 comments Love this play! Played Antigonus here in Seattle years ago. Loved the speech when he has to leave the babe.

message 4: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments I may be late in joining, as I have to order a copy of 'The Winter's Tale' from the library. I read it a few years ago.

message 5: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
Good to hear from both of you :)

message 6: by JamesD (new)

JamesD | 443 comments I don't know this play at all. It's passed me by all these years. Will be interested to see how it unfolds. So far another 'green eyed monster' start. Will have a reread of the first act and get back to yous. Oh, i did notice that there are some silly names like Mopsa a shepherdess and Clown a shepherd's son. Particularly tickled by Mamillius. Is he going to turn out to be a bit of a teat? No spoilers please!
Hi Candy!

message 7: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments The Winter’s Tale is taken from Robert Greene’s Pandosto. Shakespeare changed most names:

Robert Greene ==: Shakespeare
1. Pandosto, king of Bohemia ==: Leontes, king of Sicilia
2. Bellaria, wife of Pandosto ==: Hermione, wife of Leontes
3. Garinter, son of Pandosto ==: Mamillius, son of Leontes
4. Fawnia, daughter of Pandosto ==: Perdita, daughter of Leontes
5. Franion, cupbearer of Pandosto ==: Camillo, a Sicilian lord
6. six noble men to Delphos ==: Dion and Cleomines (Sicilian lords)
7. Egisuts, king of Sicilia ==: Polixenes, king of Bohemia
8. Dorastus, son of Egisuts ==: Florizel, son of Polixenes
9. Meleagrus, alias of Dorastus ==: Doricles, alias of Florizel
10. Capnio, servant of Dorastus ==: n/a
11. Porrus, a shepherd ==: old shepherd
12. Mopsa, wife of Porrus ==: Mopsa, a shepherdess
13. n/a ==: Emilia, a lady of Hermione
14. n/a ==: Antigonus, a Sicilian lord
15. n/a ==: Paulina, wife of Antigonus
16. n/a ==: Archidamus, a Bohemian lord
17. n/a ==: Clown, old shepherd’s son
18. n/a ==: Dorcas, a shepherdess
19. n/a ==: 1st gentleman
20. n/a ==: 2nd gentlemana, a steward
21. n/a ==: 3rd gentleman, Rogero
22. n/a ==: Autolycus, a peddler, rogue

message 8: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments Ethicists may ignore following comments. I follow word’s logic.

Most people believe Leontes’ jealousy comes from his love of Hermione. Shakespeare sealed a dark story here that Leontes actually loves Polixenes more than Hermione. Leontes loves man more than woman.

Shakespeare did this often, e.g. in Macbeth (Duncan sleeps Macbeth’s wife):

in Hamlet (Ophelia masturbates Hamlet):

message 9: by Christine (new)

Christine | 434 comments I have never read this play. I will definitely need help! Glad to see all the enthusiasm here!

message 10: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer DuBose (jenndubose) | 16 comments I have never read this play, but I am excited to begin!

message 11: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments We can treat Shakespeare’s scripts as plays, riddles (dark stories), or codes. Most of the codes are sealed in names, e.g. in the first stage direction:

Enter Camillo and Archidamus.

No one calls Archidamus on the stage, so only readers can see this name. He appears shortly just once. It’s an unnecessary name. It could means nothing, or many things.

1. The name Archidamus is taken from a “king” of Sparta.

2. Archidamus = archi-dam-us (i.e., a female chief who confines us):
– archi means chief, principal (OED);
– dam is a female parent, correlative to sire (OED);
– to dam is to block, confine (OED).

3. Archidamus can spell Arcadia (Arc_ida___), a dreamland (novel) of the Sidneys.

4. Archidamus with letter e and n can spell Mary Sidney.

5. “Enter” provides the needed e and n.

The first stage direction honors a king of drama, similar to The Tempest:

Enter a Ship-master, and a Boteswaine.

“Ship-master, and” can spell Mary Sidney.
“Boteswaine” can spell Ben Jonson.
Mary Sidney is the master, Jonson her officer.

message 12: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 172 comments Interesting that quite a few don't know this play. For me it's a key to the whole ouevre, resolving quite a few of the issues in preceding plays (it was a late one), about such things as the role of women, equality and the good society, more satisfactorily than The Tempest - but I won't anticipate. I wouldn't say Leontes' love for Polixenes is a dark secret or that it's more than his love for Hermione. The social climate allows intense love both ways but of different kinds. The tension is that it's a triangle, as so often in Shakespeare (including the sonnets). But one of the most marvellous things is the way Leontes' neurosis is captured in his distracted diction.

message 13: by Lucinda (last edited Dec 04, 2018 08:28AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments I read this a few years ago. I've just got my copy from the public library - a penguin edition, and have read the first scene. My receollection is that critics regarded Shakespeare as having blended the combination of the comic and the tragic far more skillfully than in his other dark comedies, 'Alls Well That Ends Well' 'Measure for Measure' etc.
He again treats the question of jealousy and a vengeful patriarch as in 'Cymbeline', and the king as tyrant, as in King Lear. In fact, as Jim says a lot of his favourite themes are explored here.

message 14: by Brian (new)

Brian (bdwilfong) | 2 comments One of my favorite Shakespeare's. The "Romances" are brilliant plays of reconciliation and mercy. Act 1 showcases in many ways the foolishness of humans.

message 15: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments Dark riddles are usually well arranged and quite long in Shakespeare, not just few lines.

Polixenes agrees to stay. Hermione then asks him the tricks when the two men were boys. What tricks can that be?
Come, I’ll question you
Of my Lord’s Tricks, and yours, when you were Boys:
You were pretty Lordings then?

Polixenes answers her.
We were (fair Queen)
Two Lads, that thought there was no more behind,
But such a day tomorrow, as today,
And to be Boy eternal.

Hermione catches his words. She tries to confirm that. Wag has the definition of a mischievous boy, and a swinging act.
Was not my Lord
The verier Wag of the two?

Polixenes gives more details via an analogy:
We were as twin’d Lambs, that did frisk in the Sun,
And bleat the one at the other: what we changed,
Was Innocence, for Innocence: we knew not
The Doctrine of ill-doing, . . .
Innocence: freedom from sin, guilt, or moral wrong in general (OED).

message 16: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer DuBose (jenndubose) | 16 comments JimF wrote: "We can treat Shakespeare’s scripts as plays, riddles (dark stories), or codes. Most of the codes are sealed in names, e.g. in the first stage direction:

Enter Camillo and Archidamus.
No one calls ..."

That is a very cool way of seeing it, Jeff. I have never heard of that, but indeed it makes sense when you put it that way. It's like Shakespeare knew there would be a play audience and a reader audience. Or was there a reader audience back then?

message 17: by Jennifer (last edited Dec 06, 2018 10:45AM) (new)

Jennifer DuBose (jenndubose) | 16 comments I couldn't help but think of the "that escalated quickly" meme while reading Leontes' part in scene 2. He goes from merely observing Hermione and Polixenes to being in a complete rage, especially when he talks to Camillo. I mean, he bungee-jumps to conclusions! I see a lesson to be learned already about the importance of staying curious longer when one thinks there might be a problem with another person.

message 18: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 172 comments Yes, having written Othello showing how jealousy can be gradually induced in someone who at first would have seemed above it, with those around him all contributing by not seeing it coming, here Shakespeare brings on the jealousy quickly as a personality trait, and its unreasonableness is evident to everyone except Leontes himself. The issue here is not how jealousy emerges but what everyone else is going to do about it, when the jealous person has all the power. It's about whether paranoid rulers can be held to account - an issue relevant as much now as then! One way NOT to do it is to flatter the offender as Antigonus does shortly, jumping to massive conclusions and outrageously reinforcing mysogyny:
You are abused, and by some putter-on
that will be damned for't. would I knew the villain...
I have three daughters...
If this prove true, they'll pay for it,. by mine honour,
I'll geld em all. Fourteen they shall not see
to bring false generations.

message 19: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments Jennifer wrote: "It's like Shakespeare knew there would be a play audience and a reader audience. Or was there a reader audience back then? "

The First Folio was published for readers to buy, so I think reader audience did exist then. One way to prove Shakespeare knew that is to find words targeted at readers.

Leontes sends two lords to Delphos. Robert Greene just said six noble men without names. Shakespeare called them Cleomines and Dion, both names taken from Plutarch’s Lives.

“Cleomines and Dion” together are called three times on the stage, but they are truly unnecessary names, and appear only in this play.

Cleomines = clie-omens, i.e., to get omens (from Delphos);
clie or clye is a variant of cly, meaning to take; to get (OED 1567).

Dion = nod-I, i.e., one must nod (to the omens).

Nod-I seems unconvincing; however, Shakespeare used exactly that term in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, with a hyphen:
But what said she?

SPEED. [Who nods, but without stage direction.]

Nod-I, why that’s noddy.
Nod-I combines action (nod) with word (I), and creates a both-way anagram. Noddy can spell Nod-I and vice versa; however, they sound differently, quite hard for stage audiences to catch.

Some editors change “Nod-I” to “Nod, ay.”

message 20: by JamesD (new)

JamesD | 443 comments Finally a reference to Noddy in Shakespeare!

message 21: by JamesD (new)

JamesD | 443 comments I agree that there would have been readers of the plays. Were any actually published in Shakespeare's lifetime though? I can imagine that a few copies circulated amongst friends and that hand copies of these might have been made. I know that before recorded music people who could read used sheet music to learn new songs and tunes; and this became big business in the 19th century.
Back to the play: a number of references you make JimF to Green's play that Winter's Tale is based on - I'm intrigued and feel that I could do with reading that play in order to understand better what Shakespeare was trying to do with it. What is the turn that Shakespeare has put on this?
Anyway, Dion, nod - I, I nod - love that. And Delos is such a sea voyage to take from Sicilia as well! (for Dion and companion to go to get advice from gods).

message 22: by JamesD (new)

JamesD | 443 comments JimF wrote: "We can treat Shakespeare’s scripts as plays, riddles (dark stories), or codes. Most of the codes are sealed in names, e.g. in the first stage direction:

Enter Camillo and Archidamus.
No one calls ..."

I quite enjoyed this opening scene to the play ending on what on what appears to be high humor. Archidamus (might he then be dressed very camp and edgy?) immediately states that there is a "great diference between our Bohemia and your Sicilia" - meaning between the two royal men. But he doesn't tell what the diference is personally between the two men and just implies that Bohemia is the poorer of the two countries. And of course there is the suggestion of drugging the Sicilians so that they won't notice how poor there surroundings are when they visit. We do know that Shakespeare has a taste for drugging people to further his plots.
But back to the last lines of the scene where the subject of how wonderful Mamilius is has taken off into absurdity.
" that indeed physics the subject, makes old hearts fresh; they that went on crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to see him a man".
I can imagine this played straight and slow to the Globe audience and they in response rolling their eyes in disbelief.
and then Archidamus quips;
"Would they else be content to die?"
Ha ha! (me)
Camillio - "Yes; if there were no other excuse that they should desire to live."
Loud guffaws. and then,
Archidamus: "If the king had no son they would desire to live on crutches till he had one".
Played for laughs but making a point perhaps, that the high born are deluded in thinking that the poor are that interested in how handsome the sons of the high born are.
Or have I completely missed the point here? Is this a comedy or a tradgedy?

message 23: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments Many quartos published before 1616, e.g. Titus Andronicus (1594), Hamlet (1603), etc. Comparing quartos with the First Folio can see what Shakespeare tried to hide (Hamlet especially).

The same when we compare Pandosto and The Winter’s Tale; e.g.,

1. Why Shakespeare exchanged Robert Greene’s Sicilia and Bohemia? (

2. Greene let the father love his own daughter, and the father dies. What Shakespeare did to this?

* * *

1. Exchanging Sicilia and Bohemia is a willful error.

Shakespeare copied Greene’s omen closely; unlikely he would make such error. Sicilia can spell silly, which fits well the noddy Leontes.

Bohemia is set to be an Arcadia-like place. This is why in my name-changing table that Shakespeare changed all names of Pandosto except Mopsa. Mopsa is the only name taken from Pembroke’s Arcadia.

For Bohemia to spell Arcadia we need letter d, r, c; they are mended in Doricles, alias of the prince of Bohemia.

Exchanging Bohemia and Sicilia is more than that. Shakespeare actually told us, that we can reverse some plots.

2. This is a dark plot. You may ignore it.

Leontes loves boy. After he lost his boy lover Polixenes, Leontes turns to his son Mamillius. This can be traced by Shakespeare’s wording and sequence.

(1) Camillo and Archidamus praise the young son:
an unspeakable comfort of your young Prince Mamillius.”
“makes old hearts fresh.”

(2) After Polixenes persuaded by Hermione, Leontes knew he lost him. He turns immediately to his son:
Mamillius, Art thou my Boy?

I, my good Lord.

Why, that’s my Bawcock: what? has it smutched thy Nose?
They say it is a Copy out of mine. Come Captain,
We must be neat; not neat, but cleanly, Captain:
And yet the Steer, the Heifer, and the Calf,
Are all called Neat. Still Virginaling
Upon his Palm? How now (you wanton Calf)
Art thou my Calf?

Yes, if you will (my Lord.)

Polixenes is his Lamb; Mamillius his Calf.

(3) Later Leontes takes away the boy from the mother, not really because the mother’s adultery, but Leontes wants the boy.

Greene let the father love his own daughter, and the father dies.
Shakespeare let the father love his own son, and the son dies.

* * *

Why Shakespeare did this?

In “Enter Camillo and Archidamus,” if Archidamus projects Mary Sidney, then who is Camillo? Camillo is Christopher Marlowe (by an anagram in his description), rumored that he loved boys.

The first stage direction says: Now enter C. Marlowe and the king of drama, our dam Mary Sidney.

message 24: by Lucinda (last edited Dec 09, 2018 05:26AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments I've now read the first Act.
Fascinating comments, everyone.
I may be being obtuse, but to me Leontes' behaviour is hard to understand. He implores his wife to persuade his childhood friend Polixenes to stay, (he's aleady been with them nine months) and when she succeeds, flies into a passion of jealous rage.
Perhaps this contradictary attitude is typical of an insecure man, but one would have thought he might have been jealous before. Interestingly, the notes in my Penguin edition say that a woman 'paddling with the fingers' was both a respectable form of showing favour, and a risque form of flirting.
Then, his whole character seemingly warped by jealousy, he tells his trusted advisor Cammelio that if he doesn't immediately poison Polixenes, then he is a wilful traitor.
I remember I was disappointed with the BBC version of this,which is the only acted verson I have seen, and that was a good few years ago. I thought the actor playing Leonates was frankly not young enough for the part, and his behaviour was sad rather than threatning and alarming, somehow.
I think Leonates is meant to be youngish, I suppose a bit like Posthumous in 'Cymbeline', but in a greater position of power and therefore far more dangerous.
Come to thnk of it, isn't Posthumous in 'Cymbeline' called, 'Posthumous Leonates?' And they are both driven half insane with jealousy.

message 25: by JamesD (last edited Dec 09, 2018 02:35PM) (new)

JamesD | 443 comments Just before Hermione does her piece Polixenes declares to Leonte that "There is no tongue that moves, none, none i' the world so soon as yours could win me...". So nevertheless Leontes prevails on Hermione to have a word. Strange, after what Polixene has just said. So asking for trouble perhaps?
To me this play reeks of comedy. The last lines of scene one with Camillious and Archidamus as an example and as such introduce scene 2 with a tongue in cheek warning.
Of course Leonte's reaction to Hermione's success is over the top. It's so over the top that it is lamentably laughable! Leontes has no support for his view among his courtiers. A moment of madness that goes on because he has the power to make it so.
Haven't we all known someone that got insanely jealous, and everyone around him or her, knew that it was totally unfounded? But that person was ready to fall out with everyone about it.
I suspect that the theme is not simply about jealousy. I think there will more about the damage that ungoverned tyrants can do - and that we the vassals empower them by being stuck in roles; being afraid. And shakespeare will make some fun with it.

Lucinda, I wonder what age you see Leontes and Polixenes to be - assuming they will be of similar age? I know you said Posthumous from Cymbeline. Do you mean early 20s?
I see them as being in their 30s. How old is Leonte's son Mamilius? To give a clue about his parents' ages.

"9 changes of the watery star have been.." begins scene 2. And 9 is not an innocent number and suggests right from the start that some gestation of the human hue will be involved; whether it be in the body or the mind.
And 9 months is a long time to visit, and with a whole retinue. Expensive. Very odd. And odd that Polixene's company should be so desired for another week. Maybe this was politeness and actually they were sick to death of them (Polixenes gang). Oh stay another week, meaning go go go!

message 26: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Relying on the notes of my trusty Penguin edition, James, I learn that Leontes is approximately thirty, and Polixines the same age. The BBC actor was very mature, as I recall.
I always saw Postumous in 'Cymbeline' as being in his early twenties, but I could be wrong ,there.
I believe there was a custom in Ancient Greece for a man to marry a very young girl, so Hermione may only be in her early twenties, though she has a boy of seven.

message 27: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments Shakespeare must make many anagrams and hints to convince the world. In the example of Nod-I, a word is split first (Pinfold to pin fold) followed by a combination (nod and I to noddy).
You mistake; I mean the pound, a Pinfold.

From a pound to a pin? fold it over and over,
’Tis threefold too little for carrying a letter to your lover.

But what said she?


Nod-I, why that’s noddy.

Back to The Winter’s Tale. The wordplay of “Cleomines and Dion” is a hint to solve Hermione = hery-omen, i.e., Hermione being honored by the omen.

Hery has the definition of to praise, glorify, exalt, honour, worship (OED). This word is commented twice in The Shepheardes Calender (1579) by E.K.:
“Hery) worship.” in February, and
“Hery) honour.” in November.

Hermione does more than that. Hery is close to Henry. Hermione = Henry-moe; moe is an obsolete form of mow, to cut down.

We can see the tale of Henry VIII mowed the innocent Anne Boleyn when Mamillius tells “A sad Tale’s best for Winter,” and his son Edward VI must die like Mamillius. This play flatters Queen Elizabeth secretly. Why would the man William Shakespeare do that?

message 28: by JamesD (last edited Dec 12, 2018 02:19AM) (new)

JamesD | 443 comments JimF wrote: "Shakespeare must make many anagrams and hints to convince the world. In the example of Nod-I, a word is split first (Pinfold to pin fold) followed by a combination (nod and I to noddy).

Do you mean secretly, so that she does not know, or secretly for her eyes only (mostly) ? Not sure how this play, from reading the first act anyway, flatters Queen Elizabeth. Why would Shakespeare do it secretly in public? It's a game with friends perhaps? Do describe the hidden flattery when it appears. Perhaps another act?

message 29: by JimF (new)

JimF | 195 comments JamesD wrote: "It's a game with friends perhaps?"

Yes, it’s a game for friends. Bawdy riddles were used to entertain Queen Elizabeth and friends secretly; anagrams to tell the world the true authorship.

Best way to prove this is to solve all riddles and anagrams in the First Folio and Sonnets (e.g. Ophelia masturbates Hamlet, Leontes abuses his own boy . . .).

What will happen if things go wrong? Nothing, if the man William Shakespeare dies at the right time like Christopher Marlowe. The Herberts had such power to handle poets, like Robert Greene and Thomas Kyd.

In any case, enjoy wordplays. SAQ is meaningless if it cannot reason more lines, and some difficult lines can only be solved by SAQ. The best part is, all can be connected like a web.

JamesD wrote: "... hidden flattery when it appears. Perhaps another act?"

Hermione (Anne Boleyn) was accused of adultery by Leontes (Henry VIII), whose only son Mamillius (Edward VI) dies early. Perdita (Queen Elizabeth) becomes the rightful heir of the throne.

Hermione (=hery-omen) is honored by the omen. Shakespeare flattered Queen Elizabeth via honoring her mother.

This is similar to Edmund Spenser’s Gloriana, spelt Gloriane sometimes in The Faerie Queene. Gloriane (glory-ane) is to glory Anne. Gloriana-Belphoebe is a wordplay of “Glory Anne Boleyn.” Gloriana appears in Act 5.

message 30: by Tom (last edited Dec 12, 2018 12:58PM) (new)

Tom Lane | 83 comments Greetings, all. After a hiatus I am happy to be back in the discussions. Now to catch up with the posts already made.

I have not heretofore engaged this play in detail. But how can one not like a play where a king breaks the fourth wall to cry, "Too hot, too hot!," and a character is chased off the stage by a bear?

In the opening scene, we meet Lord Archidamus, evidently Bohemia's Minister of Tourism, who pitches his country as a travel destination: "Come enjoy 'sleepy drinks' with scruffy would-be writers and artists at sidewalks cafes (bohemians LOL). Experience the cultural differences. And don't forget the sunny beaches of our world-famous seacoast! Take the ferry from Sicily. Unless the 'opposed winds" blow your sails the opposite direction. We do get 'loud weather' sometimes. Avoid boat travel during the tempest season."

(That "loud weather" reference anticipates a bit: Act 3 Scene 3 line 12.)

I like the synecdoche in which "Bohemia" = Polixenes and "Sicilia" = Leontes, much the way Americans say "the White House" to denote the president and his (her, eventually) cabinet.

Lovely descriptions in Scene 2 of the youthful friendship of the two kings, frolicking together like lambs, behaving as if nothing will ever change, "boys eternal." "The heavens continue their loves" (Act 1 Scene 1 line 28); but Leontes is about the end that idyll.

Would a king's subject really be so invested in the birth of an heir, that they would wish not to die unless one is produced?* Or be "refreshed" by the heir's coming? In Thailand I have seen how deeply many commoners revere the king, taken to be an incarnation of Vishnu (Narayana); and in the weekly liturgy at the Norwegian Lutheran church I attend (though I am of Irish ancestry), we pray for those in authority, including the American president and the Norwegian king. But fully appreciating what royalty meant in the 1600s is a reach for a modern American.

*At this season of Advent, though, there is the story of the aged Simeon, who, when the infant Jesus is presented in the temple for dedication and circumcision, holds the child and addresses God: "I have seen the savior. I can die in peace now." (Luke 2:25-35)

message 31: by Tom (new)

Tom Lane | 83 comments Robert wrote: "Love this play! Played Antigonus here in Seattle years ago. Loved the speech when he has to leave the babe."

Cool. You will have some special insights into the play. Beyond reading a play, or even seeing it performed, actually taking part is the best way to really know it.

message 32: by Tom (new)

Tom Lane | 83 comments Ah, Act 1 Scene 2. The puzzle of Leontes' paranoia. Shakespeare is popularly seen as a master of understanding of human nature, but here he gives insufficient accounting for his principal character's motivation that drives the tale.

We seem to be left to infer a backstory or pattern of flirtatious behavior between Polixenes and Hermione. But if it has been, or is, only what we see now, the playful, lighthearted, friendly familiarity of these two, Leonte's suspicion of adultery is overblown, much ado about nothing. Although there is the unfortunate coincidence that Hermione is nine months pregnant and Polixenes arrived on his extended state/"brotherly" visit nine months before. (Who is running his country in the meantime? Florizel is probably not old enough; there must be regents. Though Polixenes seems at last to be keen to get back and take the reins again, "My affairs do even drag me homeward," lines 29-30.) Then Polixenes' hasty departure, after having been persuaded by the Sicilian king and queen to stay on another week, seems to confirm his guilt.

Maybe we are simply to take Leonte's paranoia as a given, so the story can unfold; the play's the thing. As Camillo says, in urgency to Polixenes who is then in danger of his life, "'tis safer to avoid what's grown than question how 'tis born" (lines 497-499).

JamesD has well said, though, "Haven't we all known someone who got insanely jealous, and everyone around him or her, knew that it was totally unfounded? But that person was ready to fall out with everyone about it." Oh, yes, I can relate. Then, too, as James and Gabriel say, the pivot of the story becomes the consequences of an unchecked power-that-is' rage or whim, when those around the person are too confused, or weak, or even complicit, to stop it. I think of Richard III, who comes to power with enablers who too late realize they have helped make a monster.

Does Leontes urge Polixenes to stay on, and goad Hermione to similarly entreat him, as subterfuge to test his suspicions, and not out of a sincere desire to hang on to a welcome guest?

Leontes decidedly has an "infection of the brain" (line 172). We are treated to a torrent of torrid similes: "fishing in my pond," playing footsie, "bag and baggage" (like the modern slang "teabagging"; I will never be able to use the "bag and baggage" phrase in its innocent sense again), "hobby-horse" (which meant something very different when I got such a ride'em toy as a Christmas present while a young boy growing up on American TV's cowboy shows). Leontes confuses Mamillius by wondering whether the child is his legitimate offspring. He befuddles Camillo, then ropes him into an assassination plot. "Camillo, didn't you pick up on what is going on between the queen and the Bohemian king? You're a blockhead if you didn't. (lines 258-261) Isn't the court full of rumors?" Then he will accuse Camillo and Polixenes of plotting against him, when he is the one who has planned a murder.

I like the wordplay in lines 432-436 where Camillo shows his perplexity and dilemma by telling Polixenes that, not "I don't know," but "I know, and dare not know," what is going on with Leontes.

Hermione, lines 60-61: "a lady's 'Verily' is as potent as a lord's." In a play with lots of problematic sex power plays. You go girl.

Line 34, "tongue-tied": I am often surprised when reading Shakespeare to find expressions that are common today were already in circulation four centuries ago, or were coined by Mr. Bill himself.

message 33: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
Hi everyone!

I have just caught up on all the comments here. It took a while and I hope I can find a way to do honour to all your great thoughts here.

This is one of my very favourite plays and I’m so glad to see the enthusiasm of you all!!

message 34: by JamesD (new)

JamesD | 443 comments Candy wrote: "Hi everyone!

I have just caught up on all the comments here. It took a while and I hope I can find a way to do honour to all your great thoughts here.

This is one of my very favourite plays and I..."

Hiu Candy. Glad to see you are around. I can't say that this is one of my favorite plays so far; not finished yet so I'll reserve judgement.. I'm finding it mostly gloom and doom (somewhat like a Hardy novel) and the speeches over long.
What moves you about this play? Or can't you say till later?

message 35: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments Jennifer wrote: "I couldn't help but think of the "that escalated quickly" meme while reading Leontes' part in scene 2. He goes from merely observing Hermione and Polixenes to being in a complete rage, especially w..."

It seemed really sudden to me, too. I think it's one of those moments that needs the right actor to bring it to life. Many times, my reading of a play has changes after I see it performed.

Is there a good movie version of this play?

message 36: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments JamesD wrote: "I agree that there would have been readers of the plays. Were any actually published in Shakespeare's lifetime though? I can imagine that a few copies circulated amongst friends and that hand copie..."

Shakespeare made most of his money by producing stage performances. Publishing the plays was a low priority for him. I try to read the plays as scripts for live performance- I think they make more sense that way.

message 37: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments Tom wrote: ". And don't forget the sunny beaches of our world-famous seacoast! Take the ferry from Sicily."

I love your comments, Tom.

So what's up with the Bohemian coastline? Did S not know Bohemia is landlocked? Did he just not care? Is it an elaborate joke?

message 38: by Phil (last edited Dec 24, 2018 05:05AM) (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments Tom wrote: "Does Leontes urge Polixenes to stay on, and goad Hermione to similarly entreat him, as subterfuge to test his suspicions, and not out of a sincere desire to hang on to a welcome guest?"

This sounds about right. S loved a conflicted character. It's likely that Leontes was thinking this and maybe one or two other things at the same time.

Leontes in these scenes reminds me of an adolescent waffling between "I'm supposed to want this," and "I'm not sure I want this." Maybe if he was more confident in himself as a ruler and a husband, he wouldn't be such a tyrant.

message 39: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
Biz James, no I can’t say what I love about this play yet. It surfaces in Act 3!!! And gets so much more enchanting to me.

Phil, I agree with you. How can Leontes be like this? My feeling is he has become spoiled by money and fame. I compare him to celebrities that go bad here and now. Like Kanye West, or Lindsay Lohan, or Britney Spears..... celebrities whose fame creates narcissism and they become like spoiled children. Decadent with consumer products and decadent with their emotions. No one tells them “no”. So they buy pet tigers, sports cars, ridiculous property and marry and divorce over and over.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

message 40: by Tom (new)

Tom Lane | 83 comments A belated thought on the Bohemia geography snafu. It is probably just Mr. Bill not paying attention. I see a lot of oops in this play. Paulina suggesting she would be single-combat champion for Hermione to prove her innocence, which is more or less a medieval thing while Leontes' court was in other respects behaving more or less late Roman Empire, and even consulting the Oracle at Delphi - who was female, by the way, and who answered questions vaguely and enigmatically, not specifically as in the missive brought to Leontes by his envoys to the shrine.. That time setting does not match Sicily and Bohemia as political entities. One suspends rigor to allow the play to happen, alas. (Admittedly I grant the possibility of faster-than-light propulsion in order to enjoy "Star Trek." Which was laced with Shakespearian themes and allusions.)

message 41: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
Hi Tom, welcome to the discussion

This is the best part of these online formats...we can come and write our thoughts at any time...even if we might be just jumping in.

I am also a STAR TREK fan. The new series on "streaming" is fantastic called DISCOVERY. (however its totally annoying that CBS put it on a separate streaming format rather than their own regular tv its not easy or free to track down and watch)

I had heard that Czech was at one point on the coastline (Czech is the place called Bohemia.) So this is an interesting idea....what year was Czech/Bohemia spread all the way to the ocean? When Czech included coastline....wouldn't that tie in with the Delpic Oracle and time periods the play is concerned with of antiquity or earlier antiquity?

Here is an interesting web article...

"Fittingly, The Winter’s Tale was performed as part of the entertainments surrounding the wedding of James I’s daughter Elizabeth to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, in 1613. Six years later, life would imitate art as the young princess did in reality become Queen of Bohemia when her husband ascended its throne. However, the title of the play was tragically applicable to their situation, as the reign of the ‘Winter King’ and his consort lasted only a few brief months before they went into exile. These events raised awareness of Bohemia and its place in European politics with the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, and it is possible that plays by Shakespeare were performed by the members of an English company which visited Bohemia in 1617 and again in 1619-20, though concrete evidence that Shakespeare’s works were known there cannot be found before the later years of the century."

However, in the course of the 18th century the permanent stage theatre gradually arrived in Prague, with the opening of the V Kotcích theatre in 1738 and the Estates Theatre (Stavovské divadlo) in 1783. Performances there were usually in German or, in the case of opera, Italian, but in 1786 the Bouda (or ‘Shed’), a wooden theatre, was constructed in Wenceslas Square. Here audiences could see regular performances in Czech, including two plays published in 1786 by Karel Hynek Thám – adaptations of Schiller’s Die Räuber and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, followed in 1791-92 by Hamlet and King Lear.

message 42: by Tom (new)

Tom Lane | 83 comments Great article, Candy. From Late Medieval times into Shakespeare's day, the geography that probably informed this play would have had the Holy Roman Empire (ergo, electors) encompassing northern Italy and touching the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts. If "Bohemia" is taken as shorthand for this nebulous territory, it works. (The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, a legacy of the Holy Roman Empire/Hapsburgs, which disintegrated and was carved up at the end of the Great War, also had a Adriatic coastline; which explains how Georg von Trapp as per "The Sound of Music" could be a naval captain at a time when Austria was a landlocked country.) I have tried to nail down when the Delphi shrine went out of active business, but have not been successful.

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Phil Jensen | 97 comments I just read this quote from an Oxfordian: "Consider also that while Shakespeare’s plays demonstrate clearly their formally educated author’s close familiarity with northern Italian cities..."

If your argument hinges on Shakespeare's mastery of geography, then you might need a new argument.

message 44: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 172 comments I'm not convinced about 'close familiarity with Italian cities'. If you look at the plays set in places Shakespeare [or whoever the author is] knew well, like the London of the Henry VI plays or the Windsor of Merry Wives, you find about a dozen individual street names or nearby locations. In the Italian settings there are very few - just the easy ones that you'd pick up from reading, like the Rialto in Venice.

message 45: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2595 comments Mod
Brings us to the lines in Sonnet 117....

"Book both my wilfulness and errors down,
And on just proof surmise accumulate;"

message 46: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments My edition has a foreward that hints that people debate the identity of the ghost- Is it really Hamlet's father, or an evil spirit impersonating him? I've always taken it for granted that it's Hamlet's father.

Does anyone have a theory that the ghost is not Hamlet's father?

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