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The play opens in a Sicilian palace where Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, has been visiting his childhood friend, Leontes, the King of Sicily.
Archidamus (a Bohemian Lord) and Camillo (a Sicilian Lord) chat it up about what a great time everybody’s been having at Leontes's court, the Sicilians being such awesome hosts and all.
When Camillo mentions that Leontes is planning to visit Polixenes on Bohemian turf next summer, Archidamus gets all self-deprecating and says the Bohemians aren’t as awesome at entertaining guests as the Sicilians. The Bohemians will probably have to sneak some sleeping pills into the Sicilians’ drinks so the Sicilians won’t realize what a lousy time they’re having in Bohemia.
Archidamus and Camillo also discuss the intimate history of the two kings – back in the day, Leontes and Polixenes were super-close. So close, in fact, it was almost impossible to tell them apart. It doesn’t seem like anything could possibly come between these two BFFs.
Then the conversation, which is already a little awkward, gets pretty uncomfortable. When Archidamus compliments the young prince of Sicily (that would be Mammilius), Camillo says something kind of weird like, “Yeah Mammilius is such a neat kid that he makes all the old people in our kingdom not want to die because they want to live long enough to see him grow up. If it weren’t for Mammilius, there’d be no reason for all the old folks to live.”