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The Winter’s Tale Friendship Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #4

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. (1.2.10)

Polixenes’s description of his childhood friendship with Leontes is probably the most famous example of imagery in The Winter’s Tale. When they played together as innocent young boys, they were like “twinn’d [identical] lambs that did frisk i’ the sun,” which is a very sweet way to describe the “innocence” and joy of a carefree childhood friendship between two boys. (By the way, this is also a simile, which compares one thing directly to another. As in the boys were like lambs.)

What’s also interesting about this passage is that Polixenes claims they would not even have been “guilty” of original sin if they had remained young and innocent, (Note: The doctrine of “original sin” is the idea that all human beings are born tainted because Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, according to the book of Genesis.) In other words, Polixenes suggests that he and Leontes would have remained innocent if they hadn’t grown up to become interested in sex (“stronger blood” means “sexual passion”) and girls (like Hermione and Polixenes’s wife). According to this passage, sexual relationships with women, then, mark the end of childhood and are probably the reason why Polixenes and Leontes aren’t as close as they once were.

Quote #5

[Aside] Too hot, too hot!
To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances;
But not for joy; not joy. This entertainment
May a free face put on, derive a liberty
From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
And well become the agent; 't may, I grant; (2.1.11)

Uh oh. Looks like somebody’s jealous. As Leontes watches his wife entertain his best friend (which he asked her to do), Leontes suspects the pair of using the guise of friendly banter to flirt it up right in front of Leontes. Leontes is completely wrong, of course, but here we see his first suspicion that his wife is sleeping with his BFF, which you can read more about by going to “Jealousy.”

Quote #6

My brother,
Are you so fond of your young prince as we
Do seem to be of ours?
If at home, sir,
He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter, (2.1.16)

Now, this is a weird thing for Leontes to say, don’t you think? When he asks Polixenes if he loves his son as much as Leontes and Hermione love young Mammilius, it seems like Leontes is using his love for his boy as a way to compete with his friend.

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