The Winter’s Tale
How we cite our quotes:
O, then my best blood turn To an infected jelly and my name Be yoked with his that did betray the Best! Turn then my freshest reputation to A savour that may strike the dullest nostril Where I arrive, and my approach be shunn'd, Nay, hated too, worse than the great'st infection That e'er was heard or read! (1.2.23)
When Camillo alerts Polixenes to Leontes's jealousy, Polixenes denies sleeping with his best friend’s wife and suggests that such a betrayal would be tantamount to Judas’s “betray[al]” of Jesus (the “Best”). FYI – Judas is a biblical figure who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He’s the guy who sold out Jesus to the Roman authorities for a bag of money (Matthew 26.14). In other words, betraying a close male friend is just about one of the worst things a guy can do. To emphasize his point, Polixenes uses the language of disease and decay – he says that if he were to betray his BFF, his blood would turn to “infected” jelly and his “freshest reputation” would be turned to a foul odor (“a savour”) worse than the nastiest “infection” that man had ever seen. We see a lot of this “disease” talk elsewhere in the play, where it’s used to describe how Leontes's jealousy “infects” everybody around him (1.2.22).
I say, I come
From your good queen.
Good queen, my lord,
Good queen; I say good queen;
And would by combat make her good, so were I
A man, the worst about you. (2.3.5)
Paulina is a loyal friend to Hermione and just about the only person brave enough to stand up to Leontes's tyranny. Here, she insists that if she were a man, she’d engage in knightly combat in order to prove Paulina’s innocence. The interesting thing about Paulina’s role in the play is that, after Leontes's repents (when he learns Mammilius is dead), Paulina becomes a trusted advisor and spiritual guide to Leontes for the next sixteen years. Paulina, then, replaces Polixenes and Camillo as Leontes's trusted confidante.
I pray thee, good Camillo, be no more importunate:
'tis a sickness denying thee any thing; a death to
grant this. (4.2.1)
Here, Polixenes begs Camillo not to leave because it makes him sick to have to “deny” his friend anything. When Camillo expresses his desire to return to his home in Sicily, we notice a couple of things. First, it seems as though Camillo has replaced Leontes as Polixenes’s best pal and confidante. Second, Camillo and Polixenes have become so close that Polixenes feels as though he might die if he allows Camillo to leave him.