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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 #1

Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge:
we cannot with such magnificence--in so rare--I know
not what to say. We will give you sleepy drinks,
that your senses, unintelligent of our insufficience,
may, though they cannot praise us, as little accuse
us. (1.1.3)

Hmm. Archidamus’s uneasy comments, about how Bohemia may not be as good at entertaining as Sicily, seem to suggest a bit of competition between Leontes and Polixenes, don’t you think? This could be the play’s first hint that the long-standing friendship between Polixenes and Leontes is imperfect.

Quote #2

Sicilia cannot show himself over-kind to Bohemia.
They were trained together in their childhoods; and
there rooted betwixt them then such an affection,
which cannot choose but branch now. Since their
more mature dignities and royal necessities made
separation of their society, their encounters,
though not personal, have been royally attorneyed
with interchange of gifts, letters, loving
embassies; that they have seemed to be together,
though absent, shook hands, as over a vast, and
embraced, as it were, from the ends of opposed
winds. The heavens continue their loves! (1.1.4)

Although Polixenes and Leontes now communicate via letters, the exchange of gifts, and the occasional visit, when the two men were younger, they were practically inseparable. Here, Camillo uses the language of horticulture to describe the way the two kings were brought up or “trained together in their childhoods,” creating a deep bond and affection that “rooted betwixt them” before Leontes and Polixenes were forced apart, or “branch[ed]” off from each other.

Quote #3

I think there is not in the world either malice or
matter to alter it. (1.1.4)

Archidamus notes that Leontes and Polixenes have such a deep affection for one another, it seems like there’s nothing in the world that could possibly come between them. Shakespeare is being pretty ironic here – in the very next scene, we’ll see that Leontes's unfounded jealousy and “malice” will “alter” the men’s friendship and will also destroy Leontes's family.

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