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The Winter’s Tale Jealousy Quotes

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

Quote #4

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! (1.2.13)

We weren’t kidding earlier when we said that Leontes is obsessed with the idea that Mammilius may not be his son. (He also thinks Hermione is carrying Polixenes’s love child, which is why he later has Perdita abandoned in the countryside.) Here, Leontes notes that a lot of women have commented that Mammilius and Leontes look alike but then he insists that most women are also liars. It seems that Leontes’s view of women may play a role in his (unfounded) jealousy. If Leontes believes that most women are dishonest (socially and sexually), then it’s not so surprising that he would think his wife is deceitful as well.

Quote #5

If you would seek us,
We are yours i' the garden: shall's attend you there?
To your own bents dispose you: you'll be found,
Be you beneath the sky.
I am angling now,
Though you perceive me not how I give line.
Go to, go to!
How she holds up the neb, the bill to him!
And arms her with the boldness of a wife
To her allowing husband! (1.2.15)

Leontes think he’s pretty crafty and suggests that he’s going to catch Hermione and Polixenes in a compromising position. Basically, Leontes refuses Hermione’s invitation to join her and Polixenes in the garden and then uses it as an excuse to build a case (in his mind) against his wife and friend, who are merely being friendly and playful toward each other.

Quote #6

And many a man there is, even at this present,
Now while I speak this, holds his wife by the arm,
That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence
Whiles other men have gates and those gates open'd,
As mine, against their will. Should all despair
That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind
Would hang themselves. […]
No barricado for a belly; know't;
It will let in and out the enemy
With bag and baggage: many thousand on's
Have the disease, and feel't not. How now, boy! (1.2.18)

Leontes’s jealousy leads him to conclude that “many a man” has been cheated on by his wife, which implies that most women are promiscuous. He also uses a pretty crude metaphor to describe infidelity when he suggests that a woman’s vagina is like a “gate” that can be penetrated by a military enemy (another man). When he insists there’s “no barricade [defense] for a belly,” he’s basically saying there’s no way for a man to guard his wife’s womb/sexuality. All of this has the effect of turning matters of love and sex into a kind of warfare, which speaks to jealousy’s destructive nature.

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