The Winter’s Tale
How we cite our quotes:
Business, my lord? I think most understand
Bohemia stays here longer.
Stays here longer.
Ay, but why?
To satisfy your highness and the entreaties
Of our most gracious mistress.
The entreaties of your mistress! satisfy! (1.2.5)
At Leontes’s prompting, Camillo innocently remarks that everybody knows Polixenes has decided to stay in Sicily because Queen Hermione asked him to. (We should point out that Leontes is the one who asked Hermione convince his friend to stay a while longer in the first place.) When Camillo says Polixenes wanted to “satisfy” Hermione, he means that Polixenes wanted to be polite and make the queen happy by staying in town a little while longer. But Polixenes (deliberately?) misinterprets Camillo – his repetition of the phrase “satisfy!” suggests that Leontes thinks Polixenes has decided to stay in Bohemia in order to sexually gratify Queen Hermione. Poor Camillo has no idea what’s going on and doesn’t realize that he has inadvertently fueled Leontes’s jealousy and suspicion.
Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
Of laughing with a sigh?--a note infallible
Of breaking honesty--horsing foot on foot?
Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift?
Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? and all eyes
Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only,
That would unseen be wicked? is this nothing?
Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing;
The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing;
My wife is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings,
If this be nothing. (1.2.29)
As Leontes’s jealousy builds, he continues to manufacture “evidence” that Hermione and Polixenes are sleeping together. Leontes’s irrational thinking is a lot like that of Othello, the Shakespeare character who kills his wife when he wrongly suspects she’s having an affair. Both men have no real proof of infidelity but they are absolutely convinced that their women are disloyal. One difference between Othello and Leontes, however, is that Othello’s jealousy is fed by Iago, who convinces him of his wife’s “guilt.” Leontes, as we know, convinces himself that his wife is unfaithful.
Good my lord, be cured
Of this diseased opinion, and betimes;
For 'tis most dangerous. (1.2.11)
Here, Camillo urges Leontes to get a grip on his jealousy, which is like a terrible “disease.” The metaphor appears later as well, when Camillo insists that jealousy is a “sickness” that infects everyone around it (1.2.22). This turns out to be true because Leontes’s jealousy destroys his family, his friendship with Polixenes, and his kingdom’s political health (since Sicily is without an heir after Mammilius’s death and Perdita’s abandonment).