The Winter’s Tale
How we cite our quotes:
The heavens continue their loves!
I think there is not in the world either malice or
matter to alter it. (1.1.4)
Shakespeare injects a whole lot of irony into the play when Camillo and Archidamus predict that nothing could ever come between Leontes and Polixenes, who have been best buds since childhood. We know that Leontes's jealousy will break up the friendship (as well as Leontes's family).
[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;
But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
As now they are, and making practised smiles,
As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere
The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment
My bosom likes not, nor my brows! Mammilius,
Art thou my boy? (1.2.11)
Out of nowhere, Leontes turns CRAZY jealous at the sight of Polixenes and the pregnant Hermione chatting it up and touching hands. (If you’ve read Romeo and Juliet, you know that hands and fingertips are considered to be erotic appendages, which is why Romeo gets all excited about pressing his palms against Juliet’s.) Although there’s been some suggestion that Leontes and Polixenes are a bit competitive (check out “Friendship” for more on this), we don’t really see this coming, especially given that Hermione is merely entertaining her husband’s childhood friend and Polixenes is being nice to his pal’s wife. Still, Leontes interprets their behavior as that of two secret lovers. When Leontes turns to his young son and says “Mammilius, Art thou my boy?”, we know that Leontes is questioning whether or not he’s the biological father of Mammilius and his unborn child.
We also notice that the quality of Leontes’s speech is affected by his jealousy. Notice all the pauses (marked by commas) in the middle of his lines? This gives his speech a choppy, erratic affect that mirrors his distraught emotional state. Leontes is so worked up about the imaginary affair between his wife and BFF that his speech breaks up and lacks the kind of fluidity that we’ve come to expect from the formerly eloquent king.
Why, that's my bawcock. What, hast
smutch'd thy nose?
They say it is a copy out of mine. Come, captain,
We must be neat; not neat, but cleanly, captain:
And yet the steer, the heifer and the calf
Are all call'd neat.--Still virginalling
Upon his palm!--How now, you wanton calf!
Art thou my calf? (1.2.12)
Now that Leontes suspects Hermione of sleeping with Polixenes, Leontes’s continues to wonder if Mammilius is in fact his son, despite the fact that Mammilius looks just like a “copy” of his dad. This is a pretty strange moment – as Leontes horses around with Mammilius, he keeps one eye on his wife and friend and speaks in veiled terms about being cuckolded (cheated on). For instance, Leontes puns on the word “neat,” which means “clean” (he tells Mammilius they need to be tidy) and also “cattle with horns” (Leontes’s name for Mammilius is “calf”). This is all tinged with sexual meaning. Horns, as we know, are associated with cuckolds, which is exactly what Leontes believes he is.