The Winter’s Tale
The Winter’s Tale Youth and Old Age Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.
You will! why, happy man be's dole! My brother,
Are you so fond of your young prince as we
Do seem to be of ours?
If at home, sir,
He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter,
Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy,
My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all:
He makes a July's day short as December,
And with his varying childness cures in me
Thoughts that would thick my blood. (1.2.15)
When prompted, Polixenes says that, yes, he and his wife love their son (Florizel) just as Leontes loves Mammilius. What’s interesting to us about this passage is how Polixenes says his boy “cures in [him] thoughts that would thick [his] blood.” Polixenes, of course, means the child makes him happy and keeps bad thoughts at bay. His use of the word “cures” also suggests that the child keeps him young and healthy. (We’ve seen a similar idea at 1.1.5, above.) At the same time, Polixenes also implies the kid is a bit of a handful – so much so that he makes it seem like time is flying by (a summer day seems “short as [a] December” day), which draws our attention to the fact that Polixenes is aging.
It is yours;
And, might we lay the old proverb to your charge,
So like you, 'tis the worse. Behold, my lords,
Although the print be little, the whole matter
And copy of the father, eye, nose, lip,
The trick of's frown, his forehead, nay, the valley,
The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek,
His smiles, (2.3.12)
Here, Paulina uses a printing press metaphor to describe how Perdita looks like an exact, albeit “little,” “copy” of her father, Leontes. Unfortunately, Leontes refuses to acknowledge this proof of his paternity – he orders Antigonus to ditch the child in the middle of the desert.
Heavy matters! heavy matters! but look thee here,
boy. Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things
dying, I with things newborn. (3.3.6)
Here, the Old Shepherd gets all “Lion King circle of life” on us. He remarks that, at the exact moment he stumbled across the abandoned baby (Perdita), his son witnessed the death of old Antigonus (who was eaten by a bear). This reminds the audience that, even though an old man (Antigonus) has died, the discovery of a newborn baby promises the renewal and continuity of life.