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The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale


by William Shakespeare

The Winter’s Tale Theme of Youth and Old Age

The Winter’s Tale dramatizes a divide between the younger generation and their parents. The older generation (Leontes and Polixenes) is responsible for the loss of innocence, the disunion of families and friends, and immense suffering and heartache. When the younger generation (Perdita and Florizel) comes of age, their youthful love has the effect of restoring families and reigniting hope for the future. Yet, not all of the “sins of the fathers” can be redeemed by the younger generation. The permanent deaths of young Mammilius and old Antigonus remind us that some things are lost forever and cannot be resurrected. Because children are portrayed as “copies” or replicas of their parents, Shakespeare also leaves us with a sense that the younger generation could grow up to repeat their parents’ mistakes.

Questions About Youth and Old Age

  1. What, according to Camillo, is young Mammilius’s effect on the kingdom of Sicily?
  2. How does Shakespeare contrast the younger generation to the older generation in the play?
  3. Why do so many characters refer to children as exact “copies” of their parents? What are the effects of this printing metaphor?
  4. Why does the statue of Hermione look so old?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although the younger generation does redeem some of the sins of the older generation, not everything is restored – Mammilius’s very permanent death reminds us of what remains lost at the end of the play.

Children are portrayed as exact “copies” of their parents in the play, which suggests that, although the older generation advances toward inevitable death, parents can live on eternally through the their children.

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