The Winter's Tale


William Shakespeare

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The Winter's Tale: Act 1, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Archidamus is a nobleman from Bohemia visiting Sicilia along with his king Polixenes. He speaks to a Sicilian nobleman named Camillo about how hospitable the Sicilians have been to him. Camillo tells him that the king of Sicilia, Leontes, plans to visit Bohemia soon, and Archidamus says that the Bohemians will need to give the Sicilians “sleepy drinks,” so they don’t notice how insufficiently Bohemian hospitality matches up to that of Sicilia.
The friendship between Leontes and Polixenes translates into a close alliance between their two kingdoms and their citizens, such as Camillo and Archidamus.
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Camillo says that Polixenes and Leontes have been close friends since childhood, and Archidamus agrees that “there is not in the world either malice or matter to alter,” their friendship. Archidamus compliments Leontes’ son, the prince Mamillius, and Camillo says that the prince is so dear to the citizens of Sicilia that old men “on crutches” hope to keep living only so they can see Mamillius grow up and become a man.
Polixenes and Leontes have a strong friendship, but one that will be put to the test by the events to follow. The description of Mamillius emphasizes the importance of youth, which is highly valued by the characters in the play. Even simply seeing the young boy is enjoyable for older Sicilian citizens.
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Youth, Age, and Time Theme Icon
Literary Devices