Winter: The Destruction of Innocence
Part of the Text and Performance book series (TEPE)
By the beginning of Act ii Leontes’ ‘diseased opinion’ is thus firmly established. The audience are given one last reminder of healthier conditions in the playful scene between the now-certainly pregnant Hermione and Mamillius, but only to heighten the destructiveness which is to follow when Leontes peremptorily orders the separation of son and mother. This creates a vivid dramatic image of the deprivation of family relationship which he is in the process of inflicting on himself; and the effect is curiously mirrored when Antigonus attempts to show the strength of his belief in the Queen by declaring that he will ‘geld’ his own daughters if she is ‘honour-flawed’:
Fourteen they shall not see To bring false generations. They are co-heirs; And I had rather glib myself than they Should not produce fair issue.
[ii i 147–50]
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© R. P. Draper 1985