Act 1 Scene 1
The Winter's Tale begins in or near Leontes' palace in Sicilia with a conversation
between Camillo, a lord of Sicilia, and Archidamus, a lord of Bohemia.
Archidamus is visiting Sicilia on a diplomatic trip with his king, Polixenes. Camillo
tells him that Leontes, the king of Sicilia, is planning to return the visit of his old
friend, Polixenes, the coming summer. The two kings have been friends since
childhood. Archidamus modestly says that Bohemia will not be able to provide
such lavish entertainment as Sicilia is able to do, but Camillo assures him that all
they offer is given freely out of love and affection. They agree that nothing could
ever diminish the affection that exists between the two kings. They also agree
that Mamilius, Leontes' young son, is an extremely promising prince, and
emphasize how important it is for the king to have an heir.
The first scene sets up an expectation in the audience that they are about to see
a story about a great friendship between the two kingdoms of Sicilia and
Bohemia. What follows in scene 2 will therefore come as a surprise.
Apart from creating an expectation that will be contradicted by what follows, this
scene introduces the contrast between youth and age, and the cycle of
generations, that will become important as the play unfolds. It can be found in the
reference to the young prince, Mamilius, who "makes old hearts fresh." People
who walked on crutches before he was born now desire to live long enough to
see him grow to manhood.