Polixenes' love for Florizel as a child

Although Florizel does not appear in the play until Act IV scene iv, we hear of him from the second scene of the play:

  • Hermione, knowing her own love for her son, feels that a desire to see his child would be a strong motive for Polixenes to wish to leave:
‘To tell, he longs to see his son, were strong.'
  • Polixenes soon reveals that he does indeed love his child; in response to Leontes' question:
‘My brother,
Are you so fond of your young prince, as we
Do seem to be of ours?'

Polixenes stresses that Florizel is a constant delight:

‘He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter: …
He makes a July's day short as December;
And with his varying childness cures in me
Thoughts that would thick my blood.'
  • Like Mamilius and later Perdita, Florizel represents innocence and re-creation, offering hope to the older generation.

When we next meet Polixenes, however, (in Act IV, sc ii) Florizel is causing his father anxiety. (See: Polixenes.)

Florizel's love for Perdita

Innate nobility

Florizel with PerditaThe moment we first meet Florizel, although he is apparently dressed as a country ‘swain' we have a sense of his dignity and nobility:

  • his sentences are carefully constructed
  • he refers in his first lines to classical mythology
  • he addresses Perdita at first by the formal ‘you' – though he goes on to address her more intimately as ‘thee' and ‘thou' (See: Thee, thou and you).
  • he is the first person in this Act to speak in blank verse; even Polixenes and Camillo have been given prose in Act IV, sc ii, while Time speaks in rhyme. (See: Blank verse, prose and rhyme.)


Although Perdita knows he is a prince, and is apprehensive about the course of their love, Florizel's word is his bond. He and Perdita have promised themselves to each other and he vows that nothing will make him change his mind:

‘Or I'll be thine, my fair,
Or not my father's. For I cannot be
Mine own, nor anything to any, if
I be not thine.'

Even when his father threatens to disinherit him, Florizel remains faithful. He tells Perdita that their love

‘cannot fail, but by / Violation of my faith', and this will not happen unless and until the whole earth is destroyed.

Florizel's chastity and sense of honour

Much as he loves Perdita, Florizel is also chaste. Like Ferdinand in The Tempest, his sexual restraint is a symbol of his spiritual worthiness. He assures Perdita that:

‘my desires
Run not before mine honour, nor my lusts
Burn hotter than my faith.'

Even when she teases him that he praises her too much, and that

‘I might fear… You woo'd me the false way,'

he reassures her that:

‘I think you have
As little skill to fear as I have purpose
To put you to't.'

Both Florizel and Perdita are as noble in soul as they are in rank: as often (but not always) in Shakespeare's Romance Plays, innate nobility is evident in the actions of those who are nobly born. (See: Ideas of nature.)

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