The Winter's Tale Contents
- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The Theatre
- Ideas of nature
- The pastoral tradition
- The seasons
- Natural and unnatural development
- The nature of humanity
- The higher powers
- Spiritual re-creation
- The plays and playing
Children as natural images of regeneration
As indicated under Birth and growth children are a natural image of birth, growth and regeneration in The Winter's Tale. Hermione is heavily pregnant at the start of the play, and her baby is born by Act II scene ii. Her young son, Mamillius, we learn in the opening scene of the play, is already seen as the future of his people:
Children as a reason for marriage
The begetting of children is seen as natural and an important reason for marriage – the wedding service used in Shakespeare's time put it as the main reason, and love and companionship third:
Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.
Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
See Liturgy The solemnisation of matrimony:The preface
Perdita, whose innate chastity and innocence are stressed throughout the sheep-shearing scene, nevertheless speaks openly of Florizel's desire to ‘breed' by her, and Polixenes says that children are the main source of their parents' happiness:
Children as agents of healing
Children in The Winter's Tale bring more than joy – they bring healing to disrupted minds and kingdoms. As Camillo says of Mamillius in the opening scene of the play, he is ‘One that, indeed, physics the subject.' ‘Physics' here means ‘heals'. In all four of the Romance Plays, children may be seen as representing both purity and spiritual healing. (See also: Sin and innocence.)
Although the birth of children is seen as a blessing, it is also clear that, in The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare uses chastity as a symbol of innocence and virtue:
- Florizel's nobility is shown through his control of his natural desires, as he reassures Perdita (in Act IV, sc iv):
Run not before mine honour, nor my lusts
Burn hotter than my faith.'
- Perdita – who has already indicted her purity by her objection to possible ‘scurrilous words' in the peddler's tines – later echoes Florizel's profession of faith by saying that:
The purity of his.'
See also - Natural and unnatural development in The Winter's Tale:
|Birth and growth||Children||Sin and innocence||Parents and children||Time|
Marriage is a gift of God in creation
through which husband and wife may know the grace of God.
It is given that as man and woman grow together in love and trust,
they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind,
as Christ is united with his bride, the Church.
The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together
in the delight and tenderness of sexual union
and joyful commitment to the end of their lives.
It is given as the foundation of family life
in which children are [born and] nurtured
and in which each member of the family,in good times and in bad,
may find strength, companionship and comfort,
and grow to maturity in love.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear
and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication;
that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves
undefiled members of Christ's body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the
one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
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