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
Disease and healing
Images of disease
In The Winter's Tale Shakespeare uses images of disease to suggest that spiritual corruption is like physical corruption, or disease; it needs treatment.
Images of disease are associated with Leontes' jealousy:
- Camillo enigmatically tells Polixenes (in I.ii) :
Which puts some of us in distemper, but
I cannot name the disease, and it is caught
Of you, that yet are well.'
- Paulina too sees Leontes' irrational behaviour as like a disease, telling his servants (in Act II, sc iii):
Honest, as either, to purge him of that humour
That presses him from sleep.'
- She tells Leontes himself that she is ‘Your physician'.
- In his disordered state, Leontes does not realise that he himself is the disease which threatens his kingdom; in Act I, sc ii he bitterly comments on sexual immorality, especially of women, as the sickness which corrupts all mankind:
… many thousand's on's
have the disease, and feel't not.'
‘The gods themselves
Humbling their deities to love, have taken
The shapes of beast upon them: Jupiter
Became a bull, and bellow'd; the green Neptune
A ram, and bleated; and the fire-rob'd god,
Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,
As I seem now.'
Images of healing
However, goodness, kindness and innocence are themselves seen as bringing healing:
- In Act I, sc i the childhood innocence of Mamillius is said to ‘physic the subject'
- Polixenes (in Iii.) describes how his own son's ‘childness cures in me / Thoughts that would thick my blood.'
- In Act IV, sc iv Florizel describes Camillo as ‘The medicine of our house'.
See also - The nature of humanity in The Winter's Tale:
|The chain of being||The state as a body||Reason and passion||Disease and healing|
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