Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Polixenes, the king of Bohemia, is the guest of Leontes, the king of Sicilia. The two men were friends since boyhood, and there is much celebrating and joyousness during the visit. At last Polixenes decides that he must return to his home country. Leontes urges him to extend his visit, but Polixenes refuses, saying that he has not seen his young son for a long time. Then Leontes asks Hermione, his wife, to try to persuade Polixenes to remain. When Polixenes finally yields to her pleas, Leontes becomes suspicious and concludes that Hermione and Polixenes must be lovers and that he is cuckolded.
Leontes is generally of a jealous disposition, and he seeks constant reassurance that his son, Mamillius, is his own offspring. Having now, out of jealousy, misjudged his wife and his old friend, Leontes becomes so angry that he orders Camillo, his chief counselor, to poison Polixenes. All Camillo’s attempts to dissuade Leontes from his scheme only strengthen the jealous man’s feelings of hate. Nothing can persuade the king that Hermione is true to him. Eventually Camillo agrees to poison Polixenes, but only on condition that Leontes return to Hermione with no more distrust.
Polixenes notices a change in Leontes’ attitude toward him. When he questions Camillo, the sympathetic lord reveals the plot to poison him. Together, they hastily embark for Bohemia.
Upon learning that Polixenes and Camillo fled, Leontes is more than ever convinced...
(The entire section is 1177 words.)
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In Sicilia, King Leontes attempts to persuade his boyhood friend King Polixenes of Bohemia to extend his nine-month visit. Polixenes objects, stating that he has pressing business at home. Leontes then requests that his wife, Hermione, intercede. At the pregnant Hermione's insistence, Polixenes agrees to stay. Leontes then reveals that he believes Hermione and Polixenes to be secretly having an affair. After questioning his advisor Camillo about his suspicions, which Camillo does not believe, Leontes orders Camillo to poison Polixenes. Camillo agrees, but later informs Polixenes of Leontes's plot instead. Polixenes assures Camillo that in Bohemia the Sicilian lord would enjoy the same status and privileges he now knows, and Camillo agrees to guide Polixenes and his entourage out of Sicilia.
Image Pop-UpLeontes, Polixenes, Florizel, Perdita, Camillo, Paulina, Lords, Attendants, and Hermoine, by William Hamilton
Leontes learns that Camillo has betrayed him and Polixenes has fled. The report fuels Leontes's jealous rage. He confronts Hermione, accusing her of adultery. Leontes removes Mamillius from Hermione's presence and sends his wife to prison. Antigonus objects to Leontes's actions, but Leontes dismisses him. The King sends Cleomines and Dion to consult the oracle at Apollo's...
(The entire section is 825 words.)