Describe the relationship between Leontes and Polixenes in The Winter's Tale.

In The Winter's Tale, Leontes and Polixenes are close friends, until Leontes begins to entertain the groundless suspicion that Polixenes has been sleeping with his wife and is the father of the child she is carrying. They are enemies for most of the duration of the play but are reconciled at the end, when Leontes apologizes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Leontes, King of Sicily, and Polixenes, King of Bohemia, appear initially as friends. Even in their friendship, however, the lack of moderation in Leontes's character quickly becomes clear. Polixenes has been staying at the Sicilian court for nine months and proposes to leave the next day. After such a long...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Leontes, King of Sicily, and Polixenes, King of Bohemia, appear initially as friends. Even in their friendship, however, the lack of moderation in Leontes's character quickly becomes clear. Polixenes has been staying at the Sicilian court for nine months and proposes to leave the next day. After such a long stay, many hosts would be only to glad to say goodbye to their guest, however close their friendship. Most kings would also understand that a fellow monarch has matters in his own kingdom to which he must attend. Leontes, however, desperately begs Polixenes to extend his stay and, when he refuses, asks his (Leontes's) wife, Queen Hermione, to persuade him.

Hermione manages to convince Polixenes to stay, but, instead of being pleased at having achieved his aim, Leontes suddenly decides this success must mean that Polixenes and Hermione are having an affair. He even thinks that the child she is carrying really belongs to Polixenes. He tries to have his former friend poisoned, but Polixenes, forewarned, hurries home to Bohemia.

Throughout most of the play, therefore, Leontes and Polixenes are bitter enemies, because of the irrational fears of the former. They are reconciled at the end of the play, when Leontes apologizes for his groundless suspicions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team