Act 1 Scene 1
Act 1 Scene 1
The Winter's Tale begins in or near Leontes' palace in Sicilia with a conversation between Camillo, a lord of Sicilia, and Archidamus, a lord of Bohemia. Archidamus is visiting Sicilia on a diplomatic trip with his king, Polixenes. Camillo tells him that Leontes, the king of Sicilia, is planning to return the visit of his old friend, Polixenes, the coming summer. The two kings have been friends since childhood. Archidamus modestly says that Bohemia will not be able to provide such lavish entertainment as Sicilia is able to do, but Camillo assures him that all they offer is given freely out of love and affection. They agree that nothing could ever diminish the affection that exists between the two kings. They also agree that Mamilius, Leontes' young son, is an extremely promising prince, and emphasize how important it is for the king to have an heir.
The first scene sets up an expectation in the audience that they are about to see a story about a great friendship between the two kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia. What follows in scene 2 will therefore come as a surprise.
Apart from creating an expectation that will be contradicted by what follows, this scene introduces the contrast between youth and age, and the cycle of generations, that will become important as the play unfolds. It can be found in the reference to the young prince, Mamilius, who "makes old hearts fresh." People who walked on crutches before he was born now desire to live long enough to see him grow to manhood.