Internet Shakespeare Editions


The country: pastoral

An August festival, from Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar.

Sixteen years pass, the season changes from winter to spring, and the mood (or mode) of the play changes from tragic to pastoral as the old Shepherd, assisted by the young Perdita, prepare a feast for the annual sheep-shearing.

There is dancing, singing, a "gallimaufry of gambols"--and the lyrical young love between the prince who calls himself Doricles and the "queen of curds and cream," Perdita.

But the mood is not unmixed: the Clown seems to think that the queenly young Perdita is putting on a more elaborate feast than usual, and the betrothal is disrupted by an echo of Leontes' violence in the first part of the play, as Polixenes threatens both his son and Perdita as they attempt to announce their betrothal*.


  1. We are gathered here today . . .

    The public ceremony Polixenes interrupts was more significant than a mere engagement. Society at the time recognised what were called "handfast" marriages, where the public pledge of love was considered virtually equivalent to a formal marriage.

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