Fore-shadowing refers to an oblique reference made before-hand to suggest something that would take place subsequently. This is an element used in many plays or stories as in Winter’s Tale. In many plays it is used in some ironic form all for the pleasure of the reader. It takes a keen eye, however, to identify most foreshadowed events.
The first evidence of foreshadowing in the play takes place in a dialogue between Camillo and Archidamus. It is used in an extremely subtle way such that it may not be fore-seeable to the naked eye (without keen attention or scrutiny). Both men converse about the two kings (Polixenes and Leontes). The main subject of the conversation was their relationship as childhood friends. They imputed that the Kings had such an extraordinary friendship that nothing could break their bond;they were inseparable-“They were trained together in their childhoods; and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection,which cannot choose but branch now.”
This was paradoxically foreshadowing the subsequent events-the end to their relationship. The words said by Archidamus and Camillo heightened the expectations of readers in terms of the relations between the two Kings only to let them down. Moreover,the words used in the dialogue to describe their relationship(“rooted betwixt them,” “ there is not in the world either malice or matter to alter it.”) made it seem comepletely unlikely for their bond to be broken,then in actuality the ‘green eyed monster’(jealousy), as it is rightfully called in Christian mythology, made its attack.
Additionally,in the same dialogue between Camillo and Archidamus remarks were made by about Mamillius. It was said that “Mamillius: it is agentleman of the greatest promise,” and that “they that went on crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to see him a man.” These comments foreshadowed his early death because they spoke about his future being bright and that persons were eagerly waiting for him to become a man and take his place as heir to the throne. It was also said that “If the king had no son, they would desire to live on crutches till he had one” clearly foreshadowing the eventual demise of Mamillius.
Also,foreshadowing was used in Act 2,scene 1 when Mamillius was telling his mother a story. As he was trying to figure out what type of story to tell he remarked “a sad tale is best for winter.” This foreshadows the fact that it was winter in Sicilia and consequently sad events were brewing. Also, the “sprites and goblins” of which his story was based could be said to symbolize the jealousy and anger that is growing within his father.
Lastly, another ironic aspect of foreshadowing would be the comment made by Hermione to Polixenes when she asked him if he wanted to stay as her prisoner or as her guest. She declared “One of them you shall be.” This foreshadowed the fact that Polixenes may have in fact been imprisoned if he stayed In Sicilia and the fact that Hermione was eventually imprisoned which was quite ironic.
The evidence of foreshadowing in the play was not only strategically used by Shakespeare but they were intelligently used. Their role was to test the reader’s minds and to make the play much more interesting through the irony displayed.