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When Archidamus, a lord of Bohemia, tells Camillo, a lord of Sicilia, that the hospitality Bohemia can extend Sicilia cannot be nearly as generous as that which has been extended to Bohemia by Sicilia, Camillo assures Archidamus that Archidamus’ sense of gratitude is unwarranted as Sicilia and Bohemia are such close allies, and have been for such a long time, that whatever hospitality one may extend the other is mere custom.
Both agree that Mamillius, the prince of Sicilia, is a fine, young man who does credit to Sicilia.
Leontes, the king of Sicilia tries in vain to persuade Polixenes, the king of Bohemia, to lengthen his sojourn in Sicilia by a week. When Polixenes, citing potential trouble at home, says that even an extended sojourn of 3 ½ days cannot be granted, Leontes exhorts his wife, Hermoine, the queen, to persuade Polixenes to do otherwise. At first Polixenes maintains his former answer, but as Hermoine continues to coax and cajole, Polixenes finds himself unable to refuse the queen’s entreaty. Distressed at the seeming intimacy between Polixenes and Hermione, Leontes turns to his son, Mamillius, and wonders if Mamillius is indeed his son and not a bastard. Noting Leontes’ distress, Polixenes and Hermione ask Leontes if there is anything the matter. Leontes replies that he was merely distracted by his son’s resemblance to his--Leontes’--younger self and urges Hermione to entertain Polixenes while he and Mamillius go for a walk.
By and by, Leontes dismisses Mamillius to confide in Camillo. He asks Camillo if Camillo has noticed any goings-on between Polixenes and Hermione that is unbecoming. When Camillo swears that he hasn’t, Leontes questions Camillo’s loyalty and competence. Camillo replies that his own infirmities, which all men share to a degree, may have adversely affected his competence from time to time but that his loyalty has never flagged. When Camillo adds that the Queen’s virtue is unimpeachable, Leontes demands Camillo if he thinks Leontes can and would arrive at such a grave conclusion (that Hermione has been having an affair with Polixenes) lightly and rashly, i.e. without rhyme or reason, and that if Camillo thinks Leontes is a madman. Thus forced between a rock and a hard place, Camillo concedes to Leontes and agrees to personally see to Polixenes death, on the condition that Leontes does no harm to the Queen and carries on as he has always done once Polixenes has been dispatched. Leontes agrees to the deal.
Thus circumstanced, Camillo can’t help but to lament, wondering how the King had arrived at such a preposterous conclusion. Anon, Polixenes engages him, asking him if there’s anything the matter. Camillo hints that there is and that it has something to do with Polixenes but that he wouldn’t dare reveal it. Irked, Polixenes insists that Camillo divulge the matter. When Camillo refuses, Polixenes tells Camillo that if Camillo values honor, then Camillo is obligated to divulge the matter. Thus persuaded, Camillo tells Polixenes that the King believes Polixenes and Hermione to have carried on a love affair for which Camillo has been commissioned to kill Polixenes . Arguing that once Leontes has made up his mind (to do something) that there is nothing on earth that would deflect him from his purposes, Camillo urges Polixenes to quickly set sail for Bohemia. Agreeing with Camillo’s assessment, Polixenes decides to leave Sicilia at once.
Camillo will follow and flee to Bohemia as well as he is will assuredly be charged with treason and executed if he stayed.
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