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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Mamillius
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1175.  Thursday, 20 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Phyllis Rackin <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 10:17:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius

[2]     From:   Helen Ostovich <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 10:45:59 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1174  Q: Mamillius

[3]     From:   Mark Lawhorn <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 08:50:41 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius

[4]     From:   Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 18:42:58 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Phyllis Rackin <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 10:17:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius

>I have a question.  At 2.1.56-58 in _The Winter's Tale_, Leontes
>says to Hermione as follows:

>     Give me the boy: I am glad you did not nurse him:
>     Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
>     Have too much blood in him.

>Is it true that she did NOT nurse Mamillius, her loving son?  I cannot
>find any referring speech in the text.  Why does he say that?  Is this a
>matter of the sources?  Please help me.

It would have been extremely unlikely for a woman of Hermione's station
to nurse her own child at the time the play was written.  See Valerie
Fildes, *Breasts, Bottles and Babies: a history of infant feeding*
(Edinburgh University Press, 1986).  It was not until the second half of
the eighteenth century that maternal breastfeeding became the normal
custom in England, and the use of wetnurses persisted even longer on the
continent.  Lawrence Stone, in *The Family, Sex and Marriage in England
1500-1800* (New York:  Harper & Row 1977, p. 420) quotes a German
visitor who visited England in 1784 and "remarked with surprise" that
"even women of quality nurse their children."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Ostovich <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 10:45:59 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.1174  Q: Mamillius
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1174  Q: Mamillius

It was the custom of many upper-class women to hire wet-nurses for their
infants (as in _R&J_, where Juliet's nurse speaks reminiscently of how
Juliet was weaned).  The current thinking was that nursing a child made
the breasts sag and had a generally aging effect.  That's one reason why
the Ladies Collegiate in Jonson's _Epicoene_ discuss prophylactics.  No
births at all will keep a woman youthful in appearance.

Helen Ostovich
Department of English / Editor, _REED Newsletter_
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada  L8S 4L9

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Lawhorn <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 08:50:41 -1000
Subject: 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius

The practice of wetnursing, especially for infants of the upper classes,
would not have seemed unusual to Shakespeare's audience.  For an
interesting discussion of the implications of Leontes reactions, have a
look at *The Body Embarrassed* by Gail Kern Paster (Cornell UP, 1993,
especially Chapter Five, "Quarreling with the Dug, or I am Glad You Did
Not Nurse Him."

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 18:42:58 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1174  Qs: Mamillius

I think it was a common early belief that imbibing mother's milk also
conveyed maternal influence.  (We still speak of "weaning" youngsters on
various skills or subject matters).  Leontes' disgust over his wife's
supposed unfaithfulness (along with his visible uncertainty over his
fatherhood of not only the unborn Perdita but Mamillius himself, viz.
"Art thou my calf" etc. in Act I) leads him to wish to minimize any of
Hermione's influence over his child.
 

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