[For Sunday Scribblings and ABC Wednesday]
“M” is for “Mamillius”
The little kid with the funny name…
He’s very much like other boys his age. He likes to horse around, play games, tell ghost stories, etc. He’s featured in the play, “The Winter’s Tale.”
But there’s something special about this youngster, one of the most appealing characters ever created by Will Shakespeare: he’s a prince. His mom and dad are the King and Queen (only not in that order.)
As princeling, he has two ladies-in-waiting assigned to be in charge of him. Naturally, he stands up to them.
“Come, my gracious lord,
Shall I be your playfellow?”
“No, I'll none of you.”
Why, my sweet lord?”
“You'll kiss me and speak to me as if
I were a baby still.”
Like most other young dudes of his age, he didn’t much care to have everyone kissing him and treating him as though he was still a toddler.
But Mamillius’ story is really a tragedy.
His mom and dad are constantly fighting. The King has charged the Queen with adultery – of which she is entirely innocent. This is serious stuff. If a queen is guilty of adultery, she has by law committed treason, which is punishable by death.
His dysfunctional family, the constant rows, take their toll on the youngster. His health is affected.
By the way, we should add that his father, though certainly not much as a husband, dearly loves his son.
But when the King throws his wife in prison and refuses to let Mamillius see his dear mother, the young prince becomes ill and dies. The monarch laments his poor judgment and promises to grieve for his dead son every day for the rest of his life.
So, it’s a Shakespeare tragedy. But there’s something else that's probably there by design, something that makes the sad story of Mamillius fascinating.
We remember that Shakespeare’s own son also died as a child. We can’t help wondering if Our Will had his boy in mind when he wrote of the death of the young prince.
I have always felt he was thinking of his dead son when he wrote these heart-breaking lines:
Fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed,
Walks up and down with me,
Repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
My fair son! My all the world!”
1 year ago