Tale in Winter

In Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Winter’s Tale, Polixenes and Perdita discuss the relationship between art and nature. They are particularly concerned with inheritance, whether a lineage is to be selected randomly of with some intent.

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Predita makes a comparison between a family inheritance and that of one of the commonest flowers that were cultivated in Elizabethan gardens, carnations. How does nature guide these genealogies?

Yet nature is made better by no mean

But nature makes that mean; so, over that art,

Which you say adds to nature, is an art

That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry

A gentler scion to the wildest stock

And make conceive a bark of baser kind

By bud of nobler race; this is an art

Which does mend nature, change it rather, but

The art itself is nature.

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Then make your garden rich in gillyvors

And do not call them bastards.

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The Winter’s Tale is at The Garrick Theatre, London, until January 16th 2016.