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“There is no tongue that moves”


curing or cursing, alleviating or aggravating. Hermione’s words

serve to resolve the temporary stalemate in the friendship

between the two kings and to resume the symbolic flow of

their friendship, though in fact they also put her in great

danger, for her curative tongue moves Polixenes to choose to

stay, and moves her husband to imprison her.

Indeed, the queen’s figurative healing is achieved through

her full knowledge of the cause of the current deadlock

between the two kings. At the beginning of the play, Hermione

immediately hears and “diagnoses” Leontes’s ill-spoken words

that have only the reverse effect when he invites Polixenes to

remain: “You, sir, / Charge him too coldly” (1.2.29-30). She

goes on to explain to Leontes how he should employ the

proper speech and actions. Apparently, Hermione is patient

and persuasive in her attempts to restore the health of her

royal husband’s friendship with Polixenes. She begins by

suggesting that Leontes later visit his friend’s country after

Polixenes stays with them longer. When Polixenes declines this

idea, she offers a more powerful dose by speaking stronger and

more straightforward words:


. You put me off with limber vows; but I,

Though you would seek t’unsphere the stars with oaths,

Should yet say, “Sir, no going.” Verily,

You shall not go. A lady’s “verily” is

As potent as a lord’s. Will you go yet?

Force me to keep you as a prisoner, . . .

How say you?

My prisoner or my guest? By your dread “verily,”

One of them you shall be. (1.2.47-51)

In this short statement, the importance of “not going” is

repeated twice. Hermione is in control of the conversation

when she wittily objectifies the word “verily,” which on the

one hand asserts her own subjectivity (“A lady’s “verily” is / As

potent as a lord’s,” 1.2.50-51) and, on the other, makes