PHRASE: Lambs frisking in the sun, little did they know...

In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Polixenes reminds us of the blissfully unaware state that Adam and Eve experienced in the garden: “We were as twinn’d lambs that did frisk I’ th’ sun/and bleat th’ one at the other: what we chang’d/was innocence for innocence: we knew not the doctrine of ill doing, nor dream’d/ that any did” (Shakespeare; lines 67-71).

The destructive nature of knowledge seems to be the most intriguing aspect of these lines, or at least what becomes of them. As his story goes, Polixenes and Leontes remain in this enchanted/euphoric state until they become aware of a temptation procured, of course, by the sight of their future wives, who are all but explicitly considered (by Polixenes) to be the devil (Shakespeare; lines77-79). Knowing they will not be “boys eternal,” and their acknowledgement of some evil feminine power, seems to prevent them from entering heaven (or from thinking that they can enter heaven) without guilt (and as the footnote explains, Polixenes is speaking of guilt distinct from original sin). So, knowledge in the Genesis story, and knowledge in The Winter’s Tale basically ruins everyone’s chances of happiness, especially since they know what happiness isn’t.

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