“An art / That Nature makes”: The Alchemical Conception of Art and Nature in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

by Martina Zamparo

The aim of this paper is to discuss the conception of art and nature expounded by Shakespeare in The Winter’s Tale in the light of Renaissance alchemical imagery and language. Moving from the debate between Perdita and Polixenes – a dialogue in which the two characters present a vision of the relationship of art and nature that is highly evocative of the alchemical notions widespread at the time – the discussion will also include the significance of time and water. Displaying a world in which “things dying” are the source of “things newborn”, The Winter’s Tale seems to follow the alchemical pattern known as solve et coagula, i.e. ‘destroy’ in order to ‘re-create’.