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In the second scene of The Winter's Tale, Polixenes says:

Sir, that's to morrow:
I am question'd by my feares, of what may chance,
Or breed vpon our absence, that may blow
No sneaping Winds at home, to make vs say,
This is put forth too truly: besides, I haue stay'd
To tyre your Royaltie.

I was trying to decode his speech but to no avail. Of what sneaping winds does Polixenes speak? What is put forth (offered?) too truly?

1 Answer 1

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Polixenes is worried that in his absence, ills may be brewing in Bohemia. Superstitiously fearful that those very worries might cause bad things, he adds a wish that his fears are ill-founded. He ends by saying that if not, he will have to admit they were well-founded. The passage means something like:

I am worried that bad things could happen in Bohemia while I'm away. I hope that my worrying about those bad things does not make them manifest in real life. I do not want to have to say that my fears portrayed the truth!

He starts by stating his worries:

I am question'd by my feares, of what may chance,
Or breed upon our absence

He then hopes that these worries themselves do not jinx the situation in his country. Sneaping means bitterly and destructively cold. Merriam-Webster has:

sneap
sneaped; sneaping; sneaps

archaic : to blast or blight with cold : nip

That is to say, Polixenes's meta-worry is that his anxiety might itself act like a cold wind, blowing back to Bohemia to bring about the destruction he imagines. The antecedent of that is feares:

          ... that may blow
no sneaping Winds at home

And if his fears do bring about that destruction, then he will be forced to admit they were correct; that what they brought forth in his mind was in fact the truth . What is put forth is his imaginings, which turned out to be true:

          ... to make vs say,
This is put forth too truly.

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  • 1
    That's disappointing, 'sneap' is Scottish Gaelic for Swedish Turnip/Rutabaga, I was hoping the answer would turn out to be about the winds that some people find sneaps generate in their guts!
    – Spagirl
    Apr 21, 2023 at 15:36

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