Leontes

Thy tyranny
Together working with thy jealousies,
Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle
For girls of nine, O, think what they have done
And then run mad indeed, stark mad! for all
Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
— William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale III.ii (Paulina to Leontes)
Herringbone 1+.jpg

It's been about a year, but I'm back. It's been quite the year, but I'm back. Life shakes things up, but I am back in a place to start uploading more awesome patterns, and write some idle thoughts about Shakespeare.

As you may or may not not, last year I started a series of sweaters that I have been naming after Shakespearean characters. As I come back to the online knitting community I wanted to pick up where I left off and give you Leontes.

 

You've probably heard of The Winter's Tale but if you haven't read it, don't worry, it's one of Shakespeare's often neglected gems. It was written towards the end of his life and it's a bit hard to pin down. The first half plays out like Othello. Leontes, the jealous king, goes way way overboard with his jealousy, destroying his family and his reputation. The second half plays out like a comedy. Farmers, princes, princesses, magic, come together with lots of jokes, songs, and in the end redemption. I'm not going to give you the play by play, because this is one of the few Shakespeare plays whose plot isn't automatically 'spoiled' bu existing in Western Culture. It's a beautiful play and you should go off and read it.

So why did I name this sweater Leontes? What can a man who tears apart his own life over a passing thought teach us about knitwear? The moral of this story is that complexity and simplicity are not mutually exclusive. Leontes' motivations are extremely straightfoward. He believes his wife is sleeping with his best friend, and in the first half of the play he acts solely based on this unfounded belief. He's a jealous lover. His story doesn't have the intricate implications of Othello's own jealousy. His place in society, as king, is about as secure as you can get. He's just a really insecure dude, and his fragility doesn't come from anywhere special. 

And yet, he is not some simple stock character. He may be mundane, the type of person we know all too well, but that doesn't mean he lacks complexity. Despite everything he does, he still feels genuine love for his family and his friends. He does bad things, but when we look at the totality of who he is, it's hard to say if he is a truly evil man.

Now this sweater doesn't pose a moral or existential dilemma, but it is something in shades of grey. Sorry I had to make that pun. But it does indeed tie into my musings on Leontes. It's a sweater that's neither simple, nor complex. Not a unique phenomenon in knitting, but an important lesson nonetheless.

This is a piece that uses stranded colorwork knitting. Most of my knitting friends find the prospect of stranded pieces horrifying. The truth is, it takes a bit to get comfortable with it, but once you do it isn't hard. It is a little complicated, but at the same time it's also quite simple. Once you get over that hurdle this sweater is quite straightforward. The classic Herringbone color pattern is easy to follow, and the garment is knit in the round making it easier still (and making the piece literally seamless). This is a fantastic intro to stranded knitting, but one that while simple, is complex enough to stay interesting no matter your skill level.

So go ahead and knit yourself a Leontes sweater by downloading the pattern here