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Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale (a Romance or Tragicomedy)

In a court of Sicily, Lord Archidamus of Bohemia invites Lord Camillo of Sicilia to visit Bohemia when he can. They also speak how King Leontes' son Mamillius will someday be king. Next, the king of Bohemia, Polixenes, says goodbye to the king and queen of Sicilia, Leontes and Hermione, although they beg him to stay and enjoy himself more in Sicilia. Polixenes reminisces with Hermione how he and Leontes had been boyhood friends. Eventually, she convinces Polixenes to stay in Sicilia, making Leontes wonder why she could persuade Polixenes to stay, but he could not, leading Leontes to complain privately that his wife is flirting with Polixenes too much. Leontes tells Camillo of his suspicions that his wife is unfaithful, though Camillo tries to change his mind. But, at length, Leontes seems to convince Camillo of Leontes' wife's unfaithfulness, though privately Camillo still believes Leontes is wrong. Camillo asks Leontes to forgive the queen by and by, but Leontes states he will not. Camillo then approaches Polixenes and warns him he (Camillo) is to kill him for flirting with Hermione. Camillo tells Polixenes he will help his friends and he flee the city, then serve under him, defecting from Leontes' court.

At the royal court, Hermione plays with Mamillius when Leontes enters, hearing that Camillo has left with Polixenes. Leontes wrongly determines that Camillo had been working for Polixenes for a long time, then accuses Hermione of being unfaithful and sends her to prison, although she publicly denies all. Antigonus and other lords try in vain to change Leontes' mind. He tells them he has sent a messenger to the oracles Delphos and Apollo to confirm or deny his suspicions. At the prison, Antigonus' wife Paulina comes to visit Hermione, but the jailer only lets her see Hermione's lady Emilia. Emilia tells her the stress has caused Hermione to go into labor and have a baby girl. Paulina convinces Hermione to let her bring the baby to Leontes in hopes of calming him. In Leontes' chamber, he muses how he can only take out his revenge on the queen, but not on Polixenes who is too far away. We also learn Prince Mamillius has fallen sick over depression for losing his mother. Paulina arrives and presents Leontes' daughter to him. Leontes denies the child, but Paulina yells at him and insists it is his baby and not Polixenes'. Yet, he still yells at her and then accuses Antigonus of setting his wife up to her outbursts. Leontes then orders Antigonus to burn and kill the baby he calls a bastard. The lords convince him to let the baby live, but Leontes then orders Antigonus to abandon the child in a desert place and let it fiend for itself.

Cleomenes and Dion return from the oracle with an unknown scroll fro it. In a court of justice, Leontes acts as judge and juror over the charges against his wife, which now include a supposed plot against Leontes' life by Camillo and Hermione. She, as is her right, pleads not guilty and asks Leontes to change his mind. Of course, Leontes is set in his decision and promises her death. Cleomenes and Dion then bring in the oracle's scroll which declares "Hermione is chaste, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, his innocent babe truly begotten, and the king shall live without an heir, if that which is lost be not found." Leontes denies it is true then learns his son is dead, causing Hermione to faint. Finally, Leontes sees the truth and repents, vowing to forgive all, newly woo the queen, and call Camillo home. Paulina then appears and tells Leontes his wife is dead too, blaming it all on him. He accepts all the blame and vows to forever daily visit and cry at the tomb of his wife and son. In Bohemia, Antigonus, and a mariner arrive with the king's daughter. In private, Antigonus tells us he saw the queen's ghost the previous night and it told him to name the baby Perdita (the lost girl) and leave it in Bohemia. He does so, leaving it as a storm was brewing; in fact, he is chased away by a bear. A shepherd appears and finds the baby and decides to take it in. The shepherd's son (a clown) then appears and tells his dad he saw a ship sink (Antigonus') and he saw Antigonus mauled and killed by the bear, though he told the clown his name before he died. With the babe, the shepherd finds a pot of gold, prompting great rejoicing and a vow to raise the child.

Time appears and announces 16 years has passed. He tells us Leontes has shut himself up, while his unknown daughter Perdita has grown and is being courted by Polixenes' son Florizel. At the Bohemian court, Camillo tells Polixenes he wishes to return to Sicily, but Polixenes forbids it and convinces Camillo to say longer. We learn Florizel is spending much time at the shepherd's house. The men plan to visit the shepherd in disguise. Before the shepherd's house, Autolycus (a thief) walks and spies the Clown going to market to buy supplies for a great feast. Autolycus approaches him and pretends to have been robbed. While the Clown helps him up, he picks the Clown's pocket, without him noticing. At the shepherds cottage, Florizel woos Perdita while she tells him she fears his father (the king) will discover them and be angry since she is of a lower rank. The feast begins and Polixenes and Camillo appear (disguised) while Perdita (as mistress of the feast) greets them. Florizel continues to woo her and promises she shall be queen. Polixenes tells Camillo that Perdita is the most beautiful "low-born lass" he's ever seen. The shepherd tells Polixenes the boy courting Perdita is Doricles (actually Florizel) and they are deep in love. Autolycus appears as a peddler/salesman with ballads and songs for sale. We learn two shepherdesses, Mopsa and Dorcas are both pursuing the clown for marriage. The Shepherd, Polixenes, and Camillo come to Florizel and Perdita. The Shepherd offers Perdita's hand in marriage to Florizel, but Polixenes reveals himself and orders his son not to marry, else he be barred from succession. Polixenes leaves and the Shepherd, in despair admonishes the youths for letting their relationship occur. Florizel promises he will still marry Perdita, even against Camillo's suggestions. Florizel vows to flee with Perdita to the sea. Camillo then suggests they sail to Sicily and greet king Leontes. Camillo promises to instruct them in how to act and promises to try to appease the king in their absence. Autolycus appears and tells how he has swindled all. He bumps into Camillo and the others and they have him trade clothes with Florizel. He and Perdita leave and Camillo tells the audience he plans to tell the king of their escape immediately, then use the pursuit as a chance to get back to Sicily, while trying to calm the king during the journey. The Clown and Shepherd appear and the Clown convinces his dad to tell the king that the daughter is adopted, hoping to at least clear themselves from his fury. Autolycus, now in the prince's clothes and pretending to be a lord stops them and delays them, claiming the king is raging mad and plans to kill them both (obviously lying). Autolycus convinces them to let him help them deliver their goods to the king, in return for their gold.

Back in Sicily, Cleomenes tries to convince the king to forget his past and remarry. But Paulina reminds him that the oracle said he shall not get an heir (remarry) until his lost daughter be found. She makes him swear not to marry until she bid hi do so. In fact, she promises to provide him with a wife who looks just like his long dead wife. Florizel and Perdita arrive from Bohemia and bring greetings of love to Leontes. Florizel tells Leontes his princess is from Libya, but a lord appears announcing Polixenes has arrived and demands Florizel arrested. Leontes promises to help ease tensions. We learn the box of the shepherd's that was given to Polixenes proved Perdita is Leontes' daughter. All are happy and the two kings agree to let the children marry. Paulina learns her husband Antigonus is dead, and announces she has a statue carved in the form of Hermione which supposedly can speak if asked a question. All go to Paulina's house to celebrate the wedding and see the "statue" of Hermione. Leontes, upon seeing the "statue", asks why it has wrinkles, but Paulina explains that the carver meant it so. After much amazement, Paulina promises to make the "statue" move and take Leontes hand. Finally, Hermione speaks and admits she has hid for 16 years in Paulina's house. Leontes then declares that Camillo should marry Paulina who is now widowed. All depart in happiness.

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Recent Forum Posts on Winter's Tale

Awesome T-shirt

I saw this play in Stratford, Ontario a few weeks ago and remember seeing this particular shirt in the souvenir shop. It made me laugh, so I thought I'd share:

What is Shakespeare saying here?

Hello I am writing to ask for views on exactly what Shakespeare is saying here. The quote is from The Winter's Tale: Polixenes: Say there be; Yet nature is made better by no mean, But nature makes that mean; so, ev'n that art, Which, you say, adds to nature, is an art, That nature makes The reason I am asking is that Coleridge, who had a thing or two to say about Shakespeare, maintains that what Shakespeare is saying is that art comes before nature, that our perception of nature is somehow determined by how we perceive it artistically. Is Shakespeare not, in fact, saying precisely the opposite? To me Shakespeare seems to be saying that nature has 'the final say', so to speak. That is, whatever art adds to nature - in painting, literature, etc - is itself a product of nature. That is, remove the external world and there is no imagination. That's how I'm reading it. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks. Steve

act 5 scene 3

Does anyone have an opinion on why Hermione gives the attention to leontes before her daughter who she lost a birth? Shouldn't she still be mad at leontes and much more excited to see that Perdita is alive and well and returned home?

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songs and dances in the winter´s tale

Hello, can anybody give me some hints referring to the songs and dances mantioned in this play? Which role does Autolycus play and what does he intend by singing his songs in act 4? Thank you for any advices... Schäf

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HI,everyone, I am an university student from China. Now our university is having a drama night and our team is going to perform the winter's tale. I am one of the directors and I am trying my best to do my job. As I am new to the shakespeare's world, I badly need your help and advice. Are there anyone who knows how I can find some audios about this play? I have heard that when you are studying shakespeare, you cannot just read the text. you must learn to appreciate its sounds, its rhythm and the stage performance-because it is drama! I am really grateful that I can get the chance to get to know more about shakespeare through the drama night and I really want to do a good job. So any suggestions and comments are welcome! Thank you very much for help!

Another VCE Monologue

Hi Like Sean I'm also studying The Winter's Tale for my end of year VCE monologue (when I say end of year I mean in the middle of october...), except I'm performing Hermione's monologue from the courtroom scene. I would really appreciate any ideas/feedback etc about not only that monologue but also Hermione as a character. In particular i'm struggling to grasp her emotional state at the time of that scene- while i realise she's upset, i'm unsure as to whether i should be playing her as physically showing her emotions, or whether i should be conveying a more stable, sure-minded woman. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks, Kate

VCE Monologue

Hi, My name is Sean and I am studying 'The Winter's Tale' in high school as part of my subject of theatre studies. I have to present a monologue from the text to be assessed upon come the end of the year. The monologue that I have chosen is that of Antigonus when he abandons the baby Perdita in Bohemia and talks of the vision he had of Hermione in a dream when she tells him of how he will never again see his wife Paulina. At the conclusion, he is chased of by a bear. Any discussion I could generate on this piece would be most helpful. So, what are your thoughts and feelings, ideas or visions of this monologue? If you too are studying this piece as part of your VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education; Victoria being a state in Australia) please feel free to share any ideas you my have on this monologue. Thanks, Sean

Paulina - First Impressions

In the chaotic aftermath of the first storm of Leontes' jealousy, with Hermione in jail and a pending trail, Paulina can be seen as not only a passionate, confident, eloquent woman, but also the voice of reason and conscience, the harbinger of hope and Hermione's voice.

Paulina's confidence can easily be seen in the way she sweeps into the prison in act II scene 2. She is much respected and possesses authority, which is recognised by both the gaoler and Emilia, which address her as 'worthy lady' and 'worthy madam' respectively.

There is an undercurrent of comic action in the scene, which can be emphasised by the director. Certainly, to a Shakespearean audience, the idea of a gaoler being bullied by a highborn lady has its comic charm. Her presense brings to the play one of the first elements of comedy and with it, hope.

Paulina thinks and acts swiftly, quickly formulating a plan to soften the heart Leontes involving the newborn baby within a few lines. These plans further the atmosphere of hope in the scene. Paulina is optimistic about the truth winning in the end. Her simple view of things is reflected in her simple solution and almost overconfident 'let it not be doubted/ I shall do good.'

'Your honour and your goodness is so evident
That your free undertaking cannot miss
A thriving issue,' (II,2,43-5)
In the above lines, Emilia praises Paulina, establishing her as an honourable and good lady. Her confidence in Paulina's skills of persuasion furthers the idea that Paulina is also reliable and eloquent enough to persuade Leontes about the matter.

Her audacity shown in scene 3 where she forces in to see Leontes, despite the First Lord's protests of 'you must not enter.' Paulina describes herself as possessing a 'boldness from my bosom' and Leontes describes her as an 'audacious lady.' Paulina's daring is best illustrated by her reply of 'I care not' to Leontes's threat to 'ha' thee burnt.'

Paulina’s husband, Antigonus, twice compares her to a horse in act II. Firstly in scene 1 with the lines 134-5
'I'll keep my stables where
I lodge my wife.'
and then again in scene 3, line 49-50:
'When she will take the rein I let her run;
But she'll not stumble.'
The horse is a symbol of recklessness and strength. Antigonus' claim that 'she'll not stumble' shows his trust in her better judgement. It is also a very masculine symbol. Paulina's wish defend Hermione by trial of combat professed in her words 'and would by combat make her good' and her promises to stand 'betwixt' the gaoler and danger in scene 2 highlights this masculine, protective side to her character.

Again, scene 3 has potential for dark humour in the way a woman can break all social rules and 'storm' into court, depending on the interpretation of the actors. Puns, like 'bait' and 'beat' in lines 91-2, is present and Paulina's barbed comment hoping jealousy wasn't hereditary, else the baby will suspect 'her children are not her husband's' in line 107.

Paulina speaks in blank verse, as a sign of her highborn educated status and her eloquence. Verse, in Shakespeare's day, is also seen as the words of the heart, rather than the mind. This applies in the case of Paulina's most passionate arguements.

In act II scene 3, Paulina plays the voice of conscience, reasoning to Leontes. His refusal to speak directly to Paulina can be taken as a reflection of his refusal to see the truth. She is a foil to Leontes and his maddness. Her arguments are sound and logical, neither does she use a lot of imagery greatly contrasting Leontes' much more irrational lines, full of insults and threats. Her lines, like Leontes, are heavily punctuated, but unlike Leontes, it doesn't show mental imbalance, but an assertive tone.

Paulina's eloquence can be seen in the ways she argues. Even in the height of her fury in act II scene 3, she never becomes unresonable. Each word is spoken with purpose. She uses the baby as evidence, in lines 97-104, she lists the baby Perdita's features, stating the similarities between them and Leontes'. Paulina tries appealing to Leontes' pride, stating that his actions 'savours of tyranny and will ignoble make you.' She also uses repetition of 'good queen' in lines 57-8 hammer in the idea of Hermione's goodess.

When she first enters in lines 54-5, Paulina calls herself many things
'Myself your loyal servant, your physician,
Your most obedient counsellor...'
Indeed, in the acts that follow, Paulina will prove to be all three. Leontes heeds only her advice in act V. Paulina's hiding of Hermione and her daily reminder of his errs and does 'cure' him of his jealousy, as her unveiling of Hermione 'cures' him of his sorrow.

Paulina advances the imagery of jealousy as a sickness by claiming to 'come with words as medicinal as true', which will 'purge him of that humour' as she comes to prove Hermione's innocence and thus cure Leontes of his jealousy. 'Humour' is a term often used by physicians of Shakespeare's day to describe bodily fluids. She also calls herself his 'physician,' but Leonte's declination of her medicine proves he doesn't wish to be cured.

There is a pride within Paulina. This cannot only be seen in the respect she commands, but also her indignation at being 'pushed' out.

During After the 'death' of Hermione in act III scene 1, Paulina assumes the role as Hermione's voice. The two female characters are very similar in their eloquence, courage and confidence. In act II, the beginings of that can be seen as Paulina champions Hermione in her absence.

whatz shakespear up to

there r loads of unrealistic events in the winter's tale. do u think there is a possible reason for that or williams shakespear has lost his mind.

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