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Summary Act 5


Cleomines and Dion urge Leontes to stop grieving, to forget the past, and to move on. Indeed, they would have Leontes remarry and produce an heir so that Sicilia will be spared the prospect of a civil war (which will be assured if there is no heir as factions will surely vie for the crown). But Paulina begs to differ, arguing that Leontes will be defying the will of the gods, who have proclaimed that Leontes will be heirless if his lost daughter is not found, if he remarried and produced an heir; and moreover that Hermione’s spirit will be in a state of unrest if he does remarry. Persuaded by Paulina, Leontes promises never to marry again, or if he does marry only with Paulina’s approval. Leontes has thus decided when a servant arrives to tell of Prince Florizel’s imminent arrival. Leontes wonders what could be the cause of the sudden visit.

By and by, Prince Florizel explains that he and his wife, the Princess have come on behalf of Polixenes who wishes to accept Leontes’ long unacknowledged apology. Florizel explains that he has arrived from Libya where he had just recently gotten married to his newly crowned Princess who is the daughter of a famed Libyan king. Heartened by the news, Leontes welcomes the couple when a Sicilian lord appears with a message that discredits Prince Florizel’s telling of the events. The contents of the message, which is from Prolixenes, who is currently situated in a nearby city, are thus: that Leontes arrest Florizel on Polixenes’ behalf as Florizel has disobeyed his father, eloping to Sicilia with a shepherd girl. Thus discredited, Florizel admits that the contents of the message are true, but avows that he will not diverge from his purpose (love and marry the shepherd girl) and asks Leontes to be his advocate. Leontes agrees to do so, and presently goes to meet with Polixenes.


Autolycus is in the presence of three gentlemen who relate by bits and parts of a wondrous event. Gentleman #1 describes Polixenes’s and Camillo’s look of wonder when the contents of the bundle and the scroll, which accompanied the banished baby (Perdita), are brought to their attention by the old Shepherd and the Clown. Gentleman #2 proclaims that Leontes’ lost daughter has been found. And Gentleman #3, who is Paulina’s steward, confirms that the shepherd girl whom Prince Florizel has married, is Leontes’ lost daughter. He then goes on to describe the scene of joy and sorrow that ensued between Leontes, Polixenes, the old Shepherd, the Clown, Florizel, and Perdita as Perdita’s identity and circumstamces were fully revealed. Presently, loath to miss witnessing whatever new marvel that may be in the offing, the Gentlemen decide to join the royal family who have all repaired to the site of Hermione’s statue.

Meanwhile, the old Shepherd and the Clown, whose status have been upgraded to that of gentlemen, encounter Autolycus who apologizes profusely to the Clown for taking advantage of him and begs the Clown to put in a good word for him--Autolycus--to Prince Florizel. The Clown agrees to oblige Autolyclus but on one condition: that Autolycus amend his life. Autolycus promises to do so, and thus reconciled they too decide to go to the site of Hermione’s statue.


Leontes complains as the royal family has arrived at Paulina’s house to view Hermione’s statue which is nowhere in sight. Paulina explains that the statue is kept removed and isolated because of its precious value. By and by, when the statue is revealed, it is so lifelike that Perdita can’t help but to kneel before it to pay her mother her respects, while Leontes can’t help but to try to kiss it which he is dissuaded from doing by Paulina. Paulina then claims she could perform a miracle and have the statue move and sure enough the statue moves at Paulina’s exhortation. It hugs Leontes, and then it addresses Perdita, as a mother would to her long lost daughter. Hermione is alive. Indeed, she has been alive all these years. Ecstatic, Leontes vows to do Paulina a good turn, and does it on the spot by rewarding Paulina with Camillo as her new husband.

William Shakespeare