Furious at their escape, Leontes now publicly accuses his wife of infidelity, and declares that the child she is bearing must be illegitimate. He throws her in prison, over the protests of his nobles, and sends two of his lords, Cleomenes and Dion, to the Oracle at Delphos for what he is sure will be confirmation of his suspicions. Meanwhile, the queen gives birth to a girl, and her loyal friend Paulina takes the baby to the king, in the hopes that the sight of the child will soften his heart. He grows angrier, however, and orders Paulina's husband, Lord Antigonus, to take the child and abandon it in a desolate place.
Cleomenes and Dion return from Delphos with word from the Oracle and find Hermione publicly and humiliatingly put on trial before the king. She asserts her innocence, and asks for the word of the Oracle to be read before the court. The Oracle states categorically that Hermione and Polixenes are innocent, Camillo is an honest man, and that Leontes will have no heir until his lost daughter is found.
Leontes shuns the news, refusing to believe it as the truth. As this news is revealed, word comes that Leontes' son, Mamillius, has died of a wasting sickness brought on by the accusations against his mother. At this, Hermione falls in a swoon, and is carried away by Paulina, who subsequently reports the queen's death to her heartbroken and repentant husband. Leontes vows to spend the rest of his days atoning for the loss of his son, his abandoned daughter, and his queen. Antigonus, meanwhile, abandons the baby on the coast of Bohemia, reporting that Hermione appeared to him in a dream and bade him name the girl Perdita.
He leaves a fardel a bundle by the baby containing gold and other trinkets which suggest that the baby is of noble blood. A violent storm suddenly appears, wrecking the ship on which Antigonus arrived. He wishes to take pity on the child, but is chased away in one of Shakespeare's most famous stage directions: "Exit, pursued by a bear. Perdita is rescued by a shepherd and his son, also known as "Clown. Camillo, now in the service of Polixenes, begs the Bohemian king to allow him to return to Sicilia.
Polixenes refuses and reports to Camillo that his son, Prince Florizel, has fallen in love with a lowly shepherd girl: Perdita. He suggests to Camillo that, to take his mind off thoughts of home, they disguise themselves and attend the sheep-shearing feast where Florizel and Perdita will be betrothed. At the feast, hosted by the Old Shepherd who has prospered thanks to the gold in the fardel, the pedlar Autolycus picks the pocket of the Young Shepherd and, in various guises, entertains the guests with bawdy songs and the trinkets he sells.
Disguised, Polixenes and Camillo watch as Florizel under the guise of a shepherd named Doricles and Perdita are betrothed. Then, tearing off the disguise, Polixenes angrily intervenes, threatening the Old Shepherd and Perdita with torture and death and ordering his son never to see the shepherd's daughter again. With the aid of Camillo, however, who longs to see his native land again, Florizel and Perdita take ship for Sicilia, using the clothes of Autolycus as a disguise.
They are joined in their voyage by the Old Shepherd and his son who are directed there by Autolycus. In Sicilia, Leontes is still in mourning. Cleomenes and Dion plead with him to end his time of repentance because the kingdom needs an heir. Paulina, however, convinces the king to remain unmarried forever since no woman can match the greatness of his lost Hermione. Florizel and Perdita arrive, and they are greeted effusively by Leontes.
Florizel pretends to be on a diplomatic mission from his father, but his cover is blown when Polixenes and Camillo, too, arrive in Sicilia. The meeting and reconciliation of the kings and princes is reported by gentlemen of the Sicilian court: how the Old Shepherd raised Perdita, how Antigonus met his end, how Leontes was overjoyed at being reunited with his daughter, and how he begged Polixenes for forgiveness.
The Old Shepherd and Young Shepherd, now made gentlemen by the kings, meet Autolycus, who asks them for their forgiveness for his roguery.
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Leontes, Polixenes, Camillo, Florizel and Perdita then go to Paulina's house in the country, where a statue of Hermione has been recently finished. The sight of his wife's form makes Leontes distraught, but then, to everyone's amazement, the statue shows signs of vitality; it is Hermione, restored to life.
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As the play ends, Perdita and Florizel are engaged, and the whole company celebrates the miracle. Despite this happy ending typical of Shakespeare's comedies and romances, the impression of the unjust death of young prince Mamillius lingers to the end, being an element of unredeemed tragedy, in addition to the years wasted in separation. Shakespeare's changes to the plot are uncharacteristically slight, especially in light of the romance's undramatic nature, and Shakespeare's fidelity to it gives The Winter's Tale its most distinctive feature: the sixteen-year gap between the third and fourth acts.
There are minor changes in names, places, and minor plot details, but the largest changes lie in the survival and reconciliation of Hermione and Leontes Greene's Pandosto at the end of the play. The character equivalent to Hermione in Pandosto dies after being accused of adultery, while Leontes' equivalent looks back upon his deeds including an incestuous fondness for his daughter and slays himself. Greene follows the usual ethos of Hellenistic romance, in which the return of a lost prince or princess restores order and provides a sense of humour and closure that evokes Providence 's control.
Shakespeare, by contrast, sets in the foreground the restoration of the older, indeed aged, generation, in the reunion of Leontes and Hermione. Leontes not only lives, but seems to insist on the happy ending of the play. It has been suggested that the use of a pastoral romance from the s indicates that at the end of his career, Shakespeare felt a renewed interest in the dramatic contexts of his youth. Minor influences also suggest such an interest. As in Pericles , he uses a chorus to advance the action in the manner of the naive dramatic tradition; the use of a bear in the scene on the Bohemian seashore is almost certainly indebted to Mucedorus ,  a chivalric romance revived at court around The play was not published until the First Folio of In spite of tentative early datings see below , most critics believe the play is one of Shakespeare's later works, possibly written in or Arden Shakespeare editor J.
Pafford found that "the language, style, and spirit of the play all point to a late date. The tangled speech, the packed sentences, speeches which begin and end in the middle of a line, and the high percentage of light and weak endings are all marks of Shakespeare's writing at the end of his career.
But of more importance than a verse test is the similarity of the last plays in spirit and themes.
In the late 18th century, Edmond Malone suggested that a "book" listed in the Stationers' Register on 22 May , under the title "a Wynters nightes pastime", might have been Shakespeare's, though no copy of it is known. Samuel A. Tannenbaum wrote that Malone subsequently "seems to have assigned it to ; later still, to ; and finally he settled on — Hunter assigned it to about A play called "The Winter's Tale" would immediately indicate to contemporary audiences that the work would present an "idle tale", an old wives' tale not intended to be realistic and offering the promise of a happy ending.
The title may have been inspired by George Peele 's play The Old Wives' Tale of , in which a storyteller tells "a merry winter's tale" of a missing daughter.
The Steward announces that the members of the court have gone to Paulina's dwelling to see the statue; Rogero offers this exposition: "I thought she had some great matter there in hand, for she [Paulina] hath privately twice or thrice a day, ever since the death of Hermione, visited that removed house" 5. Further, Leontes is surprised that the statue is "so much wrinkled", unlike the Hermione he remembers. Paulina answers his concern by claiming that the age-progression attests to the "carver's excellence", which makes her look "as [if] she lived now.
However, the action of 3. Hermione swoons upon the news of Mamilius' death, and is rushed from the room. Paulina returns after a short monologue from Leontes, bearing the news of Hermione's death. Shakespeare's fellow playwright Ben Jonson ridiculed the presence in the play of a seacoast and a desert in Bohemia, since the Kingdom of Bohemia which roughly corresponds to the modern-day Czech Republic had neither a coast being landlocked nor a desert. In , Edmund O. At the time of the medieval Kingdom of Sicily, however, Bithynia was long extinct and its territories were controlled by the Byzantine Empire.
On the other hand, the play alludes to Hellenistic antiquity e. The pastoral genre is not known for precise verisimilitude, and, like the assortment of mixed references to ancient religion and contemporary religious figures and customs, this possible inaccuracy may have been included to underscore the play's fantastical and chimeric quality. As Andrew Gurr puts it, Bohemia may have been given a seacoast "to flout geographical realism, and to underline the unreality of place in the play".
Another theory explaining the existence of the seacoast in Bohemia offered by C. Herford is suggested in Shakespeare's chosen title of the play. A winter's tale is something associated with parents telling children stories of legends around a fireside: by using this title, it implies to the audience that these details should not be taken too seriously. In the novel Prince Otto by Robert Louis Stevenson reference is made to the land of Seaboard Bohemia in the context of an obvious parody of Shakespeare's apparent liberties with geography in the play.
Some recent findings of linguists are finally shedding light on the issue.
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In the 15th century, during the Hussite Wars , many gypsies were expelled from Bohemia and many of them fled to France. French people were calling them both gypsies "tzigane" or "bohemians". Linguists assume, that French immigrants to Tudor England could influence the linguistic evolution of these words. The English word "gypsy", derived from word "egyptian" sharing the meaning that times, could be therefore interchanged with French words "tzigane" or "bohemian", which would mean that Shakespeare could intend to mention Egyptians in The Winter's Tale by French word "bohemian".
Likewise, Shakespeare's apparent mistake of placing the Oracle of Delphi on a small island has been used as evidence of Shakespeare's limited education. However, Shakespeare again copied this locale directly from "Pandosto". Moreover, the erudite Robert Greene was not in error, as the Isle of Delphos does not refer to Delphi, but to the Cycladic island of Delos , the mythical birthplace of Apollo, which from the 15th to the late 17th century in England was known as "Delphos".
The play contains one of the most famous Shakespearean stage directions: Exit, pursued by a bear , presaging the offstage death of Antigonus. It is not known whether Shakespeare used a real bear from the London bear-pits ,  or an actor in bear costume. The Royal Shakespeare Company, in one production of this play, used a large sheet of silk which moved and created shapes, to symbolise both the bear and the gale in which Antigonus is travelling.
One comic moment in the play deals with a servant not realising that poetry featuring references to dildos is vulgar, presumably from not knowing what the word means. This play and Ben Jonson 's play The Alchemist are typically cited as the first usage of the word in publication.
The earliest recorded performance of the play was recorded by Simon Forman , the Elizabethan "figure caster" or astrologer, who noted in his journal on 11 May that he saw The Winter's Tale at the Globe playhouse. The play was then performed in front of King James at Court on 5 November Later Court performances occurred on 7 April , 18 January , and 16 January The Winter's Tale was not revived during the Restoration , unlike many other Shakespearean plays.
One of the best remembered modern productions was staged by Peter Brook in London in and starred John Gielgud as Leontes. Other notable stagings featured John Philip Kemble in , Samuel Phelps in , and Charles Kean in an production that was famous for its elaborate sets and costumes. The longest-running Broadway production  starred Henry Daniell and Jessie Royce Landis and ran for 39 performances in In , the Kenneth Branagh Production company staged the play at the Garrick Theatre, with simultaneous broadcast to cinemas.
In a partnership with the BBC and Riverside Studios the production was livestreamed all around the world. There have been two film versions, a silent film  and a version starring Laurence Harvey as Leontes. An "orthodox" BBC production was televised in Everyone oohs and awes over how lifelike it is, down to its face wrinkles. Leontes begs to touch it, but Paulina warns the paint is still wet, you'll smudge her. Slowly, Hermione comes to life. Overjoyed, Leontes embraces his long-lost wife; all is forgiven; the young lovers united, also.
This is one of the purest, most transcendent moments in all theater, refulgent in repentance. Darkness has been banished, and all the love and life of Bohemia has flooded into the court of Sicilia. It should bring tears. Here, it plays like any wrap-up, nothing special. When chemistry is lacking, not even the wonders of Shakespeare can help.
The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter s - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in! There are a few directorial touches from Rob Melrose that don't land completely. One is having dead Maxillius shadow everyone, playing with his action figures which look like the characters in each scene.
At the finale Melrose repeats an earlier domestic scene with Hermione and son that explains why Maxillius does this. He's been telling his mother a bedtime story. This idea works somewhat, I suppose, but it doesn't add anything to the play's troubling and complex beauties. It's a better conception than in actuality, only because the kid's such a distraction. The pickpocket scene between Autolycus and Clown, full of groin hits, doubled by Whitehead with horn bleats and cymbals, is crude and obvious, far removed from Shakespeare's naughty puns and witty repartee.
It lessens the Bard. But then there's Godwin, dressed in fright wig and battered farmer's straw hat. He's funny not doing anything. Rainey has deadpan down to a science. He says his lines as if chewing cud. He's a revelation. Salazar eats up Shakespeare's indelible Autolycus like a pile of baby back ribs.
He brings this lovable rogue to full-rounded life, singing his ditties and showing off his worn wares like the incomparable snake oil salesman he is. Sullivan and Ivey are picture book lovers, swooning deeply as they romp through their love dialogue as if high. And Shawn Hamilton brings an adult gravitas to Lord Camillo, the sensible one in the room. Not the definitive Winter's Tale , the Alley's take is mighty pretty to look at.
Groover September 19, am. If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters. All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town. No Thanks Sign Up. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet St.