William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale in the complete original text.
William Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poems at AbsoluteShakespeare.com
Home Plays Sonnets Poems Quotes Summaries Essays Glossary Links Help

HOME > Plays > The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale

Study Guides
Julius Caesar
King Henry IV
King Lear
Merchant of Venice
Romeo and Juliet
The Tempest
Twelfth Night

Bard Facts
Globe Theatre

The Winter's Tale Play

The Winter's Tale begins with Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, deciding to return home to Bohemia after visting his old friend Leontes in Sicily. Leontes, the King of Sicily, wants Polixenes to stay a little longer, asking Polixenes' beautiful wife Hermione to convince him to stay. This backfires quite badly since Leontes now believes his wife may be having an affair with Polixenes, after all, she was able to convince him to stay... Overcome with jealousy, Leontes prepares to poison Polixenes, even beginning to doubt whether he is the true father of his son Mamillius.... Camillo, ordered to poison Polixenes and aware of what Leontes is capable of, convinces Polixenes to flee, the two heading for Bohemia. Leontes jealousy has not abated however, Leontes quickly putting his wife in jail and preparing to make her stand trial for infidelity.

Hermione gives birth to her daughter in jail whilst awaiting trial, the baby being shown to Leontes in the hope Leontes will finally see reason. Leontes though, thinking the child may not be his, does not acknowledge the child, disowning her and then ordering Antigonus to leave the baby on the far off coast of Bohemia to die... Following Leontes' orders, the baby is duly placed on the coastline to die, Antigonus being eaten by a bear shortly thereafter... The trial of Hermione continues. The Delphic Oracle's judgement in the trial is that Hermione is innocent but this falls on Leontes' deaf ears, the trial continuing despite judgement being given. Overcome by grief for his mother, Mamillius, Leontes and Hermiones' only son, dies. Leontes now begins to realise just how much he has lost, ordering that Hermione be treated with care upon leaving the courtroom but soon she too dies. Overcome with guilt and remorse for what he has done, Leontes now shuts himself off from soceity...

The child Leontes would not acknowledge, however, has not died; a shepard finds the little baby, taking her in and raising her as if his very own. Sixteen years pass and the abandoned daughter, Perdita, falls for Polixenes' son Florizel. Polixenes disapproves of his son loving the daughter of a shepard, after all, Florizel is a Prince. Camillo, seeing the two in love, helps the two lovers escape for Sicily where the two are warmly received at the court of Leontes. Polixenes and the shepard soon arrive, Leontes finally making peace with his old friend. Perdita is soon revealed tby the shepard to be Leontes' daughter overjoying Leontes and Polixenes since their two children shall soon marry. Leontes, however in seeing the beautiful Perdita is reminded of Hermione, her death and how badly he treated her...

Paulina, Hermione's maid who reported Hermione's death, leads Leontes, Perdita and company to see a statue of Hermione. It is no statue... They see Hermione, alive and well! We quickly learn that Queen Hermione has simply lived in hiding, praying for the return of her daughter one day. Leontes family is now reunited with the return of Hermione and Perdita. Leontes, deeply appreciative of everything they have Camillo and Paulina have done for his family, allows the two to marry...


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II

Act II
Scene I,
Scene II, Scene III

Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act IV
ChorusScene I, Scene II, Scene III - Part I,
Scene III - Part II

Act V
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Copyright 2000-2005 AbsoluteShakespeare.com. All rights reserved.  Contact Us  Privacy  Awards