The Winter's Tale: Scene Summaries

The Winter’s Tale: Scene Summaries

  • Act 1, Scene 1: In the court of King Leontes, Camillo and Arcadimus discuss the long-standing friendship between the King and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia.
  • Act 1, Scene 2: Leontes becomes obsessively suspicious of an affair between his wife Hermione and Polixenes, after Hermione persuades Polixenes to extend his stay.
  • Act 2, Scene 1: Leontes publicly accuses Hermione of infidelity and plotting to murder him, and imprisons her despite her protestations of innocence.
  • Act 2, Scene 2: A servant reports the sudden death of Prince Mamillius due to his distress over his mother’s arrest.
  • Act 2, Scene 3: Paulina, a noblewoman, presents the newborn princess to Leontes in an attempt to prove Hermione’s innocence; Leontes orders Paulina’s husband to abandon the baby in a deserted place.
  • Act 3, Scene 1: In Bohemia, a change of setting, we learn from a conversation between Polixenes and Camillo that sixteen years have passed.
  • Act 3, Scene 2: Hermione is put on trial, but the oracle of Apollo exonerates her; Leontes doesn’t accept this until a servant reports the death of their son, Mamillius.
  • Act 3, Scene 3: Antigonus abandons the baby on the Bohemian coast, where he is killed by a bear, and the baby is discovered by a Shepherd.
  • Act 4, Scene 1: Time, personified, tells the audience that 16 years have passed and Perdita, the abandoned baby, has grown up to be a beautiful shepherdess.
  • Act 4, Scene 2: Polixenes and Camillo, in disguise, attend the sheep-shearing festival where Perdita, unaware of her royal heritage, is reigning as queen.
  • Act 4, Scene 3: A rogue, Autolycus, picks the pocket of the Clown, the shepherd’s son, setting up future complications.
  • Act 4, Scene 4: The sheep-shearing festival continues with displays of rustic mirth, Polixenes reveals his true identity and gets angry when he discovers that his son Florizel is in love with Perdita.
  • Act 5, Scene 1: Back in Sicily, Leontes is still in mourning; Paulina chides him for considering marriage to another woman and assures him that Hermione was innocent.
  • Act 5, Scene 2: Autolycus and the Shepherd and his son, now in Sicily, conspire to reveal the truth about Perdita’s royal lineage to King Leontes.
  • Act 5, Scene 3: Paulina reveals a statue of Hermione which comes to life as Hermione herself; Leontes and Hermione are reunited, and it’s revealed that Perdita is their daughter.