The Winter's Tale

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The Winter's Tale Act 4, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

A con-man named Autolycus is walking along a road in Bohemia, singing a song about spring and how he enjoys “tumbling in the hay,” with women. He sees the shepherd’s son approaching and cries out, “A prize! A prize!” The shepherd’s son is counting his money and checking his list of things to buy for an upcoming sheep-shearing feast. He does not notice Autolycus.
Along with the arrival of spring, Autolycus signals a shift in the play from the serious, grave matters that happened in Sicilia earlier to more light-hearted events in the Bohemian countryside.
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Lying on the ground, Autolycus shouts that he is hurting. The shepherd’s son goes to help him, and he says that he has been attacked and robbed. The shepherd’s son helps Autolycus up, who says that someone named Autolycus mugged him. The shepherd’s son says he knows of Autolycus, and calls him a “prig” and a “cowardly rogue.” Autolycus thanks the shepherd’s son for his help, and they part ways. Autolycus, though, has stolen the shepherd’s son’s purse. He exits, singing happily, and planning to rob more people at the sheep-shearing festival.
The repeatedly dishonest trickster Autolycus forms a counterpoint to the strong examples of honest, loyal characters we have seen with Paulina, Antigonus, and Camillo. The humorous irony of Autolycus saying that he robbed himself, in order to rob the shepherd’s son, is an example of the light comedy of this part of the play.
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Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon