The Winter's Tale

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Paulina Character Analysis

A Sicilian noblewoman and the wife of Antigonus, Paulina is strong-willed and stands up for Hermione when Leontes accuses her of being unfaithful. She speaks her mind to Leontes, and brings him the infant Perdita in the hopes that the sight of his newborn child might soften his resolve to punish Hermione for the crime he imagines she has committed. After Leontes realizes that Hermione was innocent, Paulina never lets him forget his folly, and is never satisfied that Leontes has repented enough for causing Hermione’s death. At the very end of the play, she is the one character who seems not to have found a happy ending, as she laments the death of her husband Antigonus. However, Leontes encourages her to find her own happy ending by marrying Camillo.

Paulina Quotes in The Winter's Tale

The The Winter's Tale quotes below are all either spoken by Paulina or refer to Paulina. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Winter's Tale published in 2005.
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

If she dares trust me with her little babe,
I'll show't the king and undertake to be
Her advocate to the loud'st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight o' the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades when speaking fails.

Related Characters: Paulina (speaker), Leontes, Hermione, Perdita
Page Number: 2.2.46-51
Explanation and Analysis:

Paulina, the wife of the nobleman Antigonus, tries to visit Hermione in jail, but she is prevented by the guard. One of Hermione's attendants informs Paulina that Hermione has given birth to a daughter, and Paulina laments the terrible situation and the madness of Leontes that has resulted in Hermione's imprisonment. Here, she thinks of a plan to bring Leontes to his senses and help Hermione.

Paulina says that if Hermione will trust her with the newborn, she will take the baby to the King and advocate for Hermione's innocence. She believes that it is possible Leontes will "soften at the sight o' the child." Paulina says that "the silence often of pure innocence / Persuades when speaking fails." We can note two intertwined aspects of this plan to convince Leontes to release Hermione. First, note that this attempt means to use silence as opposed to language. All discussion of convincing Polixenes to stay in the first place was in terms of language and the tongue, but it has become clear that no amount of verbal reasoning or appeal can change Leontes' mind about his wife's infidelity. Second, Paulina plans to appeal with youth and innocence. Recalling Polixenes' lines about the innocent young kings, we know that youths are idealized as perfectly innocent, almost holy figures. Paulina hopes this innocence will translate from daughter to mother, aligning with the line that (according to Emilia) Hermione spoke to her baby in prison: "My poor prisoner, / I am innocent as you."

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Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

Mark and perform it, see'st thou! for the fail
Of any point in't shall not only be
Death to thyself but to thy lewd-tongued wife,
Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,
As thou art liege-man to us, that thou carry
This female bastard hence and that thou bear it
To some remote and desert place quite out
Of our dominions, and that there thou leave it,
Without more mercy, to its own protection
And favour of the climate. As by strange fortune
It came to us, I do in justice charge thee
On thy soul's peril and thy body's torture
That thou commend it strangely to some place
Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Paulina, Antigonus, Perdita
Page Number: 2.3.211-224
Explanation and Analysis:

The dramatic exchanges of this scene preceding the excerpted speech can be summarized thus: Paulina's plan to present Leontes with his newborn daughter and thereby exonerate Hermione fails miserably. Leontes calls Paulina a traitor, and calls her husband a traitor too, one who should be hanged for his inability to control Paulina. Members of the court try to intervene and save the child, but Leontes, believing to act with justice, behaves like a tyrant and refuses to hear them.

In this speech he makes his final decision regarding the life of the child, of Paulina, and of Antigonus. Beginning with "mark and perform it," meaning listen and do what I say, Leontes starts by saying that if Antigonus does not obey he and his "lewd-tongue wife" (whom Leontes for now has pardoned) will be executed. We can note that the tyranny that has been building in the scene has reached its climax, as Leontes has now switched grammatically into using the formal, royal "we," giving this speech the air of an official decree and reminding us that, though he is maddened by jealousy, he is still a king.

The instructions are as follows: take the baby away and bring her to a remote place outside of Leontes' kingdom; leave the baby there without help, so that its survival is completely dependent on chance. Leontes conceives of this as complete justice, failing to see a problem with the unnatural rejection of his own daughter.

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

O, think what they have done
And then run mad indeed, stark mad! for all
Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
That thou betray'dst Polixenes,'twas nothing;
That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant
And damnable ingrateful: nor was't much,
Thou wouldst have poison'd good Camillo's honour,
To have him kill a king: poor trespasses,
More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon
The casting forth to crows thy baby-daughter
To be or none or little; though a devil
Would have shed water out of fire ere done't:
Nor is't directly laid to thee, the death
Of the young prince, whose honourable thoughts,
Thoughts high for one so tender, cleft the heart
That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
Blemish'd his gracious dam: this is not, no,
Laid to thy answer: but the last, —O lords,
When I have said, cry 'woe!' the queen, the queen,
The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead,
and vengeance for't
Not dropp'd down yet.

Related Characters: Paulina (speaker), Leontes, Polixenes, Hermione, Camillo, Mamillius, Perdita
Page Number: 3.2.201-222
Explanation and Analysis:

In this stunning speech, Paulina chastises the King at length for his folly and the damage it has wrought. The "they" she refers to in the first quoted line are Leontes' jealous and tyrannical actions, which have caused terrible things to happen, all of which she will outline below.

Leontes betrayed his dear friend Polixenes over "nothing" (note the irony of this term returning after Leontes' earlier speech involving nothing). Leontes would have poisoned Camillo's honor, since he ordered him to commit regicide (kill a king). He cast off his daughter, a cruelty Paulina says surpasses even a devil, and caused the death of his tender son. But the climactic speech ends with a crushing final blow: Hermione too is now dead.

Paulina's fury is a staggering display of emotion and power over the king. This reversal of the natural order shows two traditional dichotomies flipped: subject over king and woman over man. What's more, a few lines later Leontes will say "Go on. Go on. / Thou canst not speak too much." He gives her leave, embracing his anguish and believing himself deserving of bitterness from all tongues.

Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

LEONTES
But yet, Paulina,
Hermione was not so much wrinkled, nothing
So aged as this seems.

POLIXENES
O, not by much!

PAULINA
So much the more our carver’s excellence,
Which lets go by some sixteen years and makes her
As she lived now.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Polixenes (speaker), Paulina (speaker), Hermione
Page Number: 5.3.31-37
Explanation and Analysis:

Most of the play's tension has been resolved, with the reunion and reconciliation of Leontes and Perdita and Leontes and Polixenes taking place off stage in Act 5, Scene 2. Now, the whole group gathers to look at an incredibly lifelike statue of Hermione. Here, Leontes remarks that the statue seems more wrinkled and aged than Hermione ever was. Kind Polixenes jumps in quickly with a remark that she doesn't look aged by much. But Paulina reassures them that the artist has masterfully carved the statue to represent Hermione as she would have looked if she had lived the past 16 years.

This statue needs to be aged properly, of course, since it will soon come to life! In this crucial scene it is unclear whether Paulina brings the statue to life by a spell, introducing the miraculous or supernatural into the play (which is fitting given the absurdity found elsewhere), or if Hermione has been alive all along, waiting to return only when Leontes has fully repented and absolved himself, and is simply pretending to be a statue during this scene.

Go together,
You precious winners all; your exultation
Partake to every one. I, an old turtle,
Will wing me to some wither'd bough and there
My mate, that's never to be found again,
Lament till I am lost.

Related Characters: Paulina (speaker), Antigonus
Page Number: 5.3.164-169
Explanation and Analysis:

With nearly everyone reunited, Paulina suggests that everyone should go together and enjoy the bounty they have won and the happy ending they have found. Paulina, though, has just been informed of her husband's death. So while she encourages merriment in others, she, "an old turtle," will find a quiet place to spend the rest of her life lamenting her lost love and losing herself. One of the reasons this play is problematic (though some comedies have sour notes in their endings) is that in a scene that should only be filled with marriage, happiness, and loose ends tied up, we also see a reflection on death, loneliness, and a loss of the self in lamentation and sorrow.

O, peace, Paulina!
Thou shouldst a husband take by my consent,
As I by thine a wife: this is a match,
And made between's by vows. Thou hast found mine;
But how, is to be question'd; for I saw her,
As I thought, dead, and have in vain said many
A prayer upon her grave. I'll not seek far—
For him, I partly know his mind —to find thee
An honourable husband. Come, Camillo
And take her by the hand, whose worth and honesty
Is richly noted and here justified
By us, a pair of kings.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Hermione, Paulina, Camillo
Page Number: 5.3.170-182
Explanation and Analysis:

These are almost the last lines of the play. Paulina has made her dark reflection on her loss and consigned to lose herself in sorrow, but Leontes' joy at reuniting with his daughter and wife (despite his son still being dead) is enough to give a final push towards happiness and comedy. As king, he grants Paulina his permission to take a new husband, saying he wants to repay her for finding his wife again. He doesn't need to look far to find her a husband, suggesting she wed Camillo, "an honorable husband" whose "worth and honesty is richly noted" by the pair of kings, Polixenes and Leontes.

The play concludes with Leontes asking for forgiveness, and with the union of Polixenes' and Leontes' bloodlines through the marriage of Florizell and Perdita. The natural order is restored and even augmented by this new marriage. The friendships are repaired, and honesty is reaffirmed. Despite its strange, problematic beginning and some of its absurdities, the play ends on a classically light, comedic note.

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Paulina Character Timeline in The Winter's Tale

The timeline below shows where the character Paulina appears in The Winter's Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, Scene 2
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Youth, Age, and Time Theme Icon
Paulina, a noblewoman and the wife of Antigonus, tries to visit Hermione in jail, but the... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
Paulina laments Leontes’ madness in throwing his pregnant wife in jail. She asks Emilia if she... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
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The jailer tells Paulina that he is not sure if he can allow the newborn child to leave the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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...himself not to think of them, and to take his revenge out on Hermione instead. Paulina arrives with the newborn child. Antigonus and a servant try to prevent her from going... (full context)
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Leontes hears Paulina talking and asks Antigonus if he cannot “rule her,” as he has ordered for no... (full context)
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Leontes refers to his wife as a traitor, and Paulina says that the only traitor is the king himself, who slanders both his wife and... (full context)
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Paulina calls Leontes a tyrant and he again demands that Antigonus take his wife away. Paulina... (full context)
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...desert place,” where “chance may nurse or end it.” He threatens to kill Antigonus, and Paulina, if he does not do this. Reluctantly obeying his king, Antigonus carries the baby off... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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Paulina re-enters and announces that Hermione has died. She berates Leontes, calling him a tyrant, and... (full context)
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A nobleman rebukes Paulina for speaking too boldly to the king, and Paulina says she has “show’d too much... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Youth, Age, and Time Theme Icon
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...causing Hermione’s death, and should now remarry. Leontes is not sure that he can, and Paulina agrees that it would be disrespectful to Hermione’s memory to do so. Dion tells the... (full context)
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Friendship and Love Theme Icon
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Leontes tells Paulina that he wishes he had taken her advice so long ago, so that Hermione would... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Youth, Age, and Time Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
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...The servant says that the princess is the most beautiful person he has ever seen. Paulina chides the servant for forgetting the beauty of Hermione and the servant apologizes but insists... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...pieces with a bear,” and his ship was wrecked in a storm. He says that Paulina was caught between joy and sorrow: “she had one eye declined for the loss of... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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Leontes, Polixenes, Florizell, Perdita, Camillo, and Paulina all go together to see the statue of Hermione, which is at Paulina’s home. Paulina... (full context)
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Leontes remarks that the statue appears slightly more wrinkled than Hermione was, and Paulina says that the skilled sculptor made the statue so that, sixteen years later, it “makes... (full context)
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...realistic that it appears to breathe and to have real blood coursing through its veins. Paulina says that she should cover up the statue, because it is affecting Leontes so much,... (full context)
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Paulina stops Leontes and tells everyone to prepare “for more amazement.” She says that she will... (full context)
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Paulina tells everyone not to be afraid, as her spell is “lawful.” Hermione embraces Leontes, and... (full context)
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Hermione asks where Perdita has been living, but Paulina tells her there will be time to learn everything later. She encourages everyone to enjoy... (full context)
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Leontes tells Paulina not to be sad, and says that she should take a new husband. He suggests... (full context)