The Winter's Tale

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A lowly shepherd in Bohemia who happens to find the abandoned Perdita (as well as a large quantity of gold), left by Antigonus. He raises Perdita as his daughter and finds himself in mortal danger when Polixenes threatens to kill him after Perdita’s secret relationship with Florizell is discovered. He shows Polixenes (and Leontes) the bundle in which he found Perdita, though, proving that she is not his real daughter (and thus he is not accountable for her), and also unintentionally revealing Perdita’s true identity as Leontes’ long-lost daughter. As a reward for this, the shepherd and his son are made noblemen.

Shepherd Quotes in The Winter's Tale

The The Winter's Tale quotes below are all either spoken by Shepherd or refer to Shepherd. 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 3, Scene 3 Quotes

I would there were no age between sixteen and
three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the
rest; for there is nothing in the between but
getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry,
stealing, fighting.

Related Characters: Shepherd (speaker)
Page Number: 3.3.65-69
Explanation and Analysis:

Following the inversions that occur at the end of Act 3, Scene 2, this scene sets the stage for winter to become spring, for time to leap forward, and for tragedy to shift to comedy. The means for these shifts (and the signal that it is occurring) is the introduction of a level of absurdity and excess which drags the play beyond the tragic into a realm of ridiculousness, firmly cementing its status as a "problem play."

Moments before the Shepherd enters and speaks these lines, Antigonus abandons baby Perdita as he was instructed by Leontes. Antigonus leaves the stage with possibly the most famous stage direction ever written: "He exits, pursued by a bear." The introduction of a literal bear that follows him and kills him off stage is clearly tragic, but also appears too silly for a true tragedy. Lines later, this silliness is echoed in the form of excessiveness, when the Shepherd's Son says that he has witnessed both the bear attack and a violent shipwreck all in a few moments.

The lines of prose excerpted here are spoken by the Shepherd as he enters the stage, moments before he discovers Perdita. His complaints echo the tie between youth and innocence, and the notion that the passage of time and aging result in a loss of innocence. Ironically, after this scene ends the play will leap forward sixteen years and transition fully to the mode of comedy, seeming to reverse with a shift towards innocence accompanying age.

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Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

POLIXENES
Mark your divorce, young sir,
Whom son I dare not call; thou art too base
To be acknowledged: thou a sceptre's heir,
That thus affect'st a sheep-hook! Thou old traitor,
I am sorry that by hanging thee I can
But shorten thy life one week. And thou, fresh piece
Of excellent witchcraft, who of force must know
The royal fool thou copest with, —

SHEPHERD
O, my heart!

POLIXENES
I'll have thy beauty scratch'd with briers, and made
More homely than thy state. For thee, fond boy,
If I may ever know thou dost but sigh
That thou no more shalt see this knack, as never
I mean thou shalt, we'll bar thee from succession;
Not hold thee of our blood, no, not our kin,
Far than Deucalion off: mark thou my words:
Follow us to the court. Thou churl, for this time,
Though full of our displeasure, yet we free thee
From the dead blow of it. And you, enchantment.—
Worthy enough a herdsman: yea, him too,
That makes himself, but for our honour therein,
Unworthy thee, —if ever henceforth thou
These rural latches to his entrance open,
Or hoop his body more with thy embraces,
I will devise a death as cruel for thee
As thou art tender to't.

Related Characters: Polixenes (speaker), Shepherd (speaker), Florizell, Perdita
Page Number: 4.4.490-518
Explanation and Analysis:

Polixenes has discovered that his son plans to marry Perdita without his knowledge. Infuriated, he removes his disguise and tells his son to "mark" his divorce, indicating that he does not approve of (and is in fact disgusted by) the marriage. What's more, he refuses to refer to Florizell as his son, threatening to disown him and remove him as heir to the throne. In this angry speech Polixenes then threatens to hang the Shepherd and to have Perdita's face "scratch'd with briers." 

We have seen many inversions take place in the shift from the first half of the play to the second. Now, it is Polixenes who becomes excessively enraged with his child, threatens death, and abuses his power; Polixenes has replaced Leontes as the tyrant (though he does not here slip into the royal "we" as Leontes did when making his decrees, a possible indication that they will not be carried out, or are not as serious as the order to abandon Perdita, which we know did take place).

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Shepherd Character Timeline in The Winter's Tale

The timeline below shows where the character Shepherd appears in The Winter's Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, Scene 3
Youth, Age, and Time Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
A shepherd enters, complaining about youths between the age of 16 and 23, saying that young men... (full context)
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
The shepherd remarks on the unfortunate fate of Antigonus, but draws his son’s attention to the child... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...has seen Florizell recently, who has recently been spending much of his time at a shepherd’s cottage. He says that he worries about what is drawing Florizell to the shepherd’s home,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
A group of shepherds (including the shepherd who found Perdita when she was a baby, and his son) enter,... (full context)
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
Polixenes speaks to the shepherd who has adopted Perdita, and learns that Perdita and the young man dressed up as... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
The shepherd’s son buys a shepherdess named Mopsa some ribbons from Autolycus. Mopsa asks him to buy... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
...Perdita, and describes her beauty at length. Perdita avows her love for Florizell, and the shepherd agrees to give her away in marriage to him. Just as the shepherd is set... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...his disguise, angrily says that Florizell is no longer his son, says that the old shepherd will be killed, and threatens to have Perdita’s face “scratched with briars.” He tells Florizell... (full context)
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
...leave, and says she is giving up on her dream of being with him. The shepherd is upset and angry at Perdita for mingling with the prince. Camillo tells Florizell to... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...honesty, and thinks, “this is the time that the unjust man doth thrive.” The old shepherd and his son enter, carrying the box in which they found Perdita so long ago.... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
The shepherd and his son plan to go to Polixenes’ palace. Autolycus overhears them and, pretending to... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Autolycus says that the girl’s father is sure to be killed, as well as the shepherd’s son, who will be flayed alive, covered in honey and “set on the head of... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
Autolycus directs the shepherd and his son toward the seashore. They think their only hope is to tell Polixenes... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...says that Polixenes is in Sicilia, chasing after his son who has fled with a shepherd’s daughter. Camillo is with him, and on their way to the king’s court, they have... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
Elsewhere in Sicilia, Autolycus asks a gentleman about what happened with the Bohemian shepherd at Leontes’ court. The gentleman says that the shepherd showed the bundle in which he... (full context)
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...strong suspicion.” The third gentleman says that it is true, and that the bundle the shepherd displayed had in it Hermione’s mantle and a letter from Antigonus, proving Perdita’s true identity. (full context)
Friendship and Love Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...Leontes and Polixenes reunited joyously, and Leontes begged for Polixenes’ forgiveness. He says that the shepherd’s son explained to everyone that Antigonus was “torn to pieces with a bear,” and his... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Evidence, Truth, Persuasion, and Belief Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
...that he wanted to be the one to tell Leontes of the bundle that the shepherd had, but says that it if he had revealed the secret, he probably wouldn’t have... (full context)
Loyalty, Fidelity, and Honesty Theme Icon
Seriousness, Levity, and Humor Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Order Theme Icon
Autolycus asks the shepherd’s son to give him “good report to the Prince,” and pardon his earlier trickery. The... (full context)