The Winter's Tale

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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 1, Scene 1 Quotes

I very well agree with you in the hopes of him: it
is a gallant child; one that indeed physics the
subject, makes old hearts fresh: they that went on
crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to
see him a man.

Related Characters: Camillo (speaker), Mamillius
Page Number: 1.1.39-44
Explanation and Analysis:

In this opening scene of the play, Camillo and a courier from Bohemia named Archidamus discuss visiting each other's countries, saying that the King of Sicilia (Leontes) owes the King of Bohemia (Polixenes) a visit. The reason a visit is owed is since Polixenes has stayed in Sicilia for so long. The discussion between Camillo and Archidamus mainly serves as exposition, explaining the situation and setting of the play's beginning. We learn that Leontes and Polixenes are childhood friends.

Here, toward the end of the short scene, they discuss Mamillius, the promising young son of Leontes. Camillo says that there is a lot of hope for the young prince, a "gallant child." The hope they see in the boy invigorates Sicilians, making old people wish to live longer so that they can see him become a man. Immediately, the promise of the young in contrast with the old, and the tension of time and aging is introduced into the play. Here aging is not tragic, but is rather exciting and empowering. The old, who might wish for time to slow down, desire for time to speed up so that they can experience Mamillius' growth into manhood. This wish will be fulfilled in between acts III and IV, when Father Time himself announces that 16 years have passed.


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Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Press me not, beseech you, so.
There is no tongue that moves, none, none i' the world,
So soon as yours could win me: so it should now,
Were there necessity in your request, although
'Twere needful I denied it.

Related Characters: Polixenes (speaker), Leontes
Page Number: 1.2.26-30
Explanation and Analysis:

Polixenes begins this scene by saying that he must return to Bohemia, since he has been in Sicilia for nine months. He thanks Leontes, who is like a brother, for his hospitality, but says he must part. Leontes asks his friend to stay longer, but Polixenes refuses.

Here Polixenes tells Leontes to drop it, saying that no one could possibly convince him more easily than Leontes, but in this situation, Polixenes must decline by necessity. The Bohemian king is extremely firm in his denial, and his insistence that no one ("no tongue that moves") could persuade him will act as fuel for Leontes' suspicions when Polixenes ultimately becomes convinced to stay. Note the repetition of the word none to enhance the surprising effect of Hermione's successful persuasion moments later.

We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun,
And bleat the one at the other: what we changed
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
That any did. Had we pursued that life,
And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven
Boldly 'not guilty;' the imposition clear'd
Hereditary ours.

Related Characters: Polixenes (speaker), Leontes
Page Number: 1.2.85-94
Explanation and Analysis:

Hermione has persevered and persuaded Polixenes to extend his stay. Now that he's convinced, she takes the opportunity to ask him about his childhood friendship with her husband, Leontes. Polixenes responds with the poetic lines excerpted here, comparing himself and Leontes to "twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun." He describes a picture of complete youthful innocence, saying the pair had no conception of doing wrong and could not even dream that anyone would.

If they had continued in this way of being, Polixenes says, and if they hadn't been raised with strong blood (royal bloodlines and lineage), they would have boldly been able to answer "not guilty" at their final judgment. However, Polixenes will go on to explain that the two men grew up, lost their innocence, and fell in love with their wives. The youthful innocence described here offers stark contrast with the jealous convictions that will soon overtake Leontes and the actions his jealousy will lead him to.

Too hot, too hot!
To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances;
But not for joy; not joy. This entertainment
May a free face put on, derive a liberty
From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
And well become the agent; 't may, I grant;
But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
As now they are, and making practised smiles
As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere
The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment
My bosom likes not, nor my brows! Mamillius,
Art thou my boy?

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Polixenes, Hermione
Page Number: 1.2.139-151
Explanation and Analysis:

When Polixenes and Hermione return from their side conversation, Leontes asks if his friend has yet been convinced; upon learning that Hermione has been successful, Leontes tells her that the only time she spoke to better purpose was the day she pledged her love for him. Leontes doesn't appear to be upset that his wife was able to persuade Polixenes when he was not, even though Polixenes assured Leontes (as in the quote above) that no other tongue could possibly convince him more easily.

When Hermione gives Polixenes her hand, however, Leontes suddenly snaps. He is immediately possessed by jealousy, based only on the evidence of brief hand holding. In an aside, he exclaims, "Too hot, too hot!" The gesture is excessive, and to him seems absolute proof of his wife's guilt. He believes the two seem too familiar, and describes in detail the way they are holding hands, "paddling palms and pinching fingers," all the while making "practised smiles" like they might make in a mirror to appear genuine. Such "entertainment" does not sit well with Leontes, who has worked himself into such a jealous frenzy that at the end of these lines he questions if his son Mamillius is even his own.

Ha' not you seen, Camillo, —
But that's past doubt, you have, or your eye-glass
Is thicker than a cuckold's horn, —or heard, —
—For to a vision so apparent rumour
Cannot be mute, —or thought, —for cogitation
Resides not in that man that does not think, —
My wife is slippery?

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Polixenes, Hermione, Camillo
Page Number: 1.2.329-335
Explanation and Analysis:

Leontes has sent Polixenes and Hermione off on a walk; he is now utterly convinced of his wife's infidelity, and believes that everyone in court has known all along. Leontes asks Camillio why he thinks Hermione was able to convince Polixenes to stay, trying to draw the truth out of him. When the confused Camillo does not play along, Leontes speaks the excerpted lines, wondering if Camillo really has not seen what is so plain to him.

He asks, "have you not seen, Camillo"—but stops himself since it is so obvious that he must have seen, unless his "eye-glass / Is thicker than a cuckold's horn." (A cuckold is a term for someone whose spouse cheats on them, often described as wearing figurative horns.) If he hasn't seen, Leontes says, he must have at least heard about the infidelity, since rumors must spread from "a vision so apparent." Leontes goes as far as to say that simply thinking about it will yield the truth, and only a man who does not think would disagree with his conclusions. The single vision, grounded in sight, of the pair holding hands has thus spread to the ear and to thought and become evidence that amounts to absolute proof that Hermione is "slippery."

Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
Of laughing with a sigh? —a note infallible
Of breaking honesty —horsing foot on foot?
Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift?
Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? and all eyes
Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only
That would unseen be wicked? is this nothing?
Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing;
The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing;
My wife is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings,
If this be nothing.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Polixenes, Hermione
Page Number: 1.2.346-359
Explanation and Analysis:

To Leontes' assertion that Hermione is slippery, Camillo responds that Hermione is innocent, and that Leontes has never said anything less appropriate than such a false accusation. But Leontes is absolutely convinced, obsessed, and infuriated. Already certain, he looks back on examples of the close friendship between Hermione and Polixenes and retroactively attributes sexual undertones and signs of infidelity to them.

He begins "Is whispering nothing?" suggesting that the two have been known to whisper. He continues listing their supposed behaviors, questioning if any of them could really be nothing. Being close physically? Meeting noses? Kissing? Laughing together? The list goes on to include a romantic desire for time to speed up (note that the obsessed Leontes breaks time down into its deviations and specific hours), and the desire for all eyes to be blind but those of the supposed lovers, so they can act freely while remaining unseen. He asks is all of this nothing?

If so, Leontes concludes that the world and all that it contains is nothing, that the sky is nothing, Bohemia is noting, Hermione is nothing, nothing is nothing if these signs are not proof of what he knows to be true. Leontes has be come so thoroughly convinced that he feels like the fabric of the world and his very reality would cease to exist with the loss of this core belief.

Swear his thought over
By each particular star in heaven and
By all their influences, you may as well
Forbid the sea for to obey the moon
As or by oath remove or counsel shake
The fabric of his folly, whose foundation
Is piled upon his faith and will continue
The standing of his body.

Related Characters: Camillo (speaker), Leontes
Page Number: 1.2.511-518
Explanation and Analysis:

Towards the end of this long scene, Camillo is explaining to Polixenes that he has been ordered to murder him because of Leontes' rigid belief that Hermione has been unfaithful. Here, Camillo tells Polixenes just how convinced Lenotes has become. Leontes swears the truth of the infidelity "by each particular star in heaven and / By all their influences." We see that Camillo has caught the gravity of Leontes' powerful "Is this nothing?" speech, since he compares changing Leontes' mind to forbidding the sea to obey the moon. As we saw above, Camillo also notes that this "folly" has become the foundation of Leontes' faith and his very being. In other words, it is hopeless for Polixenes to try and assert his innocence, and so the best option is simply to flee.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Come, sir, now
I am for you again: pray you, sit by us,
And tell ‘s a tale.

Merry or sad shall’t be?

As merry as you will.

A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one
Of sprites and goblins.

Related Characters: Hermione (speaker), Mamillius (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 2.1.28-34
Explanation and Analysis:

This playful interaction between mother and son also shows the play's self-awareness and the tie of emotion and genre to the seasons. The pregnant Hermione asks her son Mamillius to tell her a tale (note Tale in the play's title), and the boy asks if it should be a happy or sad story. Hermione requests "merry," but Mamillius says that "A sad tale's best for winter," and plans to tell her instead of sprites and goblins.

Within these lines we see the genesis of or a reference to the play's title, the Winter's Tale. We also get a glimpse into the seasonal force of genre which dictates the play's action. This play is commonly categorized as a "problem play," since it is so difficult to place into the group of Shakespeare's Tragedies, Romances, Histories, or Comedies. Much of the plot so far is dark and tragic, hinging on jealousy and death threats. The tragic first three acts of the play fittingly (according to Mamillius) take place during winter—they tell a sad tale. But the final acts, which take place in the spring and summer, begin with absurdity and contain more comic elements, including a happy conclusion that ends with marriage (though a tinge of tragedy lingers, too).

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."

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

This sessions, to our great grief we pronounce,
Even pushes 'gainst our heart: the party tried
The daughter of a king, our wife, and one
Of us too much beloved. Let us be clear'd
Of being tyrannous, since we so openly
Proceed in justice, which shall have due course,
Even to the guilt or the purgation.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Hermione, Perdita
Page Number: 3.2.1-7
Explanation and Analysis:

In a court of justice, Leontes begins this scene and the trial with another formal speech given in the royal "we" tense. He claims that it is with grief that he must preside over these proceedings, since the one being tried is "the daughter of a king, our wife, and one / Of us too much beloved." One meaning of this last statement is that it is difficult to have this trial since Leontes loves Hermione so much, but another reading is that he loved her too much, meaning that since she was unfaithful, she was deserving of less love.

Leontes then tries to absolve himself of any tyrannous behavior, claiming to openly proceed in justice, which he says must be followed no matter if Hermione is innocent or guilty. We know, however, that Leontes will not be swayed no matter what. The jealous thought has become his core belief, the ground on which his reality stands, and despite his attempts to verbally or rationally appear just, he is still acting tyrannous.

Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts my accusation and
The testimony on my part no other
But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
To say 'not guilty:' mine integrity
Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it
Be so received. But thus: if powers divine
Behold our human actions, as they do,
I doubt not then but innocence shall make
False accusation blush and tyranny
Tremble at patience.

Related Characters: Hermione (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.23-33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this long speech, Hermione proclaims her innocence, though she knows that her testimony will not be able to convince Leontes of the truth. Her testimony and language alone must change Leontes' mind, and she knows that her integrity is counted as falsehood. In other words, she knows that her testimony will not be believed, because her very integrity is under attack in the accusation. However, she remains proud, honorable, and hopeful, and she strives to tell the truth. Hermione appeals to divine powers, saying that if they happen to be observing (as she knows they do), then she knows that her innocence will end this false accusation and make "tyranny / Tremble at patience." This powerful, emotional language introduces an impressive performance in which she will compare the level of her current sadness to her consistent level of faithfulness.

For Polixenes,
With whom I am accused, I do confess
I loved him as in honour he required,
With such a kind of love as might become
A lady like me, with a love even such,
So and no other, as yourself commanded:
Which not to have done I think had been in me
Both disobedience and ingratitude
To you and toward your friend, whose love had spoke,
Even since it could speak, from an infant, freely
That it was yours. Now, for conspiracy,
I know not how it tastes; though it be dish'd
For me to try how: all I know of it
Is that Camillo was an honest man;
And why he left your court, the gods themselves,
Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.

Related Characters: Hermione (speaker), Leontes, Polixenes, Camillo
Page Number: 3.2.65-81
Explanation and Analysis:

Hermione has made her first speech of the trail, but Leontes still does not believe her. Here, Hermione gives another speech in which she attempts to differentiate romantic and platonic love. She says that she loved Polixenes "as in honour he required, / With such a kind of love as might become / a lady like" her. In other words, she loved Polixenes as a friend, as a king deserves to be loved, and furthermore as Leontes, a dear friend to Polixenes, commanded her to.

Hermione goes on to say that if she hadn't loved Polixenes in this way, it would have been actual disobedience and ingratitude, opposing the nonsensical, jealously-based infidelity she is accused of. Hermione has no idea why Camillo left court or what is going on; she maintains that she truly is innocent.

Her claim here that her friendship was non-romantic and ordered by her husband is both clever and unique. By framing the love as a duty to her husband, she masterfully reverses the accusation and seems to act as a faithful wife should. If Leontes were not so possessed by jealousy, it is possible that her argument would have worked. But its uniqueness is also a reason it might seem unbelievable. Her notion of a non-romantic friendship between man and woman would have been uncommon, perhaps even revolutionary during the Renaissance.

There is no truth at all i' the oracle:
The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.151-152
Explanation and Analysis:

When Leontes refuses to be convinced, Hermione appeals to the Oracle of Apollo, which proclaims that she is chaste, Polixenes is innocent, Camillo is a true subject, and Leontes is a jealous tyrant. The Oracle also threatens that Leontes will go without an heir if the situation is not rectified ("if that which is lost is not found").

But Leontes immediately rejects the oracle, saying that there is no truth in it whatsoever, and that the prophesy is pure falsehood. Again, we see how conventional methods available to his subjects—reason, religion, appeals to his good nature with innocent children—fail to break the spell of jealousy and alert Leontes to the truth of Hermione's faithfulness. He trusts his own belief in this matter over the very words of the gods.

However, immediately following these lines, a servant informs Leontes of Mamillius' tragic death, the once promising youth having weakened and grown ill in the turmoil of his mother's accusation and trial. Hermione faints at the news, and Leontes immediately repents and cries out to Apollo that he will try to atone for his actions.

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 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.

Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

Thou dearest Perdita,
With these forced thoughts, I prithee, darken not
The mirth o' the feast.

Related Characters: Florizell (speaker), Perdita
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 4.4.47-49
Explanation and Analysis:

Sixteen years have passed since act 3, making Perdita sixteen years old (ironically, the age at which the Shepherd, in the previous quote, wished "there were no age"). At a a seasonal sheep-shearing festival, Florizell, the son of Polixenes, compliments Perdita on her beauty. The two are in love, but neither knows Perdita's true identity. Because she believes she is not a noblewoman (much less a princess), Perdita is nervous about Polixenes discovering their love. Florizell, however, does not care about social status. He urges his dearest Perdita to let go of her anxious thoughts, begging her not to darken "The mirth o' the feast." Here, the prince combines a call for levity and merriment with the assertion that he is comfortable with a social inversion, or with marrying someone low born. 

The fairest flowers o’ th’ season
Are our carnations and streaked gillyvors,
Which some call nature’s bastards. Of that kind
Our rustic garden’s barren, and I care not
To get slips of them.

Wherefore, gentle maiden,
Do you neglect them?

For I have heard it said
There is an art which in their piedness shares
With great creating nature.

Say there be;
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean. So, over that art
Which you say adds to nature is an art
That nature makes.
. . . This is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.

Related Characters: Polixenes (speaker), Perdita (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 4.4.95-114
Explanation and Analysis:

Polixenes and Camillo have entered the feast in disguise, and now Perdita entertains and gives out flowers as the "mistress o' the feast." Perdita and Polixenes here discuss hybrid flowers known as "nature's bastards," an exchange that is humorous (and dark) since Perdita herself was banished since she was thought to be a bastard. Polixenes says that these flowers should not be neglected, and after a discussion of nature and art (he ultimately says that "art itself is nature"), he tells her not to call these flowers bastards.

Polixenes acceptance of the flowers and instruction not to call them bastards is ironic, since he will soon unknowingly reject Perdita, the supposed bastard (supposedly fathered by him) because he believes her to be a low-born daughter of a Shepherd.

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, —

O, my heart!

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).

Ha, ha! what a fool Honesty is! and Trust, his
sworn brother, a very simple gentleman!

Related Characters: Autolycus (speaker)
Page Number: 4.4.711-712
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines are spoken as a soliloquy by Autolycus. While it may appear from the beginning of his speech that he is going to offer a philosophical treatise on honesty and trust, Autolycus proceeds to enumerate the cheap items he sold during the festival. He brags about how much money he made selling junk, and also says that he has picked pockets and stolen from his customers. While the speech can be read in terms of the lack of trust that pervades the play, and the dishonesty and disbelief that have caused both the tragic and comedic outbursts from kings (one echoing the other), this speech also serves as simple comic relief, a classic feature of drama. While the others make plans to resolve the tension, the audience is given a humorous interlude by Autolycus.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

Your mother was most true to wedlock, prince;
For she did print your royal father off,
Conceiving you: were I but twenty-one,
Your father's image is so hit in you,
His very air, that I should call you brother,
As I did him, and speak of something wildly
By us perform'd before. Most dearly welcome!
And your fair princess, —goddess! —O, alas!
I lost a couple, that 'twixt heaven and earth
Might thus have stood begetting wonder as
You, gracious couple, do: and then I lost—
All mine own folly —the society,
Amity too, of your brave father, whom,
Though bearing misery, I desire my life
Once more to look on him.

Related Characters: Leontes (speaker), Polixenes, Florizell, Perdita
Page Number: 5.1.157-171
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene returns to Sicilia, and shows Leontes repenting still for his errors that led to Hermione's death. He contemplates remarrying, but says that he will never do it. A servant announces that Florizell has come with his princess unannounced; Paulina remarks that it is shame that Mamillius is not alive, since he would have been the same age as Florizell now. The lines here are Leontes' greeting to the young Bohemian prince.

He begins by saying that Florizell's mother was surely true to wedlock, immediately referencing his own error and accusation of Hermione (either by accident or design). He affirms Florizell's parentage by saying that the young prince is a "print" of his father, and that if he (Leontes) were young, he would call the prince "brother" and think he was Polixenes himself.

Leontes then greets the princess and calls her a goddess. Unknowing of either her true or false lineage, Leontes is pleased with the pair. He then returns to repenting his own folly and all that he has lost, and tells Florizell that he hopes to make amends with Polixenes someday. Here we see that time has made Leontes more wise, reserved, calm, and repentant.

Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

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

O, not by much!

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.

My lord, your sorrow was too sore laid on,
Which sixteen winters cannot blow away,
So many summers dry; scarce any joy
Did ever so long live; no sorrow
But kill'd itself much sooner.

Related Characters: Camillo (speaker), Leontes
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 5.3.57-62
Explanation and Analysis:

The statue is so lifelike (or maybe is just Hermione herself) that Leontes becomes overwhelmed with regret and sorrow and begins weeping. Camillo, along with Polixenes, tries to calm him down and assure him that he has grieved enough and showed enough sorrow for his loss. Connecting back to the seasons, Camillo says that Leontes' sorrow was more than adequate, and that sixteen winters could not disrupt it, nor could the summers dry it. He asserts that no joy or sorrow has ever lasted as long as this grief.

The juxtaposition in these lines of summer and winter, grief and joy, reminds us of some of the lingering tragic elements in the comedic second half of the play, and ground the Winter's Tale firmly as a "problem play." Though the second act is comedic and set during a summer, we know that winters have passed and will also follow. There is much joy in the ending of the play, but Mamillius and Antigonus both remain dead.

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.

No matches.