Leontes, Polixenes, Florizell, Perdita, Camillo, and Paulina all go together to see the statue of Hermione, which is at Paulina’s home. Paulina says that just as Hermione was unequalled in beauty, so her statue is unequalled. She tells everyone to get ready “to see the life as lively mocked as ever / Still sleep mocked death,” and pulls back a curtain, revealing the statue of Hermione. Leontes is silent at first, and then remarks, “Chide me, dear stone, that I may say indeed / Thou art Hermione.”
Now that Leontes is reunited with his daughter Perdita, his subject Camillo, and his friend Polixenes, he lacks only his deceased wife Hermione. The sight of her statue brings a mixture of emotions to Leontes, who is happy to see her beauty again, sad to remember her death, and amazed at the realistic quality of the statue.
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 her / As she lived now.” Leontes says that the statue pierces him to his soul, as it reminds him of his cruelty toward his now deceased wife. Perdita kneels before the statue to kiss its hand and “implore her blessing.” Paulina tells her to wait, as the paint on the statue is not dry.
Time seems to age everything in the play, including the statue of Hermione. However, it is possible that Paulina has deceived everyone and the statue is actually Hermione in disguise, who may have only pretended to die. The sight of his wife’s likeness reminds Leontes painfully of his unjust betrayal of her.
Camillo and Polixenes try to calm Leontes down, and tell him that he has showed enough sorrow over his wife. Leontes says that the statue is so 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, and he will be “so far transported that / He’ll think anon it lives.” Leontes tells her not to cover the statue, and says he will kiss the statue’s lip. Paulina tries to stop him, saying he will smudge the paint on the statue.
Once again friends of Leontes, Camillo and Polixenes try to reason with him and persuade him to calm down. Leontes is too strongly moved by the sight of the statue, though, and the memory of his love for Hermione, to listen to them. His remarks about how lifelike the statue is gain an added level of irony if the statue is actually Hermione herself, if it is a real human being pretending to be a statue.
Paulina stops Leontes and tells everyone to prepare “for more amazement.” She says that she will make the statue move, but worries that everyone will think she is “assisted / By wicked powers.” Leontes says that he wants to see the statue move, and Paulina calls out, “music, awake her! Strike!” She tells the statue to “be stone no more,” and the statue starts to move.
The play began as a tragedy, and turned into a comedy with elements of pastoral. Now the miraculous transformation of the statue lends the play’s conclusion a fantastical element, as well. (But again, it is possible Paulina has lied, and the statue was Hermione all along, and that Hermione was just waiting for Leontes to fully repent before returning to him.)
Paulina tells everyone not to be afraid, as her spell is “lawful.” Hermione embraces Leontes, and everyone remarks that she seems to be alive. Paulina tells Hermione that her daughter Perdita has been found. Hermione says that she “preserved” herself in the hopes of seeing her daughter one day, because the oracle gave her hope that Perdita would live.
The play has now miraculously reached a happy conclusion, as Leontes’ family is back in order, and he is reunited with his beloved wife. Hermione’s vague language about “preserving” herself keeps the precise nature of the statue ambiguous, whether it was a miraculous return or she was never actually a statue.
Hermione asks where Perdita has been living, but Paulina tells her there will be time to learn everything later. She encourages everyone to enjoy their good fortune, and tells them, “go together, / You precious winners all.” She says she, meanwhile will spend the rest of her life lamenting the death of her husband Antigonus.
Leontes tells Paulina not to be sad, and says that she should take a new husband. He suggests that she wed Camillo, who he says has proved his “worth and honesty.” Leontes begs pardon from both Hermione and Polixenes that he ever suspected the two of them had an affair. He tells Hermione that their daughter is engaged to Polixenes’ son Florizell. He suggests that everyone should go and fill each other in on what each person has done in the sixteen years since Hermione’s supposed death, and everyone leaves the stage together.
By encouraging Paulina to move on from her tragic past, and look toward a happier future, Leontes is also encouraging the play itself to fully become a comedy. The engagement between Florizell and Perdita joins them in love, while also cementing the re-established friendship between their two fathers, with which the play began.