A line-by-line translation

The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale Translation Table of Contents

One of Shakespeare’s late romance plays, The Winter’s Tale tells the story of King Leontes’ jealousy of his wife Hermione. Suspecting their newborn daughter is the product of Hermione’s affair with his friend Polixenes, Leontes orders that Hermione go to prison and that their daughter should be abandoned. Thanks to Paulina and Antigonus’ efforts to save the child, she grows up into a lovely young woman, Perdita, and falls in love with Florizel. What starts off as a tragedy turns to comedy, as the lovers hope to wed, and Leontes repents. A little magic reunites Leontes’ family, once shattered by envy. The Shakescleare version of The Winter’s Tale includes the original play alongside a modern English translation, which will help you make sense of its famous lines, like the notorious stage direction “Exit, pursued by a bear,” and “innocence shall make / False accusation blush, and / Tremble at patience.”

Act 1, Scene 1

Two servants discuss the King of Sicily's (Leontes) long-term friendship with the visiting King of Bohemia (Polixenes).

Act 1, Scene 2

Leontes imagines Hermione is having an affair with Polixenes. He orders Camillo to poison him, but he helps him escape.

Act 2, Scene 1

Leontes takes his pregnant wife from their son and throws her in prison. His advisors beg him to stop his madness.

Act 2, Scene 2

Paulina visits Hermione in prison and smuggles the newborn baby out.

Act 2, Scene 3

Paulina presents the baby to Leontes as his own, but he rejects it, ordering Antigonus to abandon it in the wilderness.

Act 3, Scene 1

Two of Leontes's servants arrive from Delphi, where they've consulted Apollo's oracle about Hermione's potential guilt.

Act 3, Scene 2

Leontes puts Hermione on trial, declaring her guilty despite the oracle. She and Mamillius are reported dead.

Act 3, Scene 3

Antigonus abandons Perdita in Bohemia. Though a bear instantly kills him, two shepherds find the baby and adopt her.

Act 4, Scene 1

Time enters, and explains that sixteen years have passed and Perdita has grown into a beautiful woman.

Act 4, Scene 2

Sixteen years later, Camillo longs to return to Sicilia, but Polixenes convinces him to spy on his son's secret romance.

Act 4, Scene 3

Autolycus, a pickpocket, robs Perdita's foster brother and then follows him to the spring sheep-shearing festival.

Act 4, Scene 4

Florizel and Perdita nearly get married at the festival, but Polixenes intervenes. Camillo helps the lovers escape.

Act 5, Scene 1

Paulina leads Leontes in daily repentance for his crimes. Florizel and Perdita arrive, with Polixenes close behind.

Act 5, Scene 2

Eyewitnesses tell how Leontes realized Perdita was his daughter, he and Polixenes made up, and the lovers got engaged.

Act 5, Scene 3

Paulina reveals a "statue" of Hermione which is actually the queen, alive after all these years. Everyone is reunited.
Bailey sincox
About the Translator: Bailey Sincox

Bailey Sincox is a PhD student in English at Harvard University, where she researches the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her teaching experience includes accessible online courses with edX on Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. She holds a Master's from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's from Duke University.