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Written by William Shakespeare

The play opens when King Leontes of Sicilia begs his childhood friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia, to extend his visit to Sicilia.

Polixenes says he can not as he has been away for nine months.

However after Leontes pregnant wife, Hermione pleads with him to stay he agrees.

Leontes in the meantime is possessed by jealousy and is convinced Hermione and Polixenes are having an affair.

Leontes in return orders Camillo, his servant to poison Polixenes. However in order to save his life Camillo tells Polixenes of Leontes plan and the two men flee.

Furious Leontes now publicly accuses his wife of infidelity and declares her unborn child as illegitimate.

He throws her in prison and sends for the Oracle of Delphi who he is sure will confirm his suspicions.

Hermione gives birth to a baby girl and her friend Paulina takes the girl to the king.

Leontes grows angry and orders Paulina’s husband Lord Antigonus to take the child and abandon it.

While Antigonus is away the answer comes from Delphi who declares Hermione and Polixenes are innocent.

Leontes will have no heir until his daughter is found.

Leontes’s son Mamillus is found dead after suffering a wasting sickness brought on by the accusations against his mother.

Hermione collapses at the news and Paulina reveals that Hermione is in fact dead.

Antigonus abandons the baby .

He believes Hermione appeared to him in a dream and tells him to name the baby Perdita.

Shortly after leaving the baby Antigonus is killed by a bear and Perdita is raised by a shepherd.

Sixteen years pass and Prince Florizel, the son of Polixenes, falls in love with Perdita.

His father and Camillo attend in disguise and watch Florizel and Perdita marry.

Revealing his disguise Polixenes demands that his son never see Perdita again.

With Camillo’s help Florizel and Perdita travel to Sicilla after using the clothes of a local rogue, Autolycus. They are joined by the shepherd, his son, a clown.

In Sicilia Leontes is mourning his loss, and greets the son of his old friend effusively.

Florizel pretends to be on a diplomatic mission for his father but his cover is blown when Polixenes and Camillo both arrive in Sicilia.

The next part of the play is told to the audience by a gentlemen of the Sicilian court.

The shepherd tells everyone his story of how Perdita was found and Leontes realises that she is his daughter leading to general rejoicing.

The company then travel to Paulina's home in the country, where a statue of Hermione has just been completed. The sight of his wife makes Leontes feel distraught.

To everyone’s amazement the statue comes to life – it is Hermione.

As the play draws to an end Paulina and Camillo are engaged and the company celebrates the miracles.

Summary

  • The play is one of Shakespeare's comedies and the resolution ends with forgiveness and love.
  • The play is set in Sicilia.
  • The play moves between country and court.
  • Leontes is the king of Sicilia husband to Hermione and father to Perdita and Mamillus.
  • Leontes jealousy is the cause of all problems in the play including the separation of Perdita and death of Mamillus and Hermione.
  • The play focuses on the themes of jealousy, redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • The play defies the laws of time and space as it moves between places and there is a lapse of sixteen years.
  • The play is split into two halves Act I-III symbolises the winter of the play.
  • Between Act III and IV sixteen years pass and the arrival of Perdita in Act IV symbolises the move from winter to spring.
  • Perdita and Florizel fall in love.
  • The young couples love helps to bring the play fall circle.
  • The young couple also help to bring reconciliation and forgiveness to the play.
  • The play relies on miracles to reach its resolution.
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