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The Winter’s Tale
Act 5, scene 2

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

The “tale” of The Winter’s Tale unfolds in scenes set sixteen years apart. In the first part of the play, Leontes, king…

Act 1, scene 1

Archidamus, a Bohemian courtier, exclaims about the magnificent hospitality he has found in Sicilia. Camillo explains about the long friendship…

Act 1, scene 2

Leontes suddenly grows insanely jealous of the friendship between his queen, Hermione, and his visiting friend Polixenes. Leontes forces Camillo…

Act 2, scene 1

Leontes learns of the departure of Polixenes and Camillo and has Hermione arrested for adultery and treason. He announces that…

Act 2, scene 2

Paulina attempts to visit Hermione in prison. Learning that the queen has given birth to a baby girl, Paulina decides…

Act 2, scene 3

Paulina brings the baby to the tormented Leontes, who first orders the baby burned, then orders Antigonus to take the…

Act 3, scene 1

The couriers, en route from Delphos with the oracle’s response, discuss the ceremony they observed and express their hopes for…

Act 3, scene 2

As Hermione tries to defend herself in open court, the oracle is read and she is declared chaste and Polixenes…

Act 3, scene 3

Antigonus leaves the baby in Bohemia, where Polixenes is king. In a sudden storm, the ship sinks and Antigonus is…

Act 4, scene 1

Father Time appears and bridges the sixteen-year gap following the abandonment of Perdita in Bohemia.

Act 4, scene 2

Camillo asks permission to return to Sicilia. Polixenes refuses his request and asks Camillo instead to go with him in…

Act 4, scene 3

Autolycus, a con man, steals the shepherd’s son’s money and decides to use the upcoming sheep-shearing feast as an occasion…

Act 4, scene 4

At the sheepshearing feast, Florizell and Perdita declare their love before the disguised Polixenes and Camillo. When Polixenes orders Florizell…

Act 5, scene 1

Paulina insists that Leontes must not remarry, despite the urgings of his courtiers. Florizell and Perdita arrive, and are greeted…

Act 5, scene 2

Autolycus learns from courtiers that Leontes’ lost daughter has been found; he then meets the newly elevated shepherd and shepherd’s…

Act 5, scene 3

Leontes, Polixenes, Perdita, Florizell, and Camillo go with Paulina to view the statue of Hermione. Leontes grieves over her death,…

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Scene 2
Enter Autolycus and a Gentleman.

AUTOLYCUS Beseech you, sir, were you present at this
 relation?
FIRST GENTLEMAN I was by at the opening of the fardel,
 heard the old shepherd deliver the manner how he
5 found it, whereupon, after a little amazedness, we
 were all commanded out of the chamber. Only this,
 methought, I heard the shepherd say: he found the
 child.
AUTOLYCUS I would most gladly know the issue of it.
FIRST GENTLEMAN 10I make a broken delivery of the
 business, but the changes I perceived in the King
 and Camillo were very notes of admiration. They
 seemed almost, with staring on one another, to tear
 the cases of their eyes. There was speech in their
15 dumbness, language in their very gesture. They
 looked as they had heard of a world ransomed, or
 one destroyed. A notable passion of wonder appeared
 in them, but the wisest beholder that knew
 no more but seeing could not say if th’ importance
20 were joy or sorrow; but in the extremity of the one it
 must needs be.

Enter another Gentleman.

 Here comes a gentleman that happily knows more.—
 The news, Rogero?
SECOND GENTLEMAN Nothing but bonfires. The oracle
25 is fulfilled: the King’s daughter is found! Such a

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ACT 5. SC. 2

 deal of wonder is broken out within this hour that
 ballad makers cannot be able to express it.

Enter another Gentleman.

 Here comes the Lady Paulina’s steward. He can
 deliver you more.—How goes it now, sir? This news
30 which is called true is so like an old tale that the
 verity of it is in strong suspicion. Has the King
 found his heir?
THIRD GENTLEMAN Most true, if ever truth were pregnant
 by circumstance. That which you hear you’ll
35 swear you see, there is such unity in the proofs. The
 mantle of Queen Hermione’s, her jewel about the
 neck of it, the letters of Antigonus found with it,
 which they know to be his character, the majesty of
 the creature in resemblance of the mother, the
40 affection of nobleness which nature shows above
 her breeding, and many other evidences proclaim
 her with all certainty to be the King’s daughter. Did
 you see the meeting of the two kings?
SECOND GENTLEMAN No.
THIRD GENTLEMAN 45Then have you lost a sight which
 was to be seen, cannot be spoken of. There might
 you have beheld one joy crown another, so and in
 such manner that it seemed sorrow wept to take
 leave of them, for their joy waded in tears. There
50 was casting up of eyes, holding up of hands, with
 countenance of such distraction that they were to
 be known by garment, not by favor. Our king, being
 ready to leap out of himself for joy of his found
 daughter, as if that joy were now become a loss,
55 cries “O, thy mother, thy mother!” then asks Bohemia
 forgiveness, then embraces his son-in-law, then
 again worries he his daughter with clipping her.
 Now he thanks the old shepherd, which stands by

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 like a weather-bitten conduit of many kings’ reigns.
60 I never heard of such another encounter, which
 lames report to follow it and undoes description to
 do it.
SECOND GENTLEMAN What, pray you, became of Antigonus,
 that carried hence the child?
THIRD GENTLEMAN 65Like an old tale still, which will
 have matter to rehearse though credit be asleep and
 not an ear open: he was torn to pieces with a bear.
 This avouches the shepherd’s son, who has not only
 his innocence, which seems much, to justify him,
70 but a handkerchief and rings of his that Paulina
 knows.
FIRST GENTLEMAN What became of his bark and his
 followers?
THIRD GENTLEMAN Wracked the same instant of their
75 master’s death and in the view of the shepherd, so
 that all the instruments which aided to expose the
 child were even then lost when it was found. But O,
 the noble combat that ’twixt joy and sorrow was
 fought in Paulina. She had one eye declined for the
80 loss of her husband, another elevated that the
 oracle was fulfilled. She lifted the Princess from the
 earth, and so locks her in embracing as if she would
 pin her to her heart that she might no more be in
 danger of losing.
FIRST GENTLEMAN 85The dignity of this act was worth the
 audience of kings and princes, for by such was it
 acted.
THIRD GENTLEMAN One of the prettiest touches of all,
 and that which angled for mine eyes—caught the
90 water, though not the fish—was when at the relation
 of the Queen’s death—with the manner how
 she came to ’t bravely confessed and lamented by
 the King—how attentiveness wounded his daughter,

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 till, from one sign of dolor to another, she did,
95 with an “Alas,” I would fain say bleed tears, for I am
 sure my heart wept blood. Who was most marble
 there changed color; some swooned, all sorrowed.
 If all the world could have seen ’t, the woe had been
 universal.
FIRST GENTLEMAN 100Are they returned to the court?
THIRD GENTLEMAN No. The Princess hearing of her
 mother’s statue, which is in the keeping of
 Paulina—a piece many years in doing and now
 newly performed by that rare Italian master, Julio
105 Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could
 put breath into his work, would beguile Nature of
 her custom, so perfectly he is her ape; he so near to
 Hermione hath done Hermione that they say one
 would speak to her and stand in hope of answer.
110 Thither with all greediness of affection are they
 gone, and there they intend to sup.
SECOND GENTLEMAN I thought she had some great
 matter there in hand, for she hath privately twice or
 thrice a day, ever since the death of Hermione,
115 visited that removed house. Shall we thither and
 with our company piece the rejoicing?
FIRST GENTLEMAN Who would be thence that has the
 benefit of access? Every wink of an eye some new
 grace will be born. Our absence makes us unthrifty
120 to our knowledge. Let’s along.
The Three Gentlemen exit.
AUTOLYCUS Now, had I not the dash of my former life
 in me, would preferment drop on my head. I
 brought the old man and his son aboard the Prince,
 told him I heard them talk of a fardel and I know
125 not what. But he at that time, overfond of the
 shepherd’s daughter—so he then took her to be—
 who began to be much seasick, and himself little

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 better, extremity of weather continuing, this mystery
 remained undiscovered. But ’tis all one to
130 me, for had I been the finder-out of this secret, it
 would not have relished among my other
 discredits.

Enter Shepherd and Shepherd’s Son,
both dressed in rich clothing.


 Here come those I have done good to against my
 will, and already appearing in the blossoms of their
135 fortune.
SHEPHERD Come, boy, I am past more children, but thy
 sons and daughters will be all gentlemen born.
SHEPHERD’S SON, to Autolycus You are well met, sir.
 You denied to fight with me this other day because I
140 was no gentleman born. See you these clothes? Say
 you see them not and think me still no gentleman
 born. You were best say these robes are not gentlemen
 born. Give me the lie, do, and try whether I am
 not now a gentleman born.
AUTOLYCUS 145I know you are now, sir, a gentleman born.
SHEPHERD’S SON Ay, and have been so any time these
 four hours.
SHEPHERD And so have I, boy.
SHEPHERD’S SON So you have—but I was a gentleman
150 born before my father. For the King’s son took me
 by the hand and called me brother, and then the
 two kings called my father brother, and then the
 Prince my brother and the Princess my sister called
 my father father; and so we wept, and there was the
155 first gentlemanlike tears that ever we shed.
SHEPHERD We may live, son, to shed many more.
SHEPHERD’S SON Ay, or else ’twere hard luck, being in
 so preposterous estate as we are.
AUTOLYCUS I humbly beseech you, sir, to pardon me all

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ACT 5. SC. 2

160 the faults I have committed to your Worship and to
 give me your good report to the Prince my master.
SHEPHERD Prithee, son, do, for we must be gentle now
 we are gentlemen.
SHEPHERD’S SON, to Autolycus Thou wilt amend thy
165 life?
AUTOLYCUS Ay, an it like your good Worship.
SHEPHERD’S SON Give me thy hand. I will swear to the
 Prince thou art as honest a true fellow as any is in
 Bohemia.
SHEPHERD 170You may say it, but not swear it.
SHEPHERD’S SON Not swear it, now I am a gentleman?
 Let boors and franklins say it; I’ll swear it.
SHEPHERD How if it be false, son?
SHEPHERD’S SON If it be ne’er so false, a true gentleman
175 may swear it in the behalf of his friend.—And
 I’ll swear to the Prince thou art a tall fellow of thy
 hands and that thou wilt not be drunk; but I know
 thou art no tall fellow of thy hands and that thou
 wilt be drunk. But I’ll swear it, and I would thou
180 wouldst be a tall fellow of thy hands.
AUTOLYCUS I will prove so, sir, to my power.
SHEPHERD’S SON Ay, by any means prove a tall fellow. If
 I do not wonder how thou dar’st venture to be
 drunk, not being a tall fellow, trust me not. Hark,
185 the Kings and Princes, our kindred, are going to see
 the Queen’s picture. Come, follow us. We’ll be thy
 good masters.
They exit.