Character Directory


Leontes is the King of Sicilia, husband of Hermione and father of Perdita. Leontes' insane jealousy is the disorder at the centre of the Tragedy that comprises the first half of the play. In 1.2, convinced that Hermione has committed adultery with King Polixenes of Bohemia, Leontes orders her tried for treason. In 2.3, believing the newborn Perdita to be Polixenes' child, he condemns her to abandonment in the wilderness. Even when the oracle of Apollo declares Hermione innocent in 3.2, Leontes refuses to believe it. Finally, the death from grief of his son Mamillius, taken as an act of vengeance by Apollo, convinces him, and he repents. However, Hermione is apparently dead of grief also, and the mournful Leontes 'shuts himself up' (4.1.19), emerging only in Act 5, after 16 years of 'saint-like sorrow' (5.1.2), to learn that both Perdita and Hermione have survived. 

Shakespeare gives Leontes some weight as a particular person: he is about 30 in Act 1; he has inspired love in Hermione and Mamillius and demonstrates his own love for his son; he is conscious of public opinion when he sends messengers to the oracle to 'Give rest to th' minds of others' (2.1.191) and holds a trial that he may 'be clear'd / Of being tyrannous' (3.2.5). Nevertheless, his personality is not well developed, for it is not as a person that Leontes has importance. He functions as a symbol of disorder and chaos; he is not intended to be a realistic human being so much as an obstacle to happiness. He is villainous because the story calls for villainy, not from any well-established motive. His madness is as much a surprise to the other characters as it is to the audience or reader. Leontes is thus also a victim, a man rendered suddenly insane, subject to the whims of fate. It is highly significant that it takes an act of divine intervention to effect his cure. One of the lessons of the play—and of the Romances in general—is that humankind depends on providence for happiness in an insecure world.

At the close of 3.2 Leontes subsides into grief, and there is a sense of calm acceptance of evil's consequences that resembles a tragedy's close. However, Leontes' repentance occurs as abruptly as the sin that made it necessary; it fails to produce any spiritual growth or any profound expressions of torment such as those offered by Othello and Lear. His repentance, like his jealousy, is archetypal. Still, though Leontes' psychology is not explored, his repentance nevertheless serves as a symbol of the gentler world in which the climactic reconciliations can occur.


Mamillius is the son of King Leontes of Sicilia and Queen Hermione, who dies of grief when his father persecutes his mother unjustly. In 1.1 Mamillius is presented as the pride of his parents and the entire kingdom; his future as a man and ruler looks brilliant. These sentiments, however, will soon seem ironic. In 1.2 and 2.1 he appears a likeable boy, especially in 2.1, when he jests with his mother's ladies-in-waiting and tells his mother a story 'of sprites and goblins' because 'a sad tale's best for winter' (2.1.26, 25). The remark confirms our sense of coming tragedy. Mamillius dies of grief, off-stage, during his mother's trial. The shock of his death, reported in 3.2.144-145, stirs his father, too late, to recognize his own injustice. The death of Mamillius, a completely innocent victim, demonstrates the appalling cost of Leontes' madness; it is the low point of the play's tragic development.  Shakespeare created Mamillius from the mere mention of the analogous figure in his source, the prose romance Pandosto by Robert Greene. His name may have been derived from the title of two earlier romances by Greene, Mamillia (1583, 1593).


Camillo is an adviser of King Leontes of Sicilia. The mad Leontes suspects his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia, of committing adultery with his wife, and in 1.2 he orders Camillo to poison Polixenes. Instead, Camillo informs Polixenes and flees with him to Bohemia. Camillo reappears there in the second half of the play, set 16 years later. He has been a faithful adviser to Polixenes, and in 4.4 he helps the king thwart the romance between Prince Florizel and a shepherd girl, Perdita.  However, he then helps the couple flee to Sicilia, where it is discovered that Perdita is the lost daughter of Leontes, and the play ends in an atmosphere of general reconciliation and love. 

Camillo represents a familiar character type in the romantic literature on which The Winter's Tale is based: the servant who aids his master by disobeying him. As such, he is one of the good people who fight the evil that infects the play's world. Only providence, supported by the power of love, can bring the play's characters through to the happy ending, but human agency, chiefly that of Camillo and Paulina, is an important auxiliary. Thus, Camillo supports a major theme of the play, that humanity must energetically use its capacity for good. Fittingly, he becomes engaged to Paulina, by royal command, at the play's close.


Antigonus is a nobleman at the court of King Leontes of Sicilia. Antigonus, like his wife, Paulina, defends Queen Hermione against the king's unjust accusation of adultery, and he protests against the cruelty of killing the infant Perdita, whom the king believes is illegitimate. Leontes threatens him with death for failing to control Paulina's bitter criticism and orders the old man to take the baby and abandon it in the wilderness. Antigonus accepts the king's order and leaves the child on the coast of Bohemia, where he is killed and eaten by a Bear. Shakespeare has Antigonus die partly so that his knowledge of Perdita's whereabouts will not be available to the repentant Leontes of Act 3. But, more important, the old man's death has a moral point. The bear provides a particularly appalling end for Antigonus, an emblem of the sin of co-operating with evil. Though he is a generally sympathetic figure, humorous when admittedly overwhelmed by Paulina, and courageous in his initial protests to Leontes, he must be compared with his wife, who resists the king's tyranny. Antigonus, though reluctant, is weak; he permits duty to the king to overrule his sense of justice and becomes the agent of Leontes' evil madness. He even comes to believe in Hermione's guilt, as he declares in his soliloquy before abandoning Perdita. 

Antigonus' death is part of the workings of providence that underlies the play. At the same time, since he is himself a victim of the king's madness, his death—like that of Mamillius and the Mariner—is an example of the human cost of evil. Antigonus comes to embody the tragic developments of the first half of the play, and his death signals their end, as the drama moves from tragedy to redemption. 

Antigonus undergoes a modest redemption himself. The hearty old gentleman who invokes 'the whole dungy earth' (2.1.157) and acknowledges his overwhelming wife with a 'La you now' (2.3.50) is altered by the experiences fate ordains for him. He dares to criticize the king, even if he cannot persist, and he assumes responsibility for Perdita. In his dream of Hermione, he also seems to have a supernatural visitation from the dead. As he leaves Perdita, he recognizes his involvement with evil, despairing, 'Weep I cannot, / But my heart bleeds; and most accurs'd am I /To be by oath enjoin'd to this' (3.3.51-53). About to die, he speaks in a poetic diction that elevates him to a nobler level.


Cleomenes (Cleomines) and Dion are followers of King Leontes of Sicilia. Cleomenes and Dion are virtually indistinguishable, and they share their only significant function, so they are treated together here. Seeking support for his accusation that Queen Hermione is guilty of adultery, King Leontes sends them to consult the oracle of Apollo. They describe the oracle in awestruck tones, with Dion ecstatically reminiscing, '0, the sacrifice! / How ceremonious, solemn and unearthly' (3.1.6-7), and Cleomenes declaring that •the ear-deafening voice o' th' Oracle, / Kin to Jove's thunder, so surpris'd my sense, / That I was nothing' (3.1.9-11). Their remarks stand in for the actual appearance of a god—a feature of the other Romances—and introduce the climactic moment of the play's first half, the checking of Leontes' madness through the apparent intervention of Apollo. However, when the oracle's pronouncement is delivered in 3.2, Cleomenes and Dion speak only half a line, in unison, swearing that they have not read the message. They reappear briefly in 5.1, but they are merely pawns of the plot.


Polixenes is the King of Bohemia. In 1.2 Polixenes, visiting his old friend King Leontes of Sicilia, is persuaded by Leontes' wife, Queen Hermione, to extend his stay. However, Leontes goes mad and imagines adultery between Polixenes and Hermione. Warned by Camillo that Leontes intends to poison him, Polixenes Hees to Bohemia and is not seen again until late in the play.  Leontes believes his infant daughter, Perdita, is the illegitimate child of Polixenes, and orders her abandoned in the wilderness. In Act 4, 16 years later, Polixenes' son. Prince Florizel, falls in love with Perdita, who has been raised by shepherds in Bohemia. Polixenes opposes the match of a prince and a shepherdess, and the couple, pursued by the king, flees to Sicilia.  There Perdita's identity is revealed, the couple becomes engaged, and Polixenes is reconciled with his old friend in 5.3, the play's final scene. 

Polixenes is a rather colorless victim in 1.2—though his perspicacity in reading the situation contrasts sharply with Leontes' obtuseness—and he is mostly an observer in 5.3. In Act 4 he is more prominent, even though his role is a stereotype of the statusconscious adult who opposes young love. He is charmed by Perdita at the shepherds' festival, but after he removes his disguise, he threatens her with 'a death as cruel for thee / As thou art tender to 't' (4.4.441-442). Thus, in the romantic Comedy of the play's second half, Polixenes takes the role of villain that Leontes had in the Tragedy of the first half.


Florizel is the son of King Polixenes of Bohemia and suitor of Perdita. Florizel defies his father's anger at his intention to marry Perdita, a shepherd girl deemed unsuitable for the heir to the kingdom, and the couple flees to Sicilia.  There her identity as the daughter of King Leontes, is discovered, leading to the couple's formal engagement and the reconciliation of their fathers. Florizel is present in only three scenes—4.4, 5.1, and 5.3—and he does not speak in 5.3. Moreover, he is something of a cardboard hero, a stereotype of the chivalric young knight of traditional romantic literature—brave, handsome, and passionately loyal to his lover but with little further in the way of personality. Nevertheless, though his emotional range is restricted, Florizel is important to the play, for his cheerful adoration of Perdita is a charming and forceful manifestation of young love, and his courageous persistence in the face of Polixenes' wrath permits the pair to remain together long enough for the solution to emerge. He is thus an emblem of the power of love to withstand tyrannous opposition. His name probably comes from that of a similar hero, Florizel de Niquea, the protagonist of a chivalric romance by the 16th-century Spanish author Feliciano de Silva (c. 1492-1558).


Archidamus is a follower of King Polixenes of Bohemia. In 1.1 Archidamus exchanges diplomatic courtesies with Camillo, an adviser of King Leontes of Sicilia. Their conversation informs the audience of the play's opening situation. Archidamus has no real personality, but his fluent command of courtly language lends the episode a distancing formality, appropriately introducing an extravagant and romantic story. Nevertheless, his last line, 'If the king had no son, they would desire to live on crutches till he had one' (1.1.44-45). closes the scene with a harshness that intimates the misery to come in the play's tragic first half.

Old Shepherd

Shepherd is the foster-father of Perdita. The mad King Leontes of Sicilia, believing his infant daughter, Perdita, to be illegitimate, orders her abandoned in the wilderness.  In 3.3 the Shepherd discovers her, wrapped in rich fabrics and supplied with identifying documents. He raises her as his daughter. In 4.4, 16 years later, the Shepherd hosts a country festival, at which King Polixenes threatens him with death, for Prince Florizel has fallen in love with Perdita, offending the royal dignity. The Shepherd and his son, the Clown, try to show Perdita's documents to the king, to prove that they are not related to her and should not be punished, but they are tricked by Autolycus into joining the fleeing couple and sailing to Sicilia. There, Perdita's identity is discovered and the Shepherd is amply rewarded; in 5.2 he and the Clown display their new finery, having been created gentlemen by King Leontes.


Clown is the foster brother of Perdita. The Clown is present in 3.3 when the abandoned infant Perdita is discovered by his father, the Shepherd. In Act 4, 16 years later, the Clown is part of Perdita's pastoral world, though he has no direct contact with her. As his designation implies, he is an oafish rustic, a likeable and well-meaning fellow who is somewhat stupid and unconsciously comical. In 3.3 he is unwittingly funny when describing the horrible deaths of Anticonus and the Mariner, helping to establish the comic tone of the play's second half. A gullible victim, he is robbed by Autolycus in 4.3, and in 4.4, at the shepherds' festival, his foolish pleasure in buying gifts for his girlfriend, Mopsa, adds to our enjoyment of the scene. He declares to the peddler (Autolycus in disguise), 'If I were not in love with Mopsa, thou shouldst take no money of me; but being enthralled as I am, it will also be the bondage of certain ribbons and gloves' (4.4.233-236). 

Later in 4.4, when King Polixenes, angry at Perdita's love for his son Florizel, threatens the Shepherd with death, the Clown encourages his father to disclaim his adopted daughter. Autolycus offers to take them to the king for a fee, but he tricks them onto the ship carrying Perdita and Florizel to Sicilia, where Perdita's identity as King Leontes' daughter is discovered. The Shepherd and the Clown are rewarded with a raise in status, and in 5.2 the Clown comically brags of being 'a gentleman born . . . and [having] been so any time these four hours' (5.2.134-136). Despite his foolishness and his single act .of cowardice—understandable in a shepherd facing a king's wrath—the Clown is clearly a good person. As such, he contributes to the atmosphere of human virtue that characterizes the second half of the play, countering the evil of the first.


Autolycus is a vagabond thief who wanders through Bohemia. Autolycus appears, singing and bragging about his career as a petty thief, in 4.3. He picks the pocket of the Clown and proposes to find further victims at the sheep-shearing festival, making 'the shearers prove sheep' (4.3.117). In 4.4 he attends the festival disguised as a peddler, singing songs, selling trinkets, and picking pockets.  His songs and patter, his cheerful irresponsibility, and his insouciant delight in life add greatly to our enjoyment of the rustic scene. When King Polixenes rages against the love of his son Florizel and the shepherdess Perdita, Autolycus exploits the situation to rob Perdita's foster-father, the Shepherd, who fears punishment and wants the king to know that Perdita was a foundling. Autolycus terrifies the old man and his son, the Clown, with accounts of the tortures they can expect and then offers, for money, to help them reach the king. However, he actually turns them over to the fleeing Florizel, in the hope of reward In this way evidence of Perdita's identity gets to Sicilia—she is the long-lost daughter of the Sicilian King Leontes-resulting in reunions for the play's major characters and the incidental enrichment of the Shepherd and Clown with vast rewards. In 5.2 Autolycus admits that his life has earned no success, and he turns to flattering his former victims, now newly made gentlemen, in the hope of employment. 

Autolycus is for the most part a charming rogue. He contributes greatly to the atmosphere of gaiety that surrounds the shepherds' world and thus to the comic tone of the play's second half. His crimes are petty compared with those of Leontes in the tragic first half of the play, but in any case it is part of the virtue of the pastoral world that it has room for this comical villain. The importance of mercy as a moral virtue is emphasized by the fact that Autolycus' depredations are accepted as a part of life. He even has a place in the Play’s final forgiveness and reconciliation, though the playwright could easily have left him in Bohemia Autolycus represents the irrepressible mischievousness of human nature; that he selfishly views the world entirely in terms of his own convenience is deplorable but he compensates through his contagious pleasure in simple things and the delightful songs in which he expresses this pleasure. 

Autolycus resembles traditional comic characters but he is not quite classifiable. He is too sophisticated for a rustic Clown, nor is he a Fool, for he is not a professional jester. He does, however 'resemble a Fool in his mockery, his songs, and his disinterested position relative to the main developments. He resembles Falstaff in his anomalous social position his predatory nature, and his pretensions to an anti-ethic (he boasts of a piece of'knavery', -therein am I constant to my profession' [4.4.682-683]). Both characters. though amoral, are admirably independent and the conflict of our judgments on the two traits yields subtle humor, as our own pretensions and secret predilections are exposed. 

Autolycus' nature (like Falstaff’s) gradually changes At first he charms us, and we are inclined to forgive his crimes. However, as the shepherds' festival closes he seems less pleasant, crying, -Ha, ha! what a fool Honesty is!' (4.4.596) and gloating over his victims who are sympathetic characters. When he plots how to profit from the desperate young lovers' situation, he is still funny, but we can no longer ignore his amorality, for it threatens the hero and heroine. His terrorizing of the Shepherd with truly horrible descriptions of torture adds to our unease, and Autolycus acquires a darkly satirical cast as he replicates Polixenes' wrath while himself disguised as a courtier. He has changed sides in Shakespeare's opposition of pastoral innocence and sophisticated machinations. It is the Clown who is the comic character in 5.2, while Autolycus is merely another practitioner of the courtier's bowing and scraping to which he at first seemed antithetical Autolycus' only real connection to the plot, his role in preventing the Shepherd from revealing Perdita's origins too early, comes from the play's main source the novella Pandosto by Robert Greene in which a servant of the prince—and Autolycus was once Florizel s servant—performs this function. However making this figure a vagabond and thief was Shakespeare's invention. The playwright probably took the idea as well as the name Autolycus, from Ovid’s description of the god Mercury's son in The Metamorphoses Shakespeare's Autolycus brags of the connection, -My father named me Autolycus; who, being as I am, littered under Mercury, was likewise a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles' (4.3.24-26).


Mariner is seaman who sets Antigonus ashore in Bohemia in 3.3 for the purpose of abandoning the infant Perdita. The Mariner dislikes their task, which has been ordered by the mad King Leontes, and he fears that the gods will dislike it as well. He warns Antigonus to hurry because bad weather is approaching and because the coast is famous for its wild animals. He is borne out on both points as a storm arises—he perishes in it, as is reported in 3.3.90-94—and Antigonus is eaten by a Bear. The Mariner offers a point of view outside the story, that of the common man who pities the infant and fears the gods. Like a Chorus, he provides a brief commentary on developments. 

The Mariner's death has a dual significance in the play's scheme. A good man, repelled by Perdita's fate, he is himself a victim of Leontes' madness. As such he represents the human cost exacted by evil. On the other hand, as Antigonus' guide, he is Leontes' agent, albeit an unwilling one. His death is part of the necessary workings of providence, for the evil of Leontes' deeds must be thoroughly extirpated as a condition of redemption, and the Mariner, like Antigonus, embodies that evil to some degree.


Gaoler is the custodian of the imprisoned Queen Hermione. When Lady Paulina visits the unjustly incarcerated queen, the Gaoler is sympathetic—calling her 'a worthy lady / And one who much I honour' (2.2.5-6)—but he sticks to his duty, only allowing her to see Hermione's ladyin-waiting, Emilia, and only in his presence. When Paulina proposes to take Hermione's daughter—born in the prison—to the king, the Gaoler is reluctant, saying, 'I know not what I shall incur to pass it, / Having no warrant' (2.2.57-58), but in the face of Paulina's insistence he accedes. This weak figure provides a foil for Paulina, establishing her as the powerful presence that will dominate several later scenes; at the same time, by reminding us of the authority he represents, he contributes to our growing sense of tragedy.


Hermione is the wife of King Leontes of Sicilia and mother of Perdita. Unjustly accused of adultery by her mad husband, Hermione gives birth in prison to Perdita, whom Leontes condemns to be abandoned in the wilderness; then her son Mamillius dies just as Leontes sentences her to death. The shock of this loss kills her, according to her ally Lady Paulina. However, Paulina keeps Hermione alive in secret, awaiting the time when Leontes shall have sufficiently repented. In 5.3, after Perdita has miraculously reappeared, Paulina offers to display a statue of Hermione, which is actually the still-living queen herself. As the others watch in awe, Hermione comes to life, and the play closes with reunion and reconciliation. 

Hermione is a passive but highly important figure in the play. Her fate in the tragic first half makes her an emblem of a major theme of the play—indeed, of all Shakespeare's Romances—the critical role of providence in securing human happiness in an unreliable world. Even more, she helps illustrate that the efficacy of providence depends on the moral strength of good people in the face of evil. Her dignity in the face other undeserved fate is highly impressive. Even the steady strength of the poetry she speaks contrasts favorably with the hysterical ranting of Leontes. She puts her faith in providence, saying, 'if powers divine / Behold our human actions (as they do), /1 doubt not then but innocence shall make / False accusation blush' (3.2.28-31). Upon her reappearance she restates this attitude when she invokes a blessing on Perdita—'You gods, look down, / And from your sacred vial pour your graces / Upon my daughter's head' (5.3.121-123). 

Hermione displays a loving nature that anticipates the role of Perdita in the second half of the play. Her charm is evident in 1.2, when, at Leontes' request, she persuades King Polixenes of Bohemia to extend his .visit. This arouses Leontes' jealous suspicions, but it also demonstrates Hermione's fine qualities: a readiness for friendship and an intelligent appreciation of the previous affection between her husband and Polixenes. Her capacity for love is delightfully demonstrated in 2.1, where we see her playing with Mamillius. Her evident goodness makes her apparent death all the more tragic and her apparent resurrection all the more Christlike. Although Hermione's significance diminishes in the second half, in the first—and at the conclusion—she is key to The Winter's Tale's presentation of humanity's capacity for good.


Perdita is the long-lost daughter of King Leontes and Queen Hermione of Sicilia he love of Perdita and Prince Florizel of Bohemia is the central element in the romantic Comedy that constitutes the second half of the play, balancing the Tragedy of Leontes' mad jealousy in the first Though she is prominent only in 4.4, her virtue, beauty, and charming personality make Perdita a powerful symbolic force in the remainder of the play. 

At the turning point of the play, in 3.3, the infant Perdita is abandoned in the wilderness because Leontes believes she is the offspring of Hermione’s alleged adultery with King Polixenes of Bohemia. A Shepherd adopts Perdita, and by Act 4, 16 years later, she has become a charming young woman the •Mistress o' th' Feast' (4.4.68) at the shepherds' festival Florizel's father, King Polixenes, disapproves of the love between his royal son and a peasant girl. When he attends the feast in disguise, he is charmed by Perdita, finding her 'Too noble for this place' (4.4.159) but he will not accept her as a daughter-in-law. He threatens her with death, and the couple flees to Sicilia, where Perdita's identity is discovered. This leads to their formal engagement, the reconciliation of Leontes and Polixenes, and the restoration of Queen Hermione, who has been kept in hiding. The prophecy of the oracle of Apollo—that only Perdita can restore the happiness Leontes has destroyed—is thus fulfilled. Perdita's love is essential to the workings of providence in the play's outcome, thereby supporting the play's major theme, that the moral virtue of good people is necessary for providence to function as a savior in human affairs. 

Raised as a shepherdess, Perdita is an honest, open young woman with no trace of pretension or sentimentality. She is embarrassed to be 'most goddess-like prank'd up' (4.4.10) in a fancy costume for the festival, and she is frankly worried about Polixenes' opposition to her, though more for Florizel's sake than her own. A clever lass, she briskly counters Camillo’s flattery in 4.4.110-112 and more than holds her own in the debate with Polixenes in 4.4.79-103, in which she defends the simple ways of nature against the sophistication of art. She values a maidenly decorum in sexual matters, while acknowledging the physical side of love. She mentions, for example, a 'false way' of love (4.4.151) and speaks against 'scurrilous words' (4.4. 215) in ballads, yet when Florizel jests that strewn with flowers he would be like a corpse, she replies, 'No, like a bank, for love to lie and play on: / Not like a corpse; or if—not to be buried, / But quick, and in mine arms' (4.4.130-132). 

This lovely passage is suggestive of primordial rituals of death and rebirth. Along with her remarks on the Proserpina myth and mythological flower lore in 4.4.116-126, it links her with the ancient veneration of natural fertility, of which the shepherds' festival is a survival. As Florizel puts it, 'This your sheep-shearing / Is as a meeting of the petty gods, / And you the queen on 't' (4.4.3-5). All this reinforces Perdita's association with providence. It was the protection of providence that brought the tragic first half of the play to an end, and it is the love Perdita represents that proves instrumental in effecting the final reconciliations of the second.


Paulina is the defender of Queen Hermione against the injustice other husband, King Leontes, and later the instrument of their reconciliation. Paulina boldly criticizes the king for accusing Hermione of adultery, and her courage and common sense contrast tellingly with the king's jealous madness. After failing to prevent the king from exiling Perdita, the infant daughter he believes illegitimate, Paulina enters into an amazing scheme: she stages Hermione's death and isolates her for 16 years, against the time when Leontes will have thoroughly repented. Perdita's return signals the ripeness of this plan, and Paulina reveals Hermione's existence in 5.3—in a stage-managed presentation of the long-lost queen as a statue. This revelation brings about the play's final reunion. Thus, Paulina, despite her bluff worldliness and overpowering manner, is an agent of redemption. 

Paulina thinks clearly and acts decisively; she courageously takes it on herself to defend the queen as soon as she hears other plight, and she handles the Gaoler with the powerful courtesy of the grande dame that she is. Her criticism of the king is excoriating; he is reduced to insult—calling her a 'witch' (2.3.67), a 'callat [prostitute]' (2.3.90), and a 'gross hag' (2.3.107).  When he threatens to burn her as a witch, she boldly replies, 'I care not' (2.3.113). Her boldness, however, does not always produce the envisioned results; her tactic of presenting the infant Perdita to the king merely aggravates his anger and results in the child's abandonment. Paulina alone cannot remedy the defect in the play's world—providence must see to that—but her efforts are important evidence that good has not died and may be restored. 

Paulina has often been compared to King Lear’s faithful Kent. Like him, she offers a cure for the king's madness, declaring, 'I / Do come with words as medicinal as true' (2.3.35-36). Her therapy is a raw and intrusive one. In Act 5 she continues her powerful ministrations. She reinforces Leontes' repentance by continually reminding him of the supposedly dead Hermione and demands that he vow never to take a wife without her approval. She reveals Hermione's survival with a fine theatrical sense, raising dramatic expectations of sorcery by disclaiming 'wicked powers' (5.3.91), and she prevents Hermione from disclosing too much with a hasty There's time enough for that' (5.3.128). At the close, within the atmosphere of love and reconciliation, Paulina finally permits herself to lament the loss of her own husband, Antigonus, which stirs the king to ordain her remarriage to Camillo. Her value in the world of the play is acknowledged when the king calls her one 'whose worth and honesty / Is richly noted' (5.3.144-145). The central theme of The Winter's Tale is that human moral energy must support divine providence, and Paulina's valiant efforts are a prime source of this ingredient.


Emilia is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Hermione. In 2.2, when Paulina attempts to visit the unjustly imprisoned Hermione, the Gaoler only lets her see Emilia. She tells Paulina that the queen has given birth and returns to her mistress with Paulina's suggestion that the infant be brought to the king in a bid for mercy. Emilia's role is small, and she is an uncomplicated messenger, a simple tool of the plot without any real personality.


Mopsa is a shepherdess.  Mopsa appears only at the shepherds' festival in 4.4, where she is a charming representative of rustic youth.  She is engaged to the Clown, for which she is teased by her companion, Dorcas. She and Dorcas sing a ballad with Autolycus, and their enthusiasm is infectious, contributing to the pleasure of the occasion, which contrasts sharply with the pathos and stress of the first part of the play. Mopsa is pleasingly comical as well. When she declares that she wants the Clown to buy her some sheet music, she adds naively, 'I love a ballad in print ... for then we are sure they are true' (4.4.261-262). She then supposes there is truth in a ballad about a usurer's wife who gives birth to bags of money. 

The name Mopsa was conventionally rustic, used for peasant women in several 16th-century romantic works, including the greatest of them, Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia. It may have been a feminine version of Mopsus, a name given to several mythological Greek prophets. However, Shakespeare clearly took the name directly from the play's chief source, Pandosto by Robert Greene, where Mopsa is the foster-mother ofPerdita's equivalent. Oddly, Mopsa is the only name taken from Greene, though Greene's Mopsa is the only character in Pandosto that does not reappear, under a different name, in Shakespeare's play.


Dorcas is a shepherdess and appears only in the shepherds' festival in 4.4. She speaks briefly, chiefly to tease her friend Mopsa about her engagement to the Clown, and she sings a Song with Mopsa and Autolycus. She has no personality to speak of, but she contributes to the festive atmosphere of the occasion. Dorcas' name is from the Bible (see Acts 9:36-39).


Lord are followers of King Leontes of Sicilia. A Lord, one of several present, objects to Leontes' brutal imprisonment of his Queen Hermione for adultery with King Polixenes of Bohemia. When another Lord, Antigonus, supports the first in his certainty that Hermione is innocent, the king goes so far as to admit that he has submitted the question to the oracle of Apollo. The Lords are present in 2.3 when the raging king sentences his infant daughter, Perdita, to death. Again, they and Antigonus temper the king's course somewhat, although Leontes still orders the baby abandoned in the wilderness. The Lords are present at Hermione's trial in 3.2 and a Lord announces the return of King Polixenes in 5.1, but their chief function has already been filled. They help maintain a background of outraged virtue against which the madness of Leontes stands out in the first, tragic half of the play.


Gentleman are courtiers at the court of King Leontes of Sicilia. They report to Autolycus on the off-stage encounter of Leontes and his old friend King Polixenes, whom he had earlier wronged, and of the discovery by Leontes of his long-lost daughter, Perdita. The First Gentleman knows only that something extraordinary has happened, the Second knows the result, but only the Third Gentleman can describe the events as they happened, which he does at length, in 5.2.31-103. The language of all three Gentlemen is flowery and ornate, typical of the courtly idiom of the 17th century. Although they display little individual personality, they are nevertheless interesting as miniature portraits of Jacobean courtiers. (Some editors presume that the Servant of 5.1 is another such courtier and designate him a Gentleman.) Shakespeare's presentation of crucial events through the reporting of minor characters is sometimes criticized, but here he avoids a scene that would repeat much that the audience already knows. He also provides a contrast with the play's true climax, still to come in 5.3.


Time is an allegorical figure who appears as a Chorus in The Winter's Tale. Time appears only in 4.1, where, alone on the stage, he informs us that 16 years will have passed before the play resumes in Bohemia. He briefly sums up the intervening years for King Leontes and Perdita and tells us we shall meet Florizel, the son of King Polixenes. After wishing the audience a good time, he withdraws. This isolated speech, which is virtually a Prologue, makes it clear that we are about to witness a new drama altogether. From Time's pleasant, mildly humorous manner, we sense that the Tragedy of the first half of the play will be replaced by a Comedy. 

Time's stilted language, which sounded somewhat old-fashioned even in Shakespeare's day, is arranged in rhyming couplets, unlike the speech of any other character. This is appropriate to his singular role, for as a chorus, Time is outside the world of the play and should not sound like anyone in it. Time says, 'remember well /1 mentioned a son o' th' king's' (4.1.21-22), referring to earlier passages (1.2.34, 165-170) where Florizel was spoken of but not named; the use of the first person singular here has suggested to some commentators that Time represents the author of the play—Shakespeare himself. However, this is unlikely, for as a virtually abstract figure, Time is distinctly not human. He is expressly immune from the change he brings to others—'The same I am, ere ancient'st order was, / Or what is now receiv'd' (4.1.10-11)—and as he is winged, he is visually non-human as well. The reference to his having 'mentioned' simply means—with the mild humor that characterizes this figure—that the mentioning occurred in the past, which is a function of time.

Servants Servants are workers in the household of King Leontes of Sicilia. In 2.3 a Servant informs the king of the progress of his son, Mamillius, who is ill thereby preparing the ground for the announcement by another Servant (or perhaps the same one) of the boys death m 3.2. In 5.1 a Servant announces the approach of Florizel and Perdita, describing Perdita's charms rapturously. This last Servant seems to be a Gentleman of the court, the king speaks with him of his poems about Queen Hermione. He is probably one of the Gentlemen who appear in 5.2, and many editions designate him as such. He is often referred to by commentators as the Gentleman-poet. 

Another servant is the employee of the Shepherd. The Servant appears twice in 4.4, to announce the arrival of Autolycus and the presentation of a Masque at the shepherds' festival. His comical enthusiasm heightens our pleasure in the festivities. He comments, for instance, on Autolycus' singing -O master! if you did but hear the pedlar at the door, you would never dance again after a tabor and pipe; no, the bagpipe could not move you' (4.4.183-185). He is a rustic Clown whose naivete contributes to the fun; for example, he foolishly construes Autolycus' songs as 'without bawdry', but adds 1 that they contain 'delicate burdens [choruses] of dildoes and fadings, jump her and thump her' (4.4 I 195-196).


Officers are officials of the law court assembled by King Leontes to try Queen Hermione for adultery. In 3.2.12-21 an Officer reads the formal indictment of Hermione, and in 3.2.124-129 he (or another) swears in Cleomenes and Dion, who bring a message from the oracle of Apollo. He then reads the oracle's proclamation that Hermione is innocent. As extras, merely providing an official presence to a trial scene, the Officers have no personality.


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