Short summary - The Winter's Tale - William Shakespeare

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Winter's Tale
William Shakespeare

Act I

From a conversation between the two nobles, it becomes known that the King of Bohemia, Polixen, came to visit his childhood friend, King of Sicily, Leont. As boys they were brought up together, then the roots of their friendship arose. When the kings matured, sovereign concerns parted them. «But, deprived of the opportunity to meet, they supported their friendship with gifts, letters and friendly embassies. They also remained inseparable in separation ... » There was not a single reason that could destroy these strong bonds.

Having stayed, Poliksen thanks his friend for the warm welcome and informs that at dawn he will go on the return trip, as he is worried about his possessions. «Is it calm without us in our power? What if the storm meets our return? »Leont asks him to stay, but the king of Bohemia does not want to change his long-considered decision. To help a hospitable host comes no less hospitable hostess - his wife, Queen of Sicily, Hermione. «Give us a week in debt, sovereign!» She asks. Polyksen hesitates, but soon agrees, unable to resist the ardent female persuasion.

Looking at her spouse, at how she conducts a fascinating conversation with the Bohemian king, Leont imagines treason. He is so deeply drowning in his fears that he begins to doubt whether his son is the young prince Mamillius. But peering closely at his face, Leont calms down a bit, because the outward resemblance between him and the little prince is striking. Hermione, trying to occupy a dear guest with something, goes with him for a walk in the garden, Mamillius leaves to play, and Leont is left to think of a plan of revenge for his "horns" alone.

Wanting to confirm the guesses, a jealous man pester with questions to Camillo, a nobleman and an approximate royal family. «But didn’t you see what happened, didn’t guess how I was offended?» But Camillo is only lost from the ardent pressure of the ruler, not quite clearly understanding what he needs. Then Leont directly speaks about his suspicions and orders to poison the king of Bohemia. Camillo, having not completely believed what was happening, is still forced to agree to carry out the order. He asks only for his mistress: «But I hope ... will you return your love to your wife?» For the sake of my son! » Leont agrees with a wise servant. He himself would not want to publicize the shame and destroy the family. Having finished that conversation, the king of Sicily leaves after his wife in the garden.

Left alone, Camillo still decides that he does not like the role of a regicide. But what then to do? The grandee’s thoughts are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Polyxen. The once-desired guest is preoccupied - they no longer tolerate him in this house, the friendly owner for some reason became gloomy: he is silent and only responds with a contemptuous smirk at the greetings. Polyxen asks Camillo to explain such a dramatic change in the behavior of his faithful friend. After much persuasion, the nobleman still talks about the conspiracy and advises to seek escape in flight. Camillo himself, for whom staying in Sicily also becomes risky, will be happy to keep Polixena company. At night, two «fugitives» leave for Bohemia.

Act II

The venerable court ladies grumble because Mamillius is naughty and is not going to play games with them. They remind him of Hermione’s pregnancy: «The time will come, the new prince will come, and we will go to him in the service ...», the teachers will mutter to the naughty boy. The queen asks Mamillia to tell her a fairy tale, thereby trying to entertain the boy. As soon as he begins his story, an angry king bursts into the room. He already knows that Polyksen escaped. So his guesses and fears were true. The jealous betrayal of Camillo angers the most. Leont demands that Mamillia be taken from the premises. Hermione won't see him again. From now on, let her amuse herself only with those who "Polyksen stuffed her belly." The shocked queen assures that all the allegations are false. However, her husband does not believe in anything, and gives the order - to imprison the former lover in prison. The saddened servants beg the king not to be so strict and ask to rescue their mistress from imprisonment. They swear on her sinlessness. But Leont does not want to listen to anything. He had already sent messengers to Saint Delphi, to the temple of Apollo, in the hope that the oracle would confirm that he was right. In the meantime, you need to appoint a vowel court.

One of the court ladies, who is courting Hermione in a dungeon, tells Pauline, the wife of a Sicilian nobleman, in the reception room that the queen, "tormented by grief, was resolved from burden to deadlines." A wonderful girl was born. In it the mistress finds comfort. Paulina decides to show the girl to her father: maybe he will change his anger with mercy.

The Sicilian king is proud of his son. As soon as he heard about the shame of his mother, he immediately began to grow weak, weaken and languish. «How pure and noble this boy is!» Exclaims Leont. At this time, Paulina comes to him with a baby in her arms and assures that this girl is his child: «as the proverb says,« looks like you so that it’s disgusting to look ... »» Leont is ready to hang a negligent subject for such an impudent slander . He tells her to leave, while still holding himself in control. The baby, who was never looked at, is ordered by the tyrant to burn. Servants stand up for a defenseless child, demanding a commutation of sentence. Then Leont instructs Antigonus, Pauline’s wife, to take the baby to the desert land and leave her there to the mercy of nature and fate. «Let her, by the chance of a born, prescribe the case: die or live.» Antigonus is forced to swear

Act III

The messengers returned with a letter from the oracle. From the Sicilian port, they rush to the king, hoping to help the queen out.

The trial of Hermione begins. The Queen denies all allegations, thereby enraging her husband. Leont blames his wife for the fact that she allegedly contributed to the escape of the Bohemian offspring of Polixen and the traitor Camillo. In the courtroom, they are asked to announce the answer of the oracle. «Hermione is chaste. Polyksen is innocent. Camillo is a faithful servant. Leont is a jealous tyrant. His innocent child is legal. The king will not have an heir until there is lost ». Leont claims that these are all false words and are not going to stop the court hearing. But here one of the servants brings the sad news - the young prince Mamillius, alarmed by the fate of the queen, died of grief. «Oh, the power of heaven! Apollo takes revenge on me for blasphemy, »exclaims Leont. And Hermione, who has lost consciousness, is hastily carried off to other chambers.

An invisible veil falls from the eyes of the Sicilian king. He understands how far he went in his suspicions and therefore asks God Apollo to forgive his unreasonable jealousy and blasphemy. Paulina runs in. She spells curses and calls Leont a fool, a murderer and a villain. The queen died because of him. The Sicilian king turns pale, but knows that he cannot return the deed. He wants to look at the bodies of his wife and son for the last time before the funeral.

A storm begins at sea. A storm is raging around. Thunderstorm thunders. Antigonus, by order of the king, throws the girl "among the deserts of Bohemia cold." But before leaving, he tells the baby how he saw the ghost of her mother at night. The spirit of Hermione, appearing in a white robe, sad and beautiful, asks to name the little princess Loss. And in punishment for the fact that Antigonus swore an oath to fulfill such a terrible errand, not to see him more than his wife Paulina. After completing the confession, the faithful servant flees, pursued by an unexpectedly appearing bear. But a fierce beast will soon overtake him and tear him to pieces, and the ship on which the nobleman arrived will be wrecked. For the girl, everything is more prosperous: the unfortunate child accidentally finds a shepherd who was looking for runaway rams.

Act IV

Sixteen years have passed. A lot has changed. Leont doomed himself to solitude. Poliksen grew up and matured a son named Florizel. The loss blossomed like a «sunny April."

Bohemia. Polyksen Palace. Camillo has not been home for fifteen years. He would like to lay his bones in his native land. In addition, the King of Sicily, repenting, calls him back. But Poliksen does not want to let go of his old friend, who saved his life. He already has a lot of worries - the young prince Florizel appears less and less in the palace. Much more often he is seen in the house of some shepherd whose daughter is a "girl of extraordinary beauty." Polyxen is about to go to this shepherd. He asks Camillo to keep him company. Together, they, pretending to be low-class people, will probably be able to find out from what the young prince all the time disappears in a simple peasant house.

The tramp Autolycus, having decided to get a little rich, is going to rob a peasant who wants to buy something for the holiday of shearing the sheep. The cunning fraudster pretends to be a beaten and robbed victim. He says that the crook and rogue Autolycus stole all his money and good clothes, leaving his dirty tattered clothes in exchange. At this time, he himself pulls out a purse from the pocket of a naive peasant. Then he says goodbye to him, thanking for his help, and satisfied that he has picked a good jackpot, he begins to sing.

The feast of sheep shearing has arrived. Florisel, dressed in a simple work suit, is again heading for Loss. When meeting, he gives the girl all kinds of compliments, and at the same time reminds them of their common oath - to bind oneself by marriage. Loss itself fears that the king of Bohemia will randomly reveal their plan.

In honor of the holiday, the shepherd, the adoptive father of Loss, convenes guests in his house. At the feast comes the Bohemian prince, who here pretends to be a simple hard worker named Doricles. Autolycus is visiting here, pretending to be a merchant and even dragging some goods for sale. Polyksen and Camillo, for clandestine conspiracy, put on common folk costumes, also fall on a holiday during which they want to talk with the shepherd about the prince. In the meantime, they only admire the sweet Loss, which modesty, simplicity and nobility fascinates the imaginary poor.

Among the feasting people, Polixen notices his son. But the landlord for some reason calls the young prince a shepherd Dorikles, not even suspecting his noble birth. At this time, Florisel himself decides to implement what has long been conceived - he makes an offer to his beloved Loss. The shepherd exclaims «hand in hand» and promises to give his daughter along with a rich dowry. Polyxenus, in turn, recommends that Florisel consult with his father. «Open your choice to your father, you won’t make the old man angry,» he says. But the Bohemian prince is deaf to such advice. Then the angry Poliksen appears in front of others in his true form. The king is angry with the stubbornness of his son, so he breaks his engagement - the heir to the throne cannot marry a girl from the lower class. He also promises to execute a stupid shepherd who is the father of that «witch», that witchcraft tricked the prince. Then Polyxen, angry, leaves.

Florizel, not going to return to her father, decides to sail away with her lover on the ship. Camillo, who remained in the house of the shepherd, and did not follow his embittered sovereign, advises to go to the Sicilian king. «Say that the king sent you to him with greetings and comfort,» says the wise servant. For money, he asks not to worry: in Sicily are all his wealth, which he is willing to share. Camillo himself, secretly from everyone, is considering another plan - he, by order of the king of Bohemia, will surely go in pursuit of the heir to the Bohemian throne and, thus, will finally get to his homeland.

At this time, the shepherd, in fear of the promised execution, is going with his son to reveal the old secret to the Bohemian king - Loss is a foundling. And this means that the execution should be abolished, because the imaginary witch is not tied with a shepherd by blood ties, therefore, he "... the flesh and blood did not offend the king." Autolycus finds out about their plans and decides to stop the «shepherd’s family». He appears before these cowards in the form of a courtier, promises to lead him to the palace, and also arrange an audience with the ruler of Bohemia. But in fact, the shepherd with his son Autolycus does not lead to the king, but to the prince on the ship, so that he could punish the scammers.

Act V

Sicilian nobles want to marry their sovereign, so that the kingdom is not left without an heir. But in the heart of their master, a deep wound has not yet been healed. And no woman is able to replace his lover. This is repeated by Paulina, a friend and close associate of the late Hermione. She binds the king with an oath - he marries only with her consent. After some time, one of the servants reports the arrival of the Bohemian prince with the beautiful princess. Following the message are the guests themselves, whom Leont cordially welcomes. The Bohemian prince Florisel is lying that he is on his way from Libya, where he has seized the daughter of the Libyan ruler himself. With her, he drove here to convey good regards from his father, and at the same time to visit the king of Sicily.

At this time, one of the courtiers announces unexpected news: the king of Bohemia on a ship sailed to the city. He sends a greeting to Leont and asks to detain Prince Florizel, who, having forgotten about his father’s order, fled with the «shepherdess». Poliksen himself will come a little later, since at the moment he is talking with two people who want to tell him some secret. Nothing is known about these people, it is only said that one of them looks like an old shepherd, and the second, it seems, is the first son. Be that as it may, one thing is clear - Florisel’s deception is uncovered. The unfortunate prince asks the Sicilian king to protect his beloved. Leont is ready to make friends, because in the person of Loss, he unexpectedly for himself sees vaguely familiar features.

From the conversations of the nobles it becomes known that the shepherd revealed his secret to the two rulers - Loss is the royal daughter. As evidence, he provided a small box containing Hermione’s mantle, her necklace and a note from Antigonus. Finally, the very majestic appearance of the girl, her resemblance to her mother, indicate that she is of noble blood. The oracle prophecy came true - the lost was found. Everywhere they prepare for festivities. Kings reconciled. And the Loss, learning about its origin, about the fate of the mother and brother, was filled with bloody tears from happiness or grief. Then the representatives of the two royal families together went to Paulina to look at the statue of the late queen, to recall her beauty.

But not everyone is doing so well. The Dodger Autolycus regrets that he has not earned any honors. After all, it was he who brought the shepherd to the prince's ship when they were heading to the Sicilian shores. Only the prince at that time was busy with her lover, her seasickness, and the secret remained a secret. With the shepherd and his son, everything turned out more safely. They became nobles for revealing their secret. One of them, in joy, swears to Autolycus to utter a word to the prince for him, provided that Autolycus himself becomes an honest man.


Paulina's house. Leont is struck by the resemblance of the statue to the once-living original. But for some reason the statue looks fifteen years older than the original, artificially made wrinkles speak of this. The Sicilian king and, at the same time, the husband of the deceased wife wants to kiss the lips of a marvelous work of art. After all, it is so similar to his dead beloved. But Paulina forbids him to do such tricks, referring to the fact that the paint on the statue has not yet completely dried out. At the same time, she says that she can even make the statue move if the guests have the courage to look at it. Music is playing. The living, real Hermione comes off the pedestal. It turns out that she had been hiding with Paulina all these years. The loss falls to his knees in front of his mother and asks her for blessings. Everyone is happy. Paulina alone is left to mourn her dead husband. But Leont asks her to conquer sadness. After all, he is going to marry this wise woman to a no less wise man - Camillo. The once gloomy Sicilian kingdom is filled with joy. It's time to go to the feast.