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The Winter’s Tale Act 2, Scene 3 Summary

  • Back at the Sicilian palace, Leontes paces around muttering about how his “adultress” wife should be burned at the stake.
  • A Servant enters with news of Mammilius, who has been pretty sick lately.
  • The ever delusional Leontes suggests that Mammilius is ill because he’s so ashamed that his mom’s a floozy.
  • Leontes sends his servant away to check on his son and mutters to himself about how Polixenes and Camillo are probably off somewhere laughing at him right now.
  • Paulina bursts through the door carrying Leontes's newborn daughter while a Servant and a Lord try to restrain her.
  • Leontes has demanded total privacy (turns out he hasn’t been sleeping very well at night) but Paulina insists on showing Leontes proof that he’s been acting irrational and unjust.
  • Leontes looks at Antigonus and asks him why he can’t “control” his wife, but Paulina isn’t having any of his nonsense.
  • Paulina says she’s come to Leontes as his loyal servant to convince him of his “evils” against the queen, Hermione.
  • Leontes tells Paulina to scram, but before the Servant can drag her away, Paulina whips out the baby and shows it to Leontes.
  • Leontes calls Paulina a “man-like witch” and accuses her of spying on him.
  • Paulina, who seems to be the only one willing to stand up to Leontes, tells the king he’s bonkers.
  • Leontes tells his Lords to get the “bastard” out of his sight and screams that Antigonus is hen-pecked by his wife (that’s an insult, in case you were wondering).
  • While Leontes rants and raves, Paulina tells him off – she demands that Leontes acknowledge his child and his wife’s innocence.
  • Leontes calls Paulina a “callat” (a shrew and/or a tramp) and some other obnoxious names, threatens to have her burned at the stake, and yells at Antigonus for not being able to keep his wife in line.
  • Paulina points out how much the baby girl looks like Leontes and says she doesn’t care what Leontes does to her – he needs to take care of his baby and his baby’s mama.
  • Leontes orders Antigonus to get rid of the kid, or else. Then Leontes gets all Lady Macbeth on us and threatens to “dash out” the kid’s “brains” with his own hands if Antigonus doesn’t obey him.
  • After screaming at the servants, Leontes decides he wants Antigonus to take the little “bastard” out to the middle of nowhere and abandon it to the harsh elements. If someone comes along and saves it, fine. Otherwise, too bad.
  • Antigonus agrees to take the baby for a little ride and says he really hopes a bird or a bear will decide to nurse it and raise it as its own. (We know you’re probably snickering at Antigonus right now but this kind of stuff happens all the time in fairy tales, which is kind of what The Winter’s Tale is. Check out “Genre” for more on this.)
  • Antigonus leaves with the baby and a Servant enters with news that Cleomenes and Dion have returned from their trip to see the Oracle in “Delphos.” (Remember, Leontes sent some guys to visit the Oracle to verify Hermione’s guilt or innocence.)

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