The Winter’s Tale
The Winter’s Tale Act 5, Scene 2 Summary
- Somewhere in Leontes's castle, Autolycus speaks with some gentlemen of the court. It seems that, off-stage, the Old Shepherd managed to have a conference with King Leontes, where the shepherd revealed proof that Perdita is not his biological daughter. (Remember, back in Act 3, Scene 3, Antigonus left a document of Perdita’s heritage and some gold when he abandoned her on the Bohemian coast.)
- One of the Gentlemen reports that Leontes and Camillo seemed awestruck, but he couldn’t tell if they were full of “joy” or “sorrow” because everyone was ushered out of the room before he could get any more details.
- A Second Gentleman enters the room and announces that Leontes's daughter “has been found” just as the Oracle predicted. Yippee! He also points out how the events that have recently unfolded seem like an old, made-up “tale,” which is Shakespeare’s way of acknowledging the implausibility of the events in his play.
- A Third Gentleman rushes in and says the Old Shepherd revealed a letter denoting Perdita’s heritage, Queen Hermione’s jewels, and some other things that verify Perdita’s status as Leontes's child.
- King Leontes was also reunited with his old BFF, Polixenes, and sobbed because he was so overjoyed.
- When asked about what happened to Antigonus, the Third Gentleman says that, sadly, he was ripped to shreds by a bear. At the same moment the bear made a snack out of Antigonus, the ship he sailed to Bohemia on sank. Paulina was totally bummed about her husband being bear food, but was psyched that Hermione’s daughter had been found.
- We also learn that, when Perdita found out about her mother’s death, she seemed to cry tears of blood. The reunion was so moving that onlookers sobbed and fainted dramatically.
- The Third Gentleman also reports that, when the princess found out that the famous artist Giulio Romano completed a lifelike statue of Hermione, Perdita rushed to Paulina’s house to see it.
- The Gentleman run off to see the statue, leaving Autolycus on stage to lament that he wasn’t the one to reveal Perdita’s true identity to King Leontes.
- The Old Shepherd and the Clown enter the stage dressed to the nines in some new threads befitting gentlemen.
- The Clown brags to Autolycus that he’s a “gentleman born” because the Prince called him “brother” and said they were all one big happy family. (FYI – this is a big joke since the Clown was obviously not “born” a gentleman.)
- The Clown and the Old Shepherd decide they should behave in a “gentlemanly” manner and agree to put in a good word to the king on behalf of Autolycus.
- Autolycus promises he’ll try to be a better person (instead of a thief) and the three men run off to see the statue of Hermione.