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The Winter’s Tale Act 5, Scene 3 Summary

  • Paulina welcomes Leontes and his friends and family to her home for the big unveiling of the Hermione statue.
  • Paulina, who has invited a huge crowd too see the statue of Hermione, proclaims that the statue is so lifelike that she keeps it separate from the rest of her art collection.
  • Then Paulina draws a curtain to reveal the figure of Hermione.
  • Leontes says something like “Gosh, it sure looks like Hermione but it also looks a lot older than she was when she died – the statue sure does have a lot of wrinkles.”
  • Paulina says that’s because the artist is so talented – he sculpted the figure based on what Hermione would have looked like today if she had been alive for the past sixteen years.
  • Leontes admires the “warmth” of the statue and chides himself for being such a rotten husband to Hermione.
  • Perdita gets down on her knees and asks the statue to bless her.
  • Just as Perdita reaches out to kiss the hand of the statue, Paulina yells out for her to stop – the paint’s barely dry on the statue for goodness sake.
  • Camillo and Polixenes look over and see that Leontes is in pain – they urge him not to keep beating himself up over his wife’s death. Paulina chimes in that, if she knew the statue would have made Leontes so upset, she never would have shown it. (Yeah right. Paulina is all about making Leontes suffer.)
  • Paulina makes like she’s going to close the curtain and Leontes begs her not to – he wants to keep gazing on the statue. Paulina says OK, but if you stare too long you might begin to think the statue is alive.
  • Leontes and Polixenes note the statue’s lifelike appearance – it looks as though the statue is breathing and that there’s real blood moving through its veins.
  • Then Leontes says holy cow, it looks like one of the eyes is moving!
  • Paulina and Leontes discuss how looking on the statue is both painful and pleasurable.
  • Leontes decides he’s going to plant a big kiss on the statue’s lips and Paulina tells him to back off or he’ll get wet paint on his mouth.
  • Then Paulina says she bets she can convince everyone the statue’s real but they might accuse her of using “wicked” magic. In order for the trick to work, everyone in the room must “awake[n]” their “faith.”
  • Paulina calls for some dramatic music and says “Tis time. Descend. Be stone no more.”
  • Suddenly, Hermione, who is very much alive, descends from the pedestal while Paulina commands an astonished Leontes to embrace his wife.
  • [Note: It’s not entirely clear if Hermione is miraculously brought back from the dead or if she’s been alive the whole time. Some critics argue that Hermione is resurrected in the style of Christ. Others say there’s evidence in the play that Paulina just hid Hermione away 1) so that Leontes wouldn’t hurt her and 2) to teach Leontes a lesson.]
  • Leontes shouts oh my gosh – her body’s “warm”! The crowd is utterly shocked at what’s just happened.
  • Then Paulina tells Perdita to kneel before her mother and receive her “blessing.”
  • Finally, Hermione speaks – she asks the gods to bless her daughter and begins to question Perdita about where’s she’s been for the past sixteen years.
  • Paulina says hold on folks, there’s plenty of time for Perdita to tell that story later. (Thank goodness, because we’ve already heard that tale, twice.) For now, family and friends should celebrate the miraculous reunion.
  • Leontes promises Paulina that he’ll find her a man to marry before he realizes that, hey, it seems pretty impossible for Hermione to have come back to life – after all, he saw her dead body and spent hours praying at her grave.
  • First things first, though. Leontes declares that Camillo and Paulina should get hitched. After that, there’ll be plenty of time to hash out all of these impossible questions.
  • Paulina leads the party away and they all live happily ever after (except for Mammilius, who died when his father tried his mother for adultery and Antigonus, who was eaten by a bear).

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