Leontes (King of Sicily) and his wife (Hermione) have been busy entertaining Leontes's childhood friend Polixenes (King of Bohemia) for nine months, which has been a total blast. Things get even better when Hermione (at her husband’s request) convinces Polixenes to stay in Sicily even longer. Let the good times roll!
Out of the blue, Leontes suspects that Hermione is hooking up with Polixenes and carrying the Bohemian King’s love child. He plots to have Polixenes poisoned.
When Leontes learns that Polixenes has left town, he throws his wife in prison, where she gives birth to Leontes’s child (baby Perdita) before standing trial for adultery and treason.
Leontes orders someone to make the little “bastard” disappear somewhere in Bohemia and tries Hermione for adultery. Meanwhile, Leontes’s young son, Mammilius, dies and we’re told that Hermione has died of a broken heart.
Perdita’s all grown up (she’s been raised as shepherd’s daughter) and in love with Prince Florizel, but his father objects to the marriage so the young couple travels to Sicily.
Polixenes chases Perdita and Florizel to Sicily. After Perdita’s true identity is discovered, Leontes and Polixenes make up and both families are happy. Paulina invites everyone to her house and promises to show them a lifelike statue of the late Hermione. Everyone is all “Wow, this statue looks totally real” and then, suddenly, miracle of all miracles, the statue steps down from its pedestal and gives Leontes a big hug. Turns out that Hermione is alive.
After Leontes reunites with his family (all except Mammilius, who remains dead), he feels bad that Paulina doesn’t have a husband (he was eaten by a bear). So, there’s only one thing left to do: announce that Paulina and Camillo should get hitched. Things are just swell.