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The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale

 Table of Contents

The Winter’s Tale Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

They seemed almost, with staring on one another, to tear the cases of their eyes; there was speech in their dumbness, language in their very gesture; they looked as they had heard of a world ransomed, or one destroyed: a notable passion of wonder appeared in them; but the wisest beholder, that knew no more but seeing, could not say if the importance were joy or sorrow; but in the extremity of the one, it must needs be. (5.2.2)


Leontes's emotional reunion with Camillo is marked by great “sorrow” and great “joy.” While the King is elated to see his old friend and advisor, the encounter between the old friends reminds us of how much has been “destroyed” and lost.

Quote #2

FIRST GENTLEMAN Nothing but bonfires: the oracle is fulfilled; the king's daughter is found: such a deal of wonder is broken out within this hour that ballad-makers cannot be able to express it. (5.2.1)


The revelation of Perdita’s true identity and her reunion with her father is a “wonder[ous]” moment, according to the First Gentleman. So wondrous, in fact, that we wonder why we learn about the reunion second hand. Why doesn’t Shakespeare stage this joyous moment for his audience to witness first hand?

Quote #3

There was casting up of eyes, holding up of hands, with countenances of such distraction that they were to be known by garment, not by favour. Our king, being ready to leap out of himself for joy of his found daughter, as if that joy were now become a loss, cries 'O, thy mother, thy mother!' then asks Bohemia forgiveness; then embraces his son-in-law; then again worries he his daughter with clipping her; now he thanks the old shepherd, which stands by like a weather-bitten conduit of many kings' reigns. I never heard of such another encounter, which lames report to follow it and undoes description to do it. (5.2.2)


Seriously. If the reunion of Perdita and Leontes is such a joyous occasion, why do we have to hear about from the Gentleman? Why doesn’t Shakespeare stage this moment directly? Is he afraid too much celebration would be overkill? (After all, we’ve got the big statue scene coming up.) Or, is it more effective to hear about the reunion from other witnesses?

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