Where It All Goes Down
Sicily and Bohemia
The first half of The Winter’s Tale is set in King Leontes’s Sicilian court during the cold winter. We know it’s winter, by the way, because Mammilius tells his mother “A sad tale's best for winter” (2.1.7) after she asks him for a story. The frigid season seems completely appropriate in a court where Leontes’s cold-hearted behavior destroys his family and brings about the worst kind of suffering.
In the second half of the play (which occurs sixteen years later), the Sicilian winter gives way to the Bohemian countryside in the middle of summer. Bohemia is a festive world that’s full of youthful spirit and possibility. This is where Florizel’s and Perdita’s young love blossoms and just about anything seems possible, especially during the colorful sheep-shearing festival.
When most of the Bohemian cast travels to Sicily in Act 5, the cold Sicilian landscape is dramatically altered. The joyful reunification of families and friends and the miraculous “resurrection” of Hermione inject the play with love, warmth, and the spirit of forgiveness.