In the play The Winter’s Tale, the character named Autolycus infuses the play with comedic energy. The play begins in the winter and expresses the turmoil that devastated the Sicilian kingdom; and is juxtaposed to the spring that overwhelms the remainder of the play is highlighted with the light hearted humour delivered by Autolycus. Although his role in the play is perceived as minor, the hilarity of each scene that his is featured adds to the play's entertainment.
In each scene that Autolycus is introduced, he enters singing. The songs that he sings often times reflect the setting and what will transpire in the scene. His singing is almost taunting and mocking of the other unsuspecting characters in the play, however it reveals to the audience his deceptive and comical ways. This musical attribute maintain the audiences interest and keeps them entertained.
In Act 4, Scene 3, Autolycus disguises himself as a servant to a kinsman who has just been beaten and robbed by a man on foot. The Shepherd’s son, Clown becomes a victim to his trickery as he offers help to the “ailing” Autolycus. The robber whom Autolycus accuses of the crime shares the exact features that he himself possesses. The audience is left to witness the oblivious Clown be robbed by the alleged plaintiff. The Clown who is unsuspected offers money to Autolycus who has already helped himself to the contents of his pocket. This vagabond succeeds in his endeavour due to the naive nature of the Clown.
Autolycus, although a vagabond, he is also an opportunist. He assists Florizel and Perdita to escape the wrath of Polixenes and having them flee to Sicilia to seek Leontes’ help. He also uses the opportunity to escape persecution for his own wrong actions. This aids in the revelation of Perdita’s identity and the concretes Autolycus’ new role as the Shepherd’s loyal servant. His treacherous ways prove to be somewhat beneficial in the end.
The role of Autolycus is ideal in lightening the initial winter struck mood of the play. His deceitful peddling ways aided in the entertainment and the comedic underlying that was much need in the play.