Archidamus – A lord of Bohemia, who shows great admiration for the friendship shared between the King of Bohemia, Polixenes and the King of Sicilia, Leontes.
Camillo- A servant of Sicilia, who finds himself caught between loyalty to his King and the protection of the King of Bohemia’s innocence. He proves to be a good judge as he courageously refutes the claims made by Leontes against Hermione. He seeks Polixenes best interest when he is ordered by Leontes to poison him but instead flees to Bohemia. Camillo was loyal and trustworthy to both kings.
Leontes- He is King of Sicilia, with a remarkable temper and jealous streak. He accuses his wife, Hermione and child hood friend, King of Bohemia, Polixenes of committing adultery and conspiring to take his life. He feels betrayed by those around him and tries his best to convince those around him that his wife was indeed untrue. Infused in jealousy, he breaks apart his family, marriage, and friendships. He was a man who trusted in the prophecies of the Oracle of Apollo; however he dismissed the judgement of the Oracle when the innocence of Hermione was proven. He is unable to realise the damage he has done, and quickly looses those he loves and lives a life of regret. The oracle allowed that if his daughter was found then he would be redeemed and forgiven.
Hermione- She is the Queen of Sicilia. Introduced at nine months pregnant, she is revealed as a kind, virtuous, loving and humble individual who is respected and praised by those around her. Although shocked by her husband’s accusations of her infidelity, not once did Hermione act un-ladylike or disrespect her King and husband. She is a loving mother who enjoys the company of her son, Mamillius; however, she loses her composure when the news of her son’s death is revealed.
Polixenes- He is the King of Bohemia and child hood friend of Leontes. He was accused of having an affair with Leontes wife, Hermione and fathering her unborn child. He proves to be a virtuous and true friend to Leontes but an over protective father with deceiving traits. He spied on Florizel, his son and petitioned him from marrying Leontes’ begotten daughter, Perdita.
Paulina- Paulina is the wife of Antigonus and close and loyal friend to Hermione. She is head strong, courageous and diligent. Paulina was determined to prove the innocence of her Queen Hermione, and was the only person who stood up to Leontes’ jealous tirade throughout the kingdom. She remained present after Mamillius and Hermione’s death, ensuring that Leontes did not marry anyone else or forget his faithful queen.
Florizel- He is the young and ambitious Prince of Bohemia and son of Polixenes. He is very adventurous and sweet. He falls in love with Leontes’ begotten daughter, Perdita and decides to marry her without the notification of his father. He thus flees to Sicilia with Perdita, seeking the help of Leontes.
Perdita- She is the begotten daughter of King Leontes who was sent into the wilderness as an infant due to her father’s jealous tyranny. She was thus raised by a good shepherd and grew up in Bohemia as a Shepherd girl. She falls in love with Florizel, son of Polixenes and is thus reunited with her father after the two flee to
Antigonus- He is a faithful Lord of King Leontes and husband of Paulina. He appears to be a soft spoken man who feared for the queen, as he believed she was innocent and indeed virtuous. However, following orders of the King, he takes Perdita, as an infant and abandons her in the forest. However, he is mauled by a bear thus leaving his wife a widow.
Autolycus- He is a joker and pickpocket, who takes full advantage of the naive Clown that is the Shepherd’s son. He plays a major role in the play despite his antics as he lead Perdita to her biological father.
Clown- He is the naive son of the Shepherd and Perdita’s adopted brother. H e is very foolish and easily lead on by Autolycus.
Shepherd- H e is the kind shepherd who found Perdita in the forest as an infant and raises her as his own. However, when accosted by Polixenes, he makes clear that she was not his daughter and reveals her identity.
Summary of Act One, Two and Three
The play The Winter's Tale begins with the dialogue of two lords, of both the King of Sicilia and the King of Bohemia. Archidamus and Camillo's dialogue reveal the admirable friendship between their Kings and its strength. They are in awe of the duration from child hood and how it has grown into a brotherly connection; both emphasize the potency of this friendship which foreshadows the events to come. The destruction of this friendship begins to fester in the mind of the audience as the dialogue progresses. Later on, King of Sicilia, Leontes, his pregnant wife Hermione, their son, Mamillius and King of bohemia, Polixenes are introduced. The audience experiences the friendship that was previously discussed. Polixenes had been in Sicilia for nine months and urges that he needs to return to Bohemia for he fears the worst. Leontes tries to reassure him that all is well but Polixenes avertedly declines. A frustrated Leontes, asks his wife Hermione to persuade his child hood friend. She is successful; however, Leontes begins dislike how the two interact with one another, and suspects that the two are having an affair. This assumption festers and causes Leontes to begin to question the paternity of his son, Mamillius and the unborn child that Hermione is carrying. The jealous tirade begins. Leontes shares the matter with Camillo who refutes it confidently. Leontes sees him as a blind and foolish servant and sees him as unfit to serve him; however, Camillo is redeemed when he promises to poison Polixenes as Leontes has asked. Moreover, a confused Camillo, shares word with Polixenes that the King wishes to see him dead and thus assists him in fleeing to Bohemia. This action deepens Leontes jealous rage and causes him to further doubt his wife’s innocence.
Leontes thus has Hermione arrested for treason and conspiracy, all whilst pregnant. She pleads that the King would reconsider but hopes that she will see him regretful for what he has done. Leontes is headstrong that she is an adulterous woman and tries his uttermost to convince his lord and Antigonus. Both men have already sworn on their lives and their children’s fertility that Hermione is indeed guiltless and pressures the King to reconsider his claim, A stubborn Leontes, thus retorts to seeking Apollo’s Oracle for divine judgement of Hermione, and he hopes his claims are solidified. Furthermore, Hermione’s most vibrant supporter Paulina begins her campaign for the Queen’s release. Paulina takes Hermione’s new born child to the king and in jealous rage; he has the child taken to the forest to be abandoned. The oracle then reveals that Hermione, Polixenes and Camillo are all innocent and Leontes acted rashly without proof. His jealous tirade caused his son Mamillius’ and wife Hermione’s death which leaves him without an heir to the throne. Leontes is now mournful of his behaviour and hopes to find his begotten daughter.
Off the coast of Bohemia, Antigonus has revealed that Hermione had visited him in a dream and revealed that the child is to be named Perdita and he will die. He leaves the child with treasures, such as gold, silver and jewels and is then mauled by a bear in the forest. A shepherd finds Perdita and decides to raise her as his own with the aid of his clown-ish son. It is later revealed that sixteen years has passed, and Polixenes and Camillo are seen discussing events in the play. Camillo wishes to return to Sicilia; however Polixenes urges that he is in need of his assistance to manage his kingdom. The subject of Polixenes son Florizel and his wayward ways is exposed. He has apparently been frequently visiting Perdita and is often absent from court. They both plan to disguise themselves and see the extent of the relationship. The pick pocket Autolycus has chosen the Shepherd’s son as prey and steals his money that was set aside for the grand sheep shearing. When successful, he decides to repeat this act disguised as someone else.