The Winter’s Tale Characters

Antigonus is a nobleman at the Silesian court, and the husband of Paulina. Leontes orders him to take the babe Perdita and leave her in a deserted place in Bohemia. Antigonus reluctantly does as he is told, but after he leaves the child he is killed by a bear.

Archidamus is a lord of Bohemia who visits Silesia with Polixenes.

Autolycus is a peddler and a charming rogue. Formerly in the service of Florizel, Autolycus travels around the countryside selling his wares, as well as picking pockets and indulging in other petty thievery. He robs Clown easily enough. He is a cheerful character, however, and his songs, which include “When daffodils begin to peer” strike a happy note.

Camillo is a nobleman and trusted adviser at Leontes’ court, who flees Silesia rather than kill Polixenes as Leontes orders him to do. Camillo enters the service of Polixenes, where he remains as a loyal counselor for sixteen years. Longing to go home and see Leontes again, he plays a central role in the events by which Florizel and Perdita go to Silesia to see Leontes. At the end of the play, he marries Paulina, although only because the king insists upon it.

Cleomenes is a Silesian nobleman who is sent by Leontes to Delphi to consult the oracle of Apollo about whether Hermoine is guilty of adultery.

Clown is the son of Old Shepherd. A simple fellow, he is easily tricked and robbed by Autolycus. After he is rewarded by Leontes and Polixenes as the brother of Perdita, he acquires some fine clothes and puts on airs, thinking he is now a gentleman.

Dion is a Silesian nobleman who accompanies Cleomenes to Delphi to consult the oracle of Apollo.

Dorcas is a shepherdess who participates in the sheep-shearing festival.

Emilia is Hermoine’s maid.

Florizel is the son of Polixenes. He falls in love with Perdita and is all set to marry her when his father intervenes, refusing to agree to the marriage and threatening to deprive Florizel of his inheritance if he should ever see Perdita again. (Polixenes thinks Perdita is a shepherdess and therefore an unsuitable match for his son.) However, Florizel’s love for Perdita is true, and he remains committed to her. Through the help of Camillo, the situation is resolved when it is revealed that Perdita is in fact a king’s daughter.

Hermoine is Leontes’ queen. She is a woman of great dignity and grace, which she maintains even when she is falsely accused of adultery with Polixenes. Leontes orders her newborn babe to be taken from her and then puts her on trial. Hermoine declares her innocence and puts her trust in the judgment of Apollo, through the oracle at Delphi. When she hears that her son Mamilius is dead, she faints, and Paulina later announces that she is dead. This turns out not to be the case, however, and after sixteen years, Hermoine is restored, through Paulina’s ruse of the statue, to a penitent Leontes.

Leontes is the king of Silesia. Early in the play he conceives an irrational jealousy of his old friend Polixenes, and starts to behave like a tyrant. He has Hermoine put on trial for adultery, and orders their infant girl to be abandoned in a remote place. When he hears the oracle declaring Hermoine’s innocence, Leontes regrets his rash behavior and vows to visit every day the chapel where Hermoine and their young son Mamilius are buried. He spends the next sixteen years in seclusion, before the events propelled by the elopement of Perdita and Florizel lead to a reconciliation with Polixenes and the restoration of Hermoine.

Mamilius is the ten-year-old son of Leontes and Hermoine. All agree that he is a promising boy, but he dies shortly after Hermoine is denounced by Leontes.

Mopsa is a shepherdess who participates in the sheep-shearing festival. She is Clown’s sweetheart.

Old Shepherd is the father of Clown. After he discovers the babe Perdita, he raises her as if she were his own daughter. When Polixenes discovers that the shepherd has permitted his daughter to court Florizel, he condemns him to death. Old Shepherd flees to Silesia, where he receives royal favor when the truth comes out.

Paulina is the wife of Antigonus. She is a blunt-spoken, formidable lady who staunchly defends Hermoine and does not allow Leontes to get away with his crimes. She denounces him to his face, and loses no opportunity to remind him of the havoc his jealousy has caused. She even confronts him with the baby Perdita, whom he claims is not his. In the second part of the play, Paulina tells everyone that she has commissioned a statue of Hermoine, and invites the court to the unveiling. In truth, the statue is Hermoine herself, but Paulina stage manages the whole business to create astonishment for all when she commands the statue to come down from its pedestal. At the end of the play, Leontes orders Paulina to marry Camillo (her husband Antigonus having been killed earlier).

Perdita is the baby daughter of Leontes and Hermoine. Leontes thinks she is not his child and orders her to be abandoned in a remote part of Bohemia. Perdita is found by shepherds, who raise her themselves. In the second part of the play, Perdita has grown into a beautiful, graceful girl who has fallen in love with Prince Florizel. After they are denounced by Polixenes they flee to Leontes’ court, where eventually the truth comes out and Perdita is restored to her mother and father. Perdita embodies natural beauty and goodness and has a down-to-earth common sense which is the product of her upbringing.

Polixenes is the king of Bohemia and father of Florizel. He has been close friends with Leontes since they were both boys. But on Polixenes’ visit to Silesia, Leontes conceives an irrational jealousy of him and believes he has committed adultery with Hermoine. This false accusation leads to a sixteen-year estrangement between the two men, which is only ended as a result of the romance between Florizel and Perdita.