THE WINTER’S TALE

SYNOPSIS

By Beverly Bullock



Geoffrey Dawe as Leontes


Hellenistic Sicily. At King Leontes's palace there is a party in honor of his dearest boyhood friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia, who, after a visit of nine months, is returning to his native country. Two courtiers, one from Bohemia and one, Camillo, Leontes's closest advisor, trade compliments and speak warmly of Prince Mamiliius, the young heir to the throne of Sicily. Polixenes, Leontes, and his pregnant wife Queen Hermione enter with the entire Court. Leontes asks his friend to stay longer and Polixenes gracefully declines, but when Hermione asks him to stay, he says that he will, to the general delight of the courtiers. In an aside Leontes rages: he believes his friend and his wife to be lovers. When the party guests move to a different part of the Palace, Leontes tells Camillo that his Queen is untrue and orders him to poison Polixenes. Camillo passionately defends the Queen, but confronted with Leontes's wild anger and threats, he says that he will carry out the orders. After Leontes departs Camillo reveals that he does not believe the King's charges. He informs Polixenes of the danger and they both flee to Bohemia.

Hermione, whose delivery date is near, is playing with Mamillius in her chambers when Leontes bursts in. Enraged by the flight of Camillo and Polixenes, he berates Hermione, in front of her attendants and his, as an adulteress and has her removed to prison. He informs the courtiers that he has sent to the all-seeing and infallible Oracle for the confirmation of what he knows to be true.

Paulina, a Lady of the Court married to the King's advisor Antigonus, visits the Queen's prison and learns that she has just given birth to a daughter. Paulina resolves to show the baby to Leontes in hope of softening his heart.


Jeff Riebe as Polixenes



The King has been unable to sleep, tormented by jealousy and also by concern for the Prince, who is sick. Paulina bursts in with the baby,whom Leontes denounces as Polixenes's bastard. The King forces Antigonus to swear to take the infant to some distant country and there abandon it.

The Messengers to the Oracle return, and Leontes summons the entire Court to hear Hermione's testamony and the Oracle's sealed statement. Hermione defends her innocence, and when the scroll from the Oracle is opened and read it proclaims Hermione blameless, Polixenes a loyal friend, the child truly begotten, Leontes a jealous tyrant, and says further that the King shall live without an heir unless that which is lost be found. The Court rejoices, but Leontes angrily declares that there is no truth in the Oracle. At that moment an attendant runs in to announce that the Prince is dead. Hermione faints and is carried out. Leontes is shocked back to reason and begs forgiveness of the gods for his blasphemy against their Oracle. He will reconcile with his wife. But Paulina re-enters with the terrible news that the Queen has died of grief.

Antigonus has landed in Bohemia with the baby, but after he deposits her, together with gold and the story of her birth, he is chased away by a bear. A shepherd finds the child and says that he'll adopt her. His son rushes on and tells of having seen a gentleman devoured by a bear and a ship sink with all hands. Together they find the treasure and carry the baby home, delighted with their good fortune.

The personification of Time announces that sixteen years have passed during which the baby has grown into a lovely young woman named Perdita who is being secretly courted by the son of King Polixenes, Florizel.

King Polixenes confides in Camillo his concern about the Prince's protracted absences from the Court, and they plan to follow Florizel.



Matt Mercer as Autolycus



Autoycus, a rogue, enters singing. He was once Prince Florizel's servant but now makes his living as a con man, cheat, and pickpocket. When he sees the Shepherd's son, flush with money to spend at the up-coming sheep-shearing festival, he knows him for an easy mark. Autolycus easily relieves him of his money, and plans to follow him to the feast so as to con other shepherds out of their festival purses.

Florizel tells Perdita of his love, but she is frightened of what would happen if his father found out the heir to the throne was courting a humble shepherdess. The shepherds arrive at the feast, among them Polixenes and Camillo in disguise. After Autolycus, also in disguise, has led off the credulous peasants, Polixenes reveals himself, threatens to disinherit his wayward son and put Perdita and the Old Shepherd to torture. He storms off leaving Camillo, a defiant Florizel and a despondent Perdita. Camillo wants to help them and proposes that they all journey to Sicily. Autolycus returns, having fleeced the fleecers, and Camillo has him change clothes with Florizel so that the pair of lovers can escape to the waiting ship. Autolycus, now dressed as a gentleman and eager to turn the Prince's flight to his advantage, convinces the Old Shepherd and his son, who were terrified by the King's denunciation of Perdita, to go to Polixenes and get him to follow the runaways to Sicily.


Peter Herrick as Camillo


In Sicily, Leontes is a changed and chastened man. His nobles urge him to remarry to produce an heir, but Paulina convinces him that that would be against the Oracle. Prince Florizel and his bride are announced, and Leontes feels drawn to the lovely young woman. But a courtier follows them to say that Polixenes and Camillo have also arrived in furrious pursuit of the young couple who are, in fact, not married and now in grave danger. Leontes promises to try and help them.

Courtiers exchange news of wonderful developments: the document the Old Shepherd had found with the infant Perdita has revealed her to be the long-lost child and heir of Leontes. The Old Shepherd and his son have been enobled and take Autolycus into their service.

Paulina leads Leontes, Polixenes, Perdita and Florizel, Camillo and the courtiers through her picture gallery to see her most prized work: a statue of Hermione. The company is moved and amazed by its realism, but Paulina says that she can amaze them further, that she can make the statue move. She calls for music, and Hermione descends from her platform to embrace Leontes and call down blessings upon her restored daughter.

 

©2004-2010 ShakespeareNYC

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