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The Winter's Tale: Novel Summary: Act 3 Scene 3

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Act 3 Scene 3
Antigonus arrives on the deserted coast of Bohemia, with the baby and a mariner. A storm is brewing. The mariner leaves, warning Antigonus about the creatures of prey that inhabit the area. Antigonus, addressing the baby, says that the previous night, the baby's mother appeared to him in a dream or a vision, full of sorrow. She bowed before him and told him to name the baby Perdita, which means lost. She also told him that because of what he was doing, he would never see his wife Paulina again. Antigonus, who has not heard the verdict of the oracle, believes that Hermoine is guilty, and that it is Apollo's will that the baby should be abandoned in this deserted place. He lays the baby down just as the storm begins. Then he exits, pursued by a bear.
A shepherd arrives on the scene, searching for lost sheep. He sees the baby and takes it up, just as his son, Clown, arrives. He tells his father that the storm has sunk a ship near the shore, and that a man named Antigonus has been eaten by a bear.
They open up the cloth that the baby is wrapped in and find some gold in it. Glad of their good fortune, the shepherd heads for home while his son goes to bury the remains of Antigonus.
Analysis
This is a pivotal scene because it heralds the transition from tragedy to comedy, from the evil doings at the court to the simple pastoral innocence of the shepherds. The transition can be seen very clearly in the shepherd's words to his son, "thou met'st with things dying, I with things new-born" (lines 112-13). He is referring to the storm that wrecked the ship on which Antigonus arrived, and the death of Antigonus, and contrasting that with the baby they have found. This is the first hint of the great theme of the play, the regenerative power of nature to restore what has been lost.
Incidentally, the stage direction, "Exit, pursued by a bear," is the most famous stage direction in Shakespeare. It was popular in plays of the time to show an incident involving a bear.




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