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The Winter's Tale: Novel Summary: Act 4 Scene 3

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Act 4 Scene 3

Act 4 Scene 3
Autolycus, the tinker and petty thief, enters, singing a cheerful ditty about spring. He has in the past served Prince Florizel, but now makes a living by stealing sheets. He has bought his clothes with money he made from gambling, and he survives on trickery. He doesn't commit major crimes because he is scared of being whipped or hanged.
Clown, the shepherd's son, enters. He is trying to calculate how much money the shearing of fifteen hundred sheep will yield, and to buy items for the sheep- shearing feast. His sister Perdita is mistress of the feast and has given him a list of what to buy, including sugar, currents, rice, nutmegs, ginger, prunes and raisins.
Autolycus sees him and thinks he will be easy to trick. He falls on the ground in front of Clown and pretends that he has been beaten and robbed. He also claims that his clothes were stolen, and he has been given in return the humble clothes that he is wearing. Clown tries to help him up, and Autolycus rewards him by picking his pocket. Clown offers to give him some money, but Autolycus graciously refuses (since he has just stolen everything Clown has). Clown asks who robbed him, and Autolycus spins a yarn about a disreputable fellow named Autolycus. Clown recognizes the name probably because Autolycus, in classical mythology, is the son of Mercury, the god of thieves and pickpockets. Clown agrees that Autolycus is a thorough rogue. They part company, Clown saying he must go and purchase spices for the sheep-shearing. Autolycus of course knows that Clown now has no money and will not be able to purchase anything. Saying he will come to the sheep-shearing, Autolycus exits singing another cheerful song.
Analysis
There is some comic relief here, with the appearance of Autolycus. As a cheerful rogue who lives by his wits and the gullibility of others, he is hard to dislike. Autolycus will also play an important role in the plot (Act 4, scene 4).




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