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The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare-Free MonkeyNotes Study Guide
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SCENE ANALYSIS AND SUMMARY

ACT II, SCENE 2

Summary

Paulina, wife of Antigonus comes to the prison gate and asks the guard to take her to the queen, who is in the cell. The guard replies he cannot do so as he has specific instructions to the contrary. Paulina remarks that the guard is making a big fuss about allowing a gentle visitor to see an honest lady. Then she asks for Emilia, one of the lady attendants of Hermione. The guard wants to be present at the meeting and brings Emilia. Paulina inquires about the "gracious Lady" and Emilia tells Paulina that the queen has prematurely delivered a baby girl, beautiful and healthy.


The queen tells the infant, "My poor prisoner, I am innocent as you." Paulina offers to take the baby to the king; she hopes that Leontes may soften at the sight of the child. Where speech had failed, the silence of the innocent baby may succeed in bringing about a change in him. Emilia appreciates Paulina's proposal and offers to bring the infant. In fact, the queen has been thinking along similar lines. The guard once again is apprehensive about the proposition but Paulina declares that the child, who was a prisoner in the womb, has been freed by the great law of nature. The guard concedes after some hesitation.

Notes

This scene introduces the audience to Paulina, one of the most memorable characters in the play. She is extremely blunt, straightforward and fearless. Without mincing words, she refers to "these dangerous, unsafe lunes in the King" - the true condition of the King, which everyone knows but none dare articulate. She takes a bold step and a serious responsibility by offering to take the newborn to the king. Unlike the others, Paulina is not afraid to speak her rage and reveal the King's ranting for what it is, lunacy.

The audience most probably considers the king's behavior as outrageous and it is Paulina who voices this opinion and renders the comfort of venting it. Thus her role is dramatically very significant.

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