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

ACT IV, SCENE 1

Summary

This scene which is a single unit of thirty-two lines is spoken by Time as chorus. Sixteen years have elapsed and in that time Leontes in Sicilia has repented and continues to live in seclusion. From Sicilia the chorus transports the audience to Bohemia and speaks of Florizel, the son of the Bohemian king, Polixenes. Time, now turns to the graceful Perdita, who is growing up as a shepherd's daughter.

Notes

A Chorus is a dramatic device used here to bridge the gulf of sixteen years. Shakespeare flouted the unities of time, place and action in most of his plays and this is a splendid example. It is Time that speaks, and winged time can fly across sixteen years. Though device from ancient Greek plays, Time as Chorus is useful for the dramatic design and provides a useful transition to a new setting: Bohemia.

The Winter's Tale is a romance. The key theme in a romance is reconciliation. Time heals old wounds and prepares the audience for the reconciliation of Leontes and Polixenes. Yet another feature of romance is to present a world where the wisdom of old age coexists with the invigorating innocence of the young. Time as chorus prepares the audience to enter such a world.


SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

ACT IV, SCENE 2

Summary

Set in a room in the Palace of Bohemia, Polixenes and Camillo are in conversation. Camillo expresses his desire to go back to Sicilia and tells Polixenes that fifteen years has passed since he last saw his country. Moreover, his penitent master King Leontes has sent for him. Polixenes is unwilling to let Camillo go, as his services have become indispensable. Also, any talk of Sicilia agonizes Polixenes, as it recalls the memory of the loss of Queen Hermione and the children. Polixenes then complains of his son Prince Florizel. He has been away from the palace for quite some time. Camillo replies that it is three days since he has seen Prince Florizel. He also observes that lately the youth has not been involving himself in typical princely duties. Polixenes, through his intelligence officials, has found out that Prince Florizel frequents the house of a homely shepherd - a shepherd who according to the report of the neighbors has suddenly acquired much wealth.

The reports received by Camillo are similar. He has also heard that the shepherd has a daughter of rare beauty. Polixenes is sure that it is the beautiful woman who draws Florizel there. Polixenes requests Camillo to accompany him to the shepherd's cottage and speak to the shepherd. They decide to disguise themselves as shepherds for the purpose. Camillo agrees to defer his trip to Sicilia and go with Polixenes.

Notes

In this act, Shakespeare presents the audience with new settings (Bohemian Palace and the shepherd's cottage) and a new set of characters (Florizel and Perdita). But he begins with the old, familiar characters (Polixenes and Camillo) through whom he will introduce the audience to the new ones.

The conversation between Polixenes and Camillo highlights a number of observations. Firstly, Camillo is aware of the repentance of Leontes and wants to go back to Sicilia. Secondly, Camillo has made himself indispensable to Polixenes in the last fifteen years. This reveals Camillo's divided loyalties. Thirdly, Florizel is in love with Perdita and finally that Perdita's true parentage is not yet known to the others. As she is considered to be the daughter of the shepherd, Polixenes is likely to be upset over the love affair. Polixenes is shown here to be not quite the perfect character he may have first appeared to be. He is seen as being cunning in his use of espionage on his son and the desire to masquerade himself to discover the truth.

There is a connection between Camillo's desire to visit Sicilia and the love of Florizel for Perdita: through Camillo, Shakespeare will use their love as springboard to get back to Sicilia.

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