Husband of Hermione, father of Perdita. Leontes' delusional conviction that his wife and best friend have become lovers causes all of the problems of the play. He abuses his authority as king, bringing ruin and eventual death on his blameless wife and son, as well as the loss of his infant daughter. He grieves for sixteen years, until his wife and daughter are miraculously restored to him.
Hermione, Queen of Sicilia
Blameless queen and loving mother, Hermione is a model of passive virtue and forgiveness. Obedient to her husband's wishes and ultimately loyal to him despite his treatment of her, she bears his outrageous tyranny with dignity and strength. She dies of grief and shock after her son dies, but at the end of the play she is miraculously restored by Paulina.
Perdita, Princess of Sicilia
A foundling abandoned in the wilds of Bohemia by the tyrannous order of her father, Perdita grows to strength and beauty under the roof of the kindly Shepherd who finds her. She is unaware of her royal parentage, and lives happily in an idyllic world of sheep tending and rural festivals. Her romance with Bohemia's prince threatens her safety, and she is forced to flee with him to Sicilia.
Mamillius, Prince of Sicilia
Praised by all at court as a boy of great promise, Mamillius is the charming and beloved heir of the Sicilian throne. Still a young child, he dies from worry during his mother's trial.
Polixenes, King of Bohemia
Polixenes, best friend of Leontes since boyhood, is targeted for assassination by Sicilia's king in the first act. Leontes believes that Polixenes has become Hermione's lover. Later, Polixenes' son Florizell falls in love with Perdita. Polixenes becomes furious that his son is planning to marry a commoner, and he threatens the girl with execution.
Florizell, Prince of Bohemia
Florizell is willing to abandon his throne to marry Perdita. A wholesome, loyal youth, his devotion for Perdita is beyond question.
Wife of Antigonus and lady at the Sicilian court, Paulina becomes Leontes' most important advisor after the king becomes penitent for his previous tyrannous behavior. Fearless and sharp-tongued, she confronts the king fiercely when he is caught in his delusions about Hermione. At the end of the play, her magic restores the queen.
Competent administrator and trusted friend, Camillo is a lord first in the service of Leontes and then in the service of Polixenes. When Leontes orders him to poison Bohemia's king, Camillo chooses the dictates of his conscience over obedience.
Husband of Paulina, Antigonus is a decent man who tries ineffectively to bring Leontes back to reason. Under oath to obey his king, Antigonus carries the infant Perdita to the wilds of Bohemia and abandons her. The gods punish him for his part in the unjust act, and he is eaten by a bear.
This kindly old man finds the infant Perdita and raises her as his own child. For his kindness, he is richly rewarded by King Leontes.
Called "Clown" in some editions, the Shepherd's Son is a rustic and naïve man whose bumbling, rural ways provide comic relief. He is duped by Autolycus.
Formerly in the service of Florizell, Autolycus is now a rogue who cons innocents out of their money. Yet he, too, proves loyal to his prince. Because of his actions, Perdita's true identity is uncovered.
Mopsa and Dorcas
Two country girls involved with the Shepherd's Son.
Lady-in-waiting to Hermione.
Cleomenes and Dion
Lords in the Sicilian court, Cleomenes and Dion are sent by Leontes to consult the oracle of Apollo.
Hermione's jailer. He allows Paulina to speak with Emilia, and he also allows Paulina to take the baby to Leontes.
Officer at the Court
Officer who works at Hermione's trial.
Bohemian courtier staying as a guest in Sicilia.
Sailor on the ship that carries Antigonus and Perdita to Bohemia.
Various Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, and Servants at the Sicilian Court
Various Shepherds, Shepherdesses, and Men Dressed as Satyrs
The Winter’s Tale Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Winter’s Tale is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
An Oracle is a medium: a person who delivers authoritative, wise, or highly regarded and influential pronouncements. In this play, the sacred island of “Delphos” or Delos is attached to the town of Delphi where ancient...
Autolycus, a young man formerly in the service of the prince, now makes his living as a con artist. He pretends that he has been wounded by highway robbers. The unsuspecting Shepherd's Son, out buying supplies and ingredients...