The Winter's Tale

A Meeting of the Petty Gods

Act IV, Scene IV, of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale marks a shift away from the Sicilian, courtly world that dominates the previous three acts and much of Act IV. The chaos and disorder resulting from court happenings, Hermione's apparent death, Perdita's abandonment, Polixenes' betrayal by Leontes, and Camillo's exodus from Sicilia, for example, begin their resolution in the serenity and beauty of the pastoral world, which is closely connected to nature.

Whereas Acts I, II, and III revolve around the actions and consequences that stem from betrayed love, the fourth scene of Act IV is dominated by successful love stories. There are the central love story between Florizel and Perdita and a peripheral love story between the shepherd's son and a country maid. As Scene Four begins, Florizel and Perdita reveal their feelings for one another in an exchange that incorporates the first of many references to ancient Roman deities and the natural world: "These your unusual weeds to each part of you / Does give a life; no shepherdess, but Flora / Peering in April's front. This your sheep-shearing / Is as a meeting of the petty gods, / And you the queen on't" (4.4.1-5). Perdita is...

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