T

The Winter's Tale

The "tale" of The Winter's Tale unfolds in scenes set sixteen years apart. In the first part of the play, Leontes, king of Sicilia, plays host to his friend Polixenes, king of Bohemia. Suddenly, Leontes becomes unreasonably jealous of Polixenes and Leontes's pregnant wife, Hermione. Leontes calls for Polixenes to be killed, but he escapes.

Hermione, under arrest, gives birth to a daughter; Leontes orders the baby to be taken overseas and abandoned. The death of the couple's young son, Mamillius, brings Leontes to his senses, too late. Word arrives that Hermione, too, has died. In Bohemia, a shepherd finds and adopts the baby girl, Perdita.

Sixteen years later, the story resumes. Polixenes's son, Florizell, loves Perdita. When Polixenes forbids the unequal match, the couple flees to Sicilia, where the tale reaches its conclusion. Perdita's identity as a princess is revealed, allowing her and Florizell to marry; Leontes and Polixenes reconcile; and Hermione returns in the form of a statue, steps down from its pedestal, and reunites with her family.

Early printed texts

The Winter's Tale was printed for the first time in the 1623 First Folio (F1), and that text is the basis for all subsequent editions of the play.

033132.jpg

View Image Assets
Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

057893.jpg

View Image Assets
Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing The Winter's Tale

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Winter's Tale is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

028384.jpg

View Image Assets
Viola Allen as Hermione (Act 5, scene 3; 1904)

Viola Allen as Hermione (Act 5, scene 3; 1904)

Item Title: 
[11 photographs of a production of Winter's tale, starring Viola Allen, performed in 1904] [graphic] / Byron.
Item Call Number: 
ART File A431 no.55 PHOTO (size M)
Item Creator: 
Byron Company (New York, N.Y.), photographer.
Item Date: 
[New York : s.n., 1904]

028540.jpg

View Image Assets
Charles Fry as Leontes (1907)

Charles Fry as Leontes (1907)

Item Title: 
Leontes (Charles Fry) [in Shakespeare's play, Winter's tale] [graphic] / photo, J. & L. Caswall Smith.
Item Call Number: 
ART File F946 no.1 PHOTO (size M)
Item Date: 
London [England] : Virtue & Co., [1907?]

027319.jpg

View Image Assets
Leontes watching Hermione with Polinexes (Act 1, scene 2; 19th century)

Leontes watching Hermione with Polinexes (Act 1, scene 2; 19th century)

Item Title: 
Winter's tale, Leontes: Still virginalling, act I, sc. II [graphic] / J.M. Wright ; F. Bacon.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528w1 no.3 copy 2 (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Bacon, Frederick, 1803-1887, printmaker.
Item Date: 
London [England] : Robert Jennings & William Chaplin, [19th century]

031144.jpg

View Image Assets
Florizel and Perdita dancing with the shepherds (Act 4, scene 4; 19th century)

Florizel and Perdita dancing with the shepherds (Act 4, scene 4; 19th century)

Item Title: 
Scenes from the Winters tale.
Item Call Number: 
ART Vol c78
Item Creator: 
Jones, Owen

028294.jpg

View Image Assets
Florizel and Perdita (Act 4, scene 4; 19th century)

Florizel and Perdita (Act 4, scene 4; 19th century)

Item Title: 
Florizel and Perdita, Florizel: These your unusual weeds to each part of you ... Winter's tale, act IV, scene III [i.e. scene IV] [graphic] / J.D. Watson, Pinxt. ; C. Mottram sculpt.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528w1 no.37 copy 2 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Mottram, Charles, 1817-1876, printmaker.
Item Date: 
[London, England] : Cassell, Petter & Galpin, [18--]

027357.jpg

View Image Assets
Hermione reunited with Perdita (Act 5, scene 3; 18th century or early 19th)

Hermione reunited with Perdita (Act 5, scene 3; 18th century or early 19th)

Item Title: 
Winters tale, Hermione embracing Perdita, Herm.: You gods, look down, and from your sacred vials pour your graces [graphic] / engraved by Isaac Taylor Junr. ; from a drawing by Thos. Stothard.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528w1 no.65 (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Taylor, Isaac, 1759-1829, printmaker.
Item Date: 
[S.l. : s.n., 18th century or early 19th century]

More images of The Winter's Tale can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)