The Winter’s Tale Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: 1610-1611

First published: 1623

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragicomedy

Time of work: The legendary past

Locale: Sicilia and Bohemia

Characters DiscussedLeontes

Leontes Winter’s Tale, The (lee-ON-teez), the king of Sicilia. For many years a close friend of King Polixenes of Bohemia, Leontes, curiously, becomes insanely jealous of him. Afraid of becoming a cuckold, he imprisons Hermione, wrests her son away from her, and attempts to murder Polixenes. When he learns that Hermione is pregnant, he rails; he calls his daughter a bastard and forces Antigonus to leave the child alone in a deserted area. Finally, coming to his senses, he realizes the awful truth. Through his jealousy, he loses his child, wife, and friends.


Polixenes (poh-LIHKS-eh-neez), the king of Bohemia. The innocent victim of Leontes’ wrath, he flees to his kingdom, bewildered by his friend’s outburst. Many years later, he is to meet Leontes under much happier circumstances.


Hermione (hur-MI-uh-nee), the queen to Leontes and one of the noblest women in Shakespearean drama. Like Polixenes, she is baffled by Leontes’ jealousy. Imprisoned, with her children snatched away from her, she remains in hiding with Paulina, his devoted friend, until she is reunited with her family after sixteen years.


Perdita (PUR-dih-tuh), the daughter of Leontes and Hermione. Luckily for her, after she is abandoned she is found by an old shepherd, who protects her as his own child until she is of marriageable age. Meeting young Prince Florizel of Bohemia, she falls in love with him. Later, she and her repentant father are reunited.


Paulina (poh-LEE-nuh), the wife of Antigonus and lady in waiting to Hermione. Realizing the absurdity of Leontes’ accusations, the courageous woman upbraids him unmercifully for his blind cruelty to Hermione, whom she keeps hidden for sixteen years. Finally, through her efforts, husband and wife meet on a much happier note.


Camillo (ka-MIHL-oh), a lord of Sicilia and Leontes’ trusted adviser, who realizes that Hermione is completely innocent of adultery. When ordered by Leontes to kill Polixenes, loyal, steadfast Camillo cannot murder a good king. Instead, he sails with Polixenes and serves him well for many years. Later, he returns to his beloved Sicilia.


Antigonus (an-TIHG-uh-nuhs), a lord of Sicilia and Paulina’s husband. Much against his will, this unhappy man is forced to abandon Perdita in a deserted wasteland. Unfortunately for this good man, who is aware of the king’s irrationality, he is killed and eaten by a bear; hence, the fate and whereabouts of Perdita remain unknown for many years.


Autolycus (oh-TOL-ih-kuhs), a rogue. A ballad-monger, he is a delightful scoundrel. Quick with a song, he is equally adept at stealing purses and, in general, at living by his quick wit.


Florizel (FLOR-ih-zehl), the prince of Bohemia. In love with Perdita, he refuses to give her up, even though, in so doing, he angers his hot-tempered father, who does not want to see his son marry a girl of apparent low birth.

An old shepherd

An old shepherd, the reputed father of Perdita.

A clown

A clown, his oafish son.


Dion (DI-on) and


Cleomenes (klee-OM-eh-neez), lords of Sicilia.


Mamillius (ma-MIHL-ee-uhs), the young prince of Sicilia, the son of Leontes and Hermione.

BibliographyLloyd Evans, Gareth. The Upstart Crow: An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Plays. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1982. A comprehensive treatment of the dramatic works of William Shakespeare, with major emphasis on critical reviews of the plays. Also discusses the sources from which Shakespeare drew and circumstances surrounding the writing of the plays.Muir, Kenneth, ed. Shakespeare–The Comedies: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965. An anthology of essays by a variety of authors, discussing Shakespeare’s comedies from various points of view. Derek Traversi’s treatment of The Winter’s Tale is mainly concerned with the later scenes of the play and includes an intensive discussion of the characters’ motivations.Overton, Bill. The Winter’s Tale. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1989. A critical evaluation of Shakespeare’s play from a wide variety of points of view, including Marxism, feminism, and psychoanalysis. Also discusses previous critical studies of the play.Sanders, Wilbur. The Winter’s Tale. Boston: Twayne, 1987. A thorough critical evaluation of the play. Also includes information on the work’s stage history and original reception by critics. Sanders also discusses the psychological factors of the play and the use of language.Shakespeare, William. The Winter’s Tale. Edited by J. H. P. Pafford. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963. A new edition of the play, containing more than eighty pages of introductory notes and twenty pages of appendices. Discusses the sources, the text itself, and the music and songs. Also includes an extensive critical evaluation of the play.
Categories: Characters