Act IIIAct 3.1
We see them briefly at the start of Act 3, and their language is completely at odds with the ferocity of the Sicilian court, being an appraisal of what pleased them and caught their eye at Delphos. They talk like tourists or theatre critics, and their conversation is much like that of 1.1 and especially 5.2.
The trial scene reveals Hermione at her most majestic. She does not loudly protest her innocence, because it would be useless. She is unmoved by Leontes' threats, having nothing to live for. At every turn she undercuts the proceedings, so that in the end Leontes sarcastically condemns himself from his own mouth - "Your actions are my dreams. / You had a bastard by Polixenes, / And I but dream'd it!" Perhaps Hermione's most moving refusal to engage in Leontes' "dream" is when she imagines her father being present:
"The Emperor of Russia was my father:
Instead of calling her father to rescue her, she calls upon him as an audience, privileging the recognition of her fate over the possibility of changing it. Her strength is that of a dramatic icon: imprisoned on a stage and sealed inside Leontes' mad delusion, nothing can be done or said. Instead it is how her situation is witnessed that is important. This is an acknowledgement of the audience, an overt and ironic example of which can be seen in Cymbeline, when Imogen comes across what she (wrongly) thinks is the body of her beloved, Posthumus Leonatus, and daubs herself with her blood in order to present a more shocking picture of grief.
"O / Give colour to my pale cheek with thy blood,
Leontes, however, is blind to the appeal, and even when his folly is contradicted by the Oracle to the joy and relief of everyone else, refuses to acknowledge his error but denounces it as false. Immediately a servant comes in with news of Mamillius' death. Only now does Leontes acknowledge his mistake, thinking that Apollo is angry with him. Hermione falls down in a faint and is taken away by Paulina and the ladies while Leontes asks Apollo's pardon and resolves to undo the wrongs he has brought about. Too late. Paulina returns and announces Hermione's death. This time she is utterly unrestrained: Leontes is a tyrant beyond hope of forgiveness:
"A thousand knees
In 1.2, Polixenes expresses his thanks by saying that even if he spent nine months thanking Leontes, "yet we should, for perpetuity, / Go hence in debt". Exaggeration, that Hermione called seeking "t'unsphere the stars with oaths", becomes literal in Leontes' sentence. Mamillius and Hermione's tomb shall be a source of "shame perpetual", which he resolves to visit once a day as penance. Leontes is led away by Paulina, as the assembled company will be at the end of the play: "Come, and lead me / To these sorrows".
The last scene of the act is set in Bohemia, out of doors, as is every scene there. Antigonus has arrived on the shore of Bohemia where what he thinks was the ghost of Hermione, appearing to him in his dream, ordered him to take the baby, who she named Perdita. Bohemia does not have a coast. In giving it one, Shakespeare made an error almost as famous as the stage direction that marks Antigonus' exit - "exit, pursued by a bear." Shakespeare took the two countries from his main source, Robert Greene's Pandosto, but reversed the situation: in Pandosto, as was traditional, Arcadia was located in Sicily and the jealous king was from Bohemia. In The Winter's Tale, it is the opposite, perhaps because Shakespeare wanted jealousy to occur on an island, as it does in Othello and in Cymbeline. The atmosphere undoubtedly changes when we get to Bohemia. The Shepherd and his son the Clown are comic characters. Although the events the Clown narrates - the loss of the ship and Antigonus' end as a bear's lunch - are not inherently
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