The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th September 2007
King Leontes of Sicilia begs his childhood friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia, to extend his visit to Sicilia. Polixenes protests but after Leontes’ pregnant wife, Hermione, pursuades him to stay a little longer, Leontes becomes convinced that Polixenes and Hermione are lovers. He orders his loyal retainer, Camillo, to poison the Bohemian king but instead, Camillo warns Polixenes, and the two men flee Sicilia immediately. Furious at their escape, Leontes now publicly accuses his wife of infidelity, and declares that the child she is bearing must be illegitimate. He throws her in prison and sends to the Oracle of Delphi for what he is sure will be confirmation of his suspicions. Meanwhile, the queen gives birth to a girl, and her loyal friend Paulina brings the baby to the king, in the hopes that the sight of the child will soften his heart. He only grows angrier, however, and orders Paulina’s husband, Lord Antigonus, to take the child and abandon it in some desolate place.
While Antigonus is gone, the answer comes from Delphi and Hermione is vindicated. As this news is revealed, word comes that Leontes’s son, Mamillius, has died of a wasting sickness brought on by the accusations against his mother. Hermione, meanwhile, falls in a swoon, and is carried away by Paulina, who subsequently reports the queen’s death to her heartbroken and repentant husband.
Antigonus, meanwhile abandons the baby on the Bohemian coast and shortly thereafter is killed by a bear. Perdita is found and taken in by a kindly Shepherd. Sixteen years pass…