Shakespeare 104

Hermione in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is a gentle, faithful, loving wife and friend but this doesn’t stop her husband, Leontes, King of Sicilia, from wrongly believing that she is having an affair with Polixenes, his boyhood companion. As Leontes works himself into a jealous frenzy, Polixenes flees and Hermione is charged with adultery and sent to prison. When Hermione’s baby girl is born, Leontes sends the infant away, convinced it is not his child. 

Although Hermione speaks calmly and convincingly at her trial (and the Oracle of Delphi later confirms her innocence), Leontes remains unmoved. It is only when Hermione faints at the news that their son is dead and is later herself proclaimed dead by Paulina, her lady-in- waiting, that Leontes admits that his suspicions were unjustified.

Sixteen years pass. 

Perdita, the daughter of Hermione and Leontes has been raised by a shepherd’s family in the Kingdom of Polixenes. When Prince Florizel, son of Polixenes, falls in love with Perdita but is not allowed to marry because of her low status, the couple go to Sicilia, hoping that Leontes will intercede with his old friend on their behalf. When everyone learns that Perdita is the long-lost daughter of Leontes then Paulina, the former lady in waiting to Hermione, invites everyone to her home and unveils a lifelike statue of Hermione made by a famous sculptor. As it turns out, the statue really is Hermione, who astonishingly remains alive. In the ensuing happy scene, past wrongs are forgiven and peace and hope reign for the future.

Lesson: It’s never to late to make amends and you might well be amazed at the results.

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