One of the most striking moments in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is the scene in which Leontes's wife Hermione, whom both he and the audience thought dead, turns out to be alive (Act V, scene 3). The play also contains another recognition scene: in Act V, scene 2, when Leontes finds out that he has an heir whom he had also thought dead:

Third Gentleman: (...) that which you hear you'll swear you see, there is such unity in the proofs. The mantle of Queen Hermione's, her jewel about the neck of it, the letters of Antigonus found with it which they know to be his character, the majesty of the creature in resemblance of the mother, the affection of nobleness which nature shows above her breeding, and many other evidences proclaim her with all certainty to be the king's daughter. (...)


Third Gentleman: Then have you lost a sight, which was to be seen, cannot be spoken of. There might you have beheld one joy crown another, so and in such manner that it seemed sorrow wept to take leave of them, for their joy waded in tears. There was casting up of eyes, holding up of hands, with countenances of such distraction that they were to be known by garment, not by favour. (...)

Unlike the scene in which Leontes discovers that his wife is still alive, the scene in which he learns his daughter is still alive is merely reported, not shown. Why is this?

1 Answer 1


Having both scenes dramatized -- as in Pericles, where the reunions with both daughter and wife appear on stage -- confuses the story by having two climactic scenes in rapid succession. By having only one, Winter's Tale rises to a single unified climax.

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