David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE: A Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters and Act 1, Scene 1



LEONTES, King of Sicily.

MAMILLIUS, young Prince of Sicily.


POLIXENES, King of Bohemia.                        

FLORIZEL, his Son.

ARCHIDAMUS, a Lord of Bohemia.

A Mariner.

A Jailer.

An old Shepherd, reputed Father of Perdita.

CLOWN, his Son. The son of the shepherd is a Clown character — a comic character. In this retelling of the play, I made “Clown” his nickname because I did not want to continually refer to him as the old shepherd’s son. Shakespeare did not use “Clown” as a nickname.

Servant to the old Shepherd.



HERMIONE, Queen to Leontes, King of Sicily.

PERDITA, Daughter to Leontes and Hermione.

PAULINA, Wife to Antigonus.

EMILIA, a Lady.

Other Ladies, attending the Queen.

MOPSA and DORCAS, Shepherdesses.


Sicilian Lords and Ladies, Attendants, Guards, Herdsmen dressed as Satyrs, Shepherds, Shepherdesses, etc.

Time, as Chorus.


Sometimes in Sicily, sometimes in Bohemia.

 — 1.1 —

In an antechamber in the palace of Leontes, King of Sicily, two courtiers were conversing. Archidamus was a courtier from Bohemia, and Camillo was a courtier from Sicily. For the past nine months, Polixenes, King of Bohemia, had been visiting Leontes, a childhood friend. Now, however, Polixenes wanted to return to his Kingdom. The two courtiers were formal as they spoke to each other.

Archidamus said, “If you should happen, Camillo, to visit Bohemia on a similar diplomatic visit such as that on which my services are now engaged, you shall see, as I have said, great differences between our Bohemia and your Sicily.”

Archidamus was speaking truer than he knew. Soon, a great difference — a great quarrel — would arise between the King of Bohemia and the King of Sicily.

“I think that this coming summer the King of Sicily intends to pay Bohemia the visit that he justly and reciprocally owes him,” Camillo replied.

“During that visit, our hospitality shall shame us because of its poverty; however, our good will toward you shall excuse us because indeed —”

“Please —” Camillo interrupted.

Archidamus interrupted Camillo: “Truly, I speak what I know. We cannot entertain you the way that you have entertained us with such magnificence — which is so rare that I don’t know what to say. We will give you sleep-inducing drinks so that you, unaware of the insufficiency of our hospitality, may, although you cannot praise us, criticize us as little as possible.”

“You pay a great deal too much for what’s given freely,” Camillo said. “I want to freely pay you a compliment, but you will not allow me to.”

“Believe me, I speak what I know to be true, and my honesty makes me say it to you,” Archidamus said.

Camillo, the courtier from Sicily, replied, “The King of Sicily cannot be too kind to the King of Bohemia. They were trained together in their childhoods; and there rooted between them then such an affection that cannot choose but branch now.”

Camillo was also speaking truer than he knew. “Trained” was a horticultural word, as were “rooted” and “branch,” the latter of which had two meanings: 1) to branch out, aka produce branches and grow, and 2) to go in two different directions. Soon, the two Kings would quarrel and go in two different directions.

He continued, “They grew up, and then their high position and duties and obligations in adult life caused them to be separated; however, the two kept in touch. Their deputies have done an excellent job of delivering gifts and letters and making friendly embassies from one King to the other King. The two Kings, although in different countries, have seemed to be together. Although separated from each other, they have seemed to shake hands over a vast ocean, and embraced, as it were, from the ends of the Earth. May the Heavens help their friendship to continue!”

“I think there is nothing in the world — such as malice and evil will or any factual matter — that can stop their friendship,” Archidamus said.

The two courtiers had been speaking formally, but now they loosened up and soon they began to joke with each other.

Archidamus said, “You have an inexpressibly great comfort in your young Prince Mamillius: He is a gentleman of the greatest promise who ever came into my notice.”

“I very much agree with you,” Camillo said. “We have great hopes for him. He is a gallant child: one who indeed is a tonic for all the citizens of Sicily. He makes old hearts fresh. Old people who walked with crutches before he was born hope to stay alive long enough to see him become a man.”

“If not for that desire, would they be content to die?”

“Yes, if there were no other excuse why they should desire to live.”

“If King Leontes had no son, they would desire to live on crutches until he had a son,” Archidamus said.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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