The Winter’s Tale: Where the Story Ends

Shakespeare - Winter's Tale - Act V, Scene III - William Hamilton, Robert Thew, John and Josiah Boydell | FAMSF Search the CollectionsThe end of The Winter’s Tale closes in a very obscure way, causing one to question whether or not the ending is actually real. There were plenty of points where I felt that the story was going to continue, and it was actually the closing of a story arc. The most prominent example of this was at the return of Hermione, and whether or not there was still more story left in her. There also was no mention of what she was up to for the 16 years that she was “dead.” There is still no clear answer as to whether or not she is actually alive, as the only one that saw her death was Paulina. So did Paulina hide her away? Paulina’s insistence that the king remains faithful to Hermione also brings to question if she knew that Hermione was alive. Really, this entire play almost feels unfinished, almost as if Shakespeare meant to write a sequel, similar to Richard III. In fact, it would make more sense if Shakespeare had written a second play that would begin either telling what was taking place during the sixteen-year gap in the story or instead beginning with Leontes at the end of the gap. Perhaps Shakespeare did not have enough time to write sequels?

Overall, I think that this play is sweet. For everything that happens, I did really enjoy the ending and thought that it was a sweet story. I’m a sucker for romance stories and picturing Leontes embracing Hermione and his overwhelming happiness is a good close for him. I would also say that there is also something admirable about the fact that Leontes waited for Hermione. His willingness to wait for the person whom he loves and remaining faithful is a great way to close his arc. The comedic aspect, of course, comes in when Camillo and Paulina are engaged, but it still has a “Happily Ever After.” In a modern context, we are willing to believe that love can cause us to go mad, and turn on others. If there was ever anywhere where the phrase “All’s Fair in Love and War” was apparent, it would be in this play.


  1. A part of me wonders how badly Paulina wanted to get back at Leontes, and if she was petty enough to keep his wife from him for 16 years. It is clear that he already had mental issues and I wonder how she thought any of this would help with it. Maybe she didn’t want to help, rather just assert her dominance over him.

  2. I too thought the story was pretty sweet. Obviously, Leontes was not my favorite player in the beginning, but he actually showed great remorse and regret for doing what he did. Also, the fact that he waited for Hermoine means that he had genuine feelings for her. I compared this to Claudio and Hero, who get together in the end, but Claudio never really expressed much guilt and it was too easy for him to get Hero back.

  3. I am also a sucker for a good romance…but I don’t think this is one of those. Maybe I’m being over critical or maybe I’m stuck on the fact that Shakespeare’s “love stories” involve a lot of death, fake death and men claiming their wives cheated on them for no reason other than their outlandish and uncalled-for jealousy, but I did not enjoy this ending at all. It left me with so many questions and quite plainly I was frustrated. I wonder if this went over the audience’s head in 1611, or maybe it did not and people just never talked about it as being anything other than a comedy.

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