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The most significant pastoral elements in William Shakespeare's play The Winter's Tale occur mainly in Act IV. The setting is a rustic area, abounding in natural beauty. The stock figures of shepherds, rustics, disguised prince, and beautiful shepherdess who is really a noble, all occur in this act. Unlike the rest of the play, the tone and plot of this act are those of the comic and romantic traditions of the pastoral rather than the darker elements that we find in the scenes set in civilization. Shakespeare uses many pastoral metaphors in this act, and includes discussions of nature versus nurture and hybridization also belonging to the pastoral tradition.
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