Leontes (lee-ON-teez), the king of Sicilia. For many years a close friend of King Polixenes of Bohemia, Leontes, curiously, becomes insanely jealous of him. Afraid of becoming a cuckold, he imprisons Hermione, wrests her son away from her, and attempts to murder Polixenes. When he learns that Hermione is pregnant, he rails; he calls his daughter a bastard and forces Antigonus to leave the child alone in a deserted area. Finally, coming to his senses, he realizes the awful truth. Through his jealousy, he loses his child, wife, and friends.
Polixenes (poh-LIHKS-eh-neez), the king of Bohemia. The innocent victim of Leontes’ wrath, he flees to his kingdom, bewildered by his friend’s outburst. Many years later, he is to meet Leontes under much happier circumstances.
Hermione (hur-MI-uh-nee), the queen to Leontes and one of the noblest women in Shakespearean drama. Like Polixenes, she is baffled by Leontes’ jealousy. Imprisoned, with her children snatched away from her, she remains in hiding with Paulina, his devoted friend, until she is reunited with her family after sixteen years.
Perdita (PUR-dih-tuh), the daughter of Leontes and Hermione. Luckily for her, after she is abandoned she is found by an old shepherd, who protects her as his own child until she is of marriageable age. Meeting young Prince Florizel of Bohemia, she falls in love with him. Later, she and her repentant father are reunited.
Paulina (poh-LEE-nuh), the wife of Antigonus and lady in waiting to Hermione. Realizing the absurdity of Leontes’ accusations, the courageous woman upbraids him unmercifully for his blind cruelty to Hermione, whom she keeps hidden for sixteen years. Finally, through her efforts, husband and wife meet on a much happier note.
Camillo (ka-MIHL-oh), a lord of Sicilia and Leontes’ trusted adviser, who realizes that Hermione is completely innocent of adultery. When ordered by Leontes to kill Polixenes, loyal, steadfast Camillo cannot murder a good king. Instead, he sails with Polixenes and serves him well for many years. Later, he returns to his beloved Sicilia.
Antigonus (an-TIHG-uh-nuhs), a lord of Sicilia and Paulina’s husband. Much against his will, this unhappy man is forced to abandon Perdita in a deserted wasteland. Unfortunately for this good man, who is aware of the king’s irrationality, he is killed and eaten by a bear; hence, the fate and whereabouts of Perdita remain unknown for many years.
Autolycus (oh-TOL-ih-kuhs), a rogue. A ballad-monger, he is a delightful scoundrel. Quick with a song, he is equally adept at stealing purses and, in general, at living by his quick wit.
Florizel (FLOR-ih-zehl), the prince of Bohemia. In love with Perdita, he refuses to give her up, even though, in so doing, he angers his hot-tempered father, who does not want to see his son marry a girl of apparent low birth.
An old shepherd
An old shepherd, the reputed father of Perdita.
A clown, his oafish son.
Dion (DI-on) and
Cleomenes (klee-OM-eh-neez), lords of Sicilia.
Mamillius (ma-MIHL-ee-uhs), the young prince of Sicilia, the son of Leontes and Hermione.