The Winter's Tale | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Winter's Tale | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



At the jail Antigonus's wife, Paulina, asks to see Hermione. The jailer regretfully refuses, telling Paulina that he has explicit orders not to allow such a visit. Instead, however, he can permit Paulina to speak with Emilia, one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting. Emilia reveals that Hermione has given birth prematurely to a baby daughter. Paulina tells Emilia that she wants to take the infant to Leontes in the hope that the sight of the baby will soften his heart. Emilia promises to inform the queen, and Paulina reassures the jailer, telling him she will use her influence to protect him if necessary.


This brief scene introduces the audience to one of the play's most important characters, the noblewoman Paulina. Like her husband Antigonus, she is firmly on the side of Hermione, believing in the queen's innocence and virtue. Also like Antigonus, Paulina does not hesitate to speak out, opposing Leontes when she thinks the king acts or speaks wrongly. In fact, as the next scene suggests Paulina is even more outspoken than Antigonus is.

From the dialogue with the jailer and Emilia, it is clear that Paulina is highly respected. She herself appears aware of her gifts of persuasion, and she is willing to stake her prestige on Hermione's cause. The characterization of Paulina as a person of integrity and outstanding good sense suggests that the play will include a powerful, and perhaps decisive, counterweight to Leontes's dangerous irrationality.

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