The Winter's Tale | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Winter's Tale | Act 3, Scene 1 | Summary



On their way back to Sicilia from Delphos, the envoys Cleomenes and Dion converse about their journey and their mission. They praise the island's climate, the temple of Apollo, and the ceremonies they witnessed. Cleomenes compares the voice of the oracle to the thunder of Jove, the king of the gods. Both envoys hope their mission may aid Hermione's cause.


This brief scene follows up the servant's announcement at the end of Act 2, Scene 3 that Cleomenes and Dion have arrived home from Delphos. The envoys' conversation serves several purposes: it adds to the audience's suspense, as spectators await the determination of the oracle; and it also stresses the prestige and momentous repute of the oracle itself. Finally the envoys' clear sympathy for Hermione emphasizes once more the bizarre and delusional quality of Leontes's hostility toward his wife. The envoys' reverence for the oracle will contrast strikingly with Leontes's denial of its truth in the next scene.

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