The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, first performed c. 1611.
The play follows a tragedy of jealousy. It begins with two childhood friends: Leontes, King of Sicilia, and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. Polixenes is visiting the kingdom of Sicilia and enjoying his time as he catches up with his old friend, Leontes.
After nine months, Polixenes misses his own kingdom and his son. Leontes desperately attempts to get Polixenes to stay longer, but is unsuccessful. Leontes then decides to send his wife, Queen Hermione, to try to convince Polixenes. Hermione agrees and with three short speeches is successful. Leontes is extremely puzzled as to how Hermione is able to easily convince Polixenes. Before long, Leontes is consumed with paranoia that his pregnant wife is having an affair with Polixenes and that the child maybe a bastard. Leontes orders Camillo, a Sicilian Lord, to poison Polixenes.
Camillo did not follow the orders of Leontes, instead, warns Polixenes and they both escaped to Bohemia. Leontes then arrests Hermione on charges of adultery and conspiracy against his life. While in prison, Hermione gives birth to a daughter. This time, Leontes orders Antigonus, a Sicilian courtier, to dispose of the infant.
Hermione is tried. During the trial, the Oracle at Delphos pronounces her innocent. Leontes defies the oracle and immediately receives word that his young son, Mamillius, has died of grief, a fulfillment of another prophecy of the Oracle. Hermione faints and is reported to have died. Leontes laments his poor judgment and promises to grieve for his dead wife and son every day for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, unaware of Leontes' change of heart, Antigonus follows Leontes' earlier instructions to abandon Hermione's newborn daughter on the seacoast of Bohemia. Hermione appears to Antigonus in a dream and tells him to name the child "Perdita" which is derived from the Latin word for "lost." Fortunately, Perdita is rescued by a shepherd and his son known as "Clown". There is a large amount of money with the baby and the shepherd is now very rich.
What follows is a 16 year gap. Time enters to announce it.
Leontes has spent the sixteen years mourning his wife and children. In Bohemia, Polixenes and Camillo become aware that Florizel, the son of Polixenes has become infatuated with a shepherdess. Disguised, they attend a sheep-shearing festival and confirm that the young Prince Florizel plans to marry a shepherd's beautiful young daughter Perdita, who has no idea and knows nothing of her royal heritage.
Polixenes vehemently objects to the marriage. When he threatens the young couple, they flee to Sicilia, aided by Camillo. Polixenes pursues them. With the help of a comic named Autolycus, Perdita's heritage is revealed. She also reunites with her father, Leontes. The kings are reconciled and both approve of the marriage of Florizel and Perdita.
They all go to see the supposed statue of Hermione kept by Paulina, widow of Antigonus, lady of Hermione's court and one of Hermione's most faithful defender. The statue apparently comes to life and is revealed as the real Hermione who went into hiding to await the fulfilment of the oracle's prophecy that she will be reunited with her daughter. She is "reborn" into her marriage with Leontes. It's a happy ending.
The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's last plays.