Act V, Scene iii
Synopsis of Act V, Scene iii
The scene takes place in the ‘remov'd' (i.e. distant from the court) house of Paulina in which she has, apparently, had created a statue of Hermione. Paulina draws a curtain, revealing the statue. Leontes finds it admirable, but looking older than his wife was; Paulina says it has been made to look as Hermione would if she were alive now.
Perdita kneels down before the statue, as if to ask its blessing. Leontes feels it is almost alive. Paulina says she can make the statue move, and calls for music to awaken it. Hermione – for it is actually she, who has been hidden away by Paulina for sixteen years – steps down off the platform on which she is standing. She embraces her husband, and Leontes realises that she is really alive, and warm. Hermione then speaks to her newly-discovered daughter.
Paulina says she has fulfilled what she wished to do, and will now live quietly alone, but Leontes, who knows that Camillo has always admired her, suggests a marriage between them. He also introduces Florizel to Hermione as her future son-in-law. They all leave, to share accounts of what has happened to them in the past sixteen years.
Commentary on Act V, Scene iii
As she liv'd peerless Hermione was unequalled in her qualities when alive; this is echoed in Perdita's description as being goddess-like.
She was as tender / As infancy and grace The innocence associated with children is also associated with Hermione. See: Spiritual re-creation; Children.
Warm life / As now it coldly stands A stone statue would inevitably be cold; but warmth has been associated, particularly in the sheep-shearing scene (Act IV scene iv) with the renewal of spring and summer. As Hermione apparently comes to life, she brings re-creation and renewal. See: The seasons.
I am ashamed These three words – especially coming from a powerful king - have tremendous significance: by admitting his guilt and shame before the figure of Hermione, Leontes publicly acknowledges his sin and his mistreatment of her, showing that he is therefore ready for forgiveness and redemption.
My lord, your sorrow was too sore laid on Like the other lords in Act V scene i, Camillo says that Leontes has ‘done enough'. But Leontes is fully aware of the extent of his guilt.
As we are mock'd with art Art and nature seem one; Leontes cannot tell the difference between them. See: Ideas of nature.
It is requir'd / You do awake your faith Those gathered in Paulina's gallery feel that some witchcraft may be taking place. Paulina reassures them that there is nothing evil associated with what she is doing – but they do have to believe in the power of the divine and in miracles if they are to receive the grace they seek.
Music, awake her There was no music in the play before Act IV. It is associated throughout the play with new life and jollity - and harmony in both senses of the word. It is entirely appropriate therefore that music should ‘awaken' Hermione.
More on Shakespeare's use of music: Shakespeare uses music for similar purposes in other plays. For example, the exhausted King Lear, reunited with Cordelia, is roused from slumber by music, suggesting love and harmony with his beloved daughter.
Bequeath to death your numbness; for from him / Dear life redeems you For Shakespeare's audience, redemption from death would have had a very specific meaning: Christians believed (and believe) that by his death on the cross, followed by his resurrection from the dead, Christ redeemed sinners from death and offered eternal life. Hermione's ‘resurrection' is therefore reminiscent of that of Christ.
O she's warm! This emotive cry by Leontes both reinforces the fact that this is the real Hermione, and no statue, and also associates Hermione with all the warmth / sun / renewal imagery of Act IV.
She hangs about his neck Yet Shakespeare gives her no words to say to Leontes; she speaks only to Perdita.
Our Perdita is found As elsewhere in the play, the idea of the lost one being found, representing the grace of God to sinners, is repeated. See the biblical parables of the finding of the lost sheep, finding the lost coin and the lost (or prodigal) son in Luke 15:3-32.
You gods, look down … and ... pour your graces Hermione acknowledges that they have been watched over by divine providence and accorded the gift of grace. See: Spiritual re-creation; The higher powers.
Come, Camillo, / And take her by the hand This sudden match-making by Leontes, joining Camillo and Paulina, may seem unrealistic; but thematically it is appropriate. Both are loyal servants, truth-tellers who have not been afraid to tell Leontes what he ought to hear, and together they have been instrumental in the restoration of Hermione and Perdita to Leontes.
Heavens directing As Hermione has just done, Leontes acknowledges that divine providence has been responsible for the miraculous events – in this case, the coming-together of Florizel and Perdita.
This wide gap of time Time is implicitly acknowledged as one of the significant aspects of restoration and healing. See: Time.
Investigating Act V, Scene iii
- Consider the ‘resurrection' of Hermione:
- Why, in your opinion, does Shakespeare decide to have Hermione hidden away for sixteen years?
- How effective is Hermione's re-appearance at the end of the play?
- Why might Shakespeare decide not to give Hermione any words to speak to Leontes?
- The restoration of an heir to Leontes, as promised by the Oracle, is effected without the re-appearance of Hermione so why might Shakespeare decide to include Act V, scene 3?
- What would the play gain or lose without this scene?
- The first half of the play is like a tragedy, and the second half like a comedy. In your opinion, which aspect dominates – what is the mood of the play overall?
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them. 3So he told them this parable: 4What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost. 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. 11And he said, There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me. And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. 22But the father said to his servants, Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate. 25Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound. 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him! 31And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.
1Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. 11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Disobedience to the known will of God. According to Christian theology human beings have displayed a pre-disposition to sin since the Fall of Humankind.
In Christian belief, the redemption of humanity was achieved by Jesus who in his death on the cross made a complete sacrifice sufficient to pay for the sins of the world.
The image of God on his throne in heaven surrounded by his angels and ministers to whom he makes announcements and where he may be petitioned.
An event evoking wonder, believed to be the result of supernatural intervention.
Undeserved favour. The Bible uses this term to describe God's gifts to human beings.
1. Instrument of execution used in the Roman Empire.
2. The means by which Jesus Christ was put to death and therefore the primary symbol of the Christian faith, representing the way in which he is believed to have won forgiveness for humankind.
Literally, rising to life again. In the Bible it is specifically applied to Jesus Christ's coming to life after his crucifixion; and from thence, to the hope of all believers that after death, they will be raised to a new life in heaven.
Title (eventually used as name) given to Jesus, refering to an anointed person set apart for a special task such as a king.
Lasting forever, throughout all ages.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
In the Bible, the term given to stories that Jesus told as part of his teaching.
Biblical writers often compare human beings who wander away from God to sheep who have gone astray. Jesus told a parable about the sheperd's concern for single lost sheep.
The care and concern for future well-being; in particular, the care of God the Father for all creation.