Mopsa and Dorcas

Genuine field workers

Young shepherdessAlthough they are shepherdesses in a pastoral scene (See: The pastoral tradition), Mopsa and Dorcas are not like the courtiers playing at being shepherdesses in such works as Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia. They are actual farm-workers with names which sound more down-to-earth than the classical ‘Doricles' behind which Florizel hides his identity from the rest of the shepherds.

Mopsa and Dorcas are not particularly intelligent; they are easily taken in by the extravagant claims of Autolycus about his ballads - indeed, they have the naïve belief that if ballads are in print, ‘then we are sure they are true'.

Counterpoint to Perdita

Mopsa and Dorcas are given none of the beautiful poetry of Perdita's exchanges with Florizel; instead, they trade insults and at one point the Clown has to remonstrate with them about their coarseness:

‘Is there no manners left among maids? Will they wear their plackets where they should bear their faces? Is there not milking-time, when you are going to bed, or kiln-hole, to whistle of these secrets, but you must be tittle-tattling before all our guests?'

In this way they not only present a more realistic than idealised view of life in the country-side, but they act as a contrast to the innate nobility of Perdita, just as their relationship with the Clown is a contrast to Florizel's courtship. (See: Clown (Young Shepherd)).

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