Cleomenes and Dion

Courtiers who perceive the divine

Cleomenes and Dion are the two courtiers entrusted by Leontes with the task of Courtierbringing back the words of the Oracle of Apollo. From the point of view of plot, they could simply appear with it, but Shakespeare writes in for them a scene (Act III, sc i) in which they share with the audience their wonder at what they found on the isle of Delphos:

  • Not only was the climate delicate and the temple magnificent, but the ceremony of sacrifice to Apollo was ‘solemn and unearthly'. This creates for the audience a strong sense of the divinity of the gods
  • In addition, the faith of Cleomenes and Dion that ‘Great Apollo' will ‘Turn all to th' best', and that
‘Something rare ... will rush to knowledge'

when they return with the words of the Oracle, is in marked contrast to the later blasphemy of Leontes.

The scene also allows for a time of suspense between the announcement of their imminent return (in Act II, sc ii) and the trial scene (Act III, sc ii) in which the revelation of the Oracle's words will be made.

Enduring servants of the state

Cleomenes and Dion have a later function in the play: in Act V, sc i we discover that they have gone on faithfully serving Leontes for sixteen years; they are now telling him that he has repented enough and are urging him to re-marry. Although their motives are good – they are thinking of the well-being of the state – it is against such urgent appeals to Leontes that Paulina is having to battle. Cleomenes and Dion may have once been impressed by the Oracle and by the sense of divine power at Delphos, but it is Paulina who still retains the sense that

‘the gods/ Will have fulfill'd their secret purposes.'

(See: Paulina.)

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