->''"A sad tale's best for winter..."''
-->-- '''Mamillius''', ''The Winter's Tale'' II.i

''The Winter's Tale'' is a tragicomedy (or {{romance}}, depending on your point of view) by Creator/WilliamShakespeare.

The plot is thus: King Leontes of Sicilia unreasonably suspects his wife, Hermione, of having an affair with his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia. Believing his newborn daughter Perdita is illegitimate, he sends Hermione to prison and orders his manservant Antigonus to abandon Perdita in the wilderness. Hermione pleads for reason, to no avail.

Leontes' other child, prince Mamillius, dies because he has been separated from his mother, and soon after, Hermione dies as well. Leontes realizes his error, and decides to grieve his family for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Antigonus bemoans his job, but leaves the infant Perdita in a wild area of Bohemia, before being [[ExitPursuedByABear devoured by a bear]]. A shepherd and his son find the baby and resolve to care for her.

[[TimeSkip Flashforward sixteen years!]] Time itself comes onstage to tell the audience that Florizel, Polixenes's son, has fallen for Perdita (who knows nothing of her royal heritage). His father is none-too-pleased and decides to spy on them at a sheep-shearing festival. Florizel, after being confronted by his father, flees with Perdita to Sicilia, and everyone (including LovableRogue Autolycus) pursues. There, Perdita's heritage is revealed. Father and daughter reunite, just as a statue of Hermione is brought onstage. Amazingly, the statue comes to life, and so the happy family is together once more. [[note]]Except Mamillius, he kinda gets screwed.[[/note]] Autolycus becomes the servant of Perdita's foster father, and all loose ends are tied up nicely.

The play is famous for a number of things: the vast difference in tone between the first part, which plays out like a tragedy, and the second part, which is more of a pastoral comedy; the MaybeMagicMaybeMundane scene at the end, where Hermione's statue comes to life; the name Hermione, which became famous in [[Literature/HarryPotter a certain book series]]; and of course, the proof that even Shakespeare knew BearsAreBadNews.

!! Tropes in ''The Winter's Tale'':
* AerithAndBob: Paulina and her husband Antigonus (and the king Leontes, and the other king Polixenes, etc etc etc)
* AluminumChristmasTrees: Getting a bear for that one infamous exit wouldn't be too difficult for a Tudor/Stuart-era theatre company as bear-baiting was popular at the time. Unfortunately, we have no evidence one way or another whether an actual bear was used, or whether it was just a costumed actor.
* {{Arcadia}}: Bohemia, where it is always spring, unlike wintry Sicilia.
* YouFailGeographyForever: Ben Jonson's reaction to the "seacoast of Bohemia," was more or less this (Bohemia is more or less where the Czech Republic is right now). Debate rages about whether Shakespeare was trying to get someone's goat with that or not. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Winter%27s_Tale#The_seacoast_of_Bohemia The Other Wiki]] offers various explanations for this geographical error, one being that in the past the lands of Bohemia did border the Adriatic coast. Alternately, it's a way of saying "This story is set nowhere real".
* TheAtoner: Leontes for ''sixteen years'' after Hermione's death.
* BabiesMakeEverythingBetter: Paulina tries to invoke this. It's hard on the baby.
* TheBarnum: Autolycus
* BearsAreBadNews
* BreakTheHaughty: Hermione's death does this to Leontes. Turns out it was intentionally invoked by Paulina and Hermione. [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane Maybe.]]
* CruelAndUnusualDeath: Poor Antigonus; after [[ExitPursuedByABear his famous exit]] the shepherd's son describes the way the bear ''ripped him to pieces.''
* CrystalDragonJesus: An oracle at Delphi and the doctrine of Original Sin both in the same act.
* DeusExMachina: Hermione being alive.
* DiabolusExMachina: The famous bear appears completely at random.
* ExitPursuedByABear: Antigonus is pursued and torn apart by a bear after abandoning Perdita in the wilderness.
* FauxDeath: Hermione. [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane Maybe.]]
* GreenEyedMonster: The explanation for Leontes' behaviour, though even that doesn't excuse the stuff he pulls.
* KangarooCourt: Hermione's trial.
* KingIncognito: Polixenes spying on his son.
* LovableRogue: Autolycus
* MadOracle: Averted; oracles have never been so blunt.
* MamasBabyPapasMaybe: Leontes suspects the paternity of both his son and his daughter
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: It could be that the statue of Hermione really does come to life. It could also be that her servant, Paulina, kept her hidden for years and only decided to reveal it once her daughter shows up.
* MeaningfulName: Perdita comes from the Latin word for "lost." In Greek mythology, Autolycus was son of Hermes, god of thieves, and was a well-known crook.
* MistakenForCheating: Hermione
* MoodWhiplash: ''So'' much. It starts out as a tragedy, then swings around into a comedy, complete with romance and wacky hijinks.
* MosesInTheBulrushes: Perdita
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Leontes.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: If Paulina hadn't insisted on taking newborn Perdita to see her father in the hope that she would soften his heart, he may not have ordered her husband Antigonus to take Perdita and abandon her someone unpleasant, preventing both Antigonus' death and potentially Hermione's.
* OneMarioLimit: Readers new to the story for the past decade come with a strong association of the name "Hermione" to [[Literature/HarryPotter an altogether more modern piece of British literature]]. In reality she was probably named after a character from Myth/ClassicalMythology, the daughter of Helen of Troy. Many Shakespeare professors have noted that they have at least been relieved of the need to explain the pronunciation of the name to their students.
* PairTheSpares: Paulina & Camillo.
* PaperThinDisguise: Subverted; various disguises adopted are transparent to various degrees
* RagsToRoyalty
* RaisedByDudes: Perdita, although she seems to come out as a reasonably well-adjusted young woman.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Paulina spends half her scenes chewing out Leontes.
* RoyalBlood: Perdita.
-->'''Polixenes''': Nothing she does or seems\\
But smacks of something greater than herself,\\
Too noble for this place.
* SecondHandStorytelling: Perdita's reunion with her father as well as the resolving of many of the plots takes place entirely off screen, and instead we have a conversation between a few gentlemen, one of which notes [[LampshadeHanging how amazing it was and how it would have been a shame to miss it]].
* TimeSkip: Sixteen years pass between the third and fourth acts.
* TitleConfusion: Often erroneously called "''A'' Winter's Tale".
* TitleDrop: See page quote.
* UndyingLoyalty: Paulina to Hermione. In her eyes no woman in the ''world'' was her equal and ''no'' amount of repentance from Leontes would be enough to make up for what he did to her.
* YouHaveWaitedLongEnough: The courtiers try this on Leontes, arguing that he needs an heir.