The Winter's Tale

Back to List of Characters


Antigonus is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Winter's Tale. He is a loyal and trusted advisor to King Leontes of Sicilia. Antigonus plays a significant role in the play, as he is responsible for taking the infant princess Perdita to Bohemia and abandoning her there. Antigonus is introduced in Act I, Scene II, where he expresses his concern for the welfare of the queen, Hermione, who is accused of infidelity by King Leontes. Despite his loyalty to the king, Antigonus questions the validity of the accusations and attempts to reason with Leontes. However, his efforts are in vain, as the king remains convinced of his wife's guilt. In Act II, Scene III, Antigonus is given the task of taking the newborn princess Perdita to Bohemia and leaving her there. This task is assigned to him by the jealous and paranoid King Leontes, who believes that the child is the result of his wife's supposed affair. Antigonus reluctantly agrees to carry out the king's orders, although he is clearly troubled by the injustice of the situation. It is in Act III, Scene III, that Antigonus reaches the shores of Bohemia with the baby Perdita. Here, he delivers a poignant monologue, known as the 'Exit, pursued by a bear' speech. In this famous speech, Antigonus reflects on his own fate and the cruelty of the world, moments before he is attacked and killed by a bear. This dramatic and unexpected turn of events adds to the tragic and mysterious atmosphere of the play.

Legacy and Interpretation

Antigonus' character is often seen as a symbol of loyalty and duty in the face of unjust orders. His willingness to carry out the king's command, despite his personal misgivings, highlights the ethical dilemmas that individuals may face in their allegiance to authority. Furthermore, his tragic demise at the hands of a bear is seen by many as a metaphorical punishment for his participation in the unjust treatment of Queen Hermione and the abandonment of baby Perdita. Antigonus' character serves as a reminder of the consequences of blindly following orders and the importance of standing up for what is right. In conclusion, Antigonus is a complex and multi-dimensional character in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. His loyalty and duty to the king are tested throughout the play, ultimately leading to his tragic demise. Despite his limited stage time, Antigonus' character leaves a lasting impact on the audience, provoking questions about morality, justice, and the consequences of one's actions.