Internet Shakespeare Editions



A Pedlar. Inigo Jones.
From Inigo Jones and Ben Jonson (1853).
University of Victoria Library.
Original in the Chatsworth Collection.

A rare contemporary review of The Winter's Tale singles out the character of Autolycus for special mention. Yet Autolycus (though he has a great deal of stage time) contributes very little to the actual plot of the play.

Compared to the profound disruption caused by the jealousy of Leontes, the crimes of Autolycus are minor: he is a cutpurse, not a murderer: a "snapper-up of unconsidered trifles" (4.3.26). He escapes undiscovered and unpunished at the end of the play.

In the meantime he has given both the audience and the shepherds at the feast a great deal of amusement--especially in the wonderfully improbable ballads he sells.