Internet Shakespeare Editions


"Exit pursued by a bear"

The transition between the tragic jealousy of Leontes and the pastoral of the sheep- shearing feast is made through what can perhaps be best described as black comedy: a bear tears Antigonus to pieces while the old Shepherd finds the babe Perdita* (3.3).

Bears were objects of mirth, even ridicule. Many of Shakespeare's audience would have frequented bear-baiting sessions in buildings within a stone's throw of the Globe.

A moment after the bear exits, the old Shepherd ruefully describes the activities of what we would now call adolescent males as "getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting" (3.3.58-62). Jealousy, ship-wreck, and death by dismemberment are counterpointed by the grotesque--the bear--the humane--the Shepherd--and the confused rattling of the Clown.


  1. Birth and death

    Thou met'st with things dying, I with things new-born.