Perdita (The Winter's Tale)
Perdita by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys
|Play||The Winter's Tale|
The Winter's Tale
Perdita is born in prison, where her father has sent her mother because he wrongly believes she has been unfaithful to him. Paulina takes the baby to Leontes to try to convince him that it is his daughter, but he refuses to believe it. He thinks instead that she is the result of an affair between Hermione and Polixenes, King of Bohemia. He sends Antigonus to leave the infant Perdita on the seacoast of Bohemia. In a dream, Hermione appears to Antigonus and tells him to name her child Perdita, which means "the lost one" in Latin and, in Italian, "loss". He takes pity on her, but is chased away and eaten by a bear. Luckily, a shepherd living nearby, comes to see what the commotion is all about. He finds Perdita and also takes the box that Paulina left with Antigonus. It contains jewels and a note and some money, for Paulina knew that if someone found her, they would need an explanation. Perdita is brought back to the shepherd's house and is raised by the shepherd as his own, along with his son.
Early in the play, Perdita is described as being a beauty of conception. Sixteen years later, Perdita has grown into a beautiful young woman, unaware of her royal heritage. Prince Florizel, the prince of Bohemia, falls in love with her and plans to marry her. His father, however, disapproves of the marriage and threatens the couple, so they flee to Sicilia with the help of Camillo. Prince Florizel disguises himself as a merchant in order to be able to see Perdita. Later on, it is revealed that Perdita is the princess of Sicilia. Perdita is reunited with her father and mother. She lived her life thinking she was one person and found out she was another. She only knew the life of a simple girl. Leontes and Polixines reconcile and both approve of Florizel and Perdita's marriage. It is assumed that Florizel and Perdita lived happily ever after.
Perdita in Other Fiction
Perdita is also a mythological figure in Hilary Scharper's Ecogothic novel: Perdita. She is an illicit child born to Hephaestus and Pandora. When Zeus learns of her existence, she is hidden among the Three Fates where she gathers up the "extra threads of life" and hides them away in her bundle. Perdita is eventually given to Prometheus who promises to deliver her to humankind along with fire. Perdita carries four loves in her bundle and brings them to humankind as a gift: friendship (philia), erotic love (eros), unselfish love (agape), and biophilia, the love between humans and the natural world. Humans seize upon fire and begin to use it‚ but they forget about Perdita and eventually abandon her...until she is rediscovered.
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