The Winter's Tale

Act 2

SCENE I. Sicilia. A Room in the Palace.

[Enter HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, and Ladies.]


Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,

'Tis past enduring.


Come, my gracious lord,

Shall I be your playfellow?


No, I'll none of you.


Why, my sweet lord?


You'll kiss me hard, and speak to me as if

I were a baby still. - [To Second Lady.] I love you better.


And why so, my lord?


Not for because

Your brows are blacker; yet black brows, they say,

Become some women best; so that there be not

Too much hair there, but in a semicircle

Or a half-moon made with a pen.


Who taught you this?


I learn'd it out of women's faces. - Pray now,

What colour are your eyebrows?


Blue, my lord.


Nay, that's a mock: I have seen a lady's nose

That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.


Hark ye:

The queen your mother rounds apace. We shall

Present our services to a fine new prince

One of these days; and then you'd wanton with us,

If we would have you.


She is spread of late

Into a goodly bulk: good time encounter her!


What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now

I am for you again: pray you sit by us,

And tell 's a tale.


Merry or sad shall't be?


As merry as you will.


A sad tale's best for winter. I have one

Of sprites and goblins.


Let's have that, good sir.

Come on, sit down; - come on, and do your best

To fright me with your sprites: you're powerful at it.


There was a man, -


Nay, come, sit down: then on.


Dwelt by a churchyard: - I will tell it softly;

Yond crickets shall not hear it.


Come on then,

And give't me in mine ear.

[Enter LEONTES, ANTIGONUS, Lords, and Guards.]


Was he met there? his train? Camillo with him?


Behind the tuft of pines I met them; never

Saw I men scour so on their way: I ey'd them

Even to their ships.


How bles'd am I

In my just censure, in my true opinion! -

Alack, for lesser knowledge! - How accurs'd

In being so blest! - There may be in the cup

A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart,

And yet partake no venom; for his knowledge

Is not infected; but if one present

The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known

How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,

With violent hefts; - I have drunk, and seen the spider.

Camillo was his help in this, his pander: -

There is a plot against my life, my crown;

All's true that is mistrusted: - that false villain

Whom I employ'd, was pre-employ'd by him:

He has discover'd my design, and I

Remain a pinch'd thing; yea, a very trick

For them to play at will. - How came the posterns

So easily open?


By his great authority;

Which often hath no less prevail'd than so,

On your command.


I know't too well. -

Give me the boy: - I am glad you did not nurse him:

Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you

Have too much blood in him.


What is this? sport?


Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;

Away with him! - and let her sport herself

With that she's big with; - for 'tis Polixenes

Has made thee swell thus.

[Exit MAMILLIUS, with some of the Guards.]


But I'd say he had not,

And I'll be sworn you would believe my saying,

Howe'er you learn the nayward.


You, my lords,

Look on her, mark her well; be but about

To say, 'she is a goodly lady' and

The justice of your hearts will thereto add,

''Tis pity she's not honest, honourable':

Praise her but for this her without-door form, -

Which, on my faith, deserves high speech, - and straight

The shrug, the hum or ha, - these petty brands

That calumny doth use: - O, I am out,

That mercy does; for calumny will sear

Virtue itself: - these shrugs, these hum's, and ha's,

When you have said 'she's goodly,' come between,

Ere you can say 'she's honest': but be it known,

From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,

She's an adultress!


Should a villain say so,

The most replenish'd villain in the world,

He were as much more villain: you, my lord,

Do but mistake.


You have mistook, my lady,

Polixenes for Leontes: O thou thing,

Which I'll not call a creature of thy place,

Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,

Should a like language use to all degrees,

And mannerly distinguishment leave out

Betwixt the prince and beggar! - I have said,

She's an adultress; I have said with whom:

More, she's a traitor; and Camillo is

A federary with her; and one that knows

What she should shame to know herself

But with her most vile principal, that she's

A bed-swerver, even as bad as those

That vulgars give boldest titles; ay, and privy

To this their late escape.


No, by my life,

Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you,

When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that

You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord,

You scarce can right me throughly then, to say

You did mistake.


No; if I mistake

In those foundations which I build upon,

The centre is not big enough to bear

A school-boy's top. - Away with her to prison!

He who shall speak for her is afar off guilty

But that he speaks.


There's some ill planet reigns:

I must be patient till the heavens look

With an aspect more favourable. - Good my lords,

I am not prone to weeping, as our sex

Commonly are; the want of which vain dew

Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have

That honourable grief lodg'd here, which burns

Worse than tears drown: beseech you all, my lords,

With thoughts so qualified as your charities

Shall best instruct you, measure me; - and so

The king's will be perform'd!


[To the GUARD.] Shall I be heard?


Who is't that goes with me? - Beseech your highness

My women may be with me; for, you see,

My plight requires it. - Do not weep, good fools;

There is no cause: when you shall know your mistress

Has deserv'd prison, then abound in tears

As I come out: this action I now go on

Is for my better grace. - Adieu, my lord:

I never wish'd to see you sorry; now

I trust I shall. - My women, come; you have leave.


Go, do our bidding; hence!

[Exeunt QUEEN and Ladies, with Guards.]


Beseech your highness, call the queen again.


Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justice

Prove violence, in the which three great ones suffer,

Yourself, your queen, your son.


For her, my lord, -

I dare my life lay down, - and will do't, sir,

Please you to accept it, - that the queen is spotless

I' the eyes of heaven and to you; I mean

In this which you accuse her.


If it prove

She's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where

I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her;

Than when I feel and see her no further trust her;

For every inch of woman in the world,

Ay, every dram of woman's flesh, is false,

If she be.


Hold your peaces.


Good my lord, -


It is for you we speak, not for ourselves:

You are abus'd, and by some putter-on

That will be damn'd for't: would I knew the villain,

I would land-damn him. Be she honour-flaw'd, -

I have three daughters; the eldest is eleven;

The second and the third, nine and some five;

If this prove true, they'll pay for't. By mine honour,

I'll geld 'em all: fourteen they shall not see,

To bring false generations: they are co-heirs;

And I had rather glib myself than they

Should not produce fair issue.


Cease; no more.

You smell this business with a sense as cold

As is a dead man's nose: but I do see't and feel't

As you feel doing thus; and see withal

The instruments that feel.


If it be so,

We need no grave to bury honesty;

There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten

Of the whole dungy earth.


What! Lack I credit?


I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,

Upon this ground: and more it would content me

To have her honour true than your suspicion;

Be blam'd for't how you might.


Why, what need we

Commune with you of this, but rather follow

Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative

Calls not your counsels; but our natural goodness

Imparts this; which, if you, - or stupified

Or seeming so in skill, - cannot or will not

Relish a truth, like us, inform yourselves

We need no more of your advice: the matter,

The loss, the gain, the ord'ring on't, is all

Properly ours.


And I wish, my liege,

You had only in your silent judgment tried it,

Without more overture.


How could that be?

Either thou art most ignorant by age,

Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight,

Added to their familiarity, -

Which was as gross as ever touch'd conjecture,

That lack'd sight only, nought for approbation,

But only seeing, all other circumstances

Made up to th' deed, - doth push on this proceeding.

Yet, for a greater confirmation, -

For, in an act of this importance, 'twere

Most piteous to be wild, - I have despatch'd in post

To sacred Delphos, to Apollo's temple,

Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know

Of stuff'd sufficiency: now, from the oracle

They will bring all, whose spiritual counsel had,

Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?


Well done, my lord, -


Though I am satisfied, and need no more

Than what I know, yet shall the oracle

Give rest to the minds of others such as he

Whose ignorant credulity will not

Come up to th' truth: so have we thought it good

From our free person she should be confin'd;

Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence

Be left her to perform. Come, follow us;

We are to speak in public; for this business

Will raise us all.


[Aside.] To laughter, as I take it,

If the good truth were known.


SCENE II. The same. The outer Room of a Prison.

[Enter PAULINA and Attendants.]


The keeper of the prison, - call to him;

Let him have knowledge who I am.

[Exit an Attendant.]

Good lady!

No court in Europe is too good for thee;

What dost thou then in prison?

[Re-enter Attendant, with the Keeper.]

Now, good sir,

You know me, do you not?


For a worthy lady,

And one who much I honour.


Pray you, then,

Conduct me to the queen.


I may not, madam;

To the contrary I have express commandment.


Here's ado, to lock up honesty and honour from

The access of gentle visitors! - Is't lawful,

Pray you, to see her women? any of them?



So please you, madam, to put

Apart these your attendants, I

Shall bring Emilia forth.


I pray now, call her.

Withdraw yourselves.



And, madam,

I must be present at your conference.


Well, be't so, pr'ythee.

[Exit KEEPER.]

Here's such ado to make no stain a stain

As passes colouring.

[Re-enter KEEPER, with EMILIA.]

Dear gentlewoman, how fares our gracious lady?


As well as one so great and so forlorn

May hold together: on her frights and griefs, -

Which never tender lady hath borne greater, -

She is, something before her time, deliver'd.


A boy?


A daughter; and a goodly babe,

Lusty, and like to live: the queen receives

Much comfort in't; says 'My poor prisoner,

I am as innocent as you.'


I dare be sworn; -

These dangerous unsafe lunes i' the king, beshrew them!

He must be told on't, and he shall: the office

Becomes a woman best; I'll take't upon me;

If I prove honey-mouth'd, let my tongue blister;

And never to my red-look'd anger be

The trumpet any more. - Pray you, Emilia,

Commend my best obedience to the queen;

If she dares trust me with her little babe,

I'll show't the king, and undertake to be

Her advocate to th' loud'st. We do not know

How he may soften at the sight o' the child:

The silence often of pure innocence

Persuades, when speaking fails.


Most worthy madam,

Your honour and your goodness is so evident,

That your free undertaking cannot miss

A thriving issue: there is no lady living

So meet for this great errand. Please your ladyship

To visit the next room, I'll presently

Acquaint the queen of your most noble offer;

Who but to-day hammer'd of this design,

But durst not tempt a minister of honour,

Lest she should be denied.


Tell her, Emilia,

I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from it

As boldness from my bosom, let't not be doubted

I shall do good.


Now be you bless'd for it!

I'll to the queen: please you come something nearer.


Madam, if't please the queen to send the babe,

I know not what I shall incur to pass it,

Having no warrant.


You need not fear it, sir:

This child was prisoner to the womb, and is,

By law and process of great nature thence

Freed and enfranchis'd: not a party to

The anger of the king, nor guilty of,

If any be, the trespass of the queen.


I do believe it.


Do not you fear: upon mine honour, I

Will stand betwixt you and danger.


SCENE III. The same. A Room in the Palace.

[Enter LEONTES, ANTIGONUS, Lords, and other Attendants.]


Nor night nor day no rest: it is but weakness

To bear the matter thus, - mere weakness. If

The cause were not in being, - part o' the cause,

She the adultress; for the harlot king

Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank

And level of my brain, plot-proof; but she

I can hook to me: - say that she were gone,

Given to the fire, a moiety of my rest

Might come to me again. - Who's there?


My lord?


How does the boy?


He took good rest to-night;

'Tis hop'd his sickness is discharg'd.


To see his nobleness!

Conceiving the dishonour of his mother,

He straight declin'd, droop'd, took it deeply,

Fasten'd and fix'd the shame on't in himself,

Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,

And downright languish'd. - Leave me solely: - go,

See how he fares. -


Fie, fie! no thought of him;

The very thought of my revenges that way

Recoil upon me: in himself too mighty,

And in his parties, his alliance, - let him be,

Until a time may serve: for present vengeance,

Take it on her. Camillo and Polixenes

Laugh at me; make their pastime at my sorrow:

They should not laugh if I could reach them; nor

Shall she within my power.

[Enter PAULINA, with a Child.]


You must not enter.


Nay, rather, good my lords, be second to me:

Fear you his tyrannous passion more, alas,

Than the queen's life? a gracious innocent soul,

More free than he is jealous.


That's enough.


Madam, he hath not slept to-night; commanded

None should come at him.


Not so hot, good sir;

I come to bring him sleep. 'Tis such as you, -

That creep like shadows by him, and do sigh

At each his needless heavings, - such as you

Nourish the cause of his awaking: I

Do come, with words as med'cinal as true,

Honest as either, to purge him of that humour

That presses him from sleep.


What noise there, ho?


No noise, my lord; but needful conference

About some gossips for your highness.


How! -

Away with that audacious lady! - Antigonus,

I charg'd thee that she should not come about me:

I knew she would.


I told her so, my lord,

On your displeasure's peril, and on mine,

She should not visit you.


What, canst not rule her?


From all dishonesty he can: in this, -

Unless he take the course that you have done,

Commit me for committing honour, - trust it,

He shall not rule me.


La you now, you hear

When she will take the rein, I let her run;

But she'll not stumble.


Good my liege, I come, -

And, I beseech you, hear me, who professes

Myself your loyal servant, your physician,

Your most obedient counsellor: yet that dares

Less appear so, in comforting your evils,

Than such as most seem yours: - I say I come

From your good queen.


Good queen!


Good queen, my lord,

Good queen: I say, good queen;

And would by combat make her good, so were I

A man, the worst about you.


Force her hence!


Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes

First hand me: on mine own accord I'll off;

But first I'll do my errand - The good queen,

For she is good, hath brought you forth a daughter;

Here 'tis; commends it to your blessing.

[Laying down the child.]



A mankind witch! Hence with her, out o' door:

A most intelligencing bawd!


Not so:

I am as ignorant in that as you

In so entitling me; and no less honest

Than you are mad; which is enough, I'll warrant,

As this world goes, to pass for honest.



Will you not push her out? Give her the bastard: -

Thou dotard! [To ANTIGONUS] Thou art woman-tir'd, unroosted

By thy Dame Partlet here: - take up the bastard;

Take't up, I say; give't to thy crone.


For ever

Unvenerable be thy hands, if thou

Tak'st up the princess by that forced baseness

Which he has put upon't!


He dreads his wife.


So I would you did; then 'twere past all doubt

You'd call your children yours.


A nest of traitors?


I am none, by this good light.


Nor I; nor any,

But one that's here; and that's himself: for he

The sacred honour of himself, his queen's,

His hopeful son's, his babe's, betrays to slander,

Whose sting is sharper than the sword's; and will not, -

For, as the case now stands, it is a curse

He cannot be compell'd to't, - once remove

The root of his opinion, which is rotten

As ever oak or stone was sound.


A callat

Of boundless tongue, who late hath beat her husband,

And now baits me! - This brat is none of mine;

It is the issue of Polixenes:

Hence with it! and together with the dam,

Commit them to the fire.


It is yours!

And, might we lay the old proverb to your charge,

So like you 'tis the worse. - Behold, my lords,

Although the print be little, the whole matter

And copy of the father, - eye, nose, lip,

The trick of his frown, his forehead; nay, the valley,

The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek; his smiles;

The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger: -

And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it

So like to him that got it, if thou hast

The ordering of the mind too, 'mongst all colours

No yellow in't, lest she suspect, as he does,

Her children not her husband's!


A gross hag!

And, losel, thou art worthy to be hang'd

That wilt not stay her tongue.


Hang all the husbands

That cannot do that feat, you'll leave yourself

Hardly one subject.


Once more, take her hence.


A most unworthy and unnatural lord

Can do no more.


I'll have thee burn'd.


I care not.

It is an heretic that makes the fire,

Not she which burns in't. I'll not call you tyrant

But this most cruel usage of your queen, -

Not able to produce more accusation

Than your own weak-hing'd fancy, - something savours

Of tyranny, and will ignoble make you,

Yea, scandalous to the world.


On your allegiance,

Out of the chamber with her! Were I a tyrant,

Where were her life? She durst not call me so,

If she did know me one. Away with her!


I pray you, do not push me; I'll be gone. -

Look to your babe, my lord; 'tis yours: Jove send her

A better guiding spirit! - What needs these hands?

You that are thus so tender o'er his follies,

Will never do him good, not one of you.

So, so: - farewell; we are gone.



Thou, traitor, hast set on thy wife to this.

My child? - away with't. - even thou, that hast

A heart so tender o'er it, take it hence,

And see it instantly consum'd with fire;

Even thou, and none but thou. Take it up straight:

Within this hour bring me word 'tis done, -

And by good testimony, - or I'll seize thy life,

With that thou else call'st thine. If thou refuse,

And wilt encounter with my wrath, say so;

The bastard-brains with these my proper hands

Shall I dash out. Go, take it to the fire;

For thou set'st on thy wife.


I did not, sir:

These lords, my noble fellows, if they please,

Can clear me in't.


We can: - my royal liege,

He is not guilty of her coming hither.


You're liars all.


Beseech your highness, give us better credit:

We have always truly serv'd you; and beseech

So to esteem of us: and on our knees we beg, -

As recompense of our dear services,

Past and to come, - that you do change this purpose,

Which, being so horrible, so bloody, must

Lead on to some foul issue: we all kneel.


I am a feather for each wind that blows: -

Shall I live on, to see this bastard kneel

And call me father? better burn it now,

Than curse it then. But, be it; let it live: -

It shall not neither. - [To ANTIGONUS.] You, sir, come you hither:

You that have been so tenderly officious

With Lady Margery, your midwife, there,

To save this bastard's life, - for 'tis a bastard,

So sure as this beard's grey, - what will you adventure

To save this brat's life?


Anything, my lord,

That my ability may undergo,

And nobleness impose: at least, thus much;

I'll pawn the little blood which I have left

To save the innocent: - anything possible.


It shall be possible. Swear by this sword

Thou wilt perform my bidding.


I will, my lord.


Mark, and perform it, - seest thou? for the fail

Of any point in't shall not only be

Death to thyself, but to thy lewd-tongu'd wife,

Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,

As thou art liegeman to us, that thou carry

This female bastard hence; and that thou bear it

To some remote and desert place, quite out

Of our dominions; and that there thou leave it,

Without more mercy, to it own protection

And favour of the climate. As by strange fortune

It came to us, I do in justice charge thee,

On thy soul's peril and thy body's torture,

That thou commend it strangely to some place

Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.


I swear to do this, though a present death

Had been more merciful. - Come on, poor babe:

Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens

To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say,

Casting their savageness aside, have done

Like offices of pity. - Sir, be prosperous

In more than this deed does require! - and blessing,

Against this cruelty, fight on thy side,

Poor thing, condemn'd to loss!

[Exit with the child.]


No, I'll not rear

Another's issue.


Please your highness, posts

From those you sent to the oracle are come

An hour since: Cleomenes and Dion,

Being well arriv'd from Delphos, are both landed,

Hasting to the court.


So please you, sir, their speed

Hath been beyond account.


Twenty-three days

They have been absent: 'tis good speed; foretells

The great Apollo suddenly will have

The truth of this appear. Prepare you, lords;

Summon a session, that we may arraign

Our most disloyal lady; for, as she hath

Been publicly accus'd, so shall she have

A just and open trial. While she lives,

My heart will be a burden to me. Leave me;

And think upon my bidding.