The Winter's Tale

Act 3

SCENE I. Sicilia. A Street in some Town.



The climate's delicate; the air most sweet;

Fertile the isle; the temple much surpassing

The common praise it bears.


I shall report,

For most it caught me, the celestial habits, -

Methinks I so should term them, - and the reverence

Of the grave wearers. O, the sacrifice!

How ceremonious, solemn, and unearthly,

It was i' the offering!


But of all, the burst

And the ear-deaf'ning voice o' the oracle,

Kin to Jove's thunder, so surprised my sense

That I was nothing.


If the event o' the journey

Prove as successful to the queen, - O, be't so! -

As it hath been to us rare, pleasant, speedy,

The time is worth the use on't.


Great Apollo

Turn all to th' best! These proclamations,

So forcing faults upon Hermione,

I little like.


The violent carriage of it

Will clear or end the business: when the oracle, -

Thus by Apollo's great divine seal'd up, -

Shall the contents discover, something rare

Even then will rush to knowledge. - Go, - fresh horses; -

And gracious be the issue!


SCENE II. The same. A Court of Justice

[Enter LEONTES, Lords, and Officers appear, properly seated.]


This sessions, - to our great grief we pronounce, -

Even pushes 'gainst our heart; - the party tried,

The daughter of a king, our wife; and one

Of us too much belov'd. Let us be clear'd

Of being tyrannous, since we so openly

Proceed in justice; which shall have due course,

Even to the guilt or the purgation. -

Produce the prisoner.


It is his highness' pleasure that the queen

Appear in person here in court. -



[HERMIONE, is brought in guarded; PAULINA, and Ladies attending.]


Read the indictment.


[Reads.] 'Hermione, queen to the worthy Leontes, king of

Sicilia, thou art here accused and arraigned of high treason,

in committing adultery with Polixenes, king of Bohemia; and

conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign

lord the king, thy royal husband: the pretence whereof being by

circumstances partly laid open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the

faith and allegiance of true subject, didst counsel and aid them,

for their better safety, to fly away by night.'


Since what I am to say must be but that

Which contradicts my accusation, and

The testimony on my part no other

But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me

To say 'Not guilty': mine integrity,

Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,

Be so receiv'd. But thus, - if powers divine

Behold our human actions, - as they do, -

I doubt not, then, but innocence shall make

False accusation blush, and tyranny

Tremble at patience. - You, my lord, best know, -

Who least will seem to do so, - my past life

Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,

As I am now unhappy: which is more

Than history can pattern, though devis'd

And play'd to take spectators; for behold me, -

A fellow of the royal bed, which owe

A moiety of the throne, a great king's daughter,

The mother to a hopeful prince, - here standing

To prate and talk for life and honour 'fore

Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it

As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour,

'Tis a derivative from me to mine,

And only that I stand for. I appeal

To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes

Came to your court, how I was in your grace,

How merited to be so; since he came,

With what encounter so uncurrent I

Have strain'd t' appear thus: if one jot beyond

The bound of honour, or in act or will

That way inclining, harden'd be the hearts

Of all that hear me, and my near'st of kin

Cry fie upon my grave!


I ne'er heard yet

That any of these bolder vices wanted

Less impudence to gainsay what they did

Than to perform it first.


That's true enough;

Though 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.


You will not own it.


More than mistress of

Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not

At all acknowledge. For Polixenes, -

With whom I am accus'd, - I do confess

I lov'd him, as in honour he requir'd;

With such a kind of love as might become

A lady like me; with a love even such,

So and no other, as yourself commanded:

Which not to have done, I think had been in me

Both disobedience and ingratitude

To you and toward your friend; whose love had spoke,

Ever since it could speak, from an infant, freely,

That it was yours. Now for conspiracy,

I know not how it tastes; though it be dish'd

For me to try how: all I know of it

Is that Camillo was an honest man;

And why he left your court, the gods themselves,

Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.


You knew of his departure, as you know

What you have underta'en to do in 's absence.



You speak a language that I understand not:

My life stands in the level of your dreams,

Which I'll lay down.


Your actions are my dreams;

You had a bastard by Polixenes,

And I but dream'd it: - as you were past all shame, -

Those of your fact are so, - so past all truth:

Which to deny concerns more than avails; for as

Thy brat hath been cast out, like to itself,

No father owning it, - which is, indeed,

More criminal in thee than it, - so thou

Shalt feel our justice; in whose easiest passage

Look for no less than death.


Sir, spare your threats:

The bug which you would fright me with, I seek.

To me can life be no commodity:

The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,

I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,

But know not how it went: my second joy,

And first-fruits of my body, from his presence

I am barr'd, like one infectious: my third comfort,

Starr'd most unluckily, is from my breast, -

The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth, -

Hal'd out to murder: myself on every post

Proclaim'd a strumpet; with immodest hatred

The child-bed privilege denied, which 'longs

To women of all fashion; lastly, hurried

Here to this place, i' the open air, before

I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,

Tell me what blessings I have here alive,

That I should fear to die. Therefore proceed.

But yet hear this; mistake me not; - no life, -

I prize it not a straw, - but for mine honour

(Which I would free), if I shall be condemn'd

Upon surmises - all proofs sleeping else,

But what your jealousies awake - I tell you

'Tis rigour, and not law. - Your honours all,

I do refer me to the oracle:

Apollo be my judge!


This your request

Is altogether just: therefore, bring forth,

And in Apollo's name, his oracle:

[Exeunt certain Officers.]


The Emperor of Russia was my father;

O that he were alive, and here beholding

His daughter's trial! that he did but see

The flatness of my misery; yet with eyes

Of pity, not revenge!

[Re-enter OFFICERS, with CLEOMENES and DION.]


You here shall swear upon this sword of justice,

That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have

Been both at Delphos, and from thence have brought

This seal'd-up oracle, by the hand deliver'd

Of great Apollo's priest; and that since then,

You have not dar'd to break the holy seal,

Nor read the secrets in't.


All this we swear.


Break up the seals and read.


[Reads.] 'Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless; Camillo

a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant; his innocent babe

truly begotten; and the king shall live without an heir, if

that which is lost be not found.'


Now blessed be the great Apollo!




Hast thou read truth?


Ay, my lord; even so

As it is here set down.


There is no truth at all i' the oracle:

The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood!

[Enter a Servant hastily.]


My lord the king, the king!


What is the business?


O sir, I shall be hated to report it:

The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear

Of the queen's speed, is gone.


How! gone?


Is dead.


Apollo's angry; and the heavens themselves

Do strike at my injustice.

[HERMIONE faints.]

How now there!


This news is mortal to the queen: - Look down

And see what death is doing.


Take her hence:

Her heart is but o'ercharg'd; she will recover. -

I have too much believ'd mine own suspicion: -

Beseech you tenderly apply to her

Some remedies for life. -

[Exeunt PAULINA and Ladies with HERMIONE.]

Apollo, pardon

My great profaneness 'gainst thine oracle! -

I'll reconcile me to Polixenes;

New woo my queen; recall the good Camillo -

Whom I proclaim a man of truth, of mercy;

For, being transported by my jealousies

To bloody thoughts and to revenge, I chose

Camillo for the minister to poison

My friend Polixenes: which had been done,

But that the good mind of Camillo tardied

My swift command, though I with death and with

Reward did threaten and encourage him,

Not doing it and being done: he, most humane,

And fill'd with honour, to my kingly guest

Unclasp'd my practice; quit his fortunes here,

Which you knew great; and to the certain hazard

Of all incertainties himself commended,

No richer than his honour: - how he glisters

Thorough my rust! And how his piety

Does my deeds make the blacker!

[Re-enter PAULINA.]


Woe the while!

O, cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,

Break too!


What fit is this, good lady?


What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?

What wheels? racks? fires? what flaying? boiling

In leads or oils? what old or newer torture

Must I receive, whose every word deserves

To taste of thy most worst? Thy tyranny

Together working with thy jealousies, -

Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle

For girls of nine, - O, think what they have done,

And then run mad indeed, - stark mad! for all

Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.

That thou betray'dst Polixenes, 'twas nothing;

That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant,

And damnable ingrateful; nor was't much

Thou wouldst have poison'd good Camillo's honour,

To have him kill a king; poor trespasses, -

More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon

The casting forth to crows thy baby daughter,

To be or none or little, though a devil

Would have shed water out of fire ere done't;

Nor is't directly laid to thee, the death

Of the young prince, whose honourable thoughts, -

Thoughts high for one so tender, - cleft the heart

That could conceive a gross and foolish sire

Blemish'd his gracious dam: this is not, - no,

Laid to thy answer: but the last, - O lords,

When I have said, cry Woe! - the queen, the queen,

The sweetest, dearest creature's dead; and vengeance for't

Not dropp'd down yet.


The higher powers forbid!


I say she's dead: I'll swear't. If word nor oath

Prevail not, go and see: if you can bring

Tincture, or lustre, in her lip, her eye,

Heat outwardly or breath within, I'll serve you

As I would do the gods. - But, O thou tyrant!

Do not repent these things; for they are heavier

Than all thy woes can stir; therefore betake thee

To nothing but despair. A thousand knees

Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,

Upon a barren mountain, and still winter

In storm perpetual, could not move the gods

To look that way thou wert.


Go on, go on:

Thou canst not speak too much; I have deserv'd

All tongues to talk their bitterest!


Say no more:

Howe'er the business goes, you have made fault

I' the boldness of your speech.


I am sorry for't:

All faults I make, when I shall come to know them,

I do repent. Alas, I have show'd too much

The rashness of a woman: he is touch'd

To th' noble heart - What's gone and what's past help,

Should be past grief: do not receive affliction

At my petition; I beseech you, rather

Let me be punish'd, that have minded you

Of what you should forget. Now, good my liege,

Sir, royal sir, forgive a foolish woman:

The love I bore your queen, - lo, fool again! -

I'll speak of her no more, nor of your children;

I'll not remember you of my own lord,

Who is lost too: take your patience to you,

And I'll say nothing.


Thou didst speak but well,

When most the truth; which I receive much better

Than to be pitied of thee. Pr'ythee, bring me

To the dead bodies of my queen and son:

One grave shall be for both; upon them shall

The causes of their death appear, unto

Our shame perpetual. Once a day I'll visit

The chapel where they lie; and tears shed there

Shall be my recreation: so long as nature

Will bear up with this exercise, so long

I daily vow to use it. - Come, and lead me

To these sorrows.


SCENE III. Bohemia. A desert Country near the Sea.

[Enter ANTIGONUS with the Child, and a Mariner.]


Thou art perfect, then, our ship hath touch'd upon

The deserts of Bohemia?


Ay, my lord; and fear

We have landed in ill time: the skies look grimly,

And threaten present blusters. In my conscience,

The heavens with that we have in hand are angry,

And frown upon 's.


Their sacred wills be done! - Go, get aboard;

Look to thy bark: I'll not be long before

I call upon thee.


Make your best haste; and go not

Too far i' the land: 'tis like to be loud weather;

Besides, this place is famous for the creatures

Of prey that keep upon't.


Go thou away:

I'll follow instantly.


I am glad at heart

To be so rid o' th' business.



Come, poor babe: -

I have heard (but not believ'd) the spirits of the dead

May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother

Appear'd to me last night; for ne'er was dream

So like a waking. To me comes a creature,

Sometimes her head on one side, some another:

I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,

So fill'd and so becoming: in pure white robes,

Like very sanctity, she did approach

My cabin where I lay: thrice bow'd before me;

And, gasping to begin some speech, her eyes

Became two spouts: the fury spent, anon

Did this break from her: 'Good Antigonus,

Since fate, against thy better disposition,

Hath made thy person for the thrower-out

Of my poor babe, according to thine oath, -

Places remote enough are in Bohemia,

There weep, and leave it crying; and, for the babe

Is counted lost for ever, Perdita

I pr'ythee call't. For this ungentle business,

Put on thee by my lord, thou ne'er shalt see

Thy wife Paulina more': so, with shrieks,

She melted into air. Affrighted much,

I did in time collect myself; and thought

This was so, and no slumber. Dreams are toys;

Yet, for this once, yea, superstitiously,

I will be squar'd by this. I do believe

Hermione hath suffer'd death, and that

Apollo would, this being indeed the issue

Of King Polixenes, it should here be laid,

Either for life or death, upon the earth

Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well!

[Laying down the child.]

There lie; and there thy character: there these;

[Laying down a bundle.]

Which may if fortune please, both breed thee, pretty,

And still rest thine. - The storm begins: - poor wretch,

That for thy mother's fault art thus expos'd

To loss and what may follow! - Weep I cannot,

But my heart bleeds: and most accurs'd am I

To be by oath enjoin'd to this. - Farewell!

The day frowns more and more: - thou'rt like to have

A lullaby too rough: - I never saw

The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamour! -

Well may I get aboard! - This is the chase:

I am gone for ever.

[Exit, pursued by a bear.]

[Enter an old SHEPHERD.]


I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or

that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the

between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry,

stealing, fighting. - Hark you now! Would any but these boiled

brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather? They

have scared away two of my best sheep, which I fear the wolf will

sooner find than the master: if anywhere I have them, 'tis by

the sea-side, browsing of ivy. - Good luck, an't be thy will! what

have we here?

[Taking up the child.]

Mercy on's, a bairn: A very pretty bairn! A boy or a child, I

wonder? A pretty one; a very pretty one: sure, some scape: though

I am not bookish, yet I can read waiting-gentlewoman in the

scape. This has been some stair-work, some trunk-work, some

behind-door-work; they were warmer that got this than the poor

thing is here. I'll take it up for pity: yet I'll tarry till my

son comes; he hallaed but even now. - Whoa, ho hoa!


[Within.] Hilloa, loa!


What, art so near? If thou'lt see a thing to talk on when thou

art dead and rotten, come hither.

[Enter CLOWN.]

What ail'st thou, man?


I have seen two such sights, by sea and by land! - but I am

not to say it is a sea, for it is now the sky: betwixt the

firmament and it, you cannot thrust a bodkin's point.


Why, boy, how is it?


I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages, how it

takes up the shore! But that's not to the point. O, the most

piteous cry of the poor souls! sometimes to see 'em, and not to

see 'em; now the ship boring the moon with her mainmast, and anon

swallowed with yest and froth, as you'd thrust a cork into a

hogshead. And then for the land service, - to see how the bear

tore out his shoulder-bone; how he cried to me for help, and said

his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. - But to make an end of the

ship, - to see how the sea flap-dragon'd it: - but first, how the

poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them; - and how the poor

gentleman roared, and the bear mocked him, - both roaring louder

than the sea or weather.


Name of mercy! when was this, boy?


Now, now; I have not winked since I saw these sights: the men

are not yet cold under water, nor the bear half dined on the

gentleman; he's at it now.


Would I had been by to have helped the old man!


I would you had been by the ship-side, to have helped her:

there your charity would have lacked footing.


[Aside.] Heavy matters, heavy matters! But look thee here, boy.

Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things dying, I with things

new-born. Here's a sight for thee; look thee, a bearing-cloth for

a squire's child! look thee here; take up, take up, boy; open't.

So, let's see: - it was told me I should be rich by the fairies:

this is some changeling: - open't. What's within, boy?


You're a made old man; if the sins of your youth are forgiven

you, you're well to live. Gold! all gold!


This is fairy-gold, boy, and 'twill prove so: up with it, keep

it close: home, home, the next way! We are lucky, boy: and to be

so still requires nothing but secrecy - Let my sheep go: - come,

good boy, the next way home.


Go you the next way with your findings. I'll go see if the bear

be gone from the gentleman, and how much he hath eaten: they

are never curst but when they are hungry: if there be any of him

left, I'll bury it.


That's a good deed. If thou mayest discern by that which is left

of him what he is, fetch me to the sight of him.


Marry, will I; and you shall help to put him i' the ground.


'Tis a lucky day, boy; and we'll do good deeds on't.