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Home > Winter's Tale > ACT III - SCENE II. A court of Justice.

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ACT III - SCENE II. A court of Justice.
Enter LEONTES, Lords, and Officers

1    This sessions, to our great grief we pronounce,
2    Even pushes 'gainst our heart: the party tried
3    The daughter of a king, our wife, and one
4    Of us too much beloved. Let us be clear'd
5    Of being tyrannous, since we so openly
6    Proceed in justice, which shall have due course,
7    Even to the guilt or the purgation.
8    Produce the prisoner.
9    It is his highness' pleasure that the queen
10   Appear in person here in court. Silence!
11   Read the indictment.
12    Hermione, queen to the worthy
13   Leontes, king of Sicilia, thou art here accused and
14   arraigned of high treason, in committing adultery
15   with Polixenes, king of Bohemia, and conspiring
16   with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign
17   lord the king, thy royal husband: the pretence
18   whereof being by circumstances partly laid open,
19   thou, Hermione, contrary to the faith and allegiance
20   of a true subject, didst counsel and aid them, for
21   their better safety, to fly away by night.
22   Since what I am to say must be but that
23   Which contradicts my accusation and
24   The testimony on my part no other
25   But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
26   To say 'not guilty:' mine integrity
27   Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
28   Be so received. But thus: if powers divine
29   Behold our human actions, as they do,
30   I doubt not then but innocence shall make
31   False accusation blush and tyranny
32   Tremble at patience. You, my lord, best know,
33   Who least will seem to do so, my past life
34   Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
35   As I am now unhappy; which is more
36   Than history can pattern, though devised
37   And play'd to take spectators. For behold me
38   A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
39   A moiety of the throne a great king's daughter,
40   The mother to a hopeful prince, here standing
41   To prate and talk for life and honour 'fore
42   Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it
43   As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour,
44   'Tis a derivative from me to mine,
45   And only that I stand for. I appeal
46   To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
47   Came to your court, how I was in your grace,
48   How merited to be so; since he came,
49   With what encounter so uncurrent I
50   Have strain'd to appear thus: if one jot beyond
51   The bound of honour, or in act or will
52   That way inclining, harden'd be the hearts
53   Of all that hear me, and my near'st of kin
54   Cry fie upon my grave!
55   I ne'er heard yet
56   That any of these bolder vices wanted
57   Less impudence to gainsay what they did
58   Than to perform it first.
59   That's true enough;
60   Through 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
61   You will not own it.
62   More than mistress of
63   Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not
64   At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,
65   With whom I am accused, I do confess
66   I loved him as in honour he required,
67   With such a kind of love as might become
68   A lady like me, with a love even such,
69   So and no other, as yourself commanded:
70   Which not to have done I think had been in me
71   Both disobedience and ingratitude
72   To you and toward your friend, whose love had spoke,
73   Even since it could speak, from an infant, freely
74   That it was yours. Now, for conspiracy,
75   I know not how it tastes; though it be dish'd
76   For me to try how: all I know of it
77   Is that Camillo was an honest man;
78   And why he left your court, the gods themselves,
79   Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.
80   You knew of his departure, as you know
81   What you have underta'en to do in's absence.
82   Sir,
83   You speak a language that I understand not:
84   My life stands in the level of your dreams,
85   Which I'll lay down.
86   Your actions are my dreams;
87   You had a bastard by Polixenes,
88   And I but dream'd it. As you were past all shame,--
89   Those of your fact are so--so past all truth:
90   Which to deny concerns more than avails; for as
91   Thy brat hath been cast out, like to itself,
92   No father owning it,--which is, indeed,
93   More criminal in thee than it,--so thou
94   Shalt feel our justice, in whose easiest passage
95   Look for no less than death.
96   Sir, spare your threats:
97   The bug which you would fright me with I seek.
98   To me can life be no commodity:
99   The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,
100  I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,
101  But know not how it went. My second joy
102  And first-fruits of my body, from his presence
103  I am barr'd, like one infectious. My third comfort
104  Starr'd most unluckily, is from my breast,
105  The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth,
106  Haled out to murder: myself on every post
107  Proclaimed a strumpet: with immodest hatred
108  The child-bed privilege denied, which 'longs
109  To women of all fashion; lastly, hurried
110  Here to this place, i' the open air, before
111  I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
112  Tell me what blessings I have here alive,
113  That I should fear to die? Therefore proceed.
114  But yet hear this: mistake me not; no life,
115  I prize it not a straw, but for mine honour,
116  Which I would free, if I shall be condemn'd
117  Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else
118  But what your jealousies awake, I tell you
119  'Tis rigor and not law. Your honours all,
120  I do refer me to the oracle:
121  Apollo be my judge!
First Lord
122  This your request
123  Is altogether just: therefore bring forth,
124  And in Apollos name, his oracle.
Exeunt certain Officers

125  The Emperor of Russia was my father:
126  O that he were alive, and here beholding
127  His daughter's trial! that he did but see
128  The flatness of my misery, yet with eyes
129  Of pity, not revenge!
Re-enter Officers, with CLEOMENES and DION

130  You here shall swear upon this sword of justice,
131  That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have
132  Been both at Delphos, and from thence have brought
133  The seal'd-up oracle, by the hand deliver'd
134  Of great Apollo's priest; and that, since then,
135  You have not dared to break the holy seal
136  Nor read the secrets in't.
137  All this we swear.
138  Break up the seals and read.
139   Hermione is chaste;
140  Polixenes blameless; Camillo a true subject; Leontes
141  a jealous tyrant; his innocent babe truly begotten;
142  and the king shall live without an heir, if that
143  which is lost be not found.
144  Now blessed be the great Apollo!
145  Praised!
146  Hast thou read truth?
147  Ay, my lord; even so
148  As it is here set down.
149  There is no truth at all i' the oracle:
150  The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood.
Enter Servant

151  My lord the king, the king!
152  What is the business?
153  O sir, I shall be hated to report it!
154  The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear
155  Of the queen's speed, is gone.
156  How! gone!
157  Is dead.
158  Apollo's angry; and the heavens themselves
159  Do strike at my injustice.
160  How now there!
161  This news is mortal to the queen: look down
162  And see what death is doing.
163  Take her hence:
164  Her heart is but o'ercharged; she will recover:
165  I have too much believed mine own suspicion:
166  Beseech you, tenderly apply to her
167  Some remedies for life.
Exeunt PAULINA and Ladies, with HERMIONE
168  Apollo, pardon
169  My great profaneness 'gainst thine oracle!
170  I'll reconcile me to Polixenes,
171  New woo my queen, recall the good Camillo,
172  Whom I proclaim a man of truth, of mercy;
173  For, being transported by my jealousies
174  To bloody thoughts and to revenge, I chose
175  Camillo for the minister to poison
176  My friend Polixenes: which had been done,
177  But that the good mind of Camillo tardied
178  My swift command, though I with death and with
179  Reward did threaten and encourage him,
180  Not doing 't and being done: he, most humane
181  And fill'd with honour, to my kingly guest
182  Unclasp'd my practise, quit his fortunes here,
183  Which you knew great, and to the hazard
184  Of all encertainties himself commended,
185  No richer than his honour: how he glisters
186  Thorough my rust! and how his pity
187  Does my deeds make the blacker!
Re-enter PAULINA

188  Woe the while!
189  O, cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,
190  Break too.
First Lord
191  What fit is this, good lady?
192  What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
193  What wheels? racks? fires? what flaying? boiling?
194  In leads or oils? what old or newer torture
195  Must I receive, whose every word deserves
196  To taste of thy most worst? Thy tyranny
197  Together working with thy jealousies,
198  Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle
199  For girls of nine, O, think what they have done
200  And then run mad indeed, stark mad! for all
201  Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
202  That thou betray'dst Polixenes,'twas nothing;
203  That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant
204  And damnable ingrateful: nor was't much,
205  Thou wouldst have poison'd good Camillo's honour,
206  To have him kill a king: poor trespasses,
207  More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon
208  The casting forth to crows thy baby-daughter
209  To be or none or little; though a devil
210  Would have shed water out of fire ere done't:
211  Nor is't directly laid to thee, the death
212  Of the young prince, whose honourable thoughts,
213  Thoughts high for one so tender, cleft the heart
214  That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
215  Blemish'd his gracious dam: this is not, no,
216  Laid to thy answer: but the last,--O lords,
217  When I have said, cry 'woe!' the queen, the queen,
218  The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead,
219  and vengeance for't
220  Not dropp'd down yet.
First Lord
221  The higher powers forbid!
222  I say she's dead; I'll swear't. If word nor oath
223  Prevail not, go and see: if you can bring
224  Tincture or lustre in her lip, her eye,
225  Heat outwardly or breath within, I'll serve you
226  As I would do the gods. But, O thou tyrant!
227  Do not repent these things, for they are heavier
228  Than all thy woes can stir; therefore betake thee
229  To nothing but despair. A thousand knees
230  Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,
231  Upon a barren mountain and still winter
232  In storm perpetual, could not move the gods
233  To look that way thou wert.
234  Go on, go on
235  Thou canst not speak too much; I have deserved
236  All tongues to talk their bitterest.
First Lord
237  Say no more:
238  Howe'er the business goes, you have made fault
239  I' the boldness of your speech.
240  I am sorry for't:
241  All faults I make, when I shall come to know them,
242  I do repent. Alas! I have show'd too much
243  The rashness of a woman: he is touch'd
244  To the noble heart. What's gone and what's past help
245  Should be past grief: do not receive affliction
246  At my petition; I beseech you, rather
247  Let me be punish'd, that have minded you
248  Of what you should forget. Now, good my liege
249  Sir, royal sir, forgive a foolish woman:
250  The love I bore your queen--lo, fool again!--
251  I'll speak of her no more, nor of your children;
252  I'll not remember you of my own lord,
253  Who is lost too: take your patience to you,
254  And I'll say nothing.
255  Thou didst speak but well
256  When most the truth; which I receive much better
257  Than to be pitied of thee. Prithee, bring me
258  To the dead bodies of my queen and son:
259  One grave shall be for both: upon them shall
260  The causes of their death appear, unto
261  Our shame perpetual. Once a day I'll visit
262  The chapel where they lie, and tears shed there
263  Shall be my recreation: so long as nature
264  Will bear up with this exercise, so long
265  I daily vow to use it. Come and lead me
266  Unto these sorrows.

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