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Home > Winter's Tale > ACT II - SCENE I. A room in LEONTES' palace.

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ACT II - SCENE I. A room in LEONTES' palace.

1    Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,
2    'Tis past enduring.
First Lady
3    Come, my gracious lord,
4    Shall I be your playfellow?
5    No, I'll none of you.
First Lady
6    Why, my sweet lord?
7    You'll kiss me hard and speak to me as if
8    I were a baby still. I love you better.
Second Lady
9    And why so, my lord?
10   Not for because
11   Your brows are blacker; yet black brows, they say,
12   Become some women best, so that there be not
13   Too much hair there, but in a semicircle
14   Or a half-moon made with a pen.
Second Lady
15   Who taught you this?
16   I learnt it out of women's faces. Pray now
17   What colour are your eyebrows?
First Lady
18   Blue, my lord.
19   Nay, that's a mock: I have seen a lady's nose
20   That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.
First Lady
21   Hark ye;
22   The queen your mother rounds apace: we shall
23   Present our services to a fine new prince
24   One of these days; and then you'ld wanton with us,
25   If we would have you.
Second Lady
26   She is spread of late
27   Into a goodly bulk: good time encounter her!
28   What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now
29   I am for you again: pray you, sit by us,
30   And tell 's a tale.
31   Merry or sad shall't be?
32   As merry as you will.
33   A sad tale's best for winter: I have one
34   Of sprites and goblins.
35   Let's have that, good sir.
36   Come on, sit down: come on, and do your best
37   To fright me with your sprites; you're powerful at it.
38   There was a man--
39   Nay, come, sit down; then on.
40   Dwelt by a churchyard: I will tell it softly;
41   Yond crickets shall not hear it.
42   Come on, then,
43   And give't me in mine ear.
Enter LEONTES, with ANTIGONUS, Lords and others

44   Was he met there? his train? Camillo with him?
First Lord
45   Behind the tuft of pines I met them; never
46   Saw I men scour so on their way: I eyed them
47   Even to their ships.
48   How blest am I
49   In my just censure, in my true opinion!
50   Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accursed
51   In being so blest! There may be in the cup
52   A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart,
53   And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
54   Is not infected: but if one present
55   The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known
56   How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
57   With violent hefts. I have drunk,
58   and seen the spider.
59   Camillo was his help in this, his pander:
60   There is a plot against my life, my crown;
61   All's true that is mistrusted: that false villain
62   Whom I employ'd was pre-employ'd by him:
63   He has discover'd my design, and I
64   Remain a pinch'd thing; yea, a very trick
65   For them to play at will. How came the posterns
66   So easily open?
First Lord
67   By his great authority;
68   Which often hath no less prevail'd than so
69   On your command.
70   I know't too well.
71   Give me the boy: I am glad you did not nurse him:
72   Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
73   Have too much blood in him.
74   What is this? sport?
75   Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;
76   Away with him! and let her sport herself
77   With that she's big with; for 'tis Polixenes
78   Has made thee swell thus.
79   But I'ld say he had not,
80   And I'll be sworn you would believe my saying,
81   Howe'er you lean to the nayward.
82   You, my lords,
83   Look on her, mark her well; be but about
84   To say 'she is a goodly lady,' and
85   The justice of your bearts will thereto add
86   'Tis pity she's not honest, honourable:'
87   Praise her but for this her without-door form,
88   Which on my faith deserves high speech, and straight
89   The shrug, the hum or ha, these petty brands
90   That calumny doth use--O, I am out--
91   That mercy does, for calumny will sear
92   Virtue itself: these shrugs, these hums and ha's,
93   When you have said 'she's goodly,' come between
94   Ere you can say 'she's honest:' but be 't known,
95   From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,
96   She's an adulteress.
97   Should a villain say so,
98   The most replenish'd villain in the world,
99   He were as much more villain: you, my lord,
100  Do but mistake.
101  You have mistook, my lady,
102  Polixenes for Leontes: O thou thing!
103  Which I'll not call a creature of thy place,
104  Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,
105  Should a like language use to all degrees
106  And mannerly distinguishment leave out
107  Betwixt the prince and beggar: I have said
108  She's an adulteress; I have said with whom:
109  More, she's a traitor and Camillo is
110  A federary with her, and one that knows
111  What she should shame to know herself
112  But with her most vile principal, that she's
113  A bed-swerver, even as bad as those
114  That vulgars give bold'st titles, ay, and privy
115  To this their late escape.
116  No, by my life.
117  Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you,
118  When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that
119  You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord,
120  You scarce can right me throughly then to say
121  You did mistake.
122  No; if I mistake
123  In those foundations which I build upon,
124  The centre is not big enough to bear
125  A school-boy's top. Away with her! to prison!
126  He who shall speak for her is afar off guilty
127  But that he speaks.
128  There's some ill planet reigns:
129  I must be patient till the heavens look
130  With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords,
131  I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
132  Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
133  Perchance shall dry your pities: but I have
134  That honourable grief lodged here which burns
135  Worse than tears drown: beseech you all, my lords,
136  With thoughts so qualified as your charities
137  Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
138  The king's will be perform'd!
139  Shall I be heard?
140  Who is't that goes with me? Beseech your highness,
141  My women may be with me; for you see
142  My plight requires it. Do not weep, good fools;
143  There is no cause: when you shall know your mistress
144  Has deserved prison, then abound in tears
145  As I come out: this action I now go on
146  Is for my better grace. Adieu, my lord:
147  I never wish'd to see you sorry; now
148  I trust I shall. My women, come; you have leave.
149  Go, do our bidding; hence!
Exit HERMIONE, guarded; with Ladies

First Lord
150  Beseech your highness, call the queen again.
151  Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justice
152  Prove violence; in the which three great ones suffer,
153  Yourself, your queen, your son.
First Lord
154  For her, my lord,
155  I dare my life lay down and will do't, sir,
156  Please you to accept it, that the queen is spotless
157  I' the eyes of heaven and to you; I mean,
158  In this which you accuse her.
159  If it prove
160  She's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where
161  I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her;
162  Than when I feel and see her no farther trust her;
163  For every inch of woman in the world,
164  Ay, every dram of woman's flesh is false, If she be.
165  Hold your peaces.
First Lord
166  Good my lord,--
167  It is for you we speak, not for ourselves:
168  You are abused and by some putter-on
169  That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the villain,
170  I would land-damn him. Be she honour-flaw'd,
171  I have three daughters; the eldest is eleven
172  The second and the third, nine, and some five;
173  If this prove true, they'll pay for't:
174  by mine honour,
175  I'll geld 'em all; fourteen they shall not see,
176  To bring false generations: they are co-heirs;
177  And I had rather glib myself than they
178  Should not produce fair issue.
179  Cease; no more.
180  You smell this business with a sense as cold
181  As is a dead man's nose: but I do see't and feel't
182  As you feel doing thus; and see withal
183  The instruments that feel.
184  If it be so,
185  We need no grave to bury honesty:
186  There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten
187  Of the whole dungy earth.
188  What! lack I credit?
First Lord
189  I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,
190  Upon this ground; and more it would content me
191  To have her honour true than your suspicion,
192  Be blamed for't how you might.
193  Why, what need we
194  Commune with you of this, but rather follow
195  Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative
196  Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness
197  Imparts this; which if you, or stupefied
198  Or seeming so in skill, cannot or will not
199  Relish a truth like us, inform yourselves
200  We need no more of your advice: the matter,
201  The loss, the gain, the ordering on't, is all
202  Properly ours.
203  And I wish, my liege,
204  You had only in your silent judgment tried it,
205  Without more overture.
206  How could that be?
207  Either thou art most ignorant by age,
208  Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight,
209  Added to their familiarity,
210  Which was as gross as ever touch'd conjecture,
211  That lack'd sight only, nought for approbation
212  But only seeing, all other circumstances
213  Made up to the deed, doth push on this proceeding:
214  Yet, for a greater confirmation,
215  For in an act of this importance 'twere
216  Most piteous to be wild, I have dispatch'd in post
217  To sacred Delphos, to Apollo's temple,
218  Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know
219  Of stuff'd sufficiency: now from the oracle
220  They will bring all; whose spiritual counsel had,
221  Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?
First Lord
222  Well done, my lord.
223  Though I am satisfied and need no more
224  Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
225  Give rest to the minds of others, such as he
226  Whose ignorant credulity will not
227  Come up to the truth. So have we thought it good
228  From our free person she should be confined,
229  Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence
230  Be left her to perform. Come, follow us;
231  We are to speak in public; for this business
232  Will raise us all.
233  To laughter, as I take it,
234  If the good truth were known.

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  • ACT II


  • ACT IV

  • ACT V

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