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The Winter’s Tale
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Navigate this workThe Winter’s Tale
Act 2, scene 1
Leontes learns of the departure of Polixenes and Camillo and has Hermione arrested for adultery and treason. He announces that he has sent couriers to the shrine of Apollo to obtain the god’s advice about what action he should take.Enter Hermione, Mamillius, ⌜and⌝ Ladies.
0604 Take the boy to you. He so troubles me
0605 ’Tis past enduring.
FIRST LADY 0606 Come, my gracious lord,
0607 Shall I be your playfellow?
0608 5 No, I’ll none of you.
FIRST LADY 0609 Why, my sweet lord?
0610 You’ll kiss me hard and speak to me as if
0611 I were a baby still.—I love you better.
0612 And why so, my lord?
MAMILLIUS 0613 10 Not for because
0614 Your brows are blacker—yet black brows, they say,
0615 Become some women best, so that there be not
0616 Too much hair there, but in a semicircle,
0617 Or a half-moon made with a pen.
SECOND LADY 0618 15 Who taught this?
0619 I learned it out of women’s faces.—Pray now,
0620 What color are your eyebrows?
FIRST LADY 0621 Blue, my lord.
0622 Nay, that’s a mock. I have seen a lady’s nose
0623 20 That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.
FIRST LADY 0624 Hark ye,
0625 The Queen your mother rounds apace. We shall
0626 Present our services to a fine new prince
0627 One of these days, and then you’d wanton with us
0628 25 If we would have you.
SECOND LADY 0629 She is spread of late
0630 Into a goodly bulk. Good time encounter her!
0631 What wisdom stirs amongst you?—Come, sir, now
0632 I am for you again. Pray you sit by us,
0633 30 And tell ’s a tale.
MAMILLIUS 0634 Merry or sad shall ’t be?
HERMIONE 0635 As merry as you will.
0636 A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one
0637 Of sprites and goblins.
HERMIONE 0638 35 Let’s have that, good sir.
0639 Come on, sit down. Come on, and do your best
0640 To fright me with your sprites. You’re powerful at it.
0641 There was a man—
HERMIONE 0642 Nay, come sit down, then on.
0643 40 Dwelt by a churchyard. I will tell it softly,
0644 Yond crickets shall not hear it.
0645 Come on then, and give ’t me in mine ear.
⌜They talk privately.⌝
⌜Enter⌝ Leontes, Antigonus, ⌜and⌝ Lords.
0646 Was he met there? His train? Camillo with him?
0647 Behind the tuft of pines I met them. Never
0648 45 Saw I men scour so on their way. I eyed them
0649 Even to their ships.
LEONTES 0650 How blest am I
0651 In my just censure, in my true opinion!
0652 Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accursed
0653 50 In being so blest! There may be in the cup
0654 A spider steeped, and one may drink, depart,
0655 And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
0656 Is not infected; but if one present
0657 Th’ abhorred ingredient to his eye, make known
0658 55 How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
0659 With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider.
0660 Camillo was his help in this, his pander.
0661 There is a plot against my life, my crown.
0662 All’s true that is mistrusted. That false villain
0663 60 Whom I employed was pre-employed by him.
0664 He has discovered my design, and I
0665 Remain a pinched thing, yea, a very trick
0666 For them to play at will. How came the posterns
0667 So easily open?
LORD 0668 65 By his great authority,
0669 Which often hath no less prevailed than so
0670 On your command.
LEONTES 0671 I know ’t too well.
0672 ⌜To Hermione.⌝ Give me the boy. I am glad you did
0673 70 not nurse him.
0674 Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
0675 Have too much blood in him.
HERMIONE 0676 What is this? Sport?
LEONTES, ⌜to the Ladies⌝
0677 Bear the boy hence. He shall not come about her.
0678 75 Away with him, and let her sport herself
p. 530679 With that she’s big with, (⌜to Hermione⌝) for ’tis
0681 Has made thee swell thus.
⌜A Lady exits with Mamillius.⌝
HERMIONE 0682 But I’d say he had not,
0683 80 And I’ll be sworn you would believe my saying,
0684 Howe’er you lean to th’ nayward.
LEONTES 0685 You, my lords,
0686 Look on her, mark her well. Be but about
0687 To say “She is a goodly lady,” and
0688 85 The justice of your hearts will thereto add
0689 “’Tis pity she’s not honest, honorable.”
0690 Praise her but for this her without-door form,
0691 Which on my faith deserves high speech, and
0693 90 The shrug, the “hum,” or “ha,” these petty brands
0694 That calumny doth use—O, I am out,
0695 That mercy does, for calumny will sear
0696 Virtue itself—these shrugs, these “hum”s and “ha”s,
0697 When you have said she’s goodly, come between
0698 95 Ere you can say she’s honest. But be ’t known,
0699 From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,
0700 She’s an adult’ress.
HERMIONE 0701 Should a villain say so,
0702 The most replenished villain in the world,
0703 100 He were as much more villain. You, my lord,
0704 Do but mistake.
LEONTES 0705 You have mistook, my lady,
0706 Polixenes for Leontes. O thou thing,
0707 Which I’ll not call a creature of thy place
0708 105 Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,
0709 Should a like language use to all degrees,
0710 And mannerly distinguishment leave out
0711 Betwixt the prince and beggar.—I have said
0712 She’s an adult’ress; I have said with whom.
0713 110 More, she’s a traitor, and Camillo is
0714 A federary with her, and one that knows
p. 550715 What she should shame to know herself
0716 But with her most vile principal: that she’s
0717 A bed-swerver, even as bad as those
0718 115 That vulgars give bold’st titles; ay, and privy
0719 To this their late escape.
HERMIONE 0720 No, by my life,
0721 Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you,
0722 When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that
0723 120 You thus have published me! Gentle my lord,
0724 You scarce can right me throughly then to say
0725 You did mistake.
LEONTES 0726 No. If I mistake
0727 In those foundations which I build upon,
0728 125 The center is not big enough to bear
0729 A schoolboy’s top.—Away with her to prison.
0730 He who shall speak for her is afar off guilty
0731 But that he speaks.
HERMIONE 0732 There’s some ill planet reigns.
0733 130 I must be patient till the heavens look
0734 With an aspect more favorable. Good my lords,
0735 I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
0736 Commonly are, the want of which vain dew
0737 Perchance shall dry your pities. But I have
0738 135 That honorable grief lodged here which burns
0739 Worse than tears drown. Beseech you all, my lords,
0740 With thoughts so qualified as your charities
0741 Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
0742 The King’s will be performed.
LEONTES 0743 140 Shall I be heard?
0744 Who is ’t that goes with me? Beseech your Highness
0745 My women may be with me, for you see
0746 My plight requires it.—Do not weep, good fools;
0747 There is no cause. When you shall know your
0748 145 mistress
0749 Has deserved prison, then abound in tears
0750 As I come out. This action I now go on
p. 570751 Is for my better grace.—Adieu, my lord.
0752 I never wished to see you sorry; now
0753 150 I trust I shall.—My women, come; you have leave.
LEONTES 0754 Go, do our bidding. Hence!
⌜Hermione exits, under guard, with her Ladies.⌝
0755 Beseech your Highness, call the Queen again.
0756 Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justice
0757 Prove violence, in the which three great ones suffer:
0758 155 Yourself, your queen, your son.
LORD 0759 For her, my lord,
0760 I dare my life lay down—and will do ’t, sir,
0761 Please you t’ accept it—that the Queen is spotless
0762 I’ th’ eyes of heaven, and to you—I mean
0763 160 In this which you accuse her.
ANTIGONUS 0764 If it prove
0765 She’s otherwise, I’ll keep my stables where
0766 I lodge my wife. I’ll go in couples with her;
0767 Than when I feel and see her, no farther trust her.
0768 165 For every inch of woman in the world,
0769 Ay, every dram of woman’s flesh, is false,
0770 If she be.
LEONTES 0771 Hold your peaces.
LORD 0772 Good my lord—
0773 170 It is for you we speak, not for ourselves.
0774 You are abused, and by some putter-on
0775 That will be damned for ’t. Would I knew the
0777 I would land-damn him. Be she honor-flawed,
0778 175 I have three daughters—the eldest is eleven;
0779 The second and the third, nine and some five;
0780 If this prove true, they’ll pay for ’t. By mine honor,
0781 I’ll geld ’em all; fourteen they shall not see
0782 To bring false generations. They are co-heirs,
p. 590783 180 And I had rather glib myself than they
0784 Should not produce fair issue.
LEONTES 0785 Cease. No more.
0786 You smell this business with a sense as cold
0787 As is a dead man’s nose. But I do see ’t and feel ’t,
0788 185 As you feel doing thus, and see withal
0789 The instruments that feel.
ANTIGONUS 0790 If it be so,
0791 We need no grave to bury honesty.
0792 There’s not a grain of it the face to sweeten
0793 190 Of the whole dungy Earth.
LEONTES 0794 What? Lack I credit?
0795 I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,
0796 Upon this ground. And more it would content me
0797 To have her honor true than your suspicion,
0798 195 Be blamed for ’t how you might.
LEONTES 0799 Why, what need we
0800 Commune with you of this, but rather follow
0801 Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative
0802 Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness
0803 200 Imparts this, which if you—or stupefied
0804 Or seeming so in skill—cannot or will not
0805 Relish a truth like us, inform yourselves
0806 We need no more of your advice. The matter,
0807 The loss, the gain, the ord’ring on ’t is all
0808 205 Properly ours.
ANTIGONUS 0809 And I wish, my liege,
0810 You had only in your silent judgment tried it,
0811 Without more overture.
LEONTES 0812 How could that be?
0813 210 Either thou art most ignorant by age,
0814 Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo’s flight,
0815 Added to their familiarity—
0816 Which was as gross as ever touched conjecture,
0817 That lacked sight only, naught for approbation
p. 610818 215 But only seeing, all other circumstances
0819 Made up to th’ deed—doth push on this
0821 Yet, for a greater confirmation—
0822 For in an act of this importance ’twere
0823 220 Most piteous to be wild—I have dispatched in post
0824 To sacred Delphos, to Apollo’s temple,
0825 Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know
0826 Of stuffed sufficiency. Now from the oracle
0827 They will bring all, whose spiritual counsel had
0828 225 Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?
LORD 0829 Well done,
0830 my lord.
0831 Though I am satisfied and need no more
0832 Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
0833 230 Give rest to th’ minds of others, such as he
0834 Whose ignorant credulity will not
0835 Come up to th’ truth. So have we thought it good
0836 From our free person she should be confined,
0837 Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence
0838 235 Be left her to perform. Come, follow us.
0839 We are to speak in public, for this business
0840 Will raise us all.
ANTIGONUS, ⌜aside⌝ 0841 To laughter, as I take it,
0842 If the good truth were known.