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The Winter's Tale

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Act II, Scene 2

A prison.


[Enter PAULINA, a Gentleman, and Attendants]

  • Paulina. The keeper of the prison, call to him;
    let him have knowledge who I am.
    [Exit Gentleman]
    Good lady,
    No court in Europe is too good for thee; 840
    What dost thou then in prison?
    [Re-enter Gentleman, with the Gaoler]
    Now, good sir,
    You know me, do you not?
  • Gaoler. For a worthy lady 845
    And one whom much I honour.
  • Paulina. Pray you then,
    Conduct me to the queen.
  • Gaoler. I may not, madam:
    To the contrary I have express commandment. 850
  • Paulina. 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? Emilia? 855
  • Gaoler. So please you, madam,
    To put apart these your attendants, I
    Shall bring Emilia forth.
  • Paulina. I pray now, call her.
    Withdraw yourselves. 860

[Exeunt Gentleman and Attendants]

  • Gaoler. And, madam,
    I must be present at your conference.
  • Paulina. Well, be't so, prithee.
    [Exit Gaoler] 865
    Here's such ado to make no stain a stain
    As passes colouring.
    [Re-enter Gaoler, with EMILIA]
    Dear gentlewoman,
    How fares our gracious lady? 870
  • Emilia. As well as one so great and so forlorn
    May hold together: on her frights and griefs,
    Which never tender lady hath born greater,
    She is something before her time deliver'd.
  • Emilia. A daughter, and a goodly babe,
    Lusty and like to live: the queen receives
    Much comfort in't; says 'My poor prisoner,
    I am innocent as you.'
  • Paulina. I dare be sworn 880
    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 885
    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 890
    Her advocate to the 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.
  • Emilia. Most worthy madam, 895
    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 900
    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.
  • Paulina. Tell her, Emilia. 905
    I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from't
    As boldness from my bosom, let 't not be doubted
    I shall do good.
  • Emilia. Now be you blest for it!
    I'll to the queen: please you, 910
    come something nearer.
  • Gaoler. Madam, if't please the queen to send the babe,
    I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
    Having no warrant.
  • Paulina. You need not fear it, sir: 915
    This child was prisoner to the womb and is
    By law and process of great nature thence
    Freed and enfranchised, not a party to
    The anger of the king nor guilty of,
    If any be, the trespass of the queen. 920
  • Paulina. Do not you fear: upon mine honour,
    I will stand betwixt you and danger.