Plays  +  Sonnets  +  Poems  +  Concordance  +  Advanced Search  +  About OSS

The Winter's Tale

print/save print/save view


Act II, Scene 3

A room in LEONTES’ palace.


[Enter LEONTES, ANTIGONUS, Lords, and Servants]

  • Leontes. Nor night nor day no rest: it is but weakness
    To bear the matter thus; mere weakness. If
    The cause were not in being,—part o' the cause,
    She the adulteress; for the harlot king
    Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank 930
    And level of my brain, plot-proof; but she
    I can hook to me: say that she were gone,
    Given to the fire, a moiety of my rest
    Might come to me again. Who's there?
  • First Servant. He took good rest to-night;
    'Tis hoped his sickness is discharged.
  • Leontes. To see his nobleness!
    Conceiving the dishonour of his mother, 940
    He straight declined, droop'd, took it deeply,
    Fasten'd and fix'd the shame on't in himself,
    Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,
    And downright languish'd. Leave me solely: go,
    See how he fares. 945
    [Exit Servant]
    Fie, fie! no thought of him:
    The thought of my revenges that way
    Recoil upon me: in himself too mighty,
    And in his parties, his alliance; let him be 950
    Until a time may serve: for present vengeance,
    Take it on her. Camillo and Polixenes
    Laugh at me, make their pastime at my sorrow:
    They should not laugh if I could reach them, nor
    Shall she within my power. 955

[Enter PAULINA, with a child]

  • Paulina. Nay, rather, good my lords, be second to me:
    Fear you his tyrannous passion more, alas,
    Than the queen's life? a gracious innocent soul, 960
    More free than he is jealous.
  • Second Servant. Madam, he hath not slept tonight; commanded
    None should come at him.
  • Paulina. Not so hot, good sir: 965
    I come to bring him sleep. 'Tis such as you,
    That creep like shadows by him and do sigh
    At each his needless heavings, such as you
    Nourish the cause of his awaking: I
    Do come with words as medicinal as true, 970
    Honest as either, to purge him of that humour
    That presses him from sleep.
  • Paulina. No noise, my lord; but needful conference
    About some gossips for your highness. 975
  • Leontes. How!
    Away with that audacious lady! Antigonus,
    I charged thee that she should not come about me:
    I knew she would.
  • Antigonus. I told her so, my lord, 980
    On your displeasure's peril and on mine,
    She should not visit you.
  • Leontes. What, canst not rule her?
  • Paulina. From all dishonesty he can: in this,
    Unless he take the course that you have done, 985
    Commit me for committing honour, trust it,
    He shall not rule me.
  • Antigonus. La you now, you hear:
    When she will take the rein I let her run;
    But she'll not stumble. 990
  • Paulina. Good my liege, I come;
    And, I beseech you, hear me, who profess
    Myself your loyal servant, your physician,
    Your most obedient counsellor, yet that dare
    Less appear so in comforting your evils, 995
    Than such as most seem yours: I say, I come
    From your good queen.
  • Paulina. Good queen, my lord,
    Good queen; I say good queen; 1000
    And would by combat make her good, so were I
    A man, the worst about you.
  • Paulina. Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes
    First hand me: on mine own accord I'll off; 1005
    But first I'll do my errand. The good queen,
    For she is good, hath brought you forth a daughter;
    Here 'tis; commends it to your blessing.

[Laying down the child]

  • Leontes. Out! 1010
    A mankind witch! Hence with her, out o' door:
    A most intelligencing bawd!
  • Paulina. Not so:
    I am as ignorant in that as you
    In so entitling me, and no less honest 1015
    Than you are mad; which is enough, I'll warrant,
    As this world goes, to pass for honest.
  • Leontes. Traitors!
    Will you not push her out? Give her the bastard.
    Thou dotard! thou art woman-tired, unroosted 1020
    By thy dame Partlet here. Take up the bastard;
    Take't up, I say; give't to thy crone.
  • Paulina. For ever
    Unvenerable be thy hands, if thou
    Takest up the princess by that forced baseness 1025
    Which he has put upon't!
  • Paulina. So I would you did; then 'twere past all doubt
    You'ld call your children yours.
  • Paulina. Nor I, nor any
    But one that's here, and that's himself, for he
    The sacred honour of himself, his queen's,
    His hopeful son's, his babe's, betrays to slander, 1035
    Whose sting is sharper than the sword's;
    and will not—
    For, as the case now stands, it is a curse
    He cannot be compell'd to't—once remove
    The root of his opinion, which is rotten 1040
    As ever oak or stone was sound.
  • Leontes. A callat
    Of boundless tongue, who late hath beat her husband
    And now baits me! This brat is none of mine;
    It is the issue of Polixenes: 1045
    Hence with it, and together with the dam
    Commit them to the fire!
  • Paulina. It is yours;
    And, might we lay the old proverb to your charge,
    So like you, 'tis the worse. Behold, my lords, 1050
    Although the print be little, the whole matter
    And copy of the father, eye, nose, lip,
    The trick of's frown, his forehead, nay, the valley,
    The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek,
    His smiles, 1055
    The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger:
    And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it
    So like to him that got it, if thou hast
    The ordering of the mind too, 'mongst all colours
    No yellow in't, lest she suspect, as he does, 1060
    Her children not her husband's!
  • Leontes. A gross hag
    And, lozel, thou art worthy to be hang'd,
    That wilt not stay her tongue.
  • Antigonus. Hang all the husbands 1065
    That cannot do that feat, you'll leave yourself
    Hardly one subject.
  • Leontes. Once more, take her hence.
  • Paulina. A most unworthy and unnatural lord
    Can do no more. 1070
  • Paulina. I care not:
    It is an heretic that makes the fire,
    Not she which burns in't. I'll not call you tyrant;
    But this most cruel usage of your queen, 1075
    Not able to produce more accusation
    Than your own weak-hinged fancy, something savours
    Of tyranny and will ignoble make you,
    Yea, scandalous to the world.
  • Leontes. On your allegiance, 1080
    Out of the chamber with her! Were I a tyrant,
    Where were her life? she durst not call me so,
    If she did know me one. Away with her!
  • Paulina. I pray you, do not push me; I'll be gone.
    Look to your babe, my lord; 'tis yours: 1085
    Jove send her
    A better guiding spirit! What needs these hands?
    You, that are thus so tender o'er his follies,
    Will never do him good, not one of you.
    So, so: farewell; we are gone. 1090


  • Leontes. Thou, traitor, hast set on thy wife to this.
    My child? away with't! Even thou, that hast
    A heart so tender o'er it, take it hence
    And see it instantly consumed with fire; 1095
    Even thou and none but thou. Take it up straight:
    Within this hour bring me word 'tis done,
    And by good testimony, or I'll seize thy life,
    With what thou else call'st thine. If thou refuse
    And wilt encounter with my wrath, say so; 1100
    The bastard brains with these my proper hands
    Shall I dash out. Go, take it to the fire;
    For thou set'st on thy wife.
  • Antigonus. I did not, sir:
    These lords, my noble fellows, if they please, 1105
    Can clear me in't.
  • Lords. We can: my royal liege,
    He is not guilty of her coming hither.
  • First Lord. Beseech your highness, give us better credit: 1110
    We have always truly served you, and beseech you
    So to esteem of us, and on our knees we beg,
    As recompense of our dear services
    Past and to come, that you do change this purpose,
    Which being so horrible, so bloody, must 1115
    Lead on to some foul issue: we all kneel.
  • Leontes. I am a feather for each wind that blows:
    Shall I live on to see this bastard kneel
    And call me father? better burn it now
    Than curse it then. But be it; let it live. 1120
    It shall not neither. You, sir, come you hither;
    You that have been so tenderly officious
    With Lady Margery, your midwife there,
    To save this bastard's life,—for 'tis a bastard,
    So sure as this beard's grey, 1125
    —what will you adventure
    To save this brat's life?
  • Antigonus. Any thing, my lord,
    That my ability may undergo
    And nobleness impose: at least thus much: 1130
    I'll pawn the little blood which I have left
    To save the innocent: any thing possible.
  • Leontes. It shall be possible. Swear by this sword
    Thou wilt perform my bidding.
  • Leontes. Mark and perform it, see'st thou! for the fail
    Of any point in't shall not only be
    Death to thyself but to thy lewd-tongued wife,
    Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,
    As thou art liege-man to us, that thou carry 1140
    This female bastard hence and that thou bear it
    To some remote and desert place quite out
    Of our dominions, and that there thou leave it,
    Without more mercy, to its own protection
    And favour of the climate. As by strange fortune 1145
    It came to us, I do in justice charge thee,
    On thy soul's peril and thy body's torture,
    That thou commend it strangely to some place
    Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.
  • Antigonus. I swear to do this, though a present death 1150
    Had been more merciful. Come on, poor babe:
    Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens
    To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say
    Casting their savageness aside have done
    Like offices of pity. Sir, be prosperous 1155
    In more than this deed does require! And blessing
    Against this cruelty fight on thy side,
    Poor thing, condemn'd to loss!

[Exit with the child]

  • Leontes. No, I'll not rear 1160
    Another's issue.

[Enter a Servant]

  • Servant. Please your highness, posts
    From those you sent to the oracle are come
    An hour since: Cleomenes and Dion, 1165
    Being well arrived from Delphos, are both landed,
    Hasting to the court.
  • First Lord. So please you, sir, their speed
    Hath been beyond account.
  • Leontes. Twenty-three days 1170
    They have been absent: 'tis good speed; foretells
    The great Apollo suddenly will have
    The truth of this appear. Prepare you, lords;
    Summon a session, that we may arraign
    Our most disloyal lady, for, as she hath 1175
    Been publicly accused, so shall she have
    A just and open trial. While she lives
    My heart will be a burthen to me. Leave me,
    And think upon my bidding.