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I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin'd to fast in fires,

      — Hamlet, Act I Scene 5


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The Winter's Tale

Act II

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Scene 1. A room in LEONTES’ palace.

Scene 2. A prison.

Scene 3. A room in LEONTES’ palace.


Act II, Scene 1

A room in LEONTES’ palace.

      next scene .

[Enter HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, and Ladies]

  • Hermione. Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,
    'Tis past enduring.
  • First Lady. Come, my gracious lord,
    Shall I be your playfellow? 600
  • Mamillius. You'll kiss me hard and speak to me as if
    I were a baby still. I love you better.
  • Mamillius. Not for because
    Your brows are blacker; yet black brows, they say,
    Become some women best, so that there be not
    Too much hair there, but in a semicircle
    Or a half-moon made with a pen. 610
  • Mamillius. I learnt it out of women's faces. Pray now
    What colour are your eyebrows?
  • Mamillius. Nay, that's a mock: I have seen a lady's nose 615
    That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.
  • First Lady. Hark ye;
    The queen your mother rounds apace: we shall
    Present our services to a fine new prince
    One of these days; and then you'ld wanton with us, 620
    If we would have you.
  • Second Lady. She is spread of late
    Into a goodly bulk: good time encounter her!
  • Hermione. What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now
    I am for you again: pray you, sit by us, 625
    And tell 's a tale.
  • Mamillius. A sad tale's best for winter: I have one
    Of sprites and goblins. 630
  • Hermione. Let's have that, good sir.
    Come on, sit down: come on, and do your best
    To fright me with your sprites; you're powerful at it.
  • Hermione. Nay, come, sit down; then on. 635
  • Mamillius. Dwelt by a churchyard: I will tell it softly;
    Yond crickets shall not hear it.
  • Hermione. Come on, then,
    And give't me in mine ear.

[Enter LEONTES, with ANTIGONUS, Lords and others]

  • Leontes. Was he met there? his train? Camillo with him?
  • First Lord. Behind the tuft of pines I met them; never
    Saw I men scour so on their way: I eyed them
    Even to their ships.
  • Leontes. How blest am I 645
    In my just censure, in my true opinion!
    Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accursed
    In being so blest! There may be in the cup
    A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart,
    And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge 650
    Is not infected: but if one present
    The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known
    How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
    With violent hefts. I have drunk,
    and seen the spider. 655
    Camillo was his help in this, his pander:
    There is a plot against my life, my crown;
    All's true that is mistrusted: that false villain
    Whom I employ'd was pre-employ'd by him:
    He has discover'd my design, and I 660
    Remain a pinch'd thing; yea, a very trick
    For them to play at will. How came the posterns
    So easily open?
  • First Lord. By his great authority;
    Which often hath no less prevail'd than so 665
    On your command.
  • Leontes. I know't too well.
    Give me the boy: I am glad you did not nurse him:
    Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
    Have too much blood in him. 670
  • Leontes. Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;
    Away with him! and let her sport herself
    With that she's big with; for 'tis Polixenes
    Has made thee swell thus. 675
  • Hermione. But I'ld say he had not,
    And I'll be sworn you would believe my saying,
    Howe'er you lean to the nayward.
  • Leontes. You, my lords,
    Look on her, mark her well; be but about 680
    To say 'she is a goodly lady,' and
    The justice of your bearts will thereto add
    'Tis pity she's not honest, honourable:'
    Praise her but for this her without-door form,
    Which on my faith deserves high speech, and straight 685
    The shrug, the hum or ha, these petty brands
    That calumny doth use—O, I am out—
    That mercy does, for calumny will sear
    Virtue itself: these shrugs, these hums and ha's,
    When you have said 'she's goodly,' come between 690
    Ere you can say 'she's honest:' but be 't known,
    From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,
    She's an adulteress.
  • Hermione. Should a villain say so,
    The most replenish'd villain in the world, 695
    He were as much more villain: you, my lord,
    Do but mistake.
  • Leontes. You have mistook, my lady,
    Polixenes for Leontes: O thou thing!
    Which I'll not call a creature of thy place, 700
    Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,
    Should a like language use to all degrees
    And mannerly distinguishment leave out
    Betwixt the prince and beggar: I have said
    She's an adulteress; I have said with whom: 705
    More, she's a traitor and Camillo is
    A federary with her, and one that knows
    What she should shame to know herself
    But with her most vile principal, that she's
    A bed-swerver, even as bad as those 710
    That vulgars give bold'st titles, ay, and privy
    To this their late escape.
  • Hermione. No, by my life.
    Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you,
    When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that 715
    You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord,
    You scarce can right me throughly then to say
    You did mistake.
  • Leontes. No; if I mistake
    In those foundations which I build upon, 720
    The centre is not big enough to bear
    A school-boy's top. Away with her! to prison!
    He who shall speak for her is afar off guilty
    But that he speaks.
  • Hermione. There's some ill planet reigns: 725
    I must be patient till the heavens look
    With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords,
    I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
    Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
    Perchance shall dry your pities: but I have 730
    That honourable grief lodged here which burns
    Worse than tears drown: beseech you all, my lords,
    With thoughts so qualified as your charities
    Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
    The king's will be perform'd! 735
  • Hermione. Who is't that goes with me? Beseech your highness,
    My women may be with me; for you see
    My plight requires it. Do not weep, good fools;
    There is no cause: when you shall know your mistress 740
    Has deserved prison, then abound in tears
    As I come out: this action I now go on
    Is for my better grace. Adieu, my lord:
    I never wish'd to see you sorry; now
    I trust I shall. My women, come; you have leave. 745
  • Leontes. Go, do our bidding; hence!

[Exit HERMIONE, guarded; with Ladies]

  • First Lord. Beseech your highness, call the queen again.
  • Antigonus. Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justice
    Prove violence; in the which three great ones suffer, 750
    Yourself, your queen, your son.
  • First Lord. For her, my lord,
    I dare my life lay down and will do't, sir,
    Please you to accept it, that the queen is spotless
    I' the eyes of heaven and to you; I mean, 755
    In this which you accuse her.
  • Antigonus. If it prove
    She's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where
    I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her;
    Than when I feel and see her no farther trust her; 760
    For every inch of woman in the world,
    Ay, every dram of woman's flesh is false, If she be.
  • Antigonus. It is for you we speak, not for ourselves: 765
    You are abused and by some putter-on
    That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the villain,
    I would land-damn him. Be she honour-flaw'd,
    I have three daughters; the eldest is eleven
    The second and the third, nine, and some five; 770
    If this prove true, they'll pay for't:
    by mine honour,
    I'll geld 'em all; fourteen they shall not see,
    To bring false generations: they are co-heirs;
    And I had rather glib myself than they 775
    Should not produce fair issue.
  • Leontes. Cease; no more.
    You smell this business with a sense as cold
    As is a dead man's nose: but I do see't and feel't
    As you feel doing thus; and see withal 780
    The instruments that feel.
  • Antigonus. If it be so,
    We need no grave to bury honesty:
    There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten
    Of the whole dungy earth. 785
  • First Lord. I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,
    Upon this ground; and more it would content me
    To have her honour true than your suspicion,
    Be blamed for't how you might. 790
  • Leontes. Why, what need we
    Commune with you of this, but rather follow
    Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative
    Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness
    Imparts this; which if you, or stupefied 795
    Or seeming so in skill, cannot or will not
    Relish a truth like us, inform yourselves
    We need no more of your advice: the matter,
    The loss, the gain, the ordering on't, is all
    Properly ours. 800
  • Antigonus. And I wish, my liege,
    You had only in your silent judgment tried it,
    Without more overture.
  • Leontes. How could that be?
    Either thou art most ignorant by age, 805
    Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight,
    Added to their familiarity,
    Which was as gross as ever touch'd conjecture,
    That lack'd sight only, nought for approbation
    But only seeing, all other circumstances 810
    Made up to the deed, doth push on this proceeding:
    Yet, for a greater confirmation,
    For in an act of this importance 'twere
    Most piteous to be wild, I have dispatch'd in post
    To sacred Delphos, to Apollo's temple, 815
    Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know
    Of stuff'd sufficiency: now from the oracle
    They will bring all; whose spiritual counsel had,
    Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?
  • Leontes. Though I am satisfied and need no more
    Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
    Give rest to the minds of others, such as he
    Whose ignorant credulity will not
    Come up to the truth. So have we thought it good 825
    From our free person she should be confined,
    Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence
    Be left her to perform. Come, follow us;
    We are to speak in public; for this business
    Will raise us all. 830
  • Antigonus. [Aside]
    To laughter, as I take it,
    If the good truth were known.


. previous scene      

Act II, Scene 2

A prison.

      next scene .

[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.


. previous scene      

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.