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The Winter's Tale

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Act V, Scene 1

A room in LEONTES’ palace.



  • Cleomenes. Sir, you have done enough, and have perform'd 2820
    A saint-like sorrow: no fault could you make,
    Which you have not redeem'd; indeed, paid down
    More penitence than done trespass: at the last,
    Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil;
    With them forgive yourself. 2825
  • Leontes. Whilst I remember
    Her and her virtues, I cannot forget
    My blemishes in them, and so still think of
    The wrong I did myself; which was so much,
    That heirless it hath made my kingdom and 2830
    Destroy'd the sweet'st companion that e'er man
    Bred his hopes out of.
  • Paulina. True, too true, my lord:
    If, one by one, you wedded all the world,
    Or from the all that are took something good, 2835
    To make a perfect woman, she you kill'd
    Would be unparallel'd.
  • Leontes. I think so. Kill'd!
    She I kill'd! I did so: but thou strikest me
    Sorely, to say I did; it is as bitter 2840
    Upon thy tongue as in my thought: now, good now,
    Say so but seldom.
  • Cleomenes. Not at all, good lady:
    You might have spoken a thousand things that would
    Have done the time more benefit and graced 2845
    Your kindness better.
  • Paulina. You are one of those
    Would have him wed again.
  • Dion. If you would not so,
    You pity not the state, nor the remembrance 2850
    Of his most sovereign name; consider little
    What dangers, by his highness' fail of issue,
    May drop upon his kingdom and devour
    Incertain lookers on. What were more holy
    Than to rejoice the former queen is well? 2855
    What holier than, for royalty's repair,
    For present comfort and for future good,
    To bless the bed of majesty again
    With a sweet fellow to't?
  • Paulina. There is none worthy, 2860
    Respecting her that's gone. Besides, the gods
    Will have fulfill'd their secret purposes;
    For has not the divine Apollo said,
    Is't not the tenor of his oracle,
    That King Leontes shall not have an heir 2865
    Till his lost child be found? which that it shall,
    Is all as monstrous to our human reason
    As my Antigonus to break his grave
    And come again to me; who, on my life,
    Did perish with the infant. 'Tis your counsel 2870
    My lord should to the heavens be contrary,
    Oppose against their wills.
    [To LEONTES]
    Care not for issue;
    The crown will find an heir: great Alexander 2875
    Left his to the worthiest; so his successor
    Was like to be the best.
  • Leontes. Good Paulina,
    Who hast the memory of Hermione,
    I know, in honour, O, that ever I 2880
    Had squared me to thy counsel! then, even now,
    I might have look'd upon my queen's full eyes,
    Have taken treasure from her lips—
  • Paulina. And left them
    More rich for what they yielded. 2885
  • Leontes. Thou speak'st truth.
    No more such wives; therefore, no wife: one worse,
    And better used, would make her sainted spirit
    Again possess her corpse, and on this stage,
    Where we're offenders now, appear soul-vex'd, 2890
    And begin, 'Why to me?'
  • Paulina. Had she such power,
    She had just cause.
  • Leontes. She had; and would incense me
    To murder her I married. 2895
  • Paulina. I should so.
    Were I the ghost that walk'd, I'ld bid you mark
    Her eye, and tell me for what dull part in't
    You chose her; then I'ld shriek, that even your ears
    Should rift to hear me; and the words that follow'd 2900
    Should be 'Remember mine.'
  • Leontes. Stars, stars,
    And all eyes else dead coals! Fear thou no wife;
    I'll have no wife, Paulina.
  • Paulina. Will you swear 2905
    Never to marry but by my free leave?
  • Leontes. Never, Paulina; so be blest my spirit!
  • Paulina. Then, good my lords, bear witness to his oath.
  • Paulina. Unless another, 2910
    As like Hermione as is her picture,
    Affront his eye.CLEOMENES. Good madam,—
  • Paulina. I have done.
    Yet, if my lord will marry,—if you will, sir,
    No remedy, but you will,—give me the office 2915
    To choose you a queen: she shall not be so young
    As was your former; but she shall be such
    As, walk'd your first queen's ghost,
    it should take joy
    To see her in your arms. 2920
  • Leontes. My true Paulina,
    We shall not marry till thou bid'st us.
  • Paulina. That
    Shall be when your first queen's again in breath;
    Never till then. 2925

[Enter a Gentleman]

  • Gentleman. One that gives out himself Prince Florizel,
    Son of Polixenes, with his princess, she
    The fairest I have yet beheld, desires access
    To your high presence. 2930
  • Leontes. What with him? he comes not
    Like to his father's greatness: his approach,
    So out of circumstance and sudden, tells us
    'Tis not a visitation framed, but forced
    By need and accident. What train? 2935
  • Leontes. His princess, say you, with him?
  • Gentleman. Ay, the most peerless piece of earth, I think,
    That e'er the sun shone bright on. 2940
  • Paulina. O Hermione,
    As every present time doth boast itself
    Above a better gone, so must thy grave
    Give way to what's seen now! Sir, you yourself
    Have said and writ so, but your writing now 2945
    Is colder than that theme, 'She had not been,
    Nor was not to be equall'd;'—thus your verse
    Flow'd with her beauty once: 'tis shrewdly ebb'd,
    To say you have seen a better.
  • Gentleman. Pardon, madam: 2950
    The one I have almost forgot,—your pardon,—
    The other, when she has obtain'd your eye,
    Will have your tongue too. This is a creature,
    Would she begin a sect, might quench the zeal
    Of all professors else, make proselytes 2955
    Of who she but bid follow.
  • Gentleman. Women will love her, that she is a woman
    More worth than any man; men, that she is
    The rarest of all women. 2960
  • Leontes. Go, Cleomenes;
    Yourself, assisted with your honour'd friends,
    Bring them to our embracement. Still, 'tis strange
    [Exeunt CLEOMENES and others]
    He thus should steal upon us. 2965
  • Paulina. Had our prince,
    Jewel of children, seen this hour, he had pair'd
    Well with this lord: there was not full a month
    Between their births.
  • Leontes. Prithee, no more; cease; thou know'st 2970
    He dies to me again when talk'd of: sure,
    When I shall see this gentleman, thy speeches
    Will bring me to consider that which may
    Unfurnish me of reason. They are come.
    [Re-enter CLEOMENES and others, with FLORIZEL and PERDITA] 2975
    Your mother was most true to wedlock, prince;
    For she did print your royal father off,
    Conceiving you: were I but twenty-one,
    Your father's image is so hit in you,
    His very air, that I should call you brother, 2980
    As I did him, and speak of something wildly
    By us perform'd before. Most dearly welcome!
    And your fair princess,—goddess!—O, alas!
    I lost a couple, that 'twixt heaven and earth
    Might thus have stood begetting wonder as 2985
    You, gracious couple, do: and then I lost—
    All mine own folly—the society,
    Amity too, of your brave father, whom,
    Though bearing misery, I desire my life
    Once more to look on him. 2990
  • Florizel. By his command
    Have I here touch'd Sicilia and from him
    Give you all greetings that a king, at friend,
    Can send his brother: and, but infirmity
    Which waits upon worn times hath something seized 2995
    His wish'd ability, he had himself
    The lands and waters 'twixt your throne and his
    Measured to look upon you; whom he loves—
    He bade me say so—more than all the sceptres
    And those that bear them living. 3000
  • Leontes. O my brother,
    Good gentleman! the wrongs I have done thee stir
    Afresh within me, and these thy offices,
    So rarely kind, are as interpreters
    Of my behind-hand slackness. Welcome hither, 3005
    As is the spring to the earth. And hath he too
    Exposed this paragon to the fearful usage,
    At least ungentle, of the dreadful Neptune,
    To greet a man not worth her pains, much less
    The adventure of her person? 3010
  • Florizel. Good my lord,
    She came from Libya.
  • Leontes. Where the warlike Smalus,
    That noble honour'd lord, is fear'd and loved?
  • Florizel. Most royal sir, from thence; from him, whose daughter 3015
    His tears proclaim'd his, parting with her: thence,
    A prosperous south-wind friendly, we have cross'd,
    To execute the charge my father gave me
    For visiting your highness: my best train
    I have from your Sicilian shores dismiss'd; 3020
    Who for Bohemia bend, to signify
    Not only my success in Libya, sir,
    But my arrival and my wife's in safety
    Here where we are.
  • Leontes. The blessed gods 3025
    Purge all infection from our air whilst you
    Do climate here! You have a holy father,
    A graceful gentleman; against whose person,
    So sacred as it is, I have done sin:
    For which the heavens, taking angry note, 3030
    Have left me issueless; and your father's blest,
    As he from heaven merits it, with you
    Worthy his goodness. What might I have been,
    Might I a son and daughter now have look'd on,
    Such goodly things as you! 3035

[Enter a Lord]

  • Lord. Most noble sir,
    That which I shall report will bear no credit,
    Were not the proof so nigh. Please you, great sir,
    Bohemia greets you from himself by me; 3040
    Desires you to attach his son, who has—
    His dignity and duty both cast off—
    Fled from his father, from his hopes, and with
    A shepherd's daughter.
  • Leontes. Where's Bohemia? speak. 3045
  • Lord. Here in your city; I now came from him:
    I speak amazedly; and it becomes
    My marvel and my message. To your court
    Whiles he was hastening, in the chase, it seems,
    Of this fair couple, meets he on the way 3050
    The father of this seeming lady and
    Her brother, having both their country quitted
    With this young prince.
  • Florizel. Camillo has betray'd me;
    Whose honour and whose honesty till now 3055
    Endured all weathers.
  • Lord. Lay't so to his charge:
    He's with the king your father.
  • Lord. Camillo, sir; I spake with him; who now 3060
    Has these poor men in question. Never saw I
    Wretches so quake: they kneel, they kiss the earth;
    Forswear themselves as often as they speak:
    Bohemia stops his ears, and threatens them
    With divers deaths in death. 3065
  • Perdita. O my poor father!
    The heaven sets spies upon us, will not have
    Our contract celebrated.
  • Florizel. We are not, sir, nor are we like to be; 3070
    The stars, I see, will kiss the valleys first:
    The odds for high and low's alike.
  • Leontes. My lord,
    Is this the daughter of a king?
  • Florizel. She is, 3075
    When once she is my wife.
  • Leontes. That 'once' I see by your good father's speed
    Will come on very slowly. I am sorry,
    Most sorry, you have broken from his liking
    Where you were tied in duty, and as sorry 3080
    Your choice is not so rich in worth as beauty,
    That you might well enjoy her.
  • Florizel. Dear, look up:
    Though Fortune, visible an enemy,
    Should chase us with my father, power no jot 3085
    Hath she to change our loves. Beseech you, sir,
    Remember since you owed no more to time
    Than I do now: with thought of such affections,
    Step forth mine advocate; at your request
    My father will grant precious things as trifles. 3090
  • Leontes. Would he do so, I'ld beg your precious mistress,
    Which he counts but a trifle.
  • Paulina. Sir, my liege,
    Your eye hath too much youth in't: not a month
    'Fore your queen died, she was more worth such gazes 3095
    Than what you look on now.
  • Leontes. I thought of her,
    Even in these looks I made.
    But your petition 3100
    Is yet unanswer'd. I will to your father:
    Your honour not o'erthrown by your desires,
    I am friend to them and you: upon which errand
    I now go toward him; therefore follow me
    And mark what way I make: come, good my lord. 3105