What do you like about the ISE? What could we do better? Please tell us in this 10-minute survey!

Start Survey

Internet Shakespeare Editions

Become a FriendSign in

About this text

  • Title: The Winter's Tale (Folio 1, 1623)
  • Editor: Hardin Aasand
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-367-0

    Copyright Hardin Aasand. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Hardin Aasand
    Peer Reviewed

    The Winter's Tale (Folio 1, 1623)

    The Winters Tale.
    Her. Sir,
    You speake a Language that I vnderstand not:
    My Life stands in the leuell of your Dreames,
    Which Ile lay downe.
    1260Leo. Your Actions are my Dreames.
    You had a Bastard by Polixenes,
    And I but dream'd it: As you were past all shame,
    (Those of your Fact are so) so past all truth;
    Which to deny, concernes more then auailes: for as
    1265Thy Brat hath been cast out, like to it selfe,
    No Father owning it (which is indeed
    More criminall in thee, then it) so thou
    Shalt feele our Iustice; in whose easiest passage,
    Looke for no lesse then death.
    1270Her. Sir, spare your Threats:
    The Bugge which you would fright me with, I seeke:
    To me can Life be no commoditie;
    The crowne and comfort of my Life (your Fauor)
    I doe giue lost, for I doe feele it gone,
    1275But know not how it went. My second Ioy,
    And first Fruits of my body, from his presence
    I am bar'd, like one infectious. My third comfort
    (Star'd most vnluckily) is from my breast
    (The innocent milke in it most innocent mouth)
    1280Hal'd out to murther. My selfe on euery Post
    Proclaym'd a Strumpet: With immodest hatred
    The Child-bed priuiledge deny'd, which longs
    To Women of all fashion. Lastly, hurried
    Here, to this place, i'th' open ayre, before
    1285I haue got strength of limit. Now (my Liege)
    Tell me what blessings I haue here aliue,
    That I should feare to die? Therefore proceed:
    But yet heare this: mistake me not: no Life,
    (I prize it not a straw) but for mine Honor,
    1290Which I would free: if I shall be condemn'd
    Vpon surmizes (all proofes sleeping else,
    But what your Iealousies awake) I tell you
    'Tis Rigor, and not Law. Your Honors all,
    I doe referre me to the Oracle:
    1295Apollo be my Iudge.
    Lord. This your request
    Is altogether iust: therefore bring forth
    (And in Apollo's Name) his Oracle.
    Her. The Emperor of Russia was my Father.
    1300Oh that he were aliue, and here beholding
    His Daughters Tryall: that he did but see
    The flatnesse of my miserie; yet with eyes
    Of Pitty, not Reuenge.
    Officer. You here shal sweare vpon this Sword of Iustice,
    1305That you (Cleomines and Dion) haue
    Been both at Delphos, and from thence haue brought
    This seal'd-vp Oracle, by the Hand deliuer'd
    Of great Apollo's Priest; and that since then,
    You haue not dar'd to breake the holy Seale,
    1310Nor read the Secrets in't.
    Cleo. Dio. All this we sweare.
    Leo. Breake vp the Seales, and read.
    Officer. Hermione is chast, Polixenes blamelesse, Camillo
    a true Subiect, Leontes a iealous Tyrant, his innocent Babe
    1315truly begotten, and the King shall liue without an Heire, if that
    which is lost, be not found.
    Lords. Now blessed be the great Apollo.
    Her. Praysed.
    Leo. Hast thou read truth?
    1320Offic. I (my Lord) euen so as it is here set downe.
    Leo. There is no truth at all i'th' Oracle:
    The Sessions shall proceed: this is meere falsehood.
    Ser. My Lord the King: the King?
    Leo. What is the businesse?
    1325Ser. O Sir, I shall be hated to report it.
    The Prince your Sonne, with meere conceit, and feare
    Of the Queenes speed, is gone.
    Leo. How? gone?
    Ser. Is dead.
    1330Leo. Apollo's angry, and the Heauens themselues
    Doe strike at my Iniustice. How now there?
    Paul. This newes is mortall to the Queene: Look downe
    And see what Death is doing.
    Leo. Take her hence:
    1335Her heart is but o're-charg'd: she will recouer.
    I haue too much beleeu'd mine owne suspition:
    'Beseech you tenderly apply to her
    Some remedies for life. Apollo pardon
    My great prophanenesse 'gainst thine Oracle.
    1340Ile reconcile me to Polixenes,
    New woe my Queene, recall the good Camillo
    (Whom I proclaime a man of Truth, of Mercy:)
    For being transported by my Iealousies
    To bloody thoughts, and to reuenge, I chose
    1345Camillo for the minister, to poyson
    My friend Polixenes: which had been done,
    But that the good mind of Camillo tardied
    My swift command: though I with Death, and with
    Reward, did threaten and encourage him,
    1350Not doing it, and being done: he (most humane,
    And fill'd with Honor) to my Kingly Guest
    Vnclasp'd my practise, quit his fortunes here
    (Which you knew great) and to the hazard
    Of all Incertainties, himselfe commended,
    1355No richer then his Honor: How he glisters
    Through my Rust? and how his Pietie
    Do's my deeds make the blacker?
    Paul. Woe the while:
    O cut my Lace, least my heart (cracking it)
    1360Breake too.
    Lord. What fit is this? good Lady?
    Paul. What studied torments (Tyrant) hast for me?
    What Wheeles? Racks? Fires? What flaying? boyling?
    In Leads, or Oyles? What old, or newer Torture
    1365Must I receiue? whose euery word deserues
    To taste of thy most worst. Thy Tyranny
    (Together working with thy Iealousies,
    Fancies too weake for Boyes, too greene and idle
    For Girles of Nine) O thinke what they haue done,
    1370And then run mad indeed: starke-mad: for all
    Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
    That thou betrayed'st Polixenes, 'twas nothing,
    (That did but shew thee, of a Foole, inconstant,
    And damnable ingratefull:) Nor was't much.
    1375Thou would'st haue poyson'd good Camillo's Honor,
    To haue him kill a King: poore Trespasses,
    More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon
    The casting forth to Crowes, thy Baby-daughter,
    To be or none, or little; though a Deuill
    1380Would haue shed water out of fire, ere don't;
    Nor is't directly layd to thee, the death
    Of the young Prince, whose honorable thoughts
    (Thoughts high for one so tender) cleft the heart
    That could conceiue a grosse and foolish Sire
    1385Blemish'd his gracious Dam: this is not, no,
    Layd to thy answere: but the last: O Lords,
    When I haue said, cry woe: the Queene, the Queene,