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

    Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Hardin Aasand
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Winter's Tale (Modern)

    Enter Leontes, Hermione, Mamillius, Polixenes, Camillo.
    Nine changes of the watery star hath been
    The shepherds' note since we have left our throne
    Without a burden. Time as long again
    Would be filled up, my brother, with our thanks,
    And yet we should for perpetuity
    55Go hence in debt. And therefore, like a cipher,
    Yet standing in rich place I multiply
    With one "we thank you" many thousands more
    That go before it.
    Stay your thanks a while
    60And pay them when you part.
    Sir, that's tomorrow.
    I am questioned by my fear of what may chance
    Or breed upon our absence that may blow
    No sneaping winds at home to make us say,
    65"This is put forth too truly." Besides, I have stayed
    To tire your royalty.
    We are tougher, brother,
    Than you can put us to it.
    No longer stay.
    One seven night longer.
    Very sooth, tomorrow.
    We'll part the time between's then, and in that
    I'll no gainsaying.
    Press me not, beseech you, so.
    75There is no tongue that moves, none, none i'th' world
    So soon as yours could win me. So it should now
    Were there necessity in your request, although
    'Twere needful I denied it. My affairs
    Do even drag me homeward, which to hinder
    80Were in your love a whip to me; my stay,
    To you a charge and trouble. To save both,
    Farewell, our brother.
    Tongue-tied, our Queen? Speak you.
    I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until
    85You had drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,
    Charge him too coldly. Tell him you are sure
    All in Bohemia's well. This satisfaction,
    The bygone-day proclaimed, say this to him,
    He's beat from his best ward.
    Well said, Hermione.
    To tell he longs to see his son were strong.
    But let him say so then and let him go,
    But let him swear so and he shall not stay.
    We'll thwack him hence with distaffs.
    95Yet of your royal presence I'll adventure
    The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia
    You take my lord, I'll give him my commission
    To let him there a month behind the gest
    Prefixed for's parting. Yet, good deed, Leontes,
    100I love thee not a jar o'th' clock behind
    What lady she her lord. You'll stay?
    No, madam.
    Nay, but you will?
    I may not, verily.
    You put me off with limber vows. But I,
    Though you would seek t'unsphere the stars with oaths,
    Should yet say "Sir, no going." Verily
    You shall not go; a lady's "Verily" is
    110As potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?
    Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
    Not like a guest. So, you shall pay your fees
    When you depart and save your thanks. How say you?
    My prisoner? Or my guest? By your dread "Verily",
    115One of them you shall be.
    Your guest then, madam:
    To be your prisoner should import offending,
    Which is for me less easy to commit
    Than you to punish.
    Not your jailer then,
    But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question you
    Of my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys.
    You were pretty lordings then?
    We were, fair Queen.
    125Two lads that thought there was no more behind
    But such a day tomorrow as today,
    And to be boy eternal.
    Was not my Lord
    The verier wag o'th' two?
    We were as twinned lambs that did frisk i'th' sun
    And bleat the one at th' other. What we changed
    Was innocence for innocence. We knew not
    The doctrine of ill-doing nor dreamed
    That any did. Had we pursued that life
    135And our weak spirits ne'er been higher reared
    With stronger blood, we should have answered heaven
    Boldly, "Not guilty"; the imposition cleared,
    Hereditary ours.
    By this we gather
    140You have tripped since.
    O my most sacred Lady,
    Temptations have since then been born to's, for
    In those unfledged days was my wife a girl.
    Your precious self had then not crossed the eyes
    145Of my young playfellow.
    Grace to boot!
    Of this make no conclusion, lest you say
    Your queen and I are devils. Yet go on.
    Th'offences we have made you do we'll answer,
    150If you first sinned with us and that with us
    You did continue fault, and that you slipped not
    With any but with us.
    Is he won yet?
    He'll stay, my Lord.
    At my request, he would not.
    Hermione, my dearest, thou never spok'st
    To better purpose.
    Never, but once.
    What? Have I twice said well? When was't before?
    I prithee tell me; cram's with praise and make's
    As fat as tame things. One good deed dying tongueless
    Slaughters a thousand waiting upon that.
    Our praises are our wages. You may ride's
    165With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere
    With spur we heat an acre. But to th' goal:
    My last good deed was to entreat his stay.
    What was my first? It has an elder sister,
    Or I mistake you. Oh, would her name were Grace!
    170But once before I spoke to th' purpose? When?
    Nay, let me have't! I long.
    Why, that was when
    Three crabbèd months had soured themselves to death
    Ere I could make thee open thy white hand:
    175And clap thyself, my love; then didst thou utter,
    "I am yours for ever."
    'Tis Grace indeed.
    Why, lo you now, I have spoke to th' purpose twice:
    The one forever earned a royal husband,
    180Th' other for some while a friend.
    [Takes Polixenes by the hand]
    [Aside] Too hot, too hot!
    To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
    I have tremor cordis on me. My heart dances,
    But not for joy, not joy. This entertainment
    185May a free face put on; derive a liberty
    From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
    And well become the agent. It may, I grant.
    But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
    As now they are, and making practised smiles
    190As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere --,
    The mort o'th' deer -- Oh, that is entertainment
    My bosom likes not, nor my brows. Mamillius,
    Art thou my boy?
    Ay, my good Lord.
    Why, that's my bawcock. What? Has't smutched thy nose?
    They say it is a copy out of mine. Come, captain,
    We must be neat, not neat but cleanly, captain.
    And yet the steer, the heifer, and the calf
    200Are all called neat -- still virginalling
    Upon his palm? -- [To Mamillius] How now, you wanton calf,
    Art thou my calf?
    Yes, if you will, my Lord.
    Thou want'st a rough pash and the shoots that I have
    205To be full like me, yet they say we are
    Almost as like as egg -- women say so
    That will say anything. But were they false
    As oʼer-dyed blacks, as wind, as waters? False
    As dice are to be wished by one that fixes
    210No bourne 'twixt his and mine, yet were it true
    To say this boy were like me? Come, Sir Page,
    Look on me with your welkin eye, sweet villain,
    Most dearest, my collop. Can thy dam? May't be? --
    Affection, thy intention stabs the center.
    215Thou dost make possible things not so held,
    Communicat'st with dreams (how can this be?)
    With what's unreal thou coactive art
    And fellowst nothing. Then 'tis very credent,
    Thou mayst co-join with something and thou dost --
    220And that beyond commission -- and I find it --
    And that to the infection of my brains
    And hardening of my brows.
    What means Sicilia?
    He something seems unsettled.
    How, my Lord?
    What cheer? How is't with you, best brother?
    You look as if you held a brow of much distraction.
    Are you moved, my Lord?
    No, in good earnest.
    230How sometimes nature will betray its folly,
    Its tenderness and make itself a pastime
    To harder bosoms? Looking on the lines
    Of my boy's face methoughts I did recoil
    Twenty-three years and saw myself unbreeched
    235In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled
    Lest it should bite its master and so prove,
    As ornaments oft do, too dangerous.
    How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,
    This squash, this gentleman -- [To Mamillius] Mine honest friend,
    240Will you take eggs for money?
    No, my Lord, I'll fight.
    You will? Why, happy man be's dole! [To Polixenes] My brother,
    Are you so fond of your young prince as we
    Do seem to be of ours?
    If at home, sir,
    He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter;
    Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy;
    My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all.
    He makes a July's day short as December,
    250And with his varying childness cures in me
    Thoughts that would thick my blood.
    So stands this squire
    Officed with me. We two will walk, my Lord,
    And leave you to your graver steps. Hermione,
    255How thou lov'st us show in our brother's welcome.
    Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap.
    Next to thyself and my young rover, he's
    Apparent to my heart.
    If you would seek us,
    260We are yours i'th'garden. Shall's attend you there?
    To your own bents dispose you. You'll be found,
    Be you beneath the sky. [Aside] I am angling now,
    Though you perceive me not how I give line.
    Go to, go to!
    265How she holds up the neb, the bill to him,
    And arms her with the boldness of a wife
    To her allowing husband.
    [Exeunt Hermione and Polixenes.]
    Gone already!
    Inch-thick, knee-deep, o'er head and ears a forked one --
    [To Mamillius] Go play, boy, play. Thy mother plays, and I
    270Play too, but so disgraced a part, whose issue
    Will hiss me to my grave. Contempt and clamor
    Will be my knell -- [To Mamillius] Go play, boy, play -- [Aside] There have been,
    Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now,
    And many a man there is, even at this present,
    275Now, while I speak this, holds his wife by th' arm,
    That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence,
    And his pond fished by his next neighbor, by
    Sir Smile, his neighbor. Nay, there's comfort in't
    Whiles other men have gates, and those gates opened
    280As mine against their will. Should all despair
    That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind
    Would hang themselves. Physic for't there's none!
    It is a bawdy planet that will strike
    Where 'tis predominant. And 'tis powerful, think it
    285From east, west, north, and south. Be it concluded,
    No barricado for a belly. Know't,
    It will let in and out the enemy,
    With bag and baggage. Many thousand on's
    Have the disease and feel it not. [To Mamillius] How now, boy?
    I am like you, they say.
    Why, that's some comfort.
    What? Camillo, there?
    [Coming forward] Ay, my good Lord.
    Go play, Mamillius, thou'rt an honest man.
    [Exit Mamillius]
    295Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.
    You had much ado to make his anchor hold.
    When you cast out, it still came home.
    Didst note it?
    He would not stay at your petitions, made
    300His business more material.
    Didst perceive it?
    They're here with me already, whispering, rounding,
    "Sicilia is a so-forth." 'Tis far gone,
    When I shall gust it last. How cam't, Camillo,
    305That he did stay?
    At the good queen's entreaty.
    "At the queen's" be't. "Good" should be pertinent,
    But so it is, it is not. Was this taken
    By any understanding pate but thine?
    310For thy conceit is soaking, will draw in
    More than the common blocks. Not noted, is't,
    But of the finer natures, by some severals
    Of headpiece extraordinary? Lower messes
    Perchance are to this business purblind? Say.
    Business, my lord? I think most understand
    Bohemia stays here longer.
    Stays here longer.
    Ay, but why?
    To satisfy your Highness and the entreaties
    Of our most gracious mistress.
    "Th' entreaties of your mistress"? "Satisfy"?
    Let that suffice. I have trusted thee, Camillo,
    325With all the nearest things to my heart, as well
    My chamber-counsels, wherein, priest-like, thou
    Hast cleansed my bosom. I from thee departed
    Thy penitent reformed, but we have been
    Deceived in thy integrity, deceived
    330In that which seems so.
    Be it forbid, my lord!
    To bide upon't: thou art not honest, or
    If thou inclin'st that way, thou art a coward,
    Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining
    335From course required, or else thou must be counted
    A servant grafted in my serious trust
    And therein negligent; or else a fool
    That see'st a game played home, the rich stake drawn,
    And tak'st it all for jest.
    My gracious lord,
    I may be negligent, foolish, and fearful.
    In every one of these, no man is free,
    But that his negligence, his folly, fear,
    Among the infinite doings of the world,
    345Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my Lord,
    If ever I were wilful-negligent,
    It was my folly; if industriously
    I played the fool, it was my negligence,
    Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful
    350To do a thing where I the issue doubted,
    Whereof the execution did cry out
    Against the non-performance, 'twas a fear
    Which oft infects the wisest. These, my lord,
    Are such allowed infirmities that honesty
    355Is never free of. But beseech your grace
    Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass
    By its own visage. If I then deny it,
    'Tis none of mine.
    Have not you seen, Camillo --
    360But that's past doubt; you have or your eye-glass
    Is thicker than a cuckold's horn -- or heard --
    For to a vision so apparent, rumor
    Cannot be mute -- or thought -- for cogitation
    Resides not in that man that does not think
    365My wife is slippery? If thou wilt confess,
    Or else be impudently negative
    To have nor eyes, nor ears, nor thought, then say
    My wife's a hobby-horse, deserves a name
    As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
    370Before her troth-plight. Say't, and justify't.
    I would not be a stander-by to hear
    My sovereign mistress clouded so without
    My present vengeance taken. 'Shrew my heart,
    You never spoke what did become you less
    375Than this, which to reiterate were sin
    As deep as that, though true.
    Is whispering nothing?
    Is leaning cheek to cheek? Is meeting noses?
    Kissing with inside lip? Stopping the career
    380Of laughter with a sigh? A note infallible
    Of breaking honesty, horsing foot on foot?
    Skulking in corners? Wishing clocks more swift?
    Hours, minutes? Noon, midnight? And all eyes
    Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only,
    385That would unseen be wicked? Is this nothing?
    Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing,
    The covering sky is nothing, Bohemia nothing,
    My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings,
    If this be nothing.
    Good my Lord, be cured
    Of this diseased opinion, and betimes,
    For 'tis most dangerous.
    Say it be, 'tis true.
    No, no, my Lord.
    It is! You lie, you lie!
    I say thou liest, Camillo, and I hate thee,
    Pronounce thee a gross lout, a mindless slave,
    Or else a hovering temporizer that
    Canst with thine eyes at once see good and evil,
    400Inclining to them both; were my wife's liver
    Infected as her life, she would not live
    The running of one glass.
    Who does infect her?
    Why he that wears her like her medal, hanging
    405About his neck -- Bohemia who, if I
    Had servants true about me that bare eyes
    To see alike mine honor as their profits,
    Their own particular thrifts, they would do that
    Which should undo more doing. Ay, and thou
    410His cupbearer, whom I from meaner form
    Have benched and reared to worship, who mayst see
    Plainly as heaven sees earth and earth sees heaven,
    How I am galled, mightst bespice a cup
    To give mine enemy a lasting wink,
    415Which draught to me were cordial.
    Sir, my lord,
    I could do this, and that with no rash potion,
    But with a lingering dram that should not work
    Maliciously like poison, but I cannot
    420Believe this crack to be in my dread mistress,
    So sovereignly being honorable.
    I have loved thee--
    Make that thy question and go rot!
    Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled,
    425To appoint myself in this vexation?
    Sully the purity and whitenesse of my sheets --
    Which to preserve is sleep; which being spotted
    Is goads, thorns, nettles; tails of wasps --
    Give scandal to the blood o'th' prince, my son,
    430Who I do think is mine and love as mine,
    Without ripe moving to't? Would I do this?
    Could man so blench?
    I must believe you, sir,
    I do and will fetch off Bohemia for't,
    435Provided that when he's removed your Highness
    Will take again your Queen as yours at first,
    Even for your son's sake, and thereby for sealing
    The injury of tongues in courts and kingdoms
    Known and allied to yours.
    Thou dost advise me,
    Even so as I mine own course have set down;
    I'll give no blemish to her honor, none.
    My Lord,
    Go then, and with a countenance as clear
    445As friendship wears at feasts, keep with Bohemia
    And with your Queen. I am his cupbearer
    If from me he have wholesome beverage.
    Account me not your servant.
    This is all.
    450Do't, and thou hast the one half of my heart;
    Do't not, thou splitt'st thine own.
    I'll do't, my Lord.
    I will seem friendly, as thou hast advised me.
    O miserable lady! But for me,
    455What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner
    Of good Polixenes, and my ground to do't
    Is the obedience to a master, one,
    Who in rebellion with himself, will have
    All that are his so too. To do this deed,
    460Promotion follows. If I could find example
    Of thousands that had struck anointed kings
    And flourished after, I'd not do't. But since
    Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment bears not one,
    Let villany itself forswear't. I must
    465Forsake the court: to do't or no is certain
    To me a breakneck. Happy star reign now!
    Here comes Bohemia.
    Enter Polixenes.
    [Aside] This is strange. Methinks
    My favor here begins to warp. Not speak?
    470[To Camillo] Good day, Camillo.
    Hail, most royal sir.
    What is the news i'th'court?
    None rare, my Lord.
    The King hath on him such a countenance,
    475As he had lost some province, and a region
    Loved as he loves himself; even now I met him
    With customary compliment, when he,
    Wafting his eyes to th'contrary and falling
    A lip of much contempt, speeds from me and
    480So leaves me to consider what is breeding
    That changes thus his manners.
    I dare not know, my Lord.
    How, dare not? Do not? Do you know, and dare not?
    Be intelligent to me, 'tis thereabouts;
    485For to yourself what you do know you must
    And cannot say you dare not. Good Camillo,
    Your changed complexions are to me a mirror
    Which shows me mine changed too, for I must be
    A party in this alteration, finding
    490Myself thus altered with't.
    There is a sickness
    Which puts some of us in distemper, but
    I cannot name the disease, and it is caught
    Of you that yet are well.
    How caught of me?
    Make me not sighted like the basilisk.
    I have looked on thousands who have sped the better
    By my regard, but killed none so. Camillo --
    As you are certainly a gentleman, thereto
    500Clerk-like experienced, which no less adorns
    Our gentry than our parents' noble names,
    In whose success we are gentle -- I beseech you,
    If you know ought which does behoove my knowledge
    Thereof to be informed, imprisoned not
    505In ignorant concealment.
    I may not answer.
    A sickness caught of me, and yet I well?
    I must be answered. Dost thou hear, Camillo?
    I conjure thee, by all the parts of man
    510Which honor does acknowledge, whereof the least
    Is not this suit of mine, that thou declare
    What incidency thou dost guess of harm
    Is creeping toward me; how far off, how near,
    Which way to be prevented, if to be.
    515If not, how best to bear it.
    Sir, I will tell you,
    Since I am charged in honor, and by him
    That I think honorable; therefore mark my counsel,
    Which must be even as swiftly followed as
    520I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me,
    Cry lost, and so good night!
    On, good Camillo.
    I am appointed him to murder you.
    By whom, Camillo?
    By the King!
    For what?
    He thinks, nay with all confidence he swears
    As he had seen't, or been an instrument
    To vice you to't, that you have touched his Queen
    Oh then, my best blood turn
    To an infected jelly and my name
    Be yoked with his that did betray the best!
    Turn then my freshest reputation to
    535A savor that may strike the dullest nostril
    Where I arrive and my approach be shunned,
    Nay, hated too, worse then the greatest infection
    That ere was heard or read.
    Swear his thought over
    540By each particular star in heaven and
    By all their influences; you may as well
    Forbid the sea for to obey the moon
    As or by oath remove or counsel shake
    The fabric of his folly, whose foundation
    545Is piled upon his faith and will continue
    The standing of his body.
    How should this grow?
    I know not, but I am sure 'tis safer to
    Avoid what's grown than question how 'tis born.
    550If therefore you dare trust my honesty
    That lies enclosèd in this trunk, which you
    Shall bear along impawned, away tonight!
    Your followers I will whisper to the business,
    And will by twos and threes at several posterns
    555Clear them o'th'city. For myself, I'll put
    My fortunes to your service, which are here
    By this discovery lost. Be not uncertain,
    For, by the honor of my parents, I
    Have uttered truth, which, if you seek to prove,
    560I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer,
    Than one condemned by the king's own mouth
    Thereon his execution sworn.
    I do believe thee;
    I saw his heart in's face. Give me thy hand,
    565Be pilot to me, and thy places shall
    Still neighbor mine. My ships are ready, and
    My people did expect my hence departure
    Two days ago. This jealousy
    Is for a precious creature; as she's rare,
    570Must it be great; and, as his person's mighty,
    Must it be violent; and, as he does conceive
    He is dishonored by a man which ever
    Professed to him, why, his revenges must
    In that be made more bitter. Fear o'ershades me!
    575Good expedition be my friend, and comfort
    The gracious queen, part of his theme, but nothing
    Of his ill-ta'en suspicion. Come, Camillo,
    I will respect thee as a father if
    Thou bear'st my life off, hence. Let us avoid.
    It is in mine authority to command
    The keys of all the posterns; please your highness
    To take the urgent hour. Come, sir, away.