Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • 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    Not Peer Reviewed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 Hermione, Mamillius, Ladies. Leontes, 585Antigonus, Lords [stand aside].
    Take the boy to you; he so troubles me,
    'Tis past enduring.
    1 Lady
    Come, my gracious lord.
    Shall I be your playfellow?
    No, I'll none of you.
    1 Lady
    Why, my sweet lord?
    [To 1 Lady] You'll kiss me hard and speak to me as if
    I were a baby still. [To 2 Lady] I love you better.
    2 Lady
    And why so, my lord?
    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 semi-circle
    Or a half-moon made with a pen.
    6002 Lady
    Who taught this?
    I learned it out of women's faces. Pray now,
    What color are your eyebrows?
    2 Lady
    Blue, my lord.
    Nay, that's a mock! I have seen a lady's nose
    605That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.
    1 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'd wanton with us,
    610If we would have you.
    2 Lady
    She is spread of late
    Into a goodly bulk -- good time encounter her!
    What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now
    I am for you again. Pray you sit by us,
    615And tell's a tale.
    Merry or sad shall't be?
    As merry as you will.
    A sad tale's best for winter.
    I have one of sprites and goblins.
    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.
    There was a man --
    Nay, come sit down.
    [Gestures Mamillius to sit] Then on.
    -- Dwelt by a churchyard. I will tell it softly,
    Yond crickets shall not hear it.
    Come on then, and giv't me in mine ear.
    [Leontes, Antigonus, and Lords come forward].
    Was he met there? His train? Camillo with
    Behind the tuft of pines I met them; never
    Saw I men scour so on their way. I eyed them
    Even to their ships.
    How blest am I
    In my just censure, in my true opinion!
    635Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accursed
    In being so blest! There may be in the cup
    A spider steeped and one may drink, depart,
    And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
    Is not infected, but if one present
    640Th' abhorred 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.
    Camillo was his help in this, his pander.
    There is a plot against my life, my crown.
    645All's true that is mistrusted. That false villain
    Whom I employed was pre-employed by him.
    He has discovered my design, and I
    Remain a pinched thing, yea, a very trick
    For them to play at will. How came the posterns
    650So easily open?
    By his great authority,
    Which often hath no less prevailed than so
    On your command.
    I know't too well.
    655[To Hermione] 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.
    What is this? Sport?
    [To the Ladies] Bear the boy hence. He shall not come about her!
    660Away with him, [To Hermione] and let her sport herself
    With that she's big with, for 'tis Polixenes
    Has made thee swell thus.
    [Ladies exit with Mamillius.]
    But I'd say he had not,
    And I'll be sworn you would believe my saying,
    665Howe'er you lean to th'nayward.
    You, my lords,
    Look on her, mark her well. Be but about
    To say "She is a goodly lady," and
    The justice of your hearts will thereto add
    670"'Tis pity she's not honest" honorable.
    Praise her but for this her without-door-form,
    Which on my faith deserves high speech, and straight
    The shrug, the "Hum," or "ha," these petty-brands
    That calumny doth use. Oh, I am out,
    675That mercy does, for calumny will sear
    Virtue itself. These shrugs, these "hum's", and "ha's",
    When you have said she's goodly, come between
    Ere you can say she's honest. But be't known
    From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,
    680She's an adulteress!
    Should a villain say so,
    The most replenished villain in the world,
    He were as much more villain. You, my lord,
    Do but mistake.
    You have mistook, my lady,
    Polixenes for Leontes. O thou thing,
    Which I'll not call a creature of thy place,
    Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,
    Should a like language use to all degrees
    690And mannerly distinguishment leave out
    Betwixt the prince and beggar. I have said
    She's an adulteress; I have said with whom.
    More, she's a traitor, and Camillo is
    A federary with her and one that knows
    695What she should shame to know herself,
    But with her most vile principal: that she's
    A bed-swerver, even as bad as those
    That vulgars give bold'st titles; ay, and privy
    To this their late escape.
    No, by my life,
    Privy to none of this! How will this grieve you
    When you shall come to clearer knowledge that
    You thus have published me? Gentle, my Lord,
    You scarce can right me throughly than to say
    705You did mistake.
    No, if I mistake
    In those foundations which I build upon,
    The center is not big enough to bear
    A school-boy's top. [To the Lords] Away with her to prison!
    710He who shall speak for her is a far-off guilty,
    But that he speaks.
    There's some ill planet reigns.
    I must be patient till the heavens look
    With an aspect more favorable. Good, my lords,
    715I am not prone to weeping as our sex
    Commonly are, the want of which vain dew
    Perchance shall dry your pities, but I have
    That honorable grief lodged here which burns
    Worse than tears drown. Beseech you all, my lords,
    720With thoughts so qualified as your charities
    Shall best instruct you measure me; and so,
    The King's will be performed.
    [The guards delay removing Hermione.]
    Shall I be heard?
    Who is't that goes with me? Beseech your Highness
    725My women may be with me, for you see
    My plight requires it. [To the women] Do not weep, good fools,
    There is no cause. When you shall know your mistress
    Has deserved prison, then abound in tears
    As I come out; this action I now go on
    730Is for my better grace. [To Leontes] Adieu, my Lord,
    I never wished to see you sorry; now
    I trust I shall. My women, come, you have leave.
    [Exit Hermione under guard, with her women.]
    Go, do our bidding. Hence!
    Beseech your Highness, call the Queen again.
    Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justice
    Prove violence, in the which three great ones suffer:
    Yourself, your Queen, your son.
    For her, my Lord,
    I dare my life lay down, and will do't, sir,
    740Please you t' accept it, that the Queen is spotless
    I'th' eyes of heaven, and to you -- I mean
    In this which you accuse her.
    If it prove
    She's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where
    745I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her.
    Than when I feel and see her, no farther trust her;
    For every inch of woman in the world,
    Ay, every dram of woman's flesh, is false
    If she be.
    Hold your peaces.
    Good, my lord --
    It is for you we speak, not for ourselves.
    You are abused, and by some putter-on
    That will be damned for't. Would I knew the villain,
    755I would land-damn him; be she honor-flawed,
    I have three daughters: the eldest is eleven;
    The second and the third nine and some five.
    If this prove true, they'll pay for't. By mine honor,
    I'll geld 'em all; fourteen they shall not see
    760To bring false generations. They are co-heirs,
    And I had rather glib myself then they
    Should not produce fair issue.
    Cease, no more!
    You smell this business with a sense as cold
    765As is a dead man's nose; but I do see't and feel't,
    As you feel doing thus [Grabbing Antigonus's beard] and see withal
    The instruments that feel.
    If it be so,
    We need no grave to bury honesty.
    770There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten
    Of the whole dungy earth.
    What? Lack I credit?
    I had rather you did lack than I, my Lord,
    Upon this ground, and more it would content me
    775To have her honor true than your suspicion
    Be blamed for't how you might.
    Why, what need we
    Commune with you of this, but rather follow
    Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative
    780Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness
    Imparts this, which, if you, or stupified
    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,
    785The loss, the gain, the ordering on't
    Is all properly ours.
    And I wish, my liege,
    You had only in your silent judgement tried it,
    Without more overture.
    How could that be?
    Either thou art most ignorant by age,
    Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight,
    Added to their familiarity --
    Which was as gross as ever touched conjecture,
    795That lacked sight only, naught for approbation
    But only seeing, all other circumstances
    Made up to'th deed -- doth push-on this proceeding.
    Yet for a greater confirmation,
    For in an act of this importance 'twere
    800Most piteous to be wild, I have dispatched in post
    To sacred Delphos to Apollo's temple,
    Cleomines and Dion, whom you know
    Of stuffed-sufficiency; now, from the oracle
    They will bring all whose spiritual counsel had
    805Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?
    Well done, my Lord.
    Though I am satisfied and need no more
    Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
    Give rest to th' minds of others, such as he
    810Whose ignorant credulity will not
    Come up to th' truth. So have we thought it good
    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.
    815We are to speak in public; for this business
    Will raise us all.
    [Aside] To laughter, as I take it,
    If the good truth were known.