Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed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.