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    Not Peer Reviewed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 Leontes, Lords, [and] Officers.
    This sessions to our great grief we pronounce,
    Even pushes 'gainst our heart. The party tried,
    The daughter of a king, our wife, and one
    Of us too much beloved. Let us be cleared
    1180Of being tyrannous, since we so openly
    Proceed in justice, which shall have due course,
    Even to the guilt or the purgation.
    Produce the prisoner.
    It is his Highness' pleasure that the queen
    1185Appear in person, here in court.
    [Enter Hermione for trial, with Paulina and Ladies]
    Read the indictment.
    [Reads] Hermione, queen to the worthy Leontes, King
    of Sicilia, thou art here accused and arraigned of high treason,in committing adultery with Polixenes, King of Bohemia, 1190and conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our soveraign lord the king, thy royal husband, the pretence whereof being by circumstances partly laid open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the faith and allegiance of a true subject, didst counsel and aid them, for their better safety, to fly away by 1195night.
    Since what I am to say must be but that
    Which contradicts my accusation, and
    The testimony on my part no other
    But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
    1200To say, "Not guilty". Mine integrity,
    Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
    Be so received. But thus, if powers divine
    Behold our humane actions, as they do,
    I doubt not then but innocence shall make
    1205False accusation blush and tyranny
    Tremble at patience. You, my lord, best know
    Whom least will seem to do so my past life
    Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
    As I am now unhappy, which is more
    1210Than history can pattern, though devised
    And played to take spectators. For behold me,
    A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
    A moiety of the throne, a great king's daughter,
    The mother to a hopeful prince, here standing
    1215To prate and talk for life and honor fore
    Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it
    As I weigh grief, which I would spare. For honor,
    'Tis a derivative from me to mine,
    And only that I stand for. I appeal
    1220To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
    Came to your court how I was in your grace,
    How merited to be so. Since he came,
    With what encounter so uncurrent I
    Have strained t' appear thus; if one jot beyond
    1225The bound of honor or in act or will
    That way inclining, hardened be the hearts
    Of all that hear me, and my nearest of kin
    Cry fie upon my grave.
    I never heard yet
    1230That any of these bolder vices wanted
    Less impudence to gainsay what they did
    Than to perform it first.
    That's true enough,
    Though 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
    You will not own it.
    More than mistress of
    Which comes to me in name of fault I must not
    At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,
    With whom I am accused, I do confess
    1240I loved him as in honor he required,
    With such a kind of love as might become
    A lady like me; with a love, even such,
    So and no other, as yourself commanded,
    Which, not to have done, I think had been in me
    1245Both disobedience and ingratitude
    To you and toward your friend, whose love had spoke
    Even since it could speak, from an infant, freely,
    That it was yours. Now for conspiracy,
    I know not how it tastes, though it be dished
    1250For me to try how; all I know of it
    Is that Camillo was an honest man,
    And why he left your court the gods themselves,
    Wotting no more then I, are ignorant.
    You knew of his departure, as you know
    1255What you have underta'en to do in's absence.
    You speak a language that I understand not.
    My life stands in the level of your dreams,
    Which I'll lay down.
    Your actions are my dreams.
    You had a bastard by Polixenes,
    And I but dreamed it; as you were past all shame,
    Those of your fact are so, so past all truth,
    Which to deny concerns more then avails; for as
    1265Thy brat hath been cast out, like to itself,
    No father owning it, which is indeed
    More criminal in thee than it, so thou
    Shalt feel our justice, in whose easiest passage
    Look for no less than death.
    Sir, spare your threats.
    The bug which you would fright me with I seek;
    To me can life be no commodity.
    The crown and comfort of my life, your favor,
    I do give lost, for I do feel it gone,
    1275But know not how it went. My second joy
    And first fruits of my body, from his presence
    I am barred, like one infectious. My third comfort
    Starred most unluckily, is from my breast --
    The innocent milk in it most innocent mouth --
    1280Hal'd out to murder. Myself on every post
    Proclaimed a strumpet, with immodest hatred
    The child-bed privilege denied, which longs
    To women of all fashion. Lastly, hurried
    Here, to this place, i'th' open air, before
    1285I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
    Tell me what blessings I have here alive
    That I should fear to die? Therefore, proceed,
    But yet hear this -- mistake me not -- no life,
    I prize it not a straw, but for mine honor,
    1290Which I would free. If I shall be condemned
    Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else
    But what your jealousies awake, I tell you
    'Tis rigor and not law. Your honors all,
    I do refer me to the oracle:
    1295Apollo be my judge.
    This your request
    Is altogether just. Therefore, bring forth,
    And in Apollo's name, his oracle.
    [Exeunt certain officers]
    The emperor of Russia was my father.
    1300Oh that he were alive and here beholding
    His daughter's trial, that he did but see
    The flatness of my misery; yet with eyes
    Of pity, not revenge.
    [Enter Cleomines and Dion with officers]
    You here shall swear upon this sword of justice,
    1305That you, Cleomines and Dion, have
    Been both at Delphos and from thence have brought
    This sealed-up oracle by the hand delivered
    Of great Apollo's priest; and that since then,
    You have not dared to break the holy seal
    1310Nor read the secrets in't.
    Cleomines and Dion
    All this we swear.
    Break up the seals and read.
    Hermione is chaste, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, his innocent babe 1315truly begotten, and the king shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found.
    Now blessed be the great Apollo.
    Hast thou read truth?
    Ay, my lord, even so
    As it is here set down.
    There is no truth at all i'th'oracle!
    The sessions shall proceed. This is mere falsehood.
    [Enter Servant]
    My lord, the King, the King!
    What is the business?
    O, sir, I shall be hated to report it.
    The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear
    Of the queen's speed, is gone.
    How "gone"?
    Is dead!
    Apollo's angry, and the heavens themselves
    Do strike at my injustice!
    [Hermione falls]
    How now there?
    This news is mortal to the Queen! Look down
    And see what death is doing.
    Take her hence!
    1335Her heart is but o'er-charged; she will recover.
    I have too much believed mine own suspicion.
    Beseech you tenderly apply to her
    Some remedies for life.
    [Paulia and Ladies exit with Hermione]
    Apollo, pardon
    My great profanenesse 'gainst thine oracle.
    1340I'll reconcile me to Polixenes,
    New woo my queen, recall the good Camillo,
    Whom I proclaim a man of truth, of mercy;
    For being transported by my jealousies
    To bloody thoughts and to revenge, I chose
    1345Camillo for the minister to poison
    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 filled with honor -- to my kingly guest
    Unclasped my practice, quit his fortunes here,
    Which you knew great, and to the hazard
    Of all incertainties himself commended,
    1355No richer than his honor. How he glisters
    Through my rust, and how his piety
    Does my deeds make the blacker!
    [Enter Paulina]
    Woe the while!
    Oh cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,
    1360Break too.
    What fit is this? Good lady?
    What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
    What wheels, racks, fires? What flaying? Boiling
    In leads or oils? What old or newer torture
    1365Must I receive, whose every word deserves
    To taste of thy most worst! Thy tyranny
    Together working with thy jealousies --
    Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle
    For girls of nine -- Oh think what they have done,
    1370And then run mad indeed, stark-mad, for all
    Thy bygone fooleries were but spices of it.
    That thou betrayedst Polixenes, 'twas nothing.
    That did but show thee of a fool, inconstant,
    And damnable ingrateful. Nor was't much,
    1375Thou wouldst have poisoned good Camillo's honor
    To have him kill a king: poor trespasses,
    More monstrous standing by; whereof I reckon
    The casting forth to crows thy baby daughter
    To be or none, or little, though a devil
    1380Would have shed water out of fire ere done't.
    Nor is't directly laid to thee the death
    Of the young prince, whose honorable thoughts,
    Thoughts high for one so tender, cleft the heart
    That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
    1385Blemished his gracious dam. This is not, no,
    Laid to thy answer. But the last -- O lords,
    When I have said, "Cry woe!" -- the Queen, the Queen,
    The sweetest, dearest creature's dead, and vengeance for't
    Not dropped down yet.
    The higher powers forbid!
    I say she's dead! I'll swear't! If word nor oath
    Prevail not, go and see. If you can bring
    Tincture or luster in her lip, her eye,
    Heat outwardly, or breath within, I'll serve you
    1395As I would do the gods. But, O thou tyrant,
    Do not repent these things, for they are heavier
    Than all thy woes can stir; therefore, betake thee
    To nothing but despair. A thousand knees
    Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting
    1400Upon a barren mountain and still winter
    In storm perpetual, could not move the gods
    To look that way thou wert.
    Go on, go on!
    Thou canst not speak too much. I have deserved
    1405All tongues to talk their bitt'rest.
    [To Paulina] Say no more.
    Howe'er the business goes, you have made fault
    I'th'boldness of your speech.
    I am sorry for't.
    1410All faults I make, when I shall come to know them,
    I do repent. Alas, I have showed too much
    The rashness of a woman. He is touched
    To th'noble heart. What's gone and what's past help
    Should be past grief. [To Leontes] Do not receive affliction
    1415At my petition; I beseech you, rather,
    Let me be punished that have minded you
    Of what you should forget. Now, good my liege,
    Sir, royal sir, forgive a foolish woman;
    The love I bore your queen -- lo, fool again!
    1420I'll speak of her no more, nor of your children;
    I'll not remember you of my own lord,
    Who is lost too. Take your patience to you,
    And I'll say nothing.
    Thou didst speak but well,
    1425When most the truth which I receive much better
    Than to be pitied of thee. Prithee bring me
    To the dead bodies of my queen and son;
    One grave shall be for both. Upon them shall
    The causes of their death appear, unto
    1430Our shame perpetual. Once a day I'll visit
    The chapel where they lie, and tears shed there
    Shall be my recreation. So long as nature
    Will bear up with this exercise, so long
    I daily vow to use it. Come and lead me
    1435To these sorrows.