Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed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.