Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT III. - The Winter’s Tale
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ACT III. - William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale 
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (The Oxford Shakespeare), ed. with a glossary by W.J. Craig M.A. (Oxford University Press, 1916).
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A Sea-port in Sicilia.
The climate’s delicate, the air most sweet,
Fertile the isle, the temple much surpassing
The common praise it bears.
I shall report,
For most it caught me, the celestial habits,—
Methinks I so should term them,—and the reverence
Of the grave wearers. O, the sacrifice!
How ceremonious, solemn, and unearthly
It was i’ the offering!
But of all, the burst
And the ear-deafening voice o’ the oracle,
Kin to Jove’s thunder, so surpris’d my sense,
That I was nothing.
If the event o’ the journey
Prove as successful to the queen,—O, be’t so! —
As it hath been to us rare, pleasant, speedy,
The time is worth the use on’t.
Turn all to the best! These proclamations,
So forcing faults upon Hermione,
I little like.
The violent carriage of it
Will clear or end the business: when the oracle,
Thus by Apollo’s great divine seal’d up,
Shall the contents discover, something rare
Even then will rush to knowledge.—Go:—fresh horses!
And gracious be the issue!
Sicilia. A Court of Justice.
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 belov’d. Let us be clear’d
Of 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
Appear in person here in court. Silence!
EnterHermioneguarded;Paulinaand Ladies attending.
Read the indictment.
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, and conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign 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 night.
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
To say ‘Not guilty:’ mine integrity
Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
Be so receiv’d. But thus: if powers divine
Behold our human actions, as they do,
I doubt not then but innocence shall make
False accusation blush, and tyranny
Tremble at patience. You, my lord, best know,—
Who 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
Than history can pattern, though devis’d
And play’d 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
To prate and talk for life and honour ’fore
Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it.
As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour,
’Tis a derivative from me to mine,
And only that I stand for. I appeal
To 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 strain’d, to appear thus: if one jot beyond
The bound of honour, or in act or will
That way inclining, harden’d be the hearts
Of all that hear me, and my near’st of kin
Cry fie upon my grave!
I ne’er heard yet
That 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 accus’d,—I do confess
I lov’d him as in honour he requir’d,
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
Both 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 dish’d
For 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 than I, are ignorant.
You knew of his departure, as you know
What 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 dream’d it. As you were past all shame,—
Those of your fact are so,—so past all truth:
Which to deny concerns more than avails; for as
Thy 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 favour,
I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,
But know not how it went. My second joy,
And first-fruits of my body, from his presence
I am barr’d, like one infectious. My third comfort,
Starr’d most unluckily, is from my breast,
The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth,
Hal’d out to murder: myself on every post
Proclaim’d a strumpet: with immodest hatred
The child-bed privilege denied, which ’longs
To women of all fashion: lastly, hurried
Here to this place, i’the open air, before
I 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 honour,
Which I would free, if I shall be condemn’d
Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else
But what your jealousies awake, I tell you
’Tis rigour and not law. Your honours all,
I do refer me to the oracle:
Apollo 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:
O! 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!
Re-enter Officers, withCleomenesandDion.
You here shall swear upon this sword of justice,
That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have
Been both at Delphos, and from thence have brought
This seal’d-up oracle, by the hand deliver’d
Of great Apollo’s priest, and that since then
You have not dar’d to break the holy seal,
Nor read the secrets in’t.
All this we swear.
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 truly 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’ the oracle:
The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood.
Enter a 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.
Apollo’s angry; and the heavens themselves
Do strike at my injustice.
How now, there!
This news is mortal to the queen:— look down,
And see what death is doing.
Take her hence:
Her heart is but o’ercharg’d; she will recover:
I have too much believ’d mine own suspicion:
Beseech you, tenderly apply to her
Some remedies for life.—
[ExeuntPaulina,and Ladies, withHermione.
My great profaneness ’gainst thine oracle!
I’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
Camillo 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,
Not doing it, and being done: he, most humane
And fill’d with honour, to my kingly guest
Unclasp’d my practice, quit his fortunes here,
Which you knew great, and to the certain hazard
Of all incertainties himself commended,
No richer than his honour: how he glisters
Thorough my rust! and how his piety
Does my deeds make the blacker!
Woe the while!
O, cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,
What fit is this, good lady?
What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
What wheels? racks? fires? What flaying? or what boiling
In leads, or oils? what old or newer torture
Must 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, O! think what they have done,
And then run mad indeed, stark mad; for all
Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
That thou betray’dst Polixenes, ’twas nothing;
That did but show thee of a fool, inconstant
And damnable ingrateful; nor was’t much
Thou wouldst have poison’d good Camillo’s honour
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
Would have shed water out of fire ere done’t:
Nor is’t directly laid to thee, the death
Of the young prince, whose honourable thoughts,—
Thoughts high for one so tender,—cleft the heart
That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
Blemish’d 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 dropp’d 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 lustre in her lip, her eye,
Heat outwardly, or breath within, I’ll serve you
As 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,
Upon 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 deserv’d
All tongues to talk their bitterest.
Say no more:
Howe’er the business goes, you have made fault
I’ the boldness of your speech.
I am sorry for’t:
All faults I make, when I shall come to know them,
I do repent. Alas! I have show’d too much
The rashness of a woman: he is touch’d
To the noble heart. What’s gone and what’s past help
Should be past grief: do not receive affliction
At my petition; I beseech you, rather
Let me be punish’d, 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!—
I’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,
When 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
Our 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
Unto these sorrows.
Bohemia. A desert Country near the Sea.
EnterAntigonus,with the Child; and a Mariner.
Thou art perfect, then, our ship hath touch’d upon
The desarts of Bohemia?
Ay, my lord; and fear
We have landed in ill time: the skies look grimly
And threaten present blusters. In my conscience,
The heavens with that we have in hand are angry,
And frown upon’s.
Their sacred wills be done! Go, get aboard;
Look to thy bark: I’ll not be long before
I call upon thee.
Make your best haste, and go not
Too far i’ the land: ’tis like to be loud weather;
Besides, this place is famous for the creatures
Of prey that keep upon’t.
Go thou away:
I’ll follow instantly.
I am glad at heart
To be so rid of the business.
Come, poor babe:
I have heard, but not believ’d, the spirits o’ the dead
May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
Appear’d to me last night, for ne’er was dream
So like a waking. To me comes a creature,
Sometimes her head on one side, some another;
I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,
So fill’d, and so becoming: in pure white robes,
Like very sanctity, she did approach
My cabin where I lay; thrice bow’d before me,
And, gasping to begin some speech, her eyes
Became two spouts: the fury spent, anon
Did this break from her: ‘Good Antigonus,
Since fate, against thy better disposition,
Hath made thy person for the thrower-out
Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,
Places remote enough are in Bohemia,
There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe
Is counted lost for ever, Perdita,
I prithee, call’t: for this ungentle business,
Put on thee by my lord, thou ne’er shalt see
Thy wife Paulina more:’ and so, with shrieks,
She melted into air. Affrighted much,
I did in time collect myself, and thought
This was so and no slumber. Dreams are toys;
Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,
I will be squar’d by this. I do believe
Hermione hath suffer’d death; and that
Apollo would, this being indeed the issue
Of King Polixenes, it should here be laid,
Either for life or death, upon the earth
Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well!
[Laying down Child.
There lie; and there thy character: there these;
[Laying down a bundle.
Which may, if fortune please, both breed thee, pretty,
And still rest thine. The storm begins: poor wretch!
That for thy mother’s fault art thus expos’d
To loss and what may follow. Weep I cannot,
But my heart bleeds, and most accurs’d am I
To be by oath enjoin’d to this. Farewell!
The day frowns more and more: thou art like to have
A lullaby too rough. I never saw
The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamour!
Well may I get aboard! This is the chase:
I am gone for ever.
[Exit, pursued by a bear.
Enter a Shepherd.
I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting. Hark you now! Would any but these boiled brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather? They have scared away two of my best sheep; which I fear the wolf will sooner find than the master: if anywhere I have them, ’tis by the sea-side, browsing of ivy. Good luck, an’t be thy will! what have we here? [Taking up the Child.] Mercy on’s, a barne; a very pretty barne! A boy or a child, I wonder? A pretty one; a very pretty one; sure some scape: though I am not bookish, yet I can read waiting-gentlewoman in the scape. This has been some stair-work, some trunk-work, some behind-door-work; they were warmer that got this than the poor thing is here. I’ll take it up for pity; yet I’ll tarry till my son come; he hollaed but even now. Whoa, ho, hoa!
What! art so near? If thou’lt see a thing to talk on when thou art dead and rotten, come hither. What ailest thou, man?
I have seen two such sights by sea and by land! but I am not to say it is a see, for it is now the sky: betwixt the firmament and it you cannot thrust a bodkin’s point.
Why, boy, how is it?
I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages, how it takes up the shore! but that’s not to the point. O! the most piteous cry of the poor souls; sometimes to see ’em, and not to see ’em; now the ship boring the moon with her mainmast, and anon swallowed with yest and froth, as you’d thrust a cork into a hogshead. And then for the land-service: to see how the bear tore out his shoulderbone; how he cried to me for help and said his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. But to make an end of the ship: to see how the sea flap-dragoned it: but, first, how the poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them; and how the poor gentleman roared, and the bear mocked him, both roaring louder than the sea or weather.
Name of mercy! when was this, boy?
Now, now; I have not winked since I saw these sights: the men are not yet cold under water, nor the bear half dined on the gentleman: he’s at it now.
Would I had been by, to have helped the old man!
I would you had been by the ship’s side, to have helped her: there your charity would have lacked footing.
Heavy matters! heavy matters! but look thee here, boy. Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things dying, I with things new born. Here’s a sight for thee; look thee, a bearing-cloth for a squire’s child! Look thee here: take up, take up, boy; open’t. So, let’s see: it was told me, I should be rich by the fairies: this is some changeling.—Open’t. What’s within, boy?
You’re a made old man: if the sins of your youth are forgiven you, you’re well to live. Gold! all gold!
This is fairy gold, boy, and ’twill prove so: up with’t, keep it close: home, home, the next way. We are lucky, boy; and to be so still, requires nothing but secrecy. Let my sheep go. Come, good boy, the next way home.
Go you the next way with your findings. I’ll go see if the bear be gone from the gentleman, and how much he hath eaten: they are never curst but when they are hungry. If there be any of him left, I’ll bury it.
That’s a good deed. If thou mayst discern by that which is left of him what he is, fetch me to the sight of him.
Marry, will I; and you shall help to put him i’ the ground.
’Tis a lucky day, boy, and we’ll do good deeds on’t.