Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > The Winter’s Tale
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
The Winter’s Tale
Act I. Scene II.
The Same.  A Room of State in the Palace.
  Pol.  Nine changes of the watery star have been
The shepherd’s note since we have left our throne
Without a burden: time as long again        5
Would be fill’d up, my brother, with our thanks;
And yet we should for perpetuity
Go hence in debt: and therefore, like a cipher,
Yet standing in rich place, I multiply
With one ‘We thank you’ many thousands moe        10
That go before it.
  Leon.        Stay your thanks awhile,
And pay them when you part.
  Pol.        Sir, that’s to-morrow.
I am question’d by my fears, of what may chance        15
Or breed upon our absence; that may blow
No sneaping winds at home, to make us say,
‘This is put forth too truly!’ Besides, I have stay’d
To tire your royalty.
  Leon.        We are tougher, brother,        20
Than you can put us to ’t.
  Pol.        No longer stay.
  Leon.  One seven-night longer.
  Pol.        Very sooth, to-morrow.
  Leon.  We’ll part the time between’s then; and in that        25
I’ll no gainsaying.
  Pol.        Press me not, beseech you, so.
There is no tongue that moves, none, none i’ the world,
So soon as yours could win me: so it should now,
Were there necessity in your request, although        30
’Twere needful I denied it. My affairs
Do even drag me homeward; which to hinder
Were in your love a whip to me; my stay
To you a charge and trouble: to save both,
Farewell, our brother.        35
  Leon.        Tongue-tied, our queen? speak you.
  Her.  I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until
You had drawn oaths from him not to stay.
You, sir,
Charge him too coldly: tell him, you are sure        40
All in Bohemia’s well: this satisfaction
The by-gone day proclaim’d: say this to him,
He’s beat from his best ward.
  Leon.        Well said, Hermione.
  Her.  To tell he longs to see his son were strong:        45
But let him say so then, and let him go;
But let him swear so, and he shall not stay,
We’ll thwack him hence with distaffs.
[To POLIXENES.]  Yet of your royal presence I’ll adventure
The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia        50
You take my lord, I’ll give him my commission
To let him there a month behind the gest
Prefix’d for’s parting: yet, good deed, Leontes,
I love thee not a jar o’ the clock behind
What lady she her lord. You’ll stay?        55
  Pol.        No, madam.
  Her.  Nay, but you will?
  Pol.        I may not, verily.
  Her.  Verily!
You put me off with limber vows; but I,        60
Though you would seek to unsphere the stars with oaths,
Should yet say, ‘Sir, no going.’ Verily,
You shall not go: a lady’s ‘verily’ ’s
As potent as a lord’s. Will you go yet?
Force me to keep you as a prisoner,        65
Not like a guest; so you shall pay your fees
When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?
My prisoner, or my guest? by your dread ‘verily,’
One of them you shall be.
  Pol.        Your guest, then, madam:        70
To be your prisoner should import offending;
Which is for me less easy to commit
Than you to punish.
  Her.        Not your gaoler then,
But your kind hostess. Come, I’ll question you        75
Of my lord’s tricks and yours when you were boys:
You were pretty lordings then.
  Pol.        We were, fair queen,
Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,        80
And to be boy eternal.
  Her.  Was not my lord the verier wag o’ the two?
  Pol.  We were as twinn’d lambs that did frisk i’ the sun,
And bleat the one at the other: what we chang’d
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not        85
The doctrine of ill-doing, no nor dream’d
That any did. Had we pursu’d that life,
And our weak spirits ne’er been higher rear’d
With stronger blood, we should have answer’d heaven
Boldly, ‘not guilty;’ the imposition clear’d        90
Hereditary ours.
  Her.        By this we gather
You have tripp’d since.
  Pol.        O! my most sacred lady,
Temptations have since then been born to’s; for        95
In those unfledg’d days was my wife a girl;
Your precious self had then not cross’d the eyes
Of my young playfellow.
  Her.        Grace to boot!
Of this make no conclusion, lest you say        100
Your queen and I are devils; yet, go on:
The offences we have made you do we’ll answer;
If you first sinn’d with us, and that with us
You did continue fault, and that you slipp’d not
With any but with us.        105
  Leon.        Is he won yet?
  Her.  He’ll stay, my lord.
  Leon.        At my request he would not.
Hermione, my dearest, thou never spok’st
To better purpose.        110
  Her.        Never?
  Leon.                Never, but once.
  Her.  What! have I twice said well? when was ’t before?
I prithee tell me; cram’s with praise, and make’s
As fat as tame things: one good deed, dying tongueless,        115
Slaughters a thousand waiting upon that.
Our praises are our wages: you may ride’s
With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere
With spur we heat an acre. But to the goal:
My last good deed was to entreat his stay:        120
What was my first? it has an elder sister,
Or I mistake you: O! would her name were Grace.
But once before I spoke to the purpose: when?
Nay, let me have ’t; I long.
  Leon.        Why, that was when        125
Three crabbed months had sour’d themselves to death,
Ere I could make thee open thy white hand
And clap thyself my love: then didst thou utter,
‘I am yours for ever.’
  Her.        ’Tis grace indeed.        130
Why, lo you now, I have spoke to the purpose twice:
The one for ever earn’d a royal husband,
The other for some while a friend.  [Giving her hand to POLIXENES.
  Leon.  [Aside.]  Too hot, too hot!
To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.        135
I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances;
But not for joy; not joy. This entertainment
May a free face put on, derive a liberty
From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
And well become the agent: ’t may I grant:        140
But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
As now they are, and making practis’d smiles,
As in a looking-glass; and then to sigh, as ’twere
The mort o’ the deer; O! that is entertainment
My bosom likes not, nor my brows. Mamillius,        145
Art thou my boy?
  Mam.        Ay, my good lord.
  Leon.        I’ fecks?
Why, that’s my bawcock. What! hast smutch’d thy nose?
They say it is a copy out of mine. Come, captain,        150
We must be neat; not neat, but cleanly, captain:
And yet the steer, the heifer, and the calf,
Are all call’d neat. Still virginalling
Upon his palm! How now, you wanton calf!
Art thou my calf?        155
  Mam.        Yes, if you will, my lord.
  Leon.  Thou want’st a rough pash and the shoots that I have,
To be full like me: yet they say we are
Almost as like as eggs; women say so,
That will say anything: but were they false        160
As o’er-dy’d blacks, as wind, as waters, false
As dice are to be wish’d by one that fixes
No bourn ’twixt his and mine, yet were it true
To say this boy were like me. Come, sir page,
Look on me with your welkin eye: sweet villain!        165
Most dear’st! my collop! Can thy dam?—may ’t be?—
Affection! thy intention stabs the centre:
Thou dost make possible things not so held,
Communicat’st with dreams;—how can this be?—
With what’s unreal thou co-active art,        170
And fellow’st nothing: then, ’tis very credent
Thou mayst co-join with something; and thou dost,
And that beyond commission, and I find it,
And that to the infection of my brains
And hardening of my brows.        175
  Pol.        What means Sicilia?
  Her.  He something seems unsettled.
  Pol.        How, my lord!
What cheer? how is ’t with you, best brother?
  Her.        You look        180
As if you held a brow of much distraction:
Are you mov’d, my lord?
  Leon.        No, in good earnest.
How sometimes nature will betray its folly,
Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime        185
To harder bosoms! Looking on the lines
Of my boy’s face, methoughts I did recoil
Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech’d,
In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled,
Lest it should bite its master, and so prove,        190
As ornaments oft do, too dangerous:
How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,
This squash, this gentleman. Mine honest friend,
Will you take eggs for money?
  Mam.        No, my lord, I’ll fight.        195
  Leon.  You will? why, happy man be his dole! My brother,
Are you so fond of your young prince as we
Do seem to be of ours?
  Pol.        If at home, sir,
He’s all my exercise, my mirth, my matter,        200
Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy;
My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all:
He makes a July’s day short as December,
And with his varying childness cures in me
Thoughts that would thick my blood.        205
  Leon.        So stands this squire
Offic’d with me. We two will walk, my lord,
And leave you to your graver steps. Hermione,
How thou lov’st us, show in our brother’s welcome:
Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap:        210
Next to thyself and my young rover, he’s
Apparent to my heart.
  Her.        If you would seek us,
We are yours i’ the garden: shall’s attend you there?
  Leon.  To your own bents dispose you: you’ll be found,        215
Be you beneath the sky.—[Aside.]  I am angling now,
Though you perceive me not how I give line.
Go to, go to!
How she holds up the neb, the bill to him!
And arms her with the boldness of a wife        220
To her allowing husband!  [Exeunt POLIXENES, HERMIONE, and Attendants.
        Gone already!
Inch-thick, knee-deep, o’er head and ears a fork’d one!
Go play, boy, play; thy mother plays, and I
Play too, but so disgrac’d a part, whose issue        225
Will hiss me to my grave: contempt and clamour
Will be my knell. Go play, boy, play. There have been,
Or I am much deceiv’d, cuckolds ere now;
And many a man there is even at this present,
Now, while I speak this, holds his wife by the arm,        230
That little thinks she has been sluic’d in ’s absence,
And his pond fish’d by his next neighbour, by
Sir Smile, his neighbour: nay, there’s comfort in ’t,
Whiles other men have gates, and those gates open’d,
As mine, against their will. Should all despair        235
That have revolted wives the tenth of mankind
Would hang themselves. Physic for ’t there is none;
It is a bawdy planet, that will strike
Where ’tis predominant; and ’tis powerful, think it,
From east, west, north, and south: be it concluded,        240
No barricado for a belly: know ’t;
It will let in and out the enemy
With bag and baggage. Many a thousand on ’s
Have the disease, and feel ’t not. How now, boy!
  Mam.  I am like you, they say.        245
  Leon.        Why, that’s some comfort.
What! Camillo there?
  Cam.  Ay, my good lord.
  Leon.  Go play, Mamillius; thou ’rt an honest man.  [Exit MAMILLIUS.
Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.        250
  Cam.  You had much ado to make his anchor hold:
When you cast out, it still came home.
  Leon.        Didst note it?
  Cam.  He would not stay at your petitions; made
His business more material.        255
  Leon.        Didst perceive it?
[Aside.]  They’re here with me already, whispering, rounding
‘Sicilia is a so-forth.’ ’Tis far gone,
When I shall gust it last. How came ’t, Camillo,
That he did stay?        260
  Cam.        At the good queen’s entreaty.
  Leon.  At the queen’s, be ’t: ‘good’ should be pertinent;
But so it is, it is not. Was this taken
By any understanding pate but thine?
For thy conceit is soaking; will draw in        265
More than the common blocks: not noted, is ’t,
But of the finer natures? by some severals
Of head-piece extraordinary? lower messes
Perchance are to this business purblind? say.
  Cam.  Business, my lord! I think most understand        270
Bohemia stays here longer.
  Leon.        Ha!
  Cam.                Stays here longer.
  Leon.  Ay, but why?
  Cam.  To satisfy your highness and the entreaties        275
Of our most gracious mistress.
  Leon.        Satisfy!
The entreaties of your mistress! satisfy!
Let that suffice. I have trusted thee, Camillo,
With all the nearest things to my heart, as well        280
My chamber-councils, wherein, priest-like, thou
Hast cleans’d my bosom: I from thee departed
Thy penitent reform’d; but we have been
Deceiv’d in thy integrity, deceiv’d
In that which seems so.        285
  Cam.        Be it forbid, my lord!
  Leon.  To bide upon ’t, thou art not honest; or,
If thou inclin’st that way, thou art a coward,
Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining
From course requir’d; or else thou must be counted        290
A servant grafted in my serious trust,
And therein negligent; or else a fool
That seest a game play’d home, the rich stake drawn,
And tak’st it all for jest.
  Cam.        My gracious lord,        295
I may be negligent, foolish, and fearful;
In every one of these no man is free,
But that his negligence, his folly, fear,
Among the infinite doings of the world,
Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my lord,        300
If ever I were wilful-negligent,
It was my folly; if industriously
I play’d the fool, it was my negligence,
Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful
To do a thing, where I the issue doubted,        305
Whereof the execution did cry out
Against the non-performance, ’twas a fear
Which oft infects the wisest: these, my lord,
Are such allow’d infirmities that honesty
Is never free of: but, beseech your Grace,        310
Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass
By its own visage; if I then deny it,
’Tis none of mine.
  Leon.        Ha’ not you seen, Camillo,—
But that’s past doubt; you have, or your eye-glass        315
Is thicker than a cuckold’s horn,—or heard,—
For to a vision so apparent rumour
Cannot be mute,—or thought,—for cogitation
Resides not in that man that does not think,—
My wife is slippery? If thou wilt confess,—        320
Or else be impudently negative,
To have nor eyes, nor ears, nor thought,—then say
My wife’s a hobby-horse; deserves a name
As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
Before her troth-plight: say ’t and justify ’t.        325
  Cam.  I would not be a stander-by, to hear
My sovereign mistress clouded so, without
My present vengeance taken: ’shrew my heart,
You never spoke what did become you less
Than this; which to reiterate were sin        330
As deep as that, though true.
  Leon.        Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
Of laughter with a sigh?—a note infallible        335
Of breaking honesty,—horsing foot on foot?
Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift?
Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? and all eyes
Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only,
That would unseen be wicked? is this nothing?        340
Why, then the world and all that’s in ’tis nothing;
The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing;
My wife is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings,
If this be nothing.
  Cam.        Good my lord, be cur’d        345
Of this diseas’d opinion, and betimes;
For ’tis most dangerous.
  Leon.        Say it be, ’tis true.
  Cam.  No, no, my lord.
  Leon.        It is; you lie, you lie:        350
I say thou liest, Camillo, and I hate thee;
Pronounce thee a gross lout, a mindless slave,
Or else a hovering temporizer, that
Canst with thine eyes at once see good and evil,
Inclining to them both: were my wife’s liver        355
Infected as her life, she would not live
The running of one glass.
  Cam.        Who does infect her?
  Leon.  Why, he that wears her like her medal, hanging
About his neck, Bohemia: who, if I        360
Had servants true about me, that bare eyes
To see alike mine honour as their profits,
Their own particular thrifts, they would do that
Which should undo more doing: ay, and thou,
His cup-bearer,—whom I from meaner form        365
Have bench’d and rear’d to worship, who mayst see
Plainly, as heaven sees earth, and earth sees heaven,
How I am galled,—mightst bespice a cup,
To give mine enemy a lasting wink;
Which draught to me were cordial.        370
  Cam.        Sir, my lord,
I could do this, and that with no rash potion,
But with a lingering dram that should not work
Maliciously like poison: but I cannot
Believe this crack to be in my dread mistress,        375
So sovereignly being honourable.
I have lov’d thee,—
  Leon.        Make that thy question, and go rot!
Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled,
To appoint myself in this vexation; sully        380
The purity and whiteness of my sheets,
Which to preserve is sleep; which being spotted
Is goads, thorns, nettles, tails of wasps?
Give scandal to the blood o’ the prince my son,
Who I do think is mine, and love as mine,        385
Without ripe moving to ’t? Would I do this?
Could man so blench?
  Cam.        I must believe you, sir:
I do; and will fetch off Bohemia for ’t;
Provided that when he’s remov’d, your highness        390
Will take again your queen as yours at first,
Even for your son’s sake; and thereby for sealing
The injury of tongues in courts and kingdoms
Known and allied to yours.
  Leon.        Thou dost advise me        395
Even so as I mine own course have set down:
I’ll give no blemish to her honour, none.
  Cam.  My lord,
Go then; and with a countenance as clear
As friendship wears at feasts, keep with Bohemia,        400
And with your queen. I am his cupbearer;
If from me he have wholesome beverage,
Account me not your servant.
  Leon.        This is all:
Do ’t, and thou hast the one half of my heart;        405
Do ’t not, thou split’st thine own.
  Cam.        I’ll do ’t, my lord.
  Leon.  I will seem friendly, as thou hast advis’d me.  [Exit.
  Cam.  O miserable lady! But, for me,
What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner        410
Of good Polixenes; and my ground to do ’t
Is the obedience to a master; one
Who, in rebellion with himself will have
All that are his so too. To do this deed
Promotion follows. If I could find example        415
Of thousands that had struck anointed kings,
And flourish’d after, I’d not do ’t; but since
Nor brass nor stone nor parchment bears not one,
Let villany itself forswear ’t. I must
Forsake the court: to do ’t, or no, is certain        420
To me a break-neck. Happy star reign now!
Here comes Bohemia.
  Pol.        This is strange: methinks
My favour here begins to warp. Not speak?—        425
Good day, Camillo.
  Cam.        Hail, most royal sir!
  Pol.  What is the news i’ the court?
  Cam.        None rare, my lord.
  Pol.  The king hath on him such a countenance        430
As he had lost some province and a region
Lov’d as he loves himself: even now I met him
With customary compliment, when he,
Wafting his eyes to the contrary, and falling
A lip of much contempt, speeds from me and        435
So leaves me to consider what is breeding
That changes thus his manners.
  Cam.  I dare not know, my lord.
  Pol.  How! dare not! do not! Do you know, and dare not
Be intelligent to me? ’Tis thereabouts;        440
For, to yourself, what you do know, you must,
And cannot say you dare not. Good Camillo,
Your chang’d complexions are to me a mirror
Which shows me mine chang’d too; for I must be
A party in this alteration, finding        445
Myself thus alter’d with ’t.
  Cam.        There is a sickness
Which puts some of us in distemper; but
I cannot name the disease, and it is caught
Of you that yet are well.        450
  Pol.        How! caught of me?
Make me not sighted like the basilisk:
I have look’d on thousands, who have sped the better
By my regard, but kill’d none so. Camillo,—
As you are certainly a gentleman, thereto        455
Clerk-like experienc’d, which no less adorns
Our gentry than our parents’ noble names,
In whose success we are gentle,—I beseech you,
If you know aught which does behove my knowledge
Thereof to be inform’d, imprison it not        460
In ignorant concealment.
  Cam.        I may not answer.
  Pol.  A sickness caught of me, and yet I well!
I must be answer’d. Dost thou hear, Camillo;
I conjure thee, by all the parts of man        465
Which honour does acknowledge,—whereof the least
Is not this suit of mine,—that thou declare
What incidency thou dost guess of harm
Is creeping toward me; how far off, how near;
Which way to be prevented if to be;        470
If not, how best to bear it.
  Cam.        Sir, I will tell you;
Since I am charg’d in honour and by him
That I think honourable. Therefore mark my counsel,
Which must be even as swiftly follow’d as        475
I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me
Cry ‘lost,’ and so good night!
  Pol.        On, good Camillo.
  Cam.  I am appointed him to murder you.
  Pol.  By whom, Camillo?        480
  Cam.        By the king.
  Pol.                For what?
  Cam.  He thinks, nay, with all confidence he swears,
As he had seen ’t or been an instrument
To vice you to ’t, that you have touch’d his queen        485
  Pol.        O, then my best blood turn
To an infected jelly, and my name
Be yok’d with his that did betray the Best!
Turn then my freshest reputation to        490
A savour, that may strike the dullest nostril
Where I arrive; and my approach be shunn’d,
Nay, hated too, worse than the great’st infection
That e’er was heard or read!
  Cam.        Swear his thought over        495
By each particular star in heaven and
By all their influences, you may as well
Forbid the sea for to obey the moon
As or by oath remove or counsel shake
The fabric of his folly, whose foundation        500
Is pil’d upon his faith, and will continue
The standing of his body.
  Pol.        How should this grow?
  Cam.  I know not: but I am sure ’tis safer to
Avoid what’s grown than question how ’tis born.        505
If therefore you dare trust my honesty,
That lies enclosed in this trunk, which you
Shall bear along impawn’d, away to-night!
Your followers I will whisper to the business,
And will by twos and threes at several posterns        510
Clear them o’ the city. For myself, I’ll put
My fortunes to your service, which are here
By this discovery lost. Be not uncertain;
For, by the honour of my parents, I
Have utter’d truth, which, if you seek to prove,        515
I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer
Than one condemn’d by the king’s own mouth, thereon
His execution sworn.
  Pol.        I do believe thee:
I saw his heart in ’s face. Give me thy hand:        520
Be pilot to me and thy places shall
Still neighbour mine. My ships are ready and
My people did expect my hence departure
Two days ago. This jealousy
Is for a precious creature: as she’s rare        525
Must it be great, and, as his person’s mighty
Must it be violent, and, as he does conceive
He is dishonour’d by a man which ever
Profess’d to him, why, his revenges must
In that be made more bitter. Fear o’ershades me:        530
Good expedition be my friend, and comfort
The gracious queen, part of his theme, but nothing
Of his ill-ta’en suspicion! Come, Camillo;
I will respect thee as a father if
Thou bear’st my life off hence: let us avoid.        535
  Cam.  It is in mine authority to command
The keys of all the posterns: please your highness
To take the urgent hour. Come, sir, away!  [Exeunt.

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