Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > The Winter’s Tale
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
The Winter’s Tale
Act II. Scene II.
The Same.  The outer Room of a Prison.
Enter PAULINA and Attendants.
  Paul.  The keeper of the prison, call to him;
Let him have knowledge who I am.—[Exit an Attendant.]  Good lady,
No court in Europe is too good for thee;        5
What dost thou then in prison?
Re-enter Attendant with the Gaoler.
        Now, good sir,
You know me, do you not?
  Gaol.        For a worthy lady        10
And one whom much I honour.
  Paul.        Pray you then,
Conduct me to the queen.
  Gaol.  I may not, madam: to the contrary
I have express commandment.        15
  Paul.        Here’s ado,
To lock up honesty and honour from
The access of gentle visitors! Is ’t lawful, pray you,
To see her women? any of them? Emilia?
  Gaol.  So please you, madam,        20
To put apart these your attendants, I
Shall bring Emilia forth.
  Paul.        I pray now, call her.
Withdraw yourselves.  [Exeunt Attendants.
  Gaol.        And, madam,        25
I must be present at your conference.
  Paul.  Well, be ’t so, prithee.  [Exit Gaoler.
Here’s such ado to make no stain a stain,
As passes colouring.
Re-enter Gaoler, with EMILIA.
        Dear gentlewoman,
How fares our gracious lady?
  Emil.  As well as one so great and so forlorn
May hold together. On her frights and griefs,—
Which never tender lady hath borne greater,—        35
She is something before her time deliver’d.
  Paul.  A boy?
  Emil.        A daughter; and a goodly babe,
Lusty and like to live: the queen receives
Much comfort in ’t; says, ‘My poor prisoner,        40
I am innocent as you.’
  Paul.        I dare be sworn:
These dangerous unsafe lunes i’ the king, beshrew them!
He must be told on ’t, and he shall: the office
Becomes a woman best; I’ll take ’t upon me.        45
If I prove honey-mouth’d, let my tongue blister,
And never to my red-look’d anger be
The trumpet any more. Pray you, Emilia,
Commend my best obedience to the queen:
If she dares trust me with her little babe,        50
I’ll show it to the king and undertake to be
Her advocate to the loud’st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight of the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades when speaking fails.        55
  Emil.        Most worthy madam,
Your honour and your goodness is so evident
That your free undertaking cannot miss
A thriving issue: there is no lady living
So meet for this great errand. Please your ladyship        60
To visit the next room, I’ll presently
Acquaint the queen of your most noble offer,
Who but to-day hammer’d of this design,
But durst not tempt a minister of honour,
Lest she should be denied.        65
  Paul.        Tell her, Emilia,
I’ll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from ’t
As boldness from my bosom, let it not be doubted
I shall do good.
  Emil.        Now be you blest for it!        70
I’ll to the queen. Please you, come something nearer.
  Gaol.  Madam, if ’t please the queen to send the babe,
I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
Having no warrant.
  Paul.        You need not fear it, sir:        75
The child was prisoner to the womb, and is
By law and process of great nature thence
Freed and enfranchis’d; not a party to
The anger of the king, nor guilty of,
If any be, the trespass of the queen.        80
  Gaol.  I do believe it.
  Paul.  Do not you fear: upon mine honour, I
Will stand betwixt you and danger.  [Exeunt.

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