William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale in the complete original text.
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The Winter's Tale

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Act II. Scene I.

Act II. Scene I.—Sicilia. A Room in the Palwe.

Enter HERMIONB, MAMILLIUS, and Ladies.

Her. Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,
'Tis past enduring.
First Lady. Come, my gracious lord,
Shall I be your playfellow?
Mam. No, I'll none of you.
First Lady. Why, my sweet lord?
Mam. You'll kiss me hard and speak to me
as if
I were a baby still. I love you better.
Sec. Lady. And why so, my lord?
Mam. Not for because
Your brows are blacker; yet black brows, they
say,
Become some women best, so that there be not
Too much hair there, but in a semicircle,
Or a half-moon made with a pen.
Sec. Lady. Who taught you this?
Mam. I learn'd it out of women's faces. Pray
now,
What colour are your eyebrows?
First Lady. Blue, my lord.
Mam. Nay, that's a mock: I have seen a
lady's nose
That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.
Sec. Lady. Hark ye;
The queen your mother rounds apace: we shall
Present our services to a fine new prince
One of these days; and then you'd wanton with
us,
If we would have you.
First Lady. She is spread of late
Into a goodly bulk: good time encounter her!
Her. What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come
sir, now
I am for you again: pray you, sit by us,
And toll's a tale.
Mam. Merry or sad shall't be?
Her. As merry as you will.
Mam. A sad tale's best for winter.
I have one of sprites and goblins.
Her. Let's have that, good sir.
Come on, sit down: come on, and do your best
To fright me with your sprites; you're power
ful at it.
Mam. There was a man,—
Her. Nay, come, sit down; then on.
Mam. Dwelt by a churchyard. I will tell it
softly;
Yond crickets shall not hear it.
Her. Come on then,
And give't me in mine ear.

Enter LEONTES, ANTIGONUS, Lords, and Others.
Lew,. Was he met there? his train? Camillo
with him?
First Lord. Behind the tuft of pines I met
them: never
Saw I men scour so on their way: I ey'd them
Even to their ships.
Leon. How blest am I
In my just censure, in my true opinion!
Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accurs'd
In being so blest! There may be in the cup
A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart,
And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
Is not infected; but if one present
The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known
How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his
sides,
With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the
spider.
Camillo was his help in this, his pandar:
There is a plot against my life, my crown;
All's true that is mistrusted: that false villain
Whom I employ'd was pre-employ'd by him:
He has discover'd my design, and I
Remain a pinch'd thing; yea, a very trick
For them to play at will. How came the pos
terns
So easily open?
First Lord. By his great authority;
Which often hath no less pre\ail'd than so
On your command.
Leon. I know't too well.
[To HERMIONE.] Give me the boy: I am glad you
did not nurse him:
Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
Have too much blood in him.
Her. What is this? sport?
Leon. Bear the boy hence; he shall not come
about her;
Away with him!—[Exit MAMILLIUS, attended.]
and let her sport herself
With that she's big with; for 'tis Polixenes
Has made thee swell thus.
Her. But I'd say he had not,
And I'll be sworn you would believe my saying,
Howe'er you lean to the nayward.
Leon. You, my lords,
Look on her, mark her well; be but about 64
To say,' she is a goodly lady,' and
The justice of your hearts will thereto add
' 'Tis pity she's not honest, honourable:'
Praise her but for this her without-door form,—
Which, on my faith deserves high speech,—and
straight
The shrug, the hum or ha, these petty brands
That calumny doth use,—O, I am out!—
That mercy does, for calumny will sear
Virtue itself: these shrugs, these hums and ha's,
When you have said 'she's goodly,' come be
tween,
Ere you can say 'she's honest.' But be't known,
From him that has most cause to grieve it
should be,
She's an adulteress.
Her. Should a -villain say so,
The most replenish'd 'villain in the world,
He were as much more villain: you, my lord,
Do but mistake.
Leon. You have mistook, my lady,
Polixenes for Leontes. O thou thing!
Which I'll not call a creature of thy place,
Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,
Should a like language use to all degrees,
And mannerly distinguisliment leave out
Betwixt the prince and beggar: I have said
She's an adulteress; I have said with whom:
More, she's a traitor, and Camillo is
A federary with her, and one that knows
What she should shame to know herself
But with her most vile principal, that she's
A bed-swerver, even as bad as those
That vulgars give bold'st titles; ay, and privy
To this their late escape.
Her. No, by my life,
Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you
When you shall come to clearer knowledge that
You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord,
You scarce can right me throughly then to say
You did mistake.
Leon. No; if I mistake
In those foundations which I build upon,
The centre is not big enough to bear
A schoolboy's top. Away with her to prison!
He who shall speak for her is afar off guilty
But that he speaks.
Her. There's some ill planet reigns:
I must be patient till the heavens look
With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords,
I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have
That honourable grief lodg'd here which burns
Worse than tears drown. Beseech you all, my
lords,
With thoughts so qualified as your charities
Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
The king's will be perform'd!
.Leon. [To the Guards.] Shall I be heard?
Her. Who is't that goes with me? Beseech
your highness,
My women may be with me; for you see
My plight requires it. Do not weep, good fools;
There is no cause: when you shall know your
mistress
Has deserv'd prison, then abound in tears
As I come out: this action I now go on
Is for my better grace. Adieu, my lord:
I never wish'd to see you sorry; now
I trust I shall. My women, come; you have
leave.
Leon. Go, do our bidding: hence!
[Exeunt Queen guarded, and Ladies,
First Lord. Beseech your highness call the
queen again.
Ant. Be certain what you do, sir, lest your
justice
Prove violence: in the which three great ones
suffer,
Yourself, your queen, your son.
First Lord. For her, my lord,
I dare my life lay down, and will do't, sir,
Please you to accept it,—that the queen is spot
less
I' the eyes of heaven and to you: I mean,
In this which you accuse her.
Ant. If it prove
Slie's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where
I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her;
Than when I feel and see her no further trust
her;
For every inch of woman in the world,
Ay, every dram of woman's flesh is false,
If she be.
Leon. Hold your peaces!
First Lord. Good my lord,—
Ant. It is for you we speak, not Tor ourselves
You are abus'd, and by some putter-on
That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the
villain,
I would land-damn him. Be she honour-flaw'd,—
I have three daughters; the eldest is eleven,
The second and the third, nine and some five;
If this prove true, they'll pay for't: by mine
honour,
I'll geld them all; fourteen they shall not see,
To bring false generations: they are co-heirs;
And I had rather glib myself than they
Should not produce fair issue,
Leon. Cease! no more.
You smell this business with a sense as cold
As is a dead man's nose; but I do see't and feel't,
As you feel doing thus, and see withal
The instruments that feel.
Ant. If it be so,
We need no grave to bury honesty:
There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten
Of the whole dungy earth.
Leon. What! lack I credit?
First Lord. I had rather you did lack than I,
my lord,
Upon this ground; aad more it would content
me
To have her honour true than your suspicion,
Be blam'd for't how you might.
Leon. Why, what need we
Commune with you of this, but rather follow
Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative
Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness
Imparts this; which if you,—or stupified
Or seeming so in skill,—cannot or will not
Relish as truth like us, inform yourselves,
We need no more of your advice: the matter,
The loss, the gain, the ordering on 't, is all
Properly ours.
Ant. And I wish, my liege,
You had only in your silent judgment tried it,
Without more overture.
Leon. How could that be?
Either thou art most ignorant by age,
Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight,
Added to their familiarity,
Which was as gross as ever touch'd conjecture,
That lack'd sight only, nought for approbation
But only seeing, all other circumstances
Made up to the deed, doth push on this pro-
ceeding:
Yet, for a greater confirmation,—
For in an act of this importance 'twere
Most piteous to be wild,—I have dispatch'd in post
To sacred Delphos, to Apollo's temple,
Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know
Of stuff'd sufficiency. Now, from the oracle
They will bring all; whose spiritual counsel had,
Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?
First Lord. Well done, my lord.
Leon. Though I am satisfied and need no
more
Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
Give rest to the minds of others, such as he
Whose ignorant credulity will not
Come up to the truth. So have we thought it
good
From our free person she should be confin'd,
Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence
Be left her to perform. Come, follow us:
We are to speak in public; for this business
Will raise us all.
Ant. [Aside.] To laughter, as I take it,
If the good truth were known. [Exeunt.
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