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 IV. Scene III.

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I was about to speak and tell him plainly,
The self-same sun that shines upon his court
Hides not his visage from our cottage, but
Looks on alike. Will't please you, sir, be gone?
I told you what would come of this: beseech
Of your own state take care: this dream of
Being now awake, I'll queen it no inch further,
But milk my ewes and weep.
Cam. Why, how now, father!
Speak, ere thou diest.
Shep. I cannot speak, nor think,
Nor dare to know that which I know. O sir!
You have undone a man of fourscore three,
That thought to fill his grave in quiet, yea,
To die upon the bed my father died,
To lie close by his honest bones: but now
Some hangman must put on my shroud and
lay me
Where no priest shovels in dust. O cursed
That knew'st this was the prince, and wouldst
To mingle faith with him. Undone! undone!
If I might die within this hour. I have liv'd
To die when I desire. [Exit.
Flo. Why look you so upon me?
I am but sorry, not afeard; delay'd,
But nothing alter'd. What I was, I am:
More straining on for plucking back; not follow-
My leash unwillingly.
Cam. Gracious my lord,
You know your father's temper: at this time
He will allow no speech, which I do guess
You do not purpose to him; and as hardly
Will he endure your sight as yet, I fear:
Then, till the fury of his highness settle,
Come not before him.
Flo. I not purpose it.
I think, Camillo?
Cam. Even he, my lord.
Per. How often have I told you 'twould be
How often said my dignity would last
But till 'twere known!
Flo. It cannot fail but by
The violation of my faith; and then
Let nature crush the sides o' the earth together
And mar the seeds within! Lift up thy looks:
From my succession wipe me, father; I
Am heir to my affection.
Cam. Be advis'd.
Flo. I am; and by my fancy: if my reason
Will thereto be obedient, I have reason;
If not, my senses, better pleas'd with madness,
Do bid it welcome.
Cam. This is desperate, sir.
Flo. So call it; but it does fulfil my vow,
I needs must think it honesty. Camillo,
Not for Bohemia, nor the pomp that may
Be thereat glean'd, for all the sun sees or
The close earth wombs or the profound sea
In unknown fathoms, will I break my oath
To this my fair belov'd. Therefore, I pray you,
As you have ever been my father's honour'd
When he shall miss me,—as, in faith, I mean not
To see him any more,—cast your good counsels
Upon his passion: let myself and fortune
Tug for the time to come. This you may know
And so deliver, I am put to sea
With her whom here I cannot hold on shore;
And most opportune to our need, I have
A vessel rides fast by, but not prepar'd
For this design. What course I mean to hold
Shall nothing benefit your knowledge, nor
Concern me the reporting.
Cam. O my lord!
I would your spirit were easier for advice,
Or stronger for your need.
Flo. Hark, Perdita. [Takes her aside.
[To CAMILLO.] I'll hear you by and by.
Cam. He's irremovable,
Resolv'd for flight. Now were I happy if
His going I could frame to serve my turn,
Save him from danger, do him love and honour,
Purchase the sight again of dear Sicilia
And that unhappy king, my master, whom
I so much thirst to see.
Flo. Now, good Camillo,
I am so fraught with curious business that
I leave out ceremony.
Cam. Sir, I think
You have heard of my poor services, i' the love
That I have borne your father?
Flo. Very nobly
Have you deserv'd: it is my father's music
To speak your deeds, not little of his care
To have them recompens'd as thought on.
Cam. Well, my lord,
If you may please to think I love the king
And through him what's nearest to him, which
Your gracious self, embrace but my direction,
If your more ponderous and settled project
May. suffer alteration, on mine honour
I'll point you where you shall have such receiv-
As shall become your highness; where you may
Enjoy your mistress,—from the whom, I see,
There's no disjunction to be made, but by,
As, heavens forefend! your ruin,—marry her;
And with my best endeavours in your absence
Your discontenting father strive to qualify,
And bring him up to liking.
Flo. How, Camillo,
May this, almost a miracle, be done?
That I may call thee something more than man,
And, after that trust to thee.
Cam. Have you thought on
A place whereto you'll go?
Flo. Not any yet;
But as the unthought-on accident is guilty
To what we wildly do, so we profess
Ourselves to be the slaves of chance and flies
Of every wind that blows.
Cam. Then list to me:
This follows; if you will not change your pur-
But undergo this flight, make for Sicilia,
And there present yourself and your fair prin-
For so, I see, she must be,—'fore Leontes;
She shall be habited as it becomes
The partner of your bed. Methinks I see
Leontes opening his free arms and weeping
His welcomes forth; asks thee, the son, forgive-
As 'twere i' the father's person; kisses the
Of your fresh princess; o'er and o'er divides
'Twixt his unkindness and his kindness: the one
He chides to hell, and bids the other grow
Faster than thought or time.
Flo. Worthy Camillo,
What colour for my visitation shall I
Hold up before him?
Cam. Sent by the king your father
To greet him and to give him comforts. Sir,
The manner of your bearing towards him, with
What you as from your father shall deliver,
Things known betwixt us three, I'll write you
The which shall point you forth at every sitting
What you must say; that he shall not perceive
But that you have your father's bosom there
And speak his very heart.
Flo. I am bound to you.
There is some sap in this.
Cam. A course more promising
Than a wild dedication of yourselves
To unpath'd waters, undream'd shores, most
To miseries enough: no hope to help you,
But as you shake off one to take another;
Nothing so certain as your anchors, who
Do their best office, if they can but stay you
Where you'll be loath to be. Besides, you
Prosperity's the very bond of love,
Whose fresh complexion and whose heart to-
Affliction alters.
Per. One of these is true:
I think affliction may subdue the cheek,
But not take in the mind.
Cam. Yea, say you so?
There shall not at your father's house these
seven years
Be born another such.
Flo. My good Camillo,
She is as forward of her breeding as
She is i' the rear o' her birth.
Cam. I cannot say 'tis pity
She lacks instructions, for she seems a mistress
To most that teach.
Per. Your pardon, sir; for this
I'll blush you thanks.
Flo. My prettiest Perdita!
But O! the thorns we stand upon. Camillo,
Preserver of my father, now of me,
The med'cine of our house, how shall we do?
We are not furnish'd like Bohemia's son,
Nor shall appear in Sicilia.
Cam. My lord,
Fear none of this: I think you know my for-
Do all lie there: it shall be so my care
To have you royally appointed as if
The scene you play were mine. For instance,
That you may know you shall not want, one
word. [They talk aside.

Aut. Ha, ha! what a fool Honesty is! and
Trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentle-
man! I have sold all my trumpery: not a
counterfeit stone, not a riband, glass, pomander,
brooch, table-book, ballad, knife, tape, glove,
shoe-tie, bracelet, horn-ring, to keep my pack
from fasting: they throng who should buy first,
as if my trinkets had been hallowed and brought
a benediction to the buyer: by which means
I saw whose purse was best in picture; and
what I saw, to my good use I remembered. My
clown,—who wants but something to be a reason-
able man,—grew so in love with the wenches'
song that he would not stir his pettitoes till he
had both tune and words; which so drew the
rest of the herd to me that all their other senses
stuck in ears: you might have pinched a placket,
it was senseless; 'twas nothing to geld a codpiece
of a purse; I would have filed keys off that hung
in chains: no hearing, no feeling, but my sir's
song, and admiring the nothing of it; so that, in
this time of lethargy I picked and cut most of
their festival purses; and had not the old man
come in with a whoo-bub against his daughter
and the king's son, and scared my choughs from
the chaff, I had not left a purse alive in the
whole army.
come forward.
Cam. Nay, but my letters, by this means
being there
So soon as you arrive, shall clear that doubt.
Flo. And those that you'll procure from
King Leontes—
Cam. Shall satisfy your father.
Per. Happy be you!
All that you speak shows fair.
Cam. [Seeing AUTOLYCUS.] Whom have we
We'll make an instrument of this: omit
Nothing may give us aid.
Aut. [Aside.] If they have overheard me now,
why, hanging.
Cam. How now, good fellow! Why shakest
thou so? Fear not, man; here's no harm in-
tended to thee.
Aut. I am a poor fellow, sir.
Cam. Why, be so still; here's nobody will
steal that from thee; yet, for the outside of thy
poverty we must make an exchange; therefore,
disease thee instantly,—thou must think, there's
a necessity in't,—and change garments with this
gentleman: though the pennyworth on his side
be the worst, yet hold thee, there's some boot.
Aut. I am a poor fellow, sir.—[Aside.] I know
ye well enough.
Cam. Nay, prithee, dispatch: the gentleman
is half flayed already.
Aut. Are you in earnest, sir? [Aside.] I
smell the trick on't.
Flo. Dispatch, I prithee.
Aut. Indeed, I have had earnest; but I can-
not with conscience take it.
Cam. Unbuckle, unbuckle.—
Fortunate mistress,—let my prophecy
Come home to ye!—you must retire yourself
Into some covert: take your sweetheart's hat
And pluck it o'er your brows; muffle your face;
Dismantle you, and, as you can, disliken
The truth of your own seeming; that you may,—
For I do fear eyes over you,—to shipboard
Get undescried.
Per. I see the play so lies
That I must bear a part.
Cam. No remedy.
Have you done there?
Flo. Should I now meet my father
He would not call me son.
Cam. Nay, you shall have no hat.
[Giving it to PERDITA.
Come, lady, come. Farewell, my friend.
Aut. Adieu, sir.
Flo. O Perdita, what have we twain forgot!
Pray you, a word. [They converse apart.
Cam. [Aside.] What I do next shall be to
tell the king
Of this escape, and whither they are bound;
Wherein my hope is I shall so prevail
To force him after: in whose company
I shall review Sicilia, for whose sight
I have a woman's longing.
Flo. Fortune speed us!
Thus we set on, Camillo, to the sea-side.
Cam. The swifter speed the better.
Aut. I understand the business; I hear it.
To have an open ear, a quick eye, and a nimble
hand, is necessary for a cut-purse: a good nose
is requisite also, to smell out work for the other
senses. I see this is the time that the unjust
man doth thrive. What an exchange had this
been without boot! what a boot is here with this
exchange! Sure, the gods do this year connive
at us, and we may do anything extempore. The
prince himself is about a piece of iniquity;
stealing away from his father with his clog at
his heels. If I thought it were a piece of ho-
nesty to acquaint the king withal, I would not
do't: I hold it the more knavery to conceal it,
and therein am I constant to my profession.
Aside, aside: here is more matter for a hot
brain. Every lane's end, every shop, church,
session, hanging, yields a careful man work.

Re-enter Clown and Shepherd.
Clo. See, see, what a man you are now! There
is no other way but to tell the king she's a
changeling and none of your flesh and blood.
Shep. Nay, but hear me.
Clo. Nay, but hear me.
Shep. Go to, then.
Clo. She being none of your flesh and blood,
your flesh and blood has not offended the king;
and so your flesh and blood is not to be punish-
ed by him. Show those things you found about
her; those secret things, all but what she has
with her: this being done, let the law go whistle:
I warrant you.
Shep. I will tell the king all, every word, yea,
and his son's pranks too; who, I may say, is no
honest man neither to his father nor to me,
to go about to make me the king's brother-
Clo. Indeed, brother-in-law was the furthest
off you could have been to him, and then your
blood had been the dearer by I know not how
much an ounce.
Aut. [Aside.] Very wisely, puppies!
Shep. Well, let us to the king: there is that
in this fardel will make him scratch his beard.
Aut. [Aside.] I know not what impediment
this complaint may be to the flight of my
Clo. Pray heartily he be at palace.
Aut. [Aside.] Though I am not naturally
honest, I am so sometimes by chance; let me
pocket up my pedlar's excrement. [Takes off
his false beard.] How now, rustics! whither are
you bound?
Shep. To the palace, an it like your wor-
Aut. Your affairs there, what, with whom, the
condition of that fardel, the place of your dwell-
ing, your names, your ages, of what having,
breeding, and anything that is fitting to be
known, discover,
Clo. We are but plain fellows, sir.
Aut. A lie; you are rough and hairy. Let
me have no lying; it becomes none but trades-
men, and they often give us soldiers the lie; but
we pay them for it with stamped coin, not
stabbing steel; therefore they do not give us the
Clo. Your worship had like to have given us
one, if you had not taken yourself with the
Shep. Are you a courtier, an't like you, sir?
Aut. Whether it like me or no, I am a
courtier. Seest thou not the air of the court in
these enfoldings? hath not my gait in it the
measure of the court? receives not thy nose
court-odour from me? reflect I not on thy base-
ness court-contempt? Think'st thou, for that I
insinuate, or toaze from thee thy business, I am
therefore no courtier? I am courtier, cap-a-pe,
and one that will either push on or pluck back
thy business there: whereupon I command thee
to open thy affair.
Shep. My business, sir, is to the king.
Aut. What advocate hast thou to him?
Shep. I know not, an't like you.
Clo. Advocate's the court-word for a phea-
sant: say you have none.
Shep. None, sir; I have no pheasant, cock nor
Aut. How bless'd are we that are not simple
Yet nature might have made me as these are,
Therefore I'll not disdain.
Clo. This cannot be but a great courtier.
Shep. His garments are rich, but he wears
them not handsomely.
Clo. He seems to be the more noble in being
fantastical: a great man, I'll warrant; I know
by the picking on's teeth.
Aut. The fardel there? what's i' the fardel?
Wherefore that box?
Shep. Sir, there lies such secrets in this fardel
and box which none must know but the king;
and which he shall know within this hour if I
may come to the speech of him.
Aut. Age, thou hast lost thy labour.
Shep. Why, sir?
Aut. The king is not at the palace; he is
gone aboard a new ship to purge melancholy
and air himself: for, if thou be'st capable of
things serious, thou must know the king is full of
Shep. So 'tis said, sir, about his son, that
should have married a shepherd's daughter.
Aut. If that shepherd be not now in hand-
fast, let him fly: the curses he shall have, the
torture he shall feel, will break the back of man,
the heart of monster.
Clo. Think you so, sir?
Aut. Not he alone shall suffer what wit can
make heavy and vengeance bitter; but those
that are germane to him, though removed fifty
times, shall all come under the hangman: which
though it be great pity, yet it is necessary. An
old sheep-whisthng rogue, a ram-tender, to offer
to have his daughter come into grace! Some
say he shall be stoned; but that death is too
soft for him, say I: draw our throne into a
sheep cote! all deaths are too few, the sharpest
too easy.
Clo. Has the old man e'er a son, sir, do you
hear, an't like you, sir?
Aut. He has a son, who shall be flayed alive;
then 'nointed over with honey, set on the head
of a wasp's nest; then stand till he be three
quarters and a dram dead; then recovered again
with aqua-vitæ or some other hot infusion; then,
raw as he is, and in hottest day prognostication
proclaims, shall he be set against a brick-wall,
the sun looking with a southward eye upon him,
where he is to behold him with flies blown to
death. But what talk we of these traitorly
rascals, whose miseries are to be smiled at, their
offences being so capital? Tell me,—for you seem
to be honest plain men,—what you have to the
king: being something gently considered, I'll
bring you where he is aboard, tender your per-
sons to his presence, whisper him in your be-
halfs; and if it be in man besides the king to
effect your suits, here is a man shall do it.
Clo. He seems to be of great authority: close
with him, give him gold; and though authority
be a stubborn bear, yet he is oft led by the nose
with gold. Show the inside of your purse to the
outside of his hand, and no more ado. Re-
member, 'stoned,' and 'flayed alive!'
Shep. An't please you, sir, to undertake the
business for us, here is that gold I have: I'll
make it as much more and leave this young
man in pawn till I bring it you.
Aut. After I have done what I have pro-
Shep. Ay, sir.
Aut. Well, give me the moiety. Are you a
party in this business?
Clo. In some sort, sir: but though my case be
a pitiful one, I hope I shall not be flayed out
of it.
Aut. O! that's the case of the shepherd's
son: hang him, he'll be made an example.
do. Comfort, good comfort! we must to the
king and show our strange sights: he must
know 'tis none of your daughter nor my sister;
we are gone else. Sir, I will give you as much as
this old man does when the business is per-
formed; and remain, as he says, your pawn till
it be brought you.
Aut. I will trust you. Walk before toward
the sea-side; go on the right hand; I will but
look upon the hedge and follow you.
Clo. We are blessed in this man, as I may
say, even blessed.
Shep. Let's before as he bids us. He was
provided to do us good.
[Exeunt Shepherd and Clown.
Aut. If I had a mind to be honest I see
Fortune would not suffer me: she drops booties
in my mouth. I am courted now with a double
occasion, gold, and a means to do the prince
my master good; which who knows how that
may turn back to my advancement? I will
bring these two moles, these blind ones, aboard
him: if he think it fit to shore them again, and
that the complaint they have to the king con-
cerns him nothing, let him call me rogue for
being so far officious; for I am proof against
that title and what shame else belongs to't. To
him will I present them: there may be matter
in it. [Exit.
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