previous next

ACT II


SCENE I

A room in LEONTE'S palace.
Enter HERMIONE, 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 (10)

Too much hair there, but in a semicircle,

Or a half-moon made with a pen.

Sec. Lady.
Who taught you this?

Mam.
I learnt it out of women's faces. Pray now

What color 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.

First 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'ld wanton with us,

If we would have you.

Sec. Lady.
She is spread of late

Into a goodly bulk: good time encounter her! (21)

Her.
What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now

I am for you again: pray you, sit by us,

And tell'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 powerful at it.

Mam.
There was a man--

Her.
Nay, come, sit down; then on. (30)

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, with ANTIGONUS, Lords, and others.


Leon.
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 eyed them

Even to their ships.

Leon.
How blest am I

In my just censure, in my true opinion!

Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accursed

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 pander:

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: (50)

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 posterns

So easily open?

First Lord.
By his great authority;

Which often hath no less prevail'd than so

On your command.

Leon.
I know't too well.

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; (60)

Away with him! and let her sport herself

With that she's big with; for 'tis Polixenes

Has made thee swell thus.

Her.
But I'ld 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

To say 'she is a goodly lady,' and

The justice of your hearts will thereto add

''Tis pity she's not honest, honorable:'

Praise her but for this her without-door form. (70)

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 between

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 (81)

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 distinguishment leave out

Betwixt the prince and beegar: I have said

She's an adulteress; I have said with whom:

More, she's a traitor and Camillo is (90)

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. (100)

Leon.
No; if I mistake

In those foundations which I build upon,

The centre is not big enough to bear

A school-boy'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 favorable. 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 honorable grief lodged 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.
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 (120)

Has deserved 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! [Exit Queen, guarded; with 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 spotless

I' the eyes of heaven and to you; I mean,

In this which you accuse her.

Ant.
If it prove

She'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 farther 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,-- (140)

Ant.
It is for you we speak, not for ourselves:

You are abused and by some putter-on

That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the villain,

I would land-damn him. Be she honor-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 honor,

I'll geld 'em 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; and more it would content me

To have her honor true than your suspicion,

Be blamed 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 a 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. (170)

Ant.
And I wish, my liege.

You had only in your silent judgement 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 proceeding: (180)

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 (190)

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 confined,

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.


SCENE II

A prison.
Enter PAULINA, a Gentleman, and Attendants.

Paul.
The keeper of the prison, call to him;

Let him have knowledge who I am. [Exit Gent.

Good lady,

No court in Europe is too good for thee;

What dost thou then in prison? Re-enter Gentleman, with the Gaoler.

Now, good sir,

You know me, do you not?

Gaol.
For a worthy lady

And one whom much I honor.

Paul.
Pray you then,

Conduct me to the queen.

Gaol.
I may not madam:

To the contrary I have express commandment.

Paul.
Here's ado,
10To lock up honesty and honor from

The access of gentle visitors! Is't lawful, pray you,

To see her women? any of them? Emilia?

Gaol.
So please you, madam,

To put apart these your attendants, I

Shall bring Emilia forth.

Paul.
I pray now, call her.

Withdraw yourselves. [Exeunt Gentleman and Attendants.


Gaol.
And, madam,

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 coloring. Re-enter Gaoler, with EMILIA.

20Dear 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,

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,

I am innocent as you.'

Paul.
I dare be sworn: (30)

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:

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,

I'll show't the king and undertake to be

Her advocate to the loud'st. We do not know

How he may soften at the sight o' the child:

The silence often of pure innocence

Persuades when speaking fails.

Emil.
Most worthy madam,

Your honor 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

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, (50)

But durst not tempt a minister of honor,

Lest she should be denied.

Paul.
Tell her, Emilia,

I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from't

As boldness from my bosom, let't not be doubted

I shall do good.

Emil.
Now be you blest for it!

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:

This child was prisoner to the womb and is (60)

By law and process of great nature thence

Freed and enfranchised, not a party to

The anger of the king nor guilty of,

If any be, the trespass of the queen.

Gaol.
I do believe it.

Paul.
Do not you fear: upon mine honor, I

Will stand betwixt you and danger. [Exeunt.


SCENE III

A room in LEONTES' palace.
Enter LEONTES, ANTIGONUS, Lords, and Servants.

Leon.
Nor night nor day no rest: it is but weakness

To bear the matter thus; mere weakness. If

The cause were not in being,--part o' the cause,

She the adulteress; for the harlot king

Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank

And level of my brain, plot-proof; but she

I can hook to me; say that she were gone,

Given to the fire, a moiety of my rest

Might come to me again. Who's there?

First Serv.
My lord?

Leon.
How does the boy? (10)

First Serv.
He took good rest to-night;

'Tis hoped his sickness is discharged.

Leon.
To see his nobleness!

Conceiving the dishonor of his mother,

He straight declined, droop'd, took it deeply.

Fasten'd and fix'd the shame on't in himself,

Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,

And downright languish'd. Leave me solely: go,

See how he fares. [Exit Serv.
Fie, fie! no thought of him:

The very thought of my revenges that way (20)

Recoil upon me: in himself too mighty,

And in his parties, his alliance; let him be

Until a time may serve: for present vengeance,

Take it on her. Camillo and Polixenes

Laugh at me, make their pastime at my sorrow:

They should not laugh if I could reach them, nor

Shall she within my power. Enter PAULINA, with a child.


First Lord.
You must not enter.

Paul.
Nay, rather, good my lords, be second to me:

Fear you his tyrannous passion more, alas,

Than the queen's life? a gracious innocent soul,

More free than he is jealous. (30)

Ant.
That's enough.

Sec. Serv.
Madam, he hath not slept tonight; commanded

None should come at him.

Paul.
Not so hot, good sir:

I come to bring him sleep. 'Tis such as you,

That creep like shadows by him and do sigh

At each his needless heavings, such as you

Nourish the cause of his awaking: I

Do come with words as medicinal as true,

Honest as either, to purge him of that humor

That presses him from sleep.

Leon.
What noise there, ho? (40)

Paul.
No noise, my lord; but needful conference

About some gossips for your highness.

Leon.
How!

Away with that audacious lady! Antigonus,

I charged thee that she should not come about me:

I knew she would.

Ant.
I told her so, my lord,

On your displeasure's peril and on mine,

She should not visit you.

Leon.
What, canst not rule her?

Paul.
From all dishonesty he can: in this,

Unless he take the course that you have done,

Commit me for committing honor, trust it,

He shall not rule me. (50)

Ant.
La you now, you hear:

When she will take the rein I let her run;

But she'll not stumble.

Paul.
Good my liege, I come;

And, I beseech you, hear me, who profess

Myself your loyal servant, your physician,

Your most obedient counsellor, yet that dare

Less appear so in comforting your evils,

Than such as most seem yours: I say, I come

From your good queen.

Leon.
Good queen!

Paul.
Good queen, my lord,

Good queen; I say good queen;

And would by combat make her good, so were I

A man, the worst about you. (61)

Leon.
Force her hence.

Paul.
Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes

First hand me: on mine own accord I'll off;

But first I'll do my errand. The good queen,

For she is good, hath brought you forth a daughter;

Here 'tis; commends it to your blessing. [Laying down the child.


Leon.
Out!

A mankind witch! Hence with her, out o' door:

A most intelligencing bawd!

Paul.
Not so:

I am as ignorant in that as you (70)

In so entitling me, and no less honest

Than you are mad; which is enough, I'll warrant,

As this world goes, to pass for honest.

Leon.
Traitors!

Will you not push her out? Give her the bastard.

Thou dotard! thou art woman-tired, unroosted

By thy dame Partlet here. Take up the bastard;

Take't up, I say; give't to thy crone.

Paul.
For ever

Unvenerable be thy hands, if thou

Takest up the princess by that forced baseness

Which he has put upon't!

Leon.
He dreads his wife. (80)

Paul.
So I would you did; then 'twere past all doubt

You'ld call your children yours.

Leon.
A nest of traitors!

Ant.
I am none, by this good light.

Paul.
Nor I, nor any

But one that's here, and that's himself, for he

The sacred honor of himself, his queen's,

His hopeful son's, his babe's, betrays to slander,

Whose sting is sharper than the sword's; and will not--

For, as the case now stands, it is a curse

He cannot be compell'd to't--once remove

The root of his opinion, which is rotten

As ever oak or stone was sound. (90)

Leon.
A callet

Of boundless tongue, who late hath beat her husband

And now baits me! This brat is none of mine;

It is the issue of Polixenes:

Hence with it, and together with the dam

Commit them to the fire!

Paul.
It is yours;

And, might we lay the old proverb to your charge,

So like you, 'tis the worse. Behold, my lords,

Although the print be little, the whole matter

And copy of the father, eye, nose, lip, (100)

The trick of's frown, his forehead, nay, the valley,

The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek,
His smiles,

The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger:

And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it

So like to him that got it, if thou hast

The ordering of the mind too, 'mongst all colors

No yellow in't, lest she suspect, as he does.

Her children not her husband's!

Leon.
A gross hag!

And, lozel, thou art worthy to be hang'd,

That wilt not stay her tongue. (110)

Ant.
Hang all the husbands

That cannot do that feat, you'll leave yourself

Hardly one subject.

Leon.
Once more, take her hence.

Paul.
A most unworthy and unnatural lord

Can do no more.

Leon.
I'll ha' thee burnt.

Paul.
I care not:

It is an heretic that makes the fire,

Not she which burns in't. I'll not call you tyrant;

But this most cruel usage of your queen,

Not able to produce more accusation

Than your own weak-hinged fancy, something savors (120)

Of tyranny and will ignoble make you,

Yea, scandalous to the world.

Leon.
On your allegiance.

Out of the chamber with her! Were I a tyrant,

Where were her life? she durst not call me so,

If she did know me one. Away with her!

Paul.
I pray you, do not push me; I'll be gone.

Look to your babe, my lord; 'tis yours: Jove send her

A better guiding spirit! What needs these hands?

You, that are thus so tender o'er his follies,

Will never do him good, not one of you. (130)

So, so: farewell; we are gone. [Exit.


Leon.
Thou, traitor, hast set on thy wife to this.

My child? away with't! Even thou, that hast

A heart so tender o'er it, take it hence

And see it instantly consumed with fire;

Even thou and none but thou. Take it up straight;

Within this hour bring me word 'tis done,

And by good testimony, or I'll seize thy life,

With what thou else call'st thine. If thou refuse

And wilt encounter with my wrath, say so;

The bastard brains with these my proper hands (140)

Shall I dash out. Go, take it to the fire;

For thou set'st on thy wife.

Ant.
I did not, sir;

These lords, my noble fellows, if they please,

Can clear me in't.

Lords.
We can: my royal liege,

He is not guilty of her coming hither.

Leon.
You're liars all.

First Lord.
Beseech your highness, give us better credit:

We have always truly served you, and beseech you

So to esteem of us, and on our knees we beg, (150)

As recompense of our dear services

Past and to come, that you do change this purpose,

Which being so horrible, so bloody, must

Lead on to some foul issue: we all kneel.

Leon.
I am a feather for each wind that blows:

Shall I live on to see this bastard kneel

And call me father? better burn it now

Than curse it then. But be it; let it live.

It shall not neither. You, sir, come you hither;

You that have been so tenderly officious (160)

With Lady Margery, your midwife there,

To save this bastard's life,--for 'tis a bastard,

So sure as this beard's grey,--what will you adventure

To save this brat's life?

Ant.
Any thing, my lord,

That my ability may undergo

And nobleness impose: at least thus much:

I'll pawn the little blood which I have left

To save the innocent: any thing possible.

Leon.
It shall be possible. Swear by this sword

Thou wilt perform my bidding.

Ant.
I will, my lord. (170)

Leon.
Mark and perform it, see'st thou? for the fail

Of any point in't shall not only be

Death to thyself but to thy lewd-tongued wife,

Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,

As thou art liege-man to us, that thou carry

This female bastard hence and that thou bear it

To some remote and desert place quite out

Of our dominions, and that there thou leave it,

Without more mercy, to its own protection

And favor of the climate. As by strange fortune (180)

It came to us, I do in justice charge thee,

On thy soul's peril and thy body's torture,

That thou commend it strangely to some place

Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.

Ant.
I swear to do this, though a present death

Had been more merciful. Come on, poor babe:

Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens

To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say,

Casting their savageness aside have done

Like offices of pity. Sir, be prosperous (190)

In more than this deed does require! And blessing

Against this cruelty fight on thy side,

Poor thing, condemn'd to loss! [Exit with the child.


Leon.
No, I'll not rear

Another's issue. Enter a Servant.


Serv.
Please your highness, posts

From those you sent to the oracle are come

An hour since: Cleomenes and Dion,

Being well arrived from Delphos, are both landed,

Hasting to the court.

First Lord.
So please you, sir, their speed

Hath been beyond account.

Leon.
Twenty three days

They have been absent: 'tis good speed; foretells (200)

The great Apollo suddenly will have

The truth of this appear. Prepare you, lords;

Summon a session, that we may arraign

Our most disloyal lady, for, as she hath

Been publicly accused, so shall she have

A just and open trial. While she lives

My heart will be a burthen to me. Leave me,

And think upon my bidding. [Exeunt.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: