William Shakespeare: Winter's Tale, Act I, Scene II

Scene II

A room of state in the same

Enter Leontes, Hermione, Mamillius, Polixenes, Camillo, and Attendants

Polixenes

Nine changes of the watery star hath been The shepherd's note since we have left our throne Without a burthen: time as long again Would be find 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 That go before it.

Leontes

Stay your thanks a while; And pay them when you part.

Polixenes

Sir, that's to-morrow. I am question'd by my fears, of what may chance 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.

Leontes

We are tougher, brother, Than you can put us to't.

Polixenes

No longer stay.

Leontes

One seven-night longer.

Polixenes

Very sooth, to-morrow.

Leontes

We'll part the time between's then; and in that I'll no gainsaying.

Polixenes

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 '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.

Leontes

Tongue-tied, our queen? Speak you.

Hermione

I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until You have drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir, Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you are sure All in Bohemia's well; this satisfaction The by-gone day proclaim'd: say this to him, He's beat from his best ward.

Leontes

Well said, Hermione.

Hermione

To tell, he longs to see his son, were strong: 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. Yet of your royal presence I'll adventure The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia 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?

Polixenes

No, madam.

Hermione

Nay, but you will?

Polixenes

I may not, verily.

Hermione

Verily! You put me off with limber vows; but I, 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, 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.

Polixenes

Your guest, then, madam: To be your prisoner should import offending; Which is for me less easy to commit Than you to punish.

Hermione

Not your gaoler, then, But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question you Of my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys: You were pretty lordings then?

Polixenes

We were, fair queen, Two lads that thought there was no more behind But such a day to-morrow as to-day, And to be boy eternal.

Hermione

Was not my lord The verier wag o' the two?

Polixenes

We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun, And bleat the one at the other: what we changed Was innocence for innocence; we knew not The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd That any did. Had we pursued 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 Hereditary ours.

Hermione

By this we gather You have tripp'd since.

Polixenes

O my most sacred lady! Temptations have since then been born to's; for In those unfledged days was my wife a girl; Your precious self had then not cross'd the eyes Of my young play-fellow.

Hermione

Grace to boot! Of this make no conclusion, lest you say 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.

Leontes

Is he won yet?

Hermione

He'll stay my lord.

Leontes

At my request he would not. Hermione, my dearest, thou never spokest To better purpose.

Hermione

Never?

Leontes

Never, but once.

Hermione

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 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 beat an acre. But to the goal: My last good deed was to entreat his stay: 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.

Leontes

Why, that was when 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.'

Hermione

'Tis grace indeed. 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.

Leontes

Aside

Too hot, too hot! To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods. 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; But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers, As now they are, and making practised 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, Art thou my boy?

Mamillius

Ay, my good lord.

Leontes

I' fecks! Why, that's my bawcock. What, hast smutch'd thy nose? They say it is a copy out of mine. Come, captain, 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?

Mamillius

Yes, if you will, my lord.

Leontes

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 As o'er-dyed 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! 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, Communicatest with dreams;—how can this be?— With what's unreal thou coactive art, 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.

Polixenes

What means Sicilia?

Hermione

He something seems unsettled.

Polixenes

How, my lord! What cheer? how is't with you, best brother?

Hermione

You look as if you held a brow of much distraction Are you moved, my lord?

Leontes

No, in good earnest. How sometimes nature will betray its folly, Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime 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, 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?

Mamillius

No, my lord, I'll fight.

Leontes

You will! why, happy man be's dole! My brother, Are you so fond of your young prince as we Do seem to be of ours?

Polixenes

If at home, sir, He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter, 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.

Leontes

So stands this squire Officed with me: we two will walk, my lord, And leave you to your graver steps. Hermione, How thou lovest us, show in our brother's welcome; Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap: Next to thyself and my young rover, he's Apparent to my heart.

Hermione

If you would seek us, We are yours i' the garden: shall's attend you there?

Leontes

To your own bents dispose you: you'll be found, 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 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 disgraced a part, whose issue Will hiss me to my grave: contempt and clamour Will be my knell. Go, play, boy, play. There have been, Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now; And many a man there is, even at this present, Now while I speak this, holds his wife by the arm, That little thinks she has been sluiced 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 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, No barricado for a belly; know't; It will let in and out the enemy With bag and baggage: many thousand on's Have the disease, and feel't not. How now, boy!

Mamillius

I am like you, they say.

Leontes

Why that's some comfort. What, Camillo there?

Camillo

Ay, my good lord.

Leontes

Go play, Mamillius; thou'rt an honest man.

Exit Mamillius

Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.

Camillo

You had much ado to make his anchor hold: When you cast out, it still came home.

Leontes

Didst note it?

Camillo

He would not stay at your petitions: made His business more material.

Leontes

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?

Camillo

At the good queen's entreaty.

Leontes

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 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.

Camillo

Business, my lord! I think most understand Bohemia stays here longer.

Leontes

Ha!

Camillo

Stays here longer.

Leontes

Ay, but why?

Camillo

To satisfy your highness and the entreaties Of our most gracious mistress.

Leontes

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 My chamber-councils, wherein, priest-like, thou Hast cleansed my bosom, I from thee departed Thy penitent reform'd: but we have been Deceived in thy integrity, deceived In that which seems so.

Camillo

Be it forbid, my lord!

Leontes

To bide upon't, thou art not honest, or, If thou inclinest that way, thou art a coward, Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining From course required; or else thou must be counted 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 takest it all for jest.

Camillo

My gracious lord, 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, 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, Where of 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, Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass By its own visage: if I then deny it, 'Tis none of mine.

Leontes

Ha' not you seen, Camillo,— But that's past doubt, you have, or your eye-glass 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, 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.

Camillo

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 As deep as that, though true.

Leontes

Is whispering nothing? Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses? Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career Of laughing with a sigh?—a note infallible 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? Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing; The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing; My wife is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings, If this be nothing.

Camillo

Good my lord, be cured Of this diseased opinion, and betimes; For 'tis most dangerous.

Leontes

Say it be, 'tis true.

Camillo

No, no, my lord.

Leontes

It is; you lie, you lie: 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 Infected as her life, she would not live The running of one glass.

Camillo

Who does infect her?

Leontes

Why, he that wears her like a medal, hanging About his neck, Bohemia: who, if I 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 cupbearer,—whom I from meaner form Have benched and reared 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.

Camillo

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, So sovereignly being honourable. I have loved thee,—

Leontes

Make that thy question, and go rot! Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled, To appoint myself in this vexation, sully 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, Without ripe moving to't? Would I do this? Could man so blench?

Camillo

I must believe you, sir: I do; and will fetch off Bohemia for't; Provided that, when he's removed, your highness 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.

Leontes

Thou dost advise me Even so as I mine own course have set down: I'll give no blemish to her honour, none.

Camillo

My lord, Go then; and with a countenance as clear As friendship wears at feasts, keep with Bohemia And with your queen. I am his cupbearer: If from me he have wholesome beverage, Account me not your servant.

Leontes

This is all: Do't and thou hast the one half of my heart; Do't not, thou split'st thine own.

Camillo

I'll do't, my lord.

Leontes

I will seem friendly, as thou hast advised me.

Exit

Camillo

O miserable lady! But, for me, What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner 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 Of thousands that had struck anointed kings And flourish'd after, I'ld 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 To me a break-neck. Happy star, reign now! Here comes Bohemia.

Re-enter Polixenes

Polixenes

This is strange: methinks My favour here begins to warp. Not speak? Good day, Camillo.

Camillo

Hail, most royal sir!

Polixenes

What is the news i' the court?

Camillo

None rare, my lord.

Polixenes

The king hath on him such a countenance As he had lost some province and a region Loved 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 So leaves me to consider what is breeding That changeth thus his manners.

Camillo

I dare not know, my lord.

Polixenes

How! dare not! do not. Do you know, and dare not? Be intelligent to me: 'tis thereabouts; For, to yourself, what you do know, you must. And cannot say, you dare not. Good Camillo, Your changed complexions are to me a mirror Which shows me mine changed too; for I must be A party in this alteration, finding Myself thus alter'd with 't.

Camillo

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.

Polixenes

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 Clerk-like experienced, 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't not In ignorant concealment.

Camillo

I may not answer.

Polixenes

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 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; If not, how best to bear it.

Camillo

Sir, I will tell you; Since I am charged in honour and by him That I think honourable: therefore mark my counsel, Which must be even as swiftly follow'd as I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me Cry lost, and so good night!

Polixenes

On, good Camillo.

Camillo

I am appointed him to murder you.

Polixenes

By whom, Camillo?

Camillo

By the king.

Polixenes

For what?

Camillo

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 Forbiddenly.

Polixenes

O, then my best blood turn To an infected jelly and my name Be yoked with his that did betray the Best! Turn then my freshest reputation to 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!

Camillo

Swear his thought over 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 Is piled upon his faith and will continue The standing of his body.

Polixenes

How should this grow?

Camillo

I know not: but I am sure 'tis safer to Avoid what's grown than question how 'tis born. 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 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, I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer Than one condemn'd by the king's own mouth, thereon His execution sworn.

Polixenes

I do believe thee: I saw his heart in 's face. Give me thy hand: 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, 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: 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.

Camillo

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