The Winter's Tale eText - Act I

Act I

Act I, Scene 1

ACT I.

SCENE I. Sicilia. An Antechamber in LEONTES' Palace.

[Enter CAMILLO and ARCHIDAMUS]

ARCHIDAMUS.
If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on the
like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see,
as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your
Sicilia.

CAMILLO.
I think this coming summer the King of Sicilia means to
pay Bohemia the visitation which he justly owes him.

ARCHIDAMUS.
Wherein our entertainment shall shame us we will be
justified in our loves; for indeed,--

CAMILLO.
Beseech you,--

ARCHIDAMUS.
Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge: we
cannot with such magnificence--in so rare--I know not what to
say.--We will give you sleepy drinks, that your senses,
unintelligent of our insufficience, may, though they cannot
praise us, as little accuse us.

CAMILLO.
You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.

ARCHIDAMUS.
Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me
and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.

CAMILLO.
Sicilia cannot show himself overkind to Bohemia. They were
trained together in their childhoods; and there rooted betwixt
them then such an affection which cannot choose but branch now.
Since their more mature dignities and royal necessities made
separation of their society, their encounters, though not
personal, have been royally attorneyed with interchange of gifts,
letters, loving embassies; that they have seemed to be together,
though absent; shook hands, as over a vast; and embraced as it
were from the ends of opposed winds. The heavens continue their
loves!

ARCHIDAMUS.
I think there is not in the world either malice or matter to
alter it. You have an unspeakable comfort of your young Prince
Mamillius: it is a gentleman of the greatest promise that ever
came into my note.

CAMILLO.
I very well agree with you in the hopes of him. It is a
gallant child; one that indeed physics the subject, makes old
hearts fresh: they that went on crutches ere he was born desire
yet their life to see him a man.

ARCHIDAMUS.
Would they else be content to die?

CAMILLO.
Yes; if there were no other excuse why they should desire to
live.

ARCHIDAMUS.
If the king had no son, they would desire to live on crutches
till he had one.

[Exeunt.]

Act I, Scene 2

SCENE II. The same. A Room of State in the Palace.

[Enter LEONTES, POLIXENES, HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, CAMILLO, and
Attendants.]

POLIXENES.
Nine changes of the watery star hath been
The shepherd's note since we have left our throne
Without a burden: time as long again
Would be fill'd 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 more
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 had 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 proclaimed: 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[To POLIXENES.] 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 of 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 is
As potent as a lord's. Will 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 th' other. What we chang'd
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
That any did. Had we pursu'd 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 unfledg'd 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 spok'st
To better purpose.

HERMIONE.
Never?

LEONTES.
Never but once.

HERMIONE.
What! have I twice said well? when was't before?
I pr'ythee 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 heat 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.
It is Grace indeed.
Why, lo you now, I have spoke to the purpose twice;
The one for ever earn'd a royal husband;
Th' other for some while a friend.

[Giving her hand to POLIXENES.]

LEONTES.
Too hot, too hot! [Aside.]
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 practis'd 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
[Observing POL. and HER.]
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-dy'd 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,
Communicat'st with dreams;--how can this be?--
With what's unreal thou co-active 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 mov'd, 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
Offic'd with me. We two will walk, my lord,
And leave you to your graver steps.--Hermione,
How thou lov'st 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!
[Observing POL. and HER.]
How she holds up the neb, the bill to him!
And arms her with the boldness of a wife
To her allowing husband!
Gone already!

[Exeunt POLIXENES, HERMIONE, and Attendants.]

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 disgrac'd 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 deceiv'd, 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 sluic'd in his 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 hath revolted wives, the tenth of mankind
Would hang themselves. Physic for't there's 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 of us
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?--
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
Th' 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 cleans'd my bosom; I from thee departed
Thy penitent reform'd: but we have been
Deceiv'd in thy integrity, deceiv'd
In that which seems so.

CAMILLO.
Be it forbid, my lord!

LEONTES.
To bide upon't,--thou art not honest; or,
If thou inclin'st that way, thou art a coward,
Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining
From course requir'd; 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 tak'st 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,
Whereof the execution did cry out
Against the non-performance, 'twas a fear
Which oft affects 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.
Have 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 it,--
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 laughter 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 is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings,
If this be nothing.

CAMILLO.
Good my lord, be cur'd
Of this diseas'd 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 her 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 bench'd and rear'd 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 ling'ring 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 lov'd 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 remov'd, 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 splitt'st thine own.

CAMILLO.
I'll do't, my lord.

LEONTES.
I will seem friendly, as thou hast advis'd 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'd not do't; but since
Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment, bears not one,
Let villainy 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.

[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
Lov'd 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;
So leaves me to consider what is breeding
That changes 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 chang'd complexions are to me a mirror
Which shows me mine chang'd 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, experienc'd, 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 charg'd in honour, and by him
That I think honourable: therefore mark my counsel,
Which must be ev'n as swiftly follow'd as
I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me
Cry lost, and so goodnight!

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 yok'd 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 pil'd 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 his 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 this 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.]