The Winter's Tale "Lying Becomes None But Tradesmen"

William Shakespeare

"Lying Becomes None But Tradesmen"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Perdita, banished to a desert as a bastard by her father King Leontes of Sicilia, is reared by a shepherd in Bohemia. Now sixteen, Perdita is courted by Florizel, son of Polixenes, King of Bohemia and one-time friend of Leontes who falsely accused him of adultery with Queen Hermione of Sicilia. Since Polixenes is incensed at the idea of the marriage of the shepherdess Perdita and his son Florizel, the youth plans to elope with Perdita, disguising himself by exchanging clothes with Autolycus, a vender. Perdita's guardian shepherd, fearing for his life, goes to Polixenes with a bundle, containing evidence of Perdita's royal birth, but he and the clown who accompanies him are accosted by Autolycus:


AUTOLYCUS
Your affairs there? What? With whom? The condition of that fardel? The place of your dwelling? Your names, your ages, of what having, breeding, and any thing that is fitting to be known–discover.
CLOWN
We are but plain fellows, sir.
AUTOLYCUS
A lie; you are rough, and hairy. Let me have no lying. It becomes none but tradesmen, 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 lie.