The Winter's Tale :: Scenes :: The Winter's Tale: Act II, Scene 1
Scene 1Sicilia. A room in Leontes’ palace.Queen HermioneMamilliusFirst LadySecond LadyLeontesAntigonusLordsMamillius is playing in the company of his mother and her ladies, whom he is quickly outgrowing. Hermione tries to calm him down by asking him to tell her a tale; just as he’s about to tell a horror story, Leontes bursts in with the lords of his court and orders Hermione’s arrest for adultery. He has Mamillius carried off to avoid his being infected by her mother. He accuses her of treason, of Camillo being he raccomplice, his evidence being that Camillo has fled with Polixenes. Leontes’s lords, led by Antigonus, beg him to show her mercy as she is escorted out with her ladies, but he insists that he has all the proof he needs to condemn her. To prove he is no tyrant, Leontes points out that he has sent emissaries to the oracle at Delphi to question Apollo about the truth of the case. He himself is quite convinced, but he is sure that the oracle will convert the skeptics of his court. Antigonus comments that they are likely to become the laughingstock of the world.Enter Hermione, Mamillius, Ladies.HER.MAM.1. LADY2. LADYHER.Take the boy to you; he so troubles me,’Tis past enduring.1. LADYCome, my gracious lord,Shall I be your playfellow?MAM.No, I’ll none of you.1. LADYWhy, my sweet lord?MAM.You’ll kiss me hard and speak to me as ifI were a baby still.—I love you better.2. LADYAnd why so, my lord?MAM.Not for becauseYour brows are blacker, yet black brows they sayBecome some women best, so that there be notToo much hair there, but in a semicircle,Or a half-moon made with a pen.2. LADYWho taught’ this?MAM.I learn’d it out of women’s faces. Pray nowWhat color are your eyebrows?1. LADYBlue, my lord.MAM.Nay, that’s a mock. I have seen a lady’s noseThat has been blue, but not her eyebrows.1. LADYHark ye,The Queen your mother rounds apace: we shallPresent our services to a fine new princeOne of these days, and then you’ld wanton with us,If we would have you.2. LADYShe is spread of lateInto a goodly bulk. Good time encounter her!HER.What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, nowI 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 oneOf sprites and goblins.HER.Let’s have that, good sir.Come on, sit down, come on, and do your bestTo fright me with your sprites; you’re pow’rful at it.MAM.There was a man—HER.Nay, come sit down; then on.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, Antigonus, Lords, and others.LEON.Was he met there? His train? Camillo with him?1. LORD.Behind the tuft of pines I met them; neverSaw I men scour so on their way. I ey’d themEven to their ships.LEON.How blest am IIn my just censure! In my true opinion!Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accurs’dIn being so blest! There may be in the cupA spider steep’d, and one may drink; depart,And yet partake no venom (for his knowledgeIs not infected), but if one presentTh’ abhorr’d ingredient to his eye, make knownHow 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 pandar.There is a plot against my life, my crown;All’s true that is mistrusted. That false villainWhom I employ’d was pre-employ’d by him:He has discover’d my design, and IRemain a pinch’d thing; yea, a very trickFor them to play at will. How came the posternsSo easily open?1. LORD.By his great authority,Which often hath no less prevail’d than soOn 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 youHave too much blood in him.HER.What is this? Sport?LEON.Bear the boy hence, he shall not come about her.Away with him! And let her sport herselfWith that she’s big with, for ’tis PolixenesHas made thee swell thus.HER.But I’d say he had not;And I’ll be sworn you would believe my saying,Howe’er you lean to th’ nayward.LEON.You, my lords,Look on her, mark her well; be but aboutTo say she is a goodly lady, andThe justice of your hearts will thereto add’Tis pity she’s not honest—honorable.Praise her but for this her without-door form(Which on my faith deserves high speech) and straightThe shrug, the hum or ha (these petty brandsThat calumny doth use—O, I am out—That mercy does, for calumny will searVirtue itself), these shrugs, these hums and ha’s,When you have said she’s goodly, come betweenEre you can say she’s honest: but be’t known(From him that has most cause to grieve it should be)She’s an adult’ress.HER.Should a villain say so,The most replenish’d villain in the world,He were as much more villain: you, my lord,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 outBetwixt the prince and beggar. I have saidShe’s an adult’ress, I have said with whom:More—she’s a traitor, and Camillo isA federary with her, and one that knowsWhat she should shame to know herself,But with her most vild principal—that she’sA bed-swerver, even as bad as thoseThat vulgars give bold’st titles; ay, and privyTo 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, thatYou thus have publish’d me! Gentle my lord,You scarce can right me throughly, then, to sayYou did mistake.LEON.No; if I mistakeIn those foundations which I build upon,The centre is not big enough to bearA schoolboy’s top. Away with her, to prison!He who shall speak for her is afar off guiltyBut that he speaks.HER.There’s some ill planet reigns;I must be patient, till the heavens lookWith an aspect more favorable. Good my lords,I am not prone to weeping, as our sexCommonly are, the want of which vain dewPerchance shall dry your pities; but I haveThat honorable grief lodg’d here which burnsWorse than tears drown. Beseech you all, my lords,With thoughts so qualified as your charitiesShall best instruct you, measure me; and soThe King’s will be perform’d!LEON.Shall I be heard?HER.Who is’t that goes with me? Beseech your HighnessMy women may be with me, for you seeMy plight requires it. Do not weep, good fools,There is no cause. When you shall know your mistressHas deserv’d prison, then abound in tearsAs I come out; this action I now go onIs for my better grace. Adieu, my lord,I never wish’d to see you sorry, nowI trust I shall. My women, come, you have leave.LEON.Go, do our bidding; hence!Exit Queen guarded, with Ladies.1. LORD.Beseech your Highness call the Queen again.ANT.Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justiceProve violence, in the which three great ones suffer,Yourself, your queen, your son.1. LORD.For her, my lord,I dare my life lay down—and will do’t, sir,Please you t’ accept it—that the Queen is spotlessI’ th’eyes of heaven and to you—I mean,In this which you accuse her.ANT.If it proveShe’s otherwise, I’ll keep my stables whereI 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.1. LORD.Good my lord—ANT.It is for you we speak, not for ourselves.You are abus’d, and by some putter-onThat 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 seeTo bring false generations. They are co-heirs,And I had rather glib myself than theyShould not produce fair issue.LEON.Cease, no more.You smell this business with a sense as coldAs is a dead man’s nose; but I do see’t, and feel’t,As you feel doing thusGrasps his arm.—and see withalThe 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 sweetenOf the whole dungy earth.LEON.What? Lack I credit?1. LORD.I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,Upon this ground; and more it would content meTo have her honor true than your suspicion,Be blam’d for’t how you might.LEON.Why, what need weCommune with you of this, but rather followOur forceful instigation? Our prerogativeCalls not your counsels, but our natural goodnessImparts this; which if you—or stupefiedOr seeming so in skill—cannot, or will not,Relish a truth like us, inform yourselvesWe need no more of your advice. The matter,The loss, the gain, the ord’ring on’t, is allProperly ours.ANT.And I wish, my liege,You had only in your silent judgment 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 approbationBut only seeing, all other circumstancesMade up to th’ deed), doth push on this proceeding.Yet, for a greater confirmation(For in an act of this importance ’twereMost piteous to be wild), I have dispatch’d in postTo sacred Delphos, to Apollo’s temple,Cleomines and Dion, whom you knowOf stuff’d sufficiency. Now, from the oracleThey will bring all, whose spiritual counsel had,Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?1. LORD.Well done, my lord.LEON.Though I am satisfied, and need no moreThan what I know, yet shall the oracleGive rest to th’ minds of others—such as he,Points at Antigonus.Whose ignorant credulity will notCome up to th’ truth. So have we thought it goodFrom our free person she should be confin’d,Lest that the treachery of the two fled henceBe left her to perform. Come follow us,We are to speak in public; for this businessWill raise us all.ANT.Aside.ANT.To laughter, as I take it,If the good truth were known.Exeunt.


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