Sicilia. The outer room of a prison.
(Paulina; Gentleman Attendant; Attendants; Jailer; Emilia)
Paulina attempts to visit Hermione in prison, but the Jailer refuses to let her, citing his orders. He agrees to let Hermione’s lady-in-waiting Emilia come out instead. Emilia informs Paulina that the Queen has prematurely given birth to a healthy child, a daughter. Certain that the sight of the baby will soften Leontes’s heart, Paulina suggests that she should take the baby to the King and plead for Hermione’s pardon. The Jailer is uncertain whether he has any authority to let the baby leave the jail, but Paulina convinces him that he can legally do so. (80 lines)
Enter Paulina, a Gentleman, and Attendants.
The keeper of the prison, call to him;
Let him have knowledge who I am.
No court in Europe is too good for thee,
What dost thou then in prison?
Enter Gentleman with the Jailer.
Now, good sir,
You know me, do you not?
For a worthy lady,
And one who much I honor.
Pray you then,
Conduct me to the Queen.
I may not, madam:
To the contrary I have express commandment.
Here’s ado, to lock up honesty
And honor from th’ access of gentle visitors.
Is’t lawful, pray you, to see her women?
Any of them? Emilia?
So please you, madam,
To put apart these your attendants, I
Shall bring Emilia forth.
I pray now call her.—
Exeunt Gentleman and Attendants.
And, madam, I must
Be present at your conference.
Well; be’t so; prithee.
Here’s such ado to make no stain a stain
As passes coloring.
Enter Jailer with Emilia.
How fares our gracious lady?
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.
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.”
I dare be sworn.
These dangerous, unsafe lunes i’ th’ 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 th’ loud’st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight o’ th’ child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades when speaking fails.
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 today hammered of this design,
But durst not tempt a minister of honor,
Lest she should be denied.
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.
Now be you blest for it!
I’ll to the Queen.—Please you, come something nearer.
Madam, if’t please the Queen to send the babe,
I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
Having no warrant.
You need not fear it, sir.
This child was prisoner to the womb, and is
By law and process of great Nature thence
Freed and enfranchis’d, not a party to
The anger of the King, nor guilty of
(If any be) the trespass of the Queen.
I do believe it.
Do not you fear. Upon mine honor, I
Will stand betwixt you and danger.