Sicilia. A room in Leontes’ palace.
(Leontes; Servants; Paulina; Child; Antigonus; Lords)
Sleepless, Leontes worries about Mamillius, who has fallen ill. The King supposes that it the knowledge of his mother’s dishonor that has made him sick. Restless, trying to take his mind off the image of Polixenes and Camillo laughing at him, he asks to be left alone, but Paulina forces her way in, despite the best efforts of her husband Antigonus and the other lords. Leontes tells Antigonus to control his wife and sneers at him as a henpecked old fool when he says he cannot. Carrying the new-born baby, Paulina courageously asserts Hermione’s complete innocence to Leontes, and presents the child to him. He rejects it as being Polixenes’s bastard and begins to rave against Hermione, the child, and Paulina, threatening to have her burnt as a witch. She calls him a tyrant to his face. Leontes orders Antigonus to take the baby and burnt it, accusing him of encouraging Paulina, but he protests that he did not, which the other lords confirm. When Antigonus promises he would do anything to prefer the baby’s being killed, Leontes orders him to take it and abandon it in some desert place. Unwilling though he is, Antigonus swears to do so and leaves with the baby as Leontes reaffirms his unwillingness to raise someone else’s child. News comes that Dion and Cleomines have returned from Delphi with the oracle’s answer; Leontes orders that a public trial of Hermione be arranged. (245 lines)
Enter Leontes; Servants keeping the door.
Nor night, nor day, no rest. It is but weakness
To bear the matter thus—mere weakness. If
The cause were not in being—part o’ th’ cause,
She th’ adult’ress; for the harlot king
Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank
And level of my brain, plot-proof; but she
I can hook to me—say that she were gone,
Given to the fire, a moi’ty of my rest
Might come to me again. Who’s there?
How does the boy?
He took good rest tonight;
’Tis hop’d his sickness is discharg’d.
To see his nobleness,
Conceiving the dishonor of his mother!
He straight declin’d, droop’d, took it deeply,
Fasten’d and fix’d the shame on’t in himself,
Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,
And downright languish’d. Leave me solely; go,
See how he fares.
Exit First Servant.
Fie, fie, no thought of him;
The very thought of my revenges that way
Recoil upon me: in himself too mighty,
And in his parties, his alliance. Let him be,
Until a time may serve. For present vengeance,
Take it on her. Camillo and Polixenes
Laugh at me; make their pastime at my sorrow:
They should not laugh if I could reach them, nor
Shall she, within my pow’r.
Enter Paulina with a child; Antigonus and Lords endeavoring to hold her back.
You must not enter.
Nay, rather, good my lords, be second to me.
Fear you his tyrannous passion more, alas,
Than the Queen’s life? A gracious innocent soul,
More free than he is jealous.
Madam—he hath not slept tonight, commanded
None should come at him.
Not so hot, good sir,
I come to bring him sleep. ’Tis such as you,
That creep like shadows by him, and do sigh
At each his needless heavings, such as you
Nourish the cause of his awaking. I
Do come with words as medicinal as true,
Honest as either, to purge him of that humor
That presses him from sleep.
What noise there, ho?
No noise, my lord, but needful conference
About some gossips for your Highness.
Away with that audacious lady! Antigonus,
I charg’d thee that she should not come about me:
I knew she would.
I told her so, my lord,
On your displeasure’s peril and on mine,
She should not visit you.
What? Canst not rule her?
From all dishonesty he can. In this,
Unless he take the course that you have done—
Commit me for committing honor—trust it,
He shall not rule me.
La you now, you hear!
When she will take the rein I let her run,
But she’ll not stumble.
Good my liege, I come—
And I beseech you hear me, who professes
Myself your loyal servant, your physician,
Your most obedient counsellor; yet that dares
Less appear so, in comforting your evils,
Than such as most seem yours—I say, I come
From your good queen.
Good queen, my lord, good queen, I say good queen,
And would by combat make her good, so were I
A man, the worst about you.
Force her hence.
Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes
First hand me. On mine own accord I’ll off,
But first I’ll do my errand. The good queen
(For she is good) hath brought you forth a daughter—
Here ’tis—commends it to your blessing.
Laying down the child.
A mankind witch! Hence with her, out o’ door!
A most intelligencing bawd!
I am as ignorant in that, as you
In so entit’ling me; and no less honest
Than you are mad; which is enough, I’ll warrant
(As this world goes), to pass for honest.
Will you not push her out?
Give her the bastard,
Thou dotard, thou art woman-tir’d; unroosted
By thy Dame Partlet here. Take up the bastard,
Take’t up, I say; give’t to thy crone.
Unvenerable be thy hands, if thou
Tak’st up the Princess by that forced baseness
Which he has put upon’t!
He dreads his wife.
So I would you did; then ’twere past all doubt
You’ld call your children yours.
A nest of traitors!
I am none, by this good light.
Nor I, nor any
But one that’s here—and that’s himself; for he
The sacred honor of himself, his queen’s,
His hopeful son’s, his babe’s, betrays to slander,
Whose sting is sharper than the sword’s, and will not
(For as the case now stands, it is a curse
He cannot be compell’d to’t) once remove
The root of his opinion, which is rotten
As ever oak or stone was sound.
Of boundless tongue, who late hath beat her husband,
And now baits me! This brat is none of mine,
It is the issue of Polixenes.
Hence with it, and together with the dam
Commit them to the fire!
It is yours:
And might we lay th’ old proverb to your charge,
So like you, ’tis the worse. Behold, my lords,
Although the print be little, the whole matter
And copy of the father—eye, nose, lip,
The trick of ’s frown, his forehead, nay, the valley,
The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek, his smiles,
The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger.
And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it
So like to him that got it, if thou hast
The ordering of the mind too, ’mongst all colors
No yellow in’t, lest she suspect, as he does,
Her children not her husband’s!
A gross hag!
And, lozel, thou art worthy to be hang’d,
That wilt not stay her tongue.
Hang all the husbands
That cannot do that feat, you’ll leave yourself
Hardly one subject.
Once more, take her hence.
A most unworthy and unnatural lord
Can do no more.
I’ll ha’ thee burnt.
I care not:
It is an heretic that makes the fire,
Not she which burns in’t. I’ll not call you tyrant;
But this most cruel usage of your queen
(Not able to produce more accusation
Than your own weak-hing’d fancy) something savors
Of tyranny, and will ignoble make you,
Yea, scandalous to the world.
On your allegiance,
Out of the chamber with her! Were I a tyrant,
Where were her life? She durst not call me so,
If she did know me one. Away with her!
I pray you do not push me, I’ll be gone.
Look to your babe, my lord, ’tis yours. Jove send her
A better guiding spirit! What needs these hands?
You, that are thus so tender o’er his follies,
Will never do him good, not one of you.
So, so. Farewell, we are gone.
Thou, traitor, hast set on thy wife to this.
My child? Away with’t! Even thou, that hast
A heart so tender o’er it, take it hence,
And see it instantly consum’d with fire.
Even thou, and none but thou. Take it up straight.
Within this hour bring me word ’tis done
(And by good testimony), or I’ll seize thy life,
With what thou else call’st thine. If thou refuse
And wilt encounter with my wrath, say so;
The bastard brains with these my proper hands
Shall I dash out. Go, take it to the fire,
For thou set’st on thy wife.
I did not, sir.
These lords, my noble fellows, if they please,
Can clear me in’t.
We can. My royal liege,
He is not guilty of her coming hither.
You’re liars all.
Beseech your Highness, give us better credit.
We have always truly serv’d you, and beseech’
So to esteem of us; and on our knees we beg
(As recompense of our dear services
Past and to come) that you do change this purpose,
Which being so horrible, so bloody, must
Lead on to some foul issue. We all kneel.
I am a feather for each wind that blows.
Shall I live on to see this bastard kneel
And call me father? Better burn it now
Than curse it then. But be it; let it live.
It shall not neither.
You, sir, come you hither:
You that have been so tenderly officious
With Lady Margery, your midwife there,
To save this bastard’s life—for ’tis a bastard,
So sure as this beard’s grey—what will you adventure
To save this brat’s life?
Any thing, my lord,
That my ability may undergo
And nobleness impose; at least thus much:
I’ll pawn the little blood which I have left
To save the innocent—any thing possible.
It shall be possible. Swear by this sword
Thou wilt perform my bidding.
I will, my lord.
Mark and perform it—seest thou? For the fail
Of any point in’t shall not only be
Death to thyself but to thy lewd-tongu’d wife,
Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,
As thou art liegeman to us, that thou carry
This female bastard hence, and that thou bear it
To some remote and desert place quite out
Of our dominions, and that there thou leave it
(Without more mercy) to it own protection,
And favor of the climate. As by strange fortune
It came to us, I do in justice charge thee,
On thy soul’s peril, and thy body’s torture,
That thou commend it strangely to some place
Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.
I swear to do this—though a present death
Had been more merciful. Come on, poor babe.
Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens
To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say,
Casting their savageness aside, have done
Like offices of pity. Sir, be prosperous
In more than this deed does require! And blessing
Against this cruelty fight on thy side,
Poor thing, condemn’d to loss!
Exit with the child.
No! I’ll not rear
Enter Third Servant.
Please’ your Highness, posts
From those you sent to th’ oracle are come
An hour since. Cleomines and Dion,
Being well arriv’d from Delphos, are both landed,
Hasting to th’ court.
So please you, sir, their speed
Hath been beyond accompt.
They have been absent. ’Tis good speed; foretells
The great Apollo suddenly will have
The truth of this appear. Prepare you, lords,
Summon a session, that we may arraign
Our most disloyal lady; for as she hath
Been publicly accus’d, so shall she have
A just and open trial. While she lives
My heart will be a burden to me. Leave me,
And think upon my bidding.