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The Winter's Tale Scenes

Scene 2

Bohemia. A room in the palace of Polixenes.

(Polixenes; Camillo)

Camillo seeks Polixenes’s permission to return to Sicilia, but Polixenes orders him to stay, as he still needs his services — and, for that matter, does not want to hear about Sicilia. He asks Camillo whether he knows where Florizel is, but all Camillo knows is that he has often been absent of late. Polixenes has found out that the Prince has been spending a lot of time at the house of a poor shepherd who sixteen years ago became extremely rich, without anyone knowing how. Camillo knows of this shepherd, and also of his daughter. Polixenes fears that the girl is what is drawing Florizel. They decide to disguise themselves to spy on Florizel. (9 lines)

Enter Polixenes and Camillo.


I pray thee, good Camillo, be no more importunate. ’Tis a sickness denying thee any thing; a death to grant this.


It is fifteen years since I saw my country; though I have for the most part been air’d abroad, I desire to lay my bones there. Besides, the penitent King, my master, hath sent for me, to whose feeling sorrows I might be some allay (or I o’erween to think so), which is another spur to my departure.


As thou lov’st me, Camillo, wipe not out the rest of thy services by leaving me now. The need I have of thee, thine own goodness hath made. Better not to have had thee than thus to want thee. Thou, having made me businesses which none without thee can sufficiently manage, must either stay to execute them thyself, or take away with thee the very services thou hast done; which if I have not enough consider’d (as too much I cannot), to be more thankful to thee shall be my study, and my profit therein the heaping friendships. Of that fatal country Sicilia, prithee speak no more, whose very naming punishes me with the remembrance of that penitent (as thou call’st him) and reconcil’d king, my brother, whose loss of his most precious queen and children are even now to be afresh lamented. Say to me, when saw’st thou the Prince Florizel, my son? Kings are no less unhappy, their issue not being gracious, than they are in losing them when they have approv’d their virtues.


Sir, it is three days since I saw the Prince. What his happier affairs may be, are to me unknown; but I have (missingly) noted, he is of late much retir’d from court, and is less frequent to his princely exercises than formerly he hath appear’d.


I have consider’d so much, Camillo, and with some care, so far that I have eyes under my service which look upon his removedness; from whom I have this intelligence, that he is seldom from the house of a most homely shepherd, a man, they say, that from very nothing, and beyond the imagination of his neighbors, is grown into an unspeakable estate.


I have heard, sir, of such a man, who hath a daughter of most rare note. The report of her is extended more than can be thought to begin from such a cottage.


That’s likewise part of my intelligence; but (I fear) the angle that plucks our son thither. Thou shalt accompany us to the place, where we will (not appearing what we are) have some question with the shepherd; from whose simplicity I think it not uneasy to get the cause of my son’s resort thither. Prithee be my present partner in this business, and lay aside the thoughts of Sicilia.


I willingly obey your command.


My best Camillo! We must disguise ourselves.



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