Bohemia. A road near the shepherd’s cottage.
Autolycus, pickpocket, conman and rogue, sings to himself as he wanders along. He has recently been dismissed from Florizel’s service, but he has no fears for his future. The Clown comes alone, having been sent by his sister Perdita to fetch supplies for the sheep-shearing festival that she is hosting. Autolycus immediately pretends to have been beaten and robbed, naming his aggressor as one Autolycus. As the Clown helps him up Autolycus picks his pocket before refusing his offer of money. As the Clown goes off to market, Autolycus promises himself to go to the sheep-shearing, as there will be many opportunities for theft there. (61 lines)
Enter Autolycus singing.
When daffodils begin to peer,
With heigh, the doxy over the dale!
Why, then comes in the sweet o’ the year,
For the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.
The white sheet bleaching on the hedge,
With hey, the sweet birds, O how they sing!
Doth set my pugging tooth an edge,
For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.
The lark, that tirra-lyra chaunts,
With heigh, with heigh, the thrush and the jay!
Are summer songs for me and my aunts,
While we lie tumbling in the hay.
I have serv’d Prince Florizel, and in my time wore three-pile, but now I am out of service.
But shall I go mourn for that, my dear?
The pale moon shines by night;
And when I wander here and there,
I then do most go right.
If tinkers may have leave to live,
And bear the sow-skin bouget,
Then my account I well may give,
And in the stocks avouch it.
My traffic is sheets; when the kite builds, look to lesser linen. My father nam’d me Autolycus, who being, as I am, litter’d under Mercury, was likewise a snapper-up of unconsider’d trifles. With die and drab I purchas’d this caparison, and my revenue is the silly cheat. Gallows and knock are too powerful on the highway. Beating and hanging are terrors to me. For the life to come, I sleep out the thought of it. A prize, a prize!
Let me see: every ’leven wether tods, every tod yields pound and odd shilling; fifteen hundred shorn, what comes the wool to?
If the springe hold, the cock’s mine.
I cannot do’t without compters. Let me see: what am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pound of sugar, five pound of currants, rice—what will this sister of mine do with rice? But my father hath made her mistress of the feast, and she lays it on. She hath made me four and twenty nosegays for the shearers (three-man song-men all, and very good ones), but they are most of them means and bases; but one Puritan amongst them, and he sings psalms to horn-pipes. I must have saffron to color the warden pies; mace; dates, none—that’s out of my note; nut-megs, seven; a race or two of ginger, but that I may beg; four pounds of pruins, and as many of raisins o’ th’ sun.
O that ever I was born!
Grovelling on the ground.
I’ th’ name of me—
O, help me, help me! Pluck but off these rags; and then, death, death!
Alack, poor soul, thou hast need of more rags to lay on thee, rather than have these off.
O sir, the loathsomeness of them offend me more than the stripes I have receiv’d, which are mighty ones and millions.
Alas, poor man, a million of beating may come to a great matter.
I am robb’d, sir, and beaten; my money and apparel ta’en from me, and these detestable things put upon me.
What, by a horseman, or a footman?
A footman, sweet sir, a footman.
Indeed, he should be a footman by the garments he has left with thee. If this be a horseman’s coat, it hath seen very hot service. Lend me thy hand, I’ll help thee. Come, lend me thy hand.
O good sir, tenderly, O!
Alas, poor soul!
O good sir, softly, good sir! I fear, sir, my shoulder-blade is out.
How now? Canst stand?
Softly, dear sir;
Picking his pocket
good sir, softly. You ha’ done me a charitable office.
Dost lack any money? I have a little money for thee.
No, good sweet sir; no, I beseech you, sir. I have a kinsman not past three quarters of a mile hence, unto whom I was going. I shall there have money, or any thing I want, Offer me no money, I pray you, that kills my heart.
What manner of fellow was he that robb’d you?
A fellow, sir, that I have known to go about with troll-my-dames. I knew him once a servant of the Prince. I cannot tell, good sir, for which of his virtues it was, but he was certainly whipt out of the court.
His vices, you would say; there’s no virtue whipt out of the court. They cherish it to make it stay there; and yet it will no more but abide.
Vices, I would say, sir. I know this man well; he hath been since an ape-bearer, then a process-server, a bailiff, then he compass’d a motion of the Prodigal Son, and married a tinker’s wife within a mile where my land and living lies; and, having flown over many knavish professions, he settled only in rogue. Some call him Autolycus.
Out upon him! Prig, for my life, prig! He haunts wakes, fairs, and bear-baitings.
Very true, sir; he, sir, he. That’s the rogue that put me into this apparel.
Not a more cowardly rogue in all Bohemia. If you had but look’d big, and spit at him, he’ld have run.
I must confess to you, sir, I am no fighter. I am false of heart that way, and that he knew, I warrant him.
How do you now?
Sweet sir, much better than I was: I can stand and walk. I will even take my leave of you, and pace softly towards my kinsman’s.
Shall I bring thee on the way?
No, good-fac’d sir, no, sweet sir.
Then fare thee well, I must go buy spices for our sheep-shearing.
Prosper you, sweet sir! Your purse is not hot enough to purchase your spice. I’ll be with you at your sheep-shearing too. If I make not this cheat bring out another, and the shearers prove sheep, let me be unroll’d, and my name put in the book of virtue!
Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a;
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.