Sicily. A room in the palace of Leontes.
(Leontes; Cleomines; Dion; Paulina; Servants; Florizel; Perdita; Lord)
The noblemen of Sicilia try to convince Leontes that he has does enough penance for his crimes, but Paulina encourages his continued feeling of guilt, taking every opportunity to mention his sins. The noblemen reproach her for it, questioning why she does not want the King to marry again and therefore provide them with an heir. Rejecting the idea that anyone could be worthy of replacing Hermione, and that the oracle forbids Leontes from marrying again, she makes the King swear not to marry again without her consent. A servant announces the arrival of Florizel and his bride, praising the latter almost to excess. Leontes welcomes them, recognizing Florizel’s resemblance to Polixenes in his youth. He is quite taken with Perdita. Florizel claims that he was sent by his father, and that Perdita is a Libyan princess he just married. Leontes extends his hospitality to them, but just at that moment an incredulous Sicilian lord reports that Polixenes himself has arrived in Sicilia and is demanding that his son be arrested, as his so-called “Libyan princess” is in fact merely a shepherd’s daughter. Florizel realizes that Camillo has betrayed them, and the lord confirms that Camillo is with Polixenes, and is presently interrogating the terrified Shepherd and his son, whom they found in Florizel’s train. Leontes is disappointed in Florizel for his unfilial actions, but the Prince begs himself to intervene on their behalf with Polixenes. Leontes admits to finding Perdita really rather toothsome, a train of thought quickly nixed by Paulina, and agrees to go greet Polixenes and see what can be done. (281 lines)
Enter Leontes, Cleomines, Dion, Paulina, Servants.
Sir, you have done enough, and have perform’d
A saint-like sorrow. No fault could you make
Which you have not redeem’d; indeed paid down
More penitence than done trespass. At the last
Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil,
With them, forgive yourself.
Whilest I remember
Her and her virtues, I cannot forget
My blemishes in them, and so still think of
The wrong I did myself; which was so much
That heirless it hath made my kingdom, and
Destroy’d the sweet’st companion that e’er man
Bred his hopes out of.
True, too true, my lord.
If, one by one, you wedded all the world,
Or, from the all that are, took something good
To make a perfect woman, she you kill’d
Would be unparallel’d.
I think so. Kill’d?
She I kill’d? I did so; but thou strik’st me
Sorely, to say I did. It is as bitter
Upon thy tongue as in my thought. Now, good now,
Say so but seldom.
Not at all, good lady.
You might have spoken a thousand things that would
Have done the time more benefit, and grac’d
Your kindness better.
You are one of those
Would have him wed again.
If you would not so,
You pity not the state, nor the remembrance
Of his most sovereign name; consider little
What dangers, by his Highness’ fail of issue,
May drop upon his kingdom, and devour
Incertain lookers-on. What were more holy
Than to rejoice the former queen is well?
What holier than, for royalty’s repair,
For present comfort, and for future good,
To bless the bed of majesty again
With a sweet fellow to’t?
There is none worthy,
Respecting her that’s gone. Besides, the gods
Will have fulfill’d their secret purposes;
For has not the divine Apollo said,
Is’t not the tenor of his oracle,
That King Leontes shall not have an heir
Till his lost child be found? Which that it shall,
Is all as monstrous to our human reason
As my Antigonus to break his grave,
And come again to me; who, on my life,
Did perish with the infant. ’Tis your counsel
My lord should to the heavens be contrary,
Oppose against their wills.
Care not for issue,
The crown will find an heir. Great Alexander
Left his to th’ worthiest; so his successor
Was like to be the best.
Who hast the memory of Hermione,
I know, in honor, O, that ever I
Had squar’d me to thy counsel! Then, even now,
I might have look’d upon my queen’s full eyes,
Have taken treasure from her lips—
And left them
More rich for what they yielded.
Thou speak’st truth:
No more such wives, therefore no wife. One worse,
And better us’d, would make her sainted spirit
Again possess her corpse, and on this stage
(Where we offenders now) appear soul-vex’d,
And begin, “Why to me—?”
Had she such power,
She had just cause.
She had, and would incense me
To murder her I married.
I should so:
Were I the ghost that walk’d, I’ld bid you mark
Her eye, and tell me for what dull part in’t
You chose her; then I’ld shriek, that even your ears
Should rift to hear me, and the words that follow’d
Should be “Remember mine.”
And all eyes else dead coals! Fear thou no wife;
I’ll have no wife, Paulina.
Will you swear
Never to marry but by my free leave?
Never, Paulina, so be bless’d my spirit!
Then, good my lords, bear witness to his oath.
You tempt him overmuch.
As like Hermione as is her picture,
Affront his eye.
I have done.
Yet if my lord will marry—if you will, sir,
No remedy but you will—give me the office
To choose you a queen. She shall not be so young
As was your former, but she shall be such
As (walk’d your first queen’s ghost) it should take joy
To see her in your arms.
My true Paulina,
We shall not marry till thou bid’st us.
Shall be when your first queen’s again in breath;
Never till then.
Enter First Servant.
One that gives out himself Prince Florizel,
Son of Polixenes, with his princess (she
The fairest I have yet beheld), desires access
To your high presence.
What with him? He comes not
Like to his father’s greatness. His approach,
So out of circumstance and sudden, tells us
’Tis not a visitation fram’d, but forc’d
By need and accident. What train?
And those but mean.
His princess, say you, with him?
Ay; the most peerless piece of earth, I think,
That e’er the sun shone bright on.
As every present time doth boast itself
Above a better gone, so must thy grave
Give way to what’s seen now! Sir, you yourself
Have said and writ so, but your writing now
Is colder than that theme, “She had not been,
Nor was not to be equall’d”—thus your verse
Flow’d with her beauty once. ’Tis shrewdly ebb’d,
To say you have seen a better.
The one I have almost forgot—your pardon—
The other, when she has obtain’d your eye,
Will have your tongue too. This is a creature,
Would she begin a sect, might quench the zeal
Of all professors else, make proselytes
Of who she but bid follow.
How? Not women?
Women will love her, that she is a woman
More worth than any man; men, that she is
The rarest of all women.
Yourself, assisted with your honor’d friends,
Bring them to our embracement.
Exeunt Cleomines and others.
Still, ’tis strange
He thus should steal upon us.
Had our prince,
Jewel of children, seen this hour, he had pair’d
Well with this lord; there was not full a month
Between their births.
Prithee no more; cease. Thou know’st
He dies to me again when talk’d of. Sure
When I shall see this gentleman, thy speeches
Will bring me to consider that which may
Unfurnish me of reason. They are come.
Enter Florizel, Perdita, Cleomines, and others.
Your mother was most true to wedlock, Prince,
For she did print your royal father off,
Conceiving you. Were I but twenty-one,
Your father’s image is so hit in you
(His very air) that I should call you brother,
As I did him, and speak of something wildly
By us perform’d before. Most dearly welcome!
And your fair princess—goddess! O! Alas,
I lost a couple, that ’twixt heaven and earth
Might thus have stood, begetting wonder, as
You, gracious couple, do; and then I lost
(All mine own folly) the society,
Amity too, of your brave father, whom
(Though bearing misery) I desire my life
Once more to look on him.
By his command
Have I here touch’d Sicilia, and from him
Give you all greetings that a king (at friend)
Can send his brother; and but infirmity
(Which waits upon worn times) hath something seiz’d
His wish’d ability, he had himself
The lands and waters ’twixt your throne and his
Measur’d to look upon you; whom he loves
(He bade me say so) more than all the sceptres,
And those that bear them, living.
O my brother,
Good gentleman! The wrongs I have done thee stir
Afresh within me, and these thy offices,
So rarely kind, are as interpreters
Of my behind-hand slackness.—Welcome hither,
As is the spring to th’ earth. And hath he too
Expos’d this paragon to th’ fearful usage
(At least ungentle) of the dreadful Neptune,
To greet a man not worth her pains, much less
Th’ adventure of her person?
Good my lord,
She came from Libya.
Where the warlike Smalus,
That noble honor’d lord, is fear’d and lov’d?
Most royal sir, from thence; from him, whose daughter
His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her; thence
(A prosperous south-wind friendly) we have cross’d,
To execute the charge my father gave me
For visiting your Highness. My best train
I have from your Sicilian shores dismiss’d;
Who for Bohemia bend, to signify
Not only my success in Libya, sir,
But my arrival, and my wife’s, in safety
Here, where we are.
The blessed gods
Purge all infection from our air whilest you
Do climate here! You have a holy father,
A graceful gentleman, against whose person
(So sacred as it is) I have done sin,
For which the heavens, taking angry note,
Have left me issueless; and your father’s bless’d
(As he from heaven merits it) with you,
Worthy his goodness. What might I have been,
Might I a son and daughter now have look’d on,
Such goodly things as you?
Enter a Lord.
Most noble sir,
That which I shall report will bear no credit,
Were not the proof so nigh. Please you, great sir,
Bohemia greets you from himself by me;
Desires you to attach his son, who has
(His dignity and duty both cast off)
Fled from his father, from his hopes, and with
A shepherd’s daughter.
Where’s Bohemia? Speak.
Here, in your city; I now came from him.
I speak amazedly, and it becomes
My marvel and my message. To your court
Whiles he was hast’ning (in the chase, it seems,
Of this fair couple), meets he on the way
The father of this seeming lady, and
Her brother, having both their country quitted
With this young prince.
Camillo has betray’d me;
Whose honor and whose honesty till now
Endur’d all weathers.
Lay’t so to his charge:
He’s with the King your father.
Camillo, sir; I spake with him; who now
Has these poor men in question. Never saw I
Wretches so quake: they kneel, they kiss the earth;
Forswear themselves as often as they speak.
Bohemia stops his ears, and threatens them
With divers deaths in death.
O my poor father!
The heaven sets spies upon us, will not have
Our contract celebrated.
You are married?
We are not, sir, nor are we like to be.
The stars, I see, will kiss the valleys first;
The odds for high and low’s alike.
Is this the daughter of a king?
When once she is my wife.
That “once,” I see, by your good father’s speed,
Will come on very slowly. I am sorry,
Most sorry, you have broken from his liking,
Where you were tied in duty; and as sorry
Your choice is not so rich in worth as beauty,
That you might well enjoy her.
Dear, look up.
Though Fortune, visible an enemy,
Should chase us with my father, pow’r no jot
Hath she to change our loves. Beseech you, sir,
Remember since you ow’d no more to time
Than I do now. With thought of such affections,
Step forth mine advocate. At your request
My father will grant precious things as trifles.
Would he do so, I’ld beg your precious mistress,
Which he counts but a trifle.
Sir, my liege,
Your eye hath too much youth in’t. Not a month
’Fore your queen died, she was more worth such gazes
Than what you look on now.
I thought of her,
Even in these looks I made.
But your petition
Is yet unanswer’d. I will to your father.
Your honor not o’erthrown by your desires,
I am friend to them and you. Upon which errand
I now go toward him; therefore follow me,
And mark what way I make. Come, good my lord.