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The Winter's Tale Scenes

Scene 3

Bohemia. A desert country near the sea.

(Antigonus; Mariner; Child; Bear; Old Shepherd; Clown)

Antigonus lands on the sea-coast of Bohemia with the baby. He is warned by the mariner who brought him there that a storm is coming and that the area is known for being inhabited by beasts of prey. Setting the baby down, Antigonus tells it how he had a vision of Hermione that told him to bring the child to Bohemia and to name it Perdita, and also that because he agreed to do this task he wold never see his wife again. He lays Perdita down with a scroll and a bundle beside her and prepares to leave as the storm begins. He is chased off by a bear. A shepherd enters, complaining about hot-headed youth, and finds Perdita, whom he presumes to be the child of some waiting-woman who was forced to hide it. His son the Clown enters and recounts how he saw a ship be wrecked by the storm and Antigonus being eaten alive by the bear. Discovering the gold that Antigonus left with Perdita, they decide to keep both child and gold. The Clown goes off to see if the bear’s done with Antigonus yet, and whether there’s anything left to bury. (81 lines)

Enter Antigonus and a Mariner with the babe.


Thou art perfect then, our ship hath touch’d upon

The deserts of Bohemia?


Ay, my lord, and fear

We have landed in ill time: the skies look grimly,

And threaten present blusters. In my conscience,

The heavens with that we have in hand are angry,

And frown upon ’s.


Their sacred wills be done! Go get aboard;

Look to thy bark, I’ll not be long before

I call upon thee.


Make your best haste, and go not

Too far i’ th’ land; ’tis like to be loud weather.

Besides, this place is famous for the creatures

Of prey that keep upon’t.


Go thou away,

I’ll follow instantly.


I am glad at heart

To be so rid o’ th’ business.



Come, poor babe.

I have heard (but not believ’d) the spirits o’ th’ dead

May walk again. If such thing be, thy mother

Appear’d to me last night; for ne’er was dream

So like a waking. To me comes a creature,

Sometimes her head on one side, some another—

I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,

So fill’d, and so becoming; in pure white robes,

Like very sanctity, she did approach

My cabin where I lay; thrice bow’d before me,

And (gasping to begin some speech) her eyes

Became two spouts; the fury spent, anon

Did this break from her: “Good Antigonus,

Since fate (against thy better disposition)

Hath made thy person for the thrower-out

Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,

Places remote enough are in Bohemia,

There weep and leave it crying; and for the babe

Is counted lost forever, Perdita

I prithee call’t. For this ungentle business,

Put on thee by my lord, thou ne’er shalt see

Thy wife Paulina more.” And so, with shrieks,

She melted into air. Affrighted much,

I did in time collect myself and thought

This was so, and no slumber. Dreams are toys,

Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,

I will be squar’d by this. I do believe

Hermione hath suffer’d death, and that

Apollo would (this being indeed the issue

Of King Polixenes) it should here be laid,

Either for life or death, upon the earth

Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well!

Laying down the child, with a scroll.

There lie, and there thy character; there these,

Placing a bundle beside it.

Which may, if Fortune please, both breed thee, pretty,

And still rest thine.


The storm begins. Poor wretch,

That for thy mother’s fault art thus expos’d

To loss, and what may follow! Weep I cannot,

But my heart bleeds; and most accurs’d am I

To be by oath enjoin’d to this. Farewell!

The day frowns more and more; thou’rt like to have

A lullaby too rough. I never saw

The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamor!

Well may I get aboard! This is the chase;

I am gone forever.

Exit pursued by a bear.

Enter Shepherd.


I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting—


Hark you now! Would any but these boil’d-brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather? They have scar’d away two of my best sheep, which I fear the wolf will sooner find than the master. If any where I have them, ’tis by the sea-side, browsing of ivy. Good luck, and’t be thy will! What have we here? Mercy on ’s, a barne? A very pretty barne! A boy, or a child, I wonder? A pretty one, a very pretty one: sure some scape. Though I am not bookish, yet I can read waiting-gentlewoman in the scape. This has been some stair-work, some trunk-work, some behind-door-work. They were warmer that got this than the poor thing is here. I’ll take it up for pity, yet I’ll tarry till my son come; he hallow’d but even now. Whoa-ho-hoa!

Enter Clown.


Hilloa, loa!


What? Art so near? If thou’lt see a thing to talk on when thou art dead and rotten, come hither. What ail’st thou, man?


I have seen two such sights, by sea and by land! But I am not to say it is a sea, for it is now the sky, betwixt the firmament and it you cannot thrust a bodkin’s point.


Why, boy, how is it?


I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages, how it takes up the shore! But that’s not to the point. O, the most piteous cry of the poor souls! Sometimes to see ’em, and not to see ’em; now the ship boring the moon with her mainmast, and anon swallow’d with yeast and froth, as you’ld thrust a cork into a hogshead. And then for the land-service, to see how the bear tore out his shoulder-bone, how he cried to me for help, and said his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. But to make an end of the ship, to see how the sea flap-dragon’d it; but, first, how the poor souls roar’d, and the sea mock’d them; and how the poor gentleman roar’d, and the bear mock’d him, both roaring louder than the sea or weather.


Name of mercy, when was this, boy?


Now, now; I have not wink’d since I saw these sights. The men are not yet cold under water, nor the bear half din’d on the gentleman. He’s at it now.


Would I had been by, to have help’d the old man!


I would you had been by the ship side, to have help’d her; there your charity would have lack’d footing.


Heavy matters, heavy matters! But look thee here, boy. Now bless thyself: thou met’st with things dying, I with things new-born. Here’s a sight for thee; look thee, a bearing-cloth for a squire’s child! Look thee here, take up, take up, boy; open’t. So, let’s see—it was told me I should be rich by the fairies. This is some changeling; open’t; what’s within, boy?


You’re a made old man; if the sins of your youth are forgiven you, you’re well to live. Gold, all gold!


This is fairy gold, boy, and ’twill prove so. Up with’t, keep it close. Home, home, the next way. We are lucky, boy, and to be so still requires nothing but secrecy. Let my sheep go. Come, good boy, the next way home.


Go you the next way with your findings; I’ll go see if the bear be gone from the gentleman and how much he hath eaten. They are never curst but when they are hungry. If there be any of him left, I’ll bury it.


That’s a good deed. If thou mayest discern by that which is left of him what he is, fetch me to th’ sight of him.


Marry, will I; and you shall help to put him i’ th’ ground.


’Tis a lucky day, boy, and we’ll do good deeds on’t.



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