The Winter's Tale By William Shakespeare Act I: Scene 2

ACT I. SCENE 2. The same. A Room of State in the Palace.

[Enter LEONTES, POLIXENES, HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, CAMILLO, and
Attendants.]

POLIXENES.
Nine changes of the watery star hath been
The shepherd's note since we have left our throne
Without a burden: time as long again
Would be fill'd up, my brother, with our thanks;
And yet we should, for perpetuity,
Go hence in debt: and therefore, like a cipher,
Yet standing in rich place, I multiply
With one we-thank-you many thousands more
That go before it.

LEONTES.
Stay your thanks a while,
And pay them when you part.

POLIXENES.
Sir, that's to-morrow.
I am question'd by my fears, of what may chance
Or breed upon our absence; that may blow
No sneaping winds at home, to make us say,
'This is put forth too truly.' Besides, I have stay'd
To tire your royalty.

LEONTES.
We are tougher, brother,
Than you can put us to't.

POLIXENES.
No longer stay.

LEONTES.
One seven-night longer.

POLIXENES.
Very sooth, to-morrow.

LEONTES.
We'll part the time between 's then: and in that
I'll no gainsaying.

POLIXENES.
Press me not, beseech you, so,
There is no tongue that moves, none, none i' the world,
So soon as yours, could win me: so it should now,
Were there necessity in your request, although
'Twere needful I denied it. My affairs
Do even drag me homeward: which to hinder,
Were, in your love a whip to me; my stay
To you a charge and trouble: to save both,
Farewell, our brother.

LEONTES.
Tongue-tied, our queen? Speak you.

HERMIONE.
I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until
You had drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,
Charge him too coldly. Tell him you are sure
All in Bohemia's well: this satisfaction
The by-gone day proclaimed: say this to him,
He's beat from his best ward.

LEONTES.
Well said, Hermione.

HERMIONE.
To tell he longs to see his son were strong:
But let him say so then, and let him go;
But let him swear so, and he shall not stay,
We'll thwack him hence with distaffs. —
[To POLIXENES]
Yet of your royal presence I'll adventure
The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia
You take my lord, I'll give him my commission
To let him there a month behind the gest
Prefix'd for's parting: — yet, good deed, Leontes,
I love thee not a jar of the clock behind
What lady she her lord. — You'll stay?

POLIXENES.
No, madam.

HERMIONE.
Nay, but you will?

POLIXENES.
I may not, verily.

HERMIONE.
Verily!
You put me off with limber vows; but I,
Though you would seek to unsphere the stars with oaths,
Should yet say 'Sir, no going.' Verily,
You shall not go; a lady's verily is
As potent as a lord's. Will go yet?
Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
Not like a guest: so you shall pay your fees
When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?
My prisoner or my guest? by your dread 'verily,'
One of them you shall be.

POLIXENES.
Your guest, then, madam:
To be your prisoner should import offending;
Which is for me less easy to commit
Than you to punish.

HERMIONE.
Not your gaoler then,
But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question you
Of my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys.
You were pretty lordings then.

POLIXENES.
We were, fair queen,
Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal.

HERMIONE.
Was not my lord the verier wag o' the two?

POLIXENES.
We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun
And bleat the one at th' other. What we chang'd
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
That any did. Had we pursu'd that life,
And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd
With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven
Boldly 'Not guilty,' the imposition clear'd
Hereditary ours.

HERMIONE.
By this we gather
You have tripp'd since.

POLIXENES.
O my most sacred lady,
Temptations have since then been born to 's! for
In those unfledg'd days was my wife a girl;
Your precious self had then not cross'd the eyes
Of my young play-fellow.

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