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

ACT II. SCENE 2. The same. The outer Room of a Prison.

[Enter PAULINA and Attendants.]

PAULINA.
The keeper of the prison, — call to him;
Let him have knowledge who I am.

[Exit an Attendant.]

Good lady!
No court in Europe is too good for thee;
What dost thou then in prison?

[Re-enter Attendant, with the Keeper.]

Now, good sir,
You know me, do you not?

KEEPER.
For a worthy lady,
And one who much I honour.

PAULINA.
Pray you, then,
Conduct me to the queen.

KEEPER.
I may not, madam;
To the contrary I have express commandment.

PAULINA.
Here's ado, to lock up honesty and honour from
The access of gentle visitors! — Is't lawful,
Pray you, to see her women? any of them?
Emilia?

KEEPER.
So please you, madam, to put
Apart these your attendants, I
Shall bring Emilia forth.

PAULINA.
I pray now, call her.
Withdraw yourselves.

[Exeunt ATTENDANTS.]

KEEPER.
And, madam,
I must be present at your conference.

PAULINA.
Well, be't so, pr'ythee.

[Exit KEEPER.]

Here's such ado to make no stain a stain
As passes colouring.

[Re-enter KEEPER, with EMILIA.]

Dear gentlewoman, how fares our gracious lady?

EMILIA.
As well as one so great and so forlorn
May hold together: on her frights and griefs, —
Which never tender lady hath borne greater, —
She is, something before her time, deliver'd.

PAULINA.
A boy?

EMILIA.
A daughter; and a goodly babe,
Lusty, and like to live: the queen receives
Much comfort in't; says 'My poor prisoner,
I am as innocent as you.'

PAULINA.
I dare be sworn; —
These dangerous unsafe lunes i' the king, beshrew them!
He must be told on't, and he shall: the office
Becomes a woman best; I'll take't upon me;
If I prove honey-mouth'd, let my tongue blister;
And never to my red-look'd anger be
The trumpet any more. — Pray you, Emilia,
Commend my best obedience to the queen;
If she dares trust me with her little babe,
I'll show't the king, and undertake to be
Her advocate to th' loud'st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight o' the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades, when speaking fails.

EMILIA.
Most worthy madam,
Your honour and your goodness is so evident,
That your free undertaking cannot miss
A thriving issue: there is no lady living
So meet for this great errand. Please your ladyship
To visit the next room, I'll presently
Acquaint the queen of your most noble offer;
Who but to-day hammer'd of this design,
But durst not tempt a minister of honour,
Lest she should be denied.

PAULINA.
Tell her, Emilia,
I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from it
As boldness from my bosom, let't not be doubted
I shall do good.

EMILIA.
Now be you bless'd for it!
I'll to the queen: please you come something nearer.

KEEPER.
Madam, if't please the queen to send the babe,
I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
Having no warrant.

PAULINA.
You need not fear it, sir:
This child was prisoner to the womb, and is,
By law and process of great nature thence
Freed and enfranchis'd: not a party to
The anger of the king, nor guilty of,
If any be, the trespass of the queen.

KEEPER.
I do believe it.

PAULINA.
Do not you fear: upon mine honour, I
Will stand betwixt you and danger.

[Exeunt.]

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