The Winter's Tale By William Shakespeare Act II: Scene 1

HERMIONE.
Should a villain say so,
The most replenish'd villain in the world,
He were as much more villain: you, my lord,
Do but mistake.

LEONTES.
You have mistook, my lady,
Polixenes for Leontes: O thou thing,
Which I'll not call a creature of thy place,
Lest barbarism, making me the precedent,
Should a like language use to all degrees,
And mannerly distinguishment leave out
Betwixt the prince and beggar! — I have said,
She's an adultress; I have said with whom:
More, she's a traitor; and Camillo is
A federary with her; and one that knows
What she should shame to know herself
But with her most vile principal, that she's
A bed-swerver, even as bad as those
That vulgars give boldest titles; ay, and privy
To this their late escape.

HERMIONE.
No, by my life,
Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you,
When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that
You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord,
You scarce can right me throughly then, to say
You did mistake.

LEONTES.
No; if I mistake
In those foundations which I build upon,
The centre is not big enough to bear
A school-boy's top. — Away with her to prison!
He who shall speak for her is afar off guilty
But that he speaks.

HERMIONE.
There's some ill planet reigns:
I must be patient till the heavens look
With an aspect more favourable. — Good my lords,
I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have
That honourable grief lodg'd here, which burns
Worse than tears drown: beseech you all, my lords,
With thoughts so qualified as your charities
Shall best instruct you, measure me; — and so
The king's will be perform'd!

LEONTES.
[To the GUARD.] Shall I be heard?

HERMIONE.
Who is't that goes with me? — Beseech your highness
My women may be with me; for, you see,
My plight requires it. — Do not weep, good fools;
There is no cause: when you shall know your mistress
Has deserv'd prison, then abound in tears
As I come out: this action I now go on
Is for my better grace. — Adieu, my lord:
I never wish'd to see you sorry; now
I trust I shall. — My women, come; you have leave.

LEONTES.
Go, do our bidding; hence!

[Exeunt QUEEN and Ladies, with Guards.]

FIRST LORD.
Beseech your highness, call the queen again.

ANTIGONUS.
Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justice
Prove violence, in the which three great ones suffer,
Yourself, your queen, your son.

FIRST LORD.
For her, my lord, —
I dare my life lay down, — and will do't, sir,
Please you to accept it, — that the queen is spotless
I' the eyes of heaven and to you; I mean
In this which you accuse her.

ANTIGONUS.
If it prove
She's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where
I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her;
Than when I feel and see her no further trust her;
For every inch of woman in the world,
Ay, every dram of woman's flesh, is false,
If she be.

LEONTES.
Hold your peaces.

FIRST LORD.
Good my lord, —

ANTIGONUS.
It is for you we speak, not for ourselves:
You are abus'd, and by some putter-on
That will be damn'd for't: would I knew the villain,
I would land-damn him. Be she honour-flaw'd, —
I have three daughters; the eldest is eleven;
The second and the third, nine and some five;
If this prove true, they'll pay for't. By mine honour,
I'll geld 'em all: fourteen they shall not see,
To bring false generations: they are co-heirs;
And I had rather glib myself than they
Should not produce fair issue.

LEONTES.
Cease; no more.
You smell this business with a sense as cold
As is a dead man's nose: but I do see't and feel't
As you feel doing thus; and see withal
The instruments that feel.

ANTIGONUS.
If it be so,
We need no grave to bury honesty;
There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten
Of the whole dungy earth.

LEONTES.
What! Lack I credit?

FIRST LORD.
I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,
Upon this ground: and more it would content me
To have her honour true than your suspicion;
Be blam'd for't how you might.

LEONTES.
Why, what need we
Commune with you of this, but rather follow
Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative
Calls not your counsels; but our natural goodness
Imparts this; which, if you, — or stupified
Or seeming so in skill, — cannot or will not
Relish a truth, like us, inform yourselves
We need no more of your advice: the matter,
The loss, the gain, the ord'ring on't, is all
Properly ours.

ANTIGONUS.
And I wish, my liege,
You had only in your silent judgment tried it,
Without more overture.

LEONTES.
How could that be?
Either thou art most ignorant by age,
Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight,
Added to their familiarity, —
Which was as gross as ever touch'd conjecture,
That lack'd sight only, nought for approbation,
But only seeing, all other circumstances
Made up to th' deed, — doth push on this proceeding.
Yet, for a greater confirmation, —
For, in an act of this importance, 'twere
Most piteous to be wild, — I have despatch'd in post
To sacred Delphos, to Apollo's temple,
Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know
Of stuff'd sufficiency: now, from the oracle
They will bring all, whose spiritual counsel had,
Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?

FIRST LORD.
Well done, my lord, —

LEONTES.
Though I am satisfied, and need no more
Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
Give rest to the minds of others such as he
Whose ignorant credulity will not
Come up to th' truth: so have we thought it good
From our free person she should be confin'd;
Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence
Be left her to perform. Come, follow us;
We are to speak in public; for this business
Will raise us all.

ANTIGONUS.
[Aside.] To laughter, as I take it,
If the good truth were known.

[Exeunt.]

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After Camillo reveals Leontes' plan to kill Polixenes, Camillo is sentenced to die for treason.


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