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

LEONTES.
This is all:
Do't, and thou hast the one-half of my heart;
Do't not, thou splitt'st thine own.

CAMILLO.
I'll do't, my lord.

LEONTES.
I will seem friendly, as thou hast advis'd me.

[Exit.]

CAMILLO.
O miserable lady! — But, for me,
What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner
Of good Polixenes: and my ground to do't
Is the obedience to a master; one
Who, in rebellion with himself, will have
All that are his so too. — To do this deed,
Promotion follows: if I could find example
Of thousands that had struck anointed kings
And flourish'd after, I'd not do't; but since
Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment, bears not one,
Let villainy itself forswear't. I must
Forsake the court: to do't, or no, is certain
To me a break-neck. Happy star reign now!
Here comes Bohemia.

[Enter POLIXENES.]

POLIXENES.
This is strange! methinks
My favour here begins to warp. Not speak? —
Good-day, Camillo.

CAMILLO.
Hail, most royal sir!

POLIXENES.
What is the news i' the court?

CAMILLO.
None rare, my lord.

POLIXENES.
The king hath on him such a countenance
As he had lost some province, and a region
Lov'd as he loves himself; even now I met him
With customary compliment; when he,
Wafting his eyes to the contrary, and falling
A lip of much contempt, speeds from me;
So leaves me to consider what is breeding
That changes thus his manners.

CAMILLO.
I dare not know, my lord.

POLIXENES.
How! dare not! do not. Do you know, and dare not
Be intelligent to me? 'Tis thereabouts;
For, to yourself, what you do know, you must,
And cannot say, you dare not. Good Camillo,
Your chang'd complexions are to me a mirror
Which shows me mine chang'd too; for I must be
A party in this alteration, finding
Myself thus alter'd with't.

CAMILLO.
There is a sickness
Which puts some of us in distemper; but
I cannot name the disease; and it is caught
Of you that yet are well.

POLIXENES.
How! caught of me!
Make me not sighted like the basilisk:
I have look'd on thousands who have sped the better
By my regard, but kill'd none so. Camillo, —
As you are certainly a gentleman, thereto
Clerk-like, experienc'd, which no less adorns
Our gentry than our parents' noble names,
In whose success we are gentle, — I beseech you,
If you know aught which does behove my knowledge
Thereof to be inform'd, imprison't not
In ignorant concealment.

CAMILLO.
I may not answer.

POLIXENES.
A sickness caught of me, and yet I well!
I must be answer'd. — Dost thou hear, Camillo,
I conjure thee, by all the parts of man
Which honour does acknowledge, — whereof the least
Is not this suit of mine, — that thou declare
What incidency thou dost guess of harm
Is creeping toward me; how far off, how near;
Which way to be prevented, if to be;
If not, how best to bear it.

CAMILLO.
Sir, I will tell you;
Since I am charg'd in honour, and by him
That I think honourable: therefore mark my counsel,
Which must be ev'n as swiftly follow'd as
I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me
Cry lost, and so goodnight!

POLIXENES.
On, good Camillo.

CAMILLO.
I am appointed him to murder you.

POLIXENES.
By whom, Camillo?

CAMILLO.
By the king.

POLIXENES.
For what?

CAMILLO.
He thinks, nay, with all confidence he swears,
As he had seen't or been an instrument
To vice you to't, that you have touch'd his queen
Forbiddenly.

POLIXENES.
O, then my best blood turn
To an infected jelly, and my name
Be yok'd with his that did betray the best!
Turn then my freshest reputation to
A savour that may strike the dullest nostril
Where I arrive, and my approach be shunn'd,
Nay, hated too, worse than the great'st infection
That e'er was heard or read!

CAMILLO.
Swear his thought over
By each particular star in heaven and
By all their influences, you may as well
Forbid the sea for to obey the moon
As, or by oath remove, or counsel shake
The fabric of his folly, whose foundation
Is pil'd upon his faith, and will continue
The standing of his body.

POLIXENES.
How should this grow?

CAMILLO.
I know not: but I am sure 'tis safer to
Avoid what's grown than question how 'tis born.
If, therefore you dare trust my honesty, —
That lies enclosed in this trunk, which you
Shall bear along impawn'd, — away to-night.
Your followers I will whisper to the business;
And will, by twos and threes, at several posterns,
Clear them o' the city: for myself, I'll put
My fortunes to your service, which are here
By this discovery lost. Be not uncertain;
For, by the honour of my parents, I
Have utter'd truth: which if you seek to prove,
I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer
Than one condemn'd by the king's own mouth, thereon
His execution sworn.

POLIXENES.
I do believe thee;
I saw his heart in his face. Give me thy hand;
Be pilot to me, and thy places shall
Still neighbour mine. My ships are ready, and
My people did expect my hence departure
Two days ago. — This jealousy
Is for a precious creature: as she's rare,
Must it be great; and, as his person's mighty,
Must it be violent; and as he does conceive
He is dishonour'd by a man which ever
Profess'd to him, why, his revenges must
In that be made more bitter. Fear o'ershades me;
Good expedition be my friend, and comfort
The gracious queen, part of this theme, but nothing
Of his ill-ta'en suspicion! Come, Camillo;
I will respect thee as a father, if
Thou bear'st my life off hence: let us avoid.

CAMILLO.
It is in mine authority to command
The keys of all the posterns: please your highness
To take the urgent hour: come, sir, away.

[Exeunt.]

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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


Quiz