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

ACT III. SCENE 2. The same. A Court of Justice

[Enter LEONTES, Lords, and Officers appear, properly seated.]

This sessions, — to our great grief we pronounce, —
Even pushes 'gainst our heart; — the party tried,
The daughter of a king, our wife; and one
Of us too much belov'd. Let us be clear'd
Of being tyrannous, since we so openly
Proceed in justice; which shall have due course,
Even to the guilt or the purgation. —
Produce the prisoner.

It is his highness' pleasure that the queen
Appear in person here in court. —


[HERMIONE, is brought in guarded; PAULINA, and Ladies attending.]

Read the indictment.

[Reads.] 'Hermione, queen to the worthy Leontes, king of
Sicilia, thou art here accused and arraigned of high treason,
in committing adultery with Polixenes, king of Bohemia; and
conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign
lord the king, thy royal husband: the pretence whereof being by
circumstances partly laid open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the
faith and allegiance of true subject, didst counsel and aid them,
for their better safety, to fly away by night.'

Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts my accusation, and
The testimony on my part no other
But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
To say 'Not guilty': mine integrity,
Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
Be so receiv'd. But thus, — if powers divine
Behold our human actions, — as they do, —
I doubt not, then, but innocence shall make
False accusation blush, and tyranny
Tremble at patience. — You, my lord, best know, —
Who least will seem to do so, — my past life
Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
As I am now unhappy: which is more
Than history can pattern, though devis'd
And play'd to take spectators; for behold me, —
A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
A moiety of the throne, a great king's daughter,
The mother to a hopeful prince, — here standing
To prate and talk for life and honour 'fore
Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it
As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour,
'Tis a derivative from me to mine,
And only that I stand for. I appeal
To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
Came to your court, how I was in your grace,
How merited to be so; since he came,
With what encounter so uncurrent I
Have strain'd t' appear thus: if one jot beyond
The bound of honour, or in act or will
That way inclining, harden'd be the hearts
Of all that hear me, and my near'st of kin
Cry fie upon my grave!

I ne'er heard yet
That any of these bolder vices wanted
Less impudence to gainsay what they did
Than to perform it first.

That's true enough;
Though 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.

You will not own it.

More than mistress of
Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not
At all acknowledge. For Polixenes, —
With whom I am accus'd, — I do confess
I lov'd him, as in honour he requir'd;
With such a kind of love as might become
A lady like me; with a love even such,
So and no other, as yourself commanded:
Which not to have done, I think had been in me
Both disobedience and ingratitude
To you and toward your friend; whose love had spoke,
Ever since it could speak, from an infant, freely,
That it was yours. Now for conspiracy,
I know not how it tastes; though it be dish'd
For me to try how: all I know of it
Is that Camillo was an honest man;
And why he left your court, the gods themselves,
Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.

You knew of his departure, as you know
What you have underta'en to do in 's absence.

You speak a language that I understand not:
My life stands in the level of your dreams,
Which I'll lay down.

Your actions are my dreams;
You had a bastard by Polixenes,
And I but dream'd it: — as you were past all shame, —
Those of your fact are so, — so past all truth:
Which to deny concerns more than avails; for as
Thy brat hath been cast out, like to itself,
No father owning it, — which is, indeed,
More criminal in thee than it, — so thou
Shalt feel our justice; in whose easiest passage
Look for no less than death.

Sir, spare your threats:
The bug which you would fright me with, I seek.
To me can life be no commodity:
The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,
I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,
But know not how it went: my second joy,
And first-fruits of my body, from his presence
I am barr'd, like one infectious: my third comfort,
Starr'd most unluckily, is from my breast, —
The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth, —
Hal'd out to murder: myself on every post
Proclaim'd a strumpet; with immodest hatred
The child-bed privilege denied, which 'longs
To women of all fashion; lastly, hurried
Here to this place, i' the open air, before
I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
Tell me what blessings I have here alive,
That I should fear to die. Therefore proceed.
But yet hear this; mistake me not; — no life, —
I prize it not a straw, — but for mine honour
(Which I would free), if I shall be condemn'd
Upon surmises — all proofs sleeping else,
But what your jealousies awake — I tell you
'Tis rigour, and not law. — Your honours all,
I do refer me to the oracle:
Apollo be my judge!

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