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The Winter’s Tale
Act 2, scene 1

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

The “tale” of The Winter’s Tale unfolds in scenes set sixteen years apart. In the first part of the play, Leontes, king…

Act 1, scene 1

Archidamus, a Bohemian courtier, exclaims about the magnificent hospitality he has found in Sicilia. Camillo explains about the long friendship…

Act 1, scene 2

Leontes suddenly grows insanely jealous of the friendship between his queen, Hermione, and his visiting friend Polixenes. Leontes forces Camillo…

Act 2, scene 1

Leontes learns of the departure of Polixenes and Camillo and has Hermione arrested for adultery and treason. He announces that…

Act 2, scene 2

Paulina attempts to visit Hermione in prison. Learning that the queen has given birth to a baby girl, Paulina decides…

Act 2, scene 3

Paulina brings the baby to the tormented Leontes, who first orders the baby burned, then orders Antigonus to take the…

Act 3, scene 1

The couriers, en route from Delphos with the oracle’s response, discuss the ceremony they observed and express their hopes for…

Act 3, scene 2

As Hermione tries to defend herself in open court, the oracle is read and she is declared chaste and Polixenes…

Act 3, scene 3

Antigonus leaves the baby in Bohemia, where Polixenes is king. In a sudden storm, the ship sinks and Antigonus is…

Act 4, scene 1

Father Time appears and bridges the sixteen-year gap following the abandonment of Perdita in Bohemia.

Act 4, scene 2

Camillo asks permission to return to Sicilia. Polixenes refuses his request and asks Camillo instead to go with him in…

Act 4, scene 3

Autolycus, a con man, steals the shepherd’s son’s money and decides to use the upcoming sheep-shearing feast as an occasion…

Act 4, scene 4

At the sheepshearing feast, Florizell and Perdita declare their love before the disguised Polixenes and Camillo. When Polixenes orders Florizell…

Act 5, scene 1

Paulina insists that Leontes must not remarry, despite the urgings of his courtiers. Florizell and Perdita arrive, and are greeted…

Act 5, scene 2

Autolycus learns from courtiers that Leontes’ lost daughter has been found; he then meets the newly elevated shepherd and shepherd’s…

Act 5, scene 3

Leontes, Polixenes, Perdita, Florizell, and Camillo go with Paulina to view the statue of Hermione. Leontes grieves over her death,…

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Scene 1
Enter Hermione, Mamillius, and Ladies.

HERMIONE 
 Take the boy to you. He so troubles me
 ’Tis past enduring.
FIRST LADY  Come, my gracious lord,
 Shall I be your playfellow?
MAMILLIUS 
5 No, I’ll none of you.
FIRST LADY  Why, my sweet lord?
MAMILLIUS 
 You’ll kiss me hard and speak to me as if
 I were a baby still.—I love you better.
SECOND LADY 
 And why so, my lord?
MAMILLIUS 10 Not for because
 Your brows are blacker—yet black brows, they say,
 Become some women best, so that there be not
 Too much hair there, but in a semicircle,
 Or a half-moon made with a pen.
SECOND LADY 15 Who taught this?
MAMILLIUS 
 I learned it out of women’s faces.—Pray now,
 What color are your eyebrows?
FIRST LADY  Blue, my lord.
47

49
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 1

MAMILLIUS 
 Nay, that’s a mock. I have seen a lady’s nose
20 That has been blue, but not her eyebrows.
FIRST LADY  Hark ye,
 The Queen your mother rounds apace. We shall
 Present our services to a fine new prince
 One of these days, and then you’d wanton with us
25 If we would have you.
SECOND LADY  She is spread of late
 Into a goodly bulk. Good time encounter her!
HERMIONE 
 What wisdom stirs amongst you?—Come, sir, now
 I am for you again. Pray you sit by us,
30 And tell ’s a tale.
MAMILLIUS  Merry or sad shall ’t be?
HERMIONE As merry as you will.
MAMILLIUS 
 A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one
 Of sprites and goblins.
HERMIONE 35 Let’s have that, good sir.
 Come on, sit down. Come on, and do your best
 To fright me with your sprites. You’re powerful at it.
MAMILLIUS 
 There was a man—
HERMIONE  Nay, come sit down, then on.
MAMILLIUS 
40 Dwelt by a churchyard. I will tell it softly,
 Yond crickets shall not hear it.
HERMIONE 
 Come on then, and give ’t me in mine ear.

They talk privately.

Enter Leontes, Antigonus, and Lords.

LEONTES 
 Was he met there? His train? Camillo with him?

51
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 1

LORD 
 Behind the tuft of pines I met them. Never
45 Saw I men scour so on their way. I eyed them
 Even to their ships.
LEONTES  How blest am I
 In my just censure, in my true opinion!
 Alack, for lesser knowledge! How accursed
50 In being so blest! There may be in the cup
 A spider steeped, and one may drink, depart,
 And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
 Is not infected; but if one present
 Th’ abhorred ingredient to his eye, make known
55 How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
 With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider.
 Camillo was his help in this, his pander.
 There is a plot against my life, my crown.
 All’s true that is mistrusted. That false villain
60 Whom I employed was pre-employed by him.
 He has discovered my design, and I
 Remain a pinched thing, yea, a very trick
 For them to play at will. How came the posterns
 So easily open?
LORD 65 By his great authority,
 Which often hath no less prevailed than so
 On your command.
LEONTES I know ’t too well.
 To Hermione. Give me the boy. I am glad you did
70 not nurse him.
 Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
 Have too much blood in him.
HERMIONE  What is this? Sport?
LEONTES, to the Ladies 
 Bear the boy hence. He shall not come about her.
75 Away with him, and let her sport herself

53
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 1

 With that she’s big with, (to Hermione) for ’tis
 Polixenes
 Has made thee swell thus.
A Lady exits with Mamillius.
HERMIONE  But I’d say he had not,
80 And I’ll be sworn you would believe my saying,
 Howe’er you lean to th’ nayward.
LEONTES  You, my lords,
 Look on her, mark her well. Be but about
 To say “She is a goodly lady,” and
85 The justice of your hearts will thereto add
 “’Tis pity she’s not honest, honorable.”
 Praise her but for this her without-door form,
 Which on my faith deserves high speech, and
 straight
90 The shrug, the “hum,” or “ha,” these petty brands
 That calumny doth use—O, I am out,
 That mercy does, for calumny will sear
 Virtue itself—these shrugs, these “hum”s and “ha”s,
 When you have said she’s goodly, come between
95 Ere you can say she’s honest. But be ’t known,
 From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,
 She’s an adult’ress.
HERMIONE  Should a villain say so,
 The most replenished villain in the world,
100 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
105 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 adult’ress; I have said with whom.
110 More, she’s a traitor, and Camillo is
 A federary with her, and one that knows

55
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 1

 What she should shame to know herself
 But with her most vile principal: that she’s
 A bed-swerver, even as bad as those
115 That vulgars give bold’st 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
120 You thus have published 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,
125 The center is not big enough to bear
 A schoolboy’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.
130 I must be patient till the heavens look
 With an aspect more favorable. 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
135 That honorable grief lodged 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 performed.
LEONTES 140 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
145 mistress
 Has deserved prison, then abound in tears
 As I come out. This action I now go on

57
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 1

 Is for my better grace.—Adieu, my lord.
 I never wished to see you sorry; now
150 I trust I shall.—My women, come; you have leave.
LEONTES Go, do our bidding. Hence!
Hermione exits, under guard, with her Ladies.
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:
155 Yourself, your queen, your son.
LORD  For her, my lord,
 I dare my life lay down—and will do ’t, sir,
 Please you t’ accept it—that the Queen is spotless
 I’ th’ eyes of heaven, and to you—I mean
160 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 farther trust her.
165 For every inch of woman in the world,
 Ay, every dram of woman’s flesh, is false,
 If she be.
LEONTES  Hold your peaces.
LORD  Good my lord—
ANTIGONUS 
170 It is for you we speak, not for ourselves.
 You are abused, and by some putter-on
 That will be damned for ’t. Would I knew the
 villain!
 I would land-damn him. Be she honor-flawed,
175 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 honor,
 I’ll geld ’em all; fourteen they shall not see
 To bring false generations. They are co-heirs,

59
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 1

180 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,
185 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
190 Of the whole dungy Earth.
LEONTES  What? Lack I credit?
LORD 
 I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,
 Upon this ground. And more it would content me
 To have her honor true than your suspicion,
195 Be blamed 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
200 Imparts this, which if you—or stupefied
 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
205 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?
210 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 touched conjecture,
 That lacked sight only, naught for approbation

61
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 2

215 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
220 Most piteous to be wild—I have dispatched in post
 To sacred Delphos, to Apollo’s temple,
 Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know
 Of stuffed sufficiency. Now from the oracle
 They will bring all, whose spiritual counsel had
225 Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?
LORD  Well done,
 my lord.
LEONTES 
 Though I am satisfied and need no more
 Than what I know, yet shall the oracle
230 Give rest to th’ 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 confined,
 Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence
235 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.
They exit.