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The Winter’s Tale
Act 2, scene 3

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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 3
Enter Leontes.

LEONTES 
 Nor night nor day no rest. It is but weakness
 To bear the matter thus, mere weakness. If
 The cause were not in being—part o’ th’ cause,
 She th’ adult’ress, for the harlot king
5 Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank
 And level of my brain, plot-proof. But she
 I can hook to me. Say that she were gone,
 Given to the fire, a moiety of my rest
 Might come to me again.—Who’s there?

Enter a Servant.

SERVANT 10 My lord.

69
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 2. SC. 3

LEONTES How does the boy?
SERVANT He took good rest tonight. ’Tis hoped
 His sickness is discharged.
LEONTES  To see his nobleness,
15 Conceiving the dishonor of his mother.
 He straight declined, drooped, took it deeply,
 Fastened and fixed the shame on ’t in himself,
 Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,
 And downright languished. Leave me solely. Go,
20 See how he fares.Servant exits.
 Fie, fie, no thought of him.
 The very thought of my revenges that way
 Recoil upon me—in himself too mighty,
 And in his parties, his alliance. Let him be
25 Until a time may serve. For present vengeance,
 Take it on her. Camillo and Polixenes
 Laugh at me, make their pastime at my sorrow.
 They should not laugh if I could reach them, nor
 Shall she within my power.

Enter Paulina, carrying the baby, with Servants,
Antigonus, and Lords.


LORD 30 You must not enter.
PAULINA 
 Nay, rather, good my lords, be second to me.
 Fear you his tyrannous passion more, alas,
 Than the Queen’s life? A gracious innocent soul,
 More free than he is jealous.
ANTIGONUS 35 That’s enough.
SERVANT 
 Madam, he hath not slept tonight, commanded
 None should come at him.
PAULINA  Not so hot, good sir.
 I come to bring him sleep. ’Tis such as you
40 That creep like shadows by him and do sigh

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ACT 2. SC. 3

 At each his needless heavings, such as you
 Nourish the cause of his awaking. I
 Do come with words as medicinal as true,
 Honest as either, to purge him of that humor
45 That presses him from sleep.
LEONTES  What noise there, ho?
PAULINA 
 No noise, my lord, but needful conference
 About some gossips for your Highness.
LEONTES  How?—
50 Away with that audacious lady. Antigonus,
 I charged thee that she should not come about me.
 I knew she would.
ANTIGONUS  I told her so, my lord,
 On your displeasure’s peril and on mine,
55 She should not visit you.
LEONTES  What, canst not rule her?
PAULINA 
 From all dishonesty he can. In this,
 Unless he take the course that you have done—
 Commit me for committing honor—trust it,
60 He shall not rule me.
ANTIGONUS  La you now, you hear.
 When she will take the rein I let her run,
 But she’ll not stumble.
PAULINA  Good my liege, I come—
65 And I beseech you hear me, who professes
 Myself your loyal servant, your physician,
 Your most obedient counselor, yet that dares
 Less appear so in comforting your evils
 Than such as most seem yours—I say I come
70 From your good queen.
LEONTES Good queen?
PAULINA 
 Good queen, my lord, good queen, I say “good
 queen,”

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ACT 2. SC. 3

 And would by combat make her good, so were I
75 A man, the worst about you.
LEONTES  Force her hence.
PAULINA 
 Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes
 First hand me. On mine own accord I’ll off,
 But first I’ll do my errand.—The good queen,
80 For she is good, hath brought you forth a
 daughter—
 Here ’tis—commends it to your blessing.
She lays down the baby.
LEONTES  Out!
 A mankind witch! Hence with her, out o’ door.
85 A most intelligencing bawd.
PAULINA  Not so.
 I am as ignorant in that as you
 In so entitling me, and no less honest
 Than you are mad—which is enough, I’ll warrant,
90 As this world goes, to pass for honest.
LEONTES  Traitors,
 Will you not push her out? To Antigonus. Give her
 the bastard,
 Thou dotard; thou art woman-tired, unroosted
95 By thy Dame Partlet here. Take up the bastard,
 Take ’t up, I say. Give ’t to thy crone.
PAULINA, to Antigonus  Forever
 Unvenerable be thy hands if thou
 Tak’st up the Princess by that forced baseness
100 Which he has put upon ’t.
LEONTES  He dreads his wife.
PAULINA 
 So I would you did. Then ’twere past all doubt
 You’d call your children yours.
LEONTES  A nest of traitors!
ANTIGONUS 
105 I am none, by this good light.

75
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ACT 2. SC. 3

PAULINA  Nor I, nor any
 But one that’s here, and that’s himself. For he
 The sacred honor of himself, his queen’s,
 His hopeful son’s, his babe’s, betrays to slander,
110 Whose sting is sharper than the sword’s; and will
 not—
 For, as the case now stands, it is a curse
 He cannot be compelled to ’t—once remove
 The root of his opinion, which is rotten
115 As ever oak or stone was sound.
LEONTES  A callet
 Of boundless tongue, who late hath beat her
 husband
 And now baits me! This brat is none of mine.
120 It is the issue of Polixenes.
 Hence with it, and together with the dam
 Commit them to the fire.
PAULINA  It is yours,
 And, might we lay th’ old proverb to your charge,
125 So like you ’tis the worse.—Behold, my lords,
 Although the print be little, the whole matter
 And copy of the father—eye, nose, lip,
 The trick of ’s frown, his forehead, nay, the valley,
 The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek, his
130 smiles,
 The very mold and frame of hand, nail, finger.
 And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it
 So like to him that got it, if thou hast
 The ordering of the mind too, ’mongst all colors
135 No yellow in ’t, lest she suspect, as he does,
 Her children not her husband’s.
LEONTES  A gross hag!—
 And, losel, thou art worthy to be hanged
 That wilt not stay her tongue.
ANTIGONUS 140 Hang all the husbands
 That cannot do that feat, you’ll leave yourself
 Hardly one subject.

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ACT 2. SC. 3

LEONTES  Once more, take her hence.
PAULINA 
 A most unworthy and unnatural lord
145 Can do no more.
LEONTES  I’ll ha’ thee burnt.
PAULINA  I care not.
 It is an heretic that makes the fire,
 Not she which burns in ’t. I’ll not call you tyrant;
150 But this most cruel usage of your queen,
 Not able to produce more accusation
 Than your own weak-hinged fancy, something
 savors
 Of tyranny, and will ignoble make you,
155 Yea, scandalous to the world.
LEONTES, to Antigonus  On your allegiance,
 Out of the chamber with her! Were I a tyrant,
 Where were her life? She durst not call me so
 If she did know me one. Away with her!
PAULINA, to Lords 
160 I pray you do not push me; I’ll be gone.—
 Look to your babe, my lord; ’tis yours. Jove send her
 A better guiding spirit.—What needs these hands?
 You that are thus so tender o’er his follies
 Will never do him good, not one of you.
165 So, so. Farewell, we are gone.She exits.
LEONTES, to Antigonus 
 Thou, traitor, hast set on thy wife to this.
 My child? Away with ’t! Even thou, that hast
 A heart so tender o’er it, take it hence,
 And see it instantly consumed with fire.
170 Even thou, and none but thou. Take it up straight.
 Within this hour bring me word ’tis done,
 And by good testimony, or I’ll seize thy life,
 With what thou else call’st thine. If thou refuse
 And wilt encounter with my wrath, say so.

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ACT 2. SC. 3

175 The bastard brains with these my proper hands
 Shall I dash out. Go, take it to the fire,
 For thou sett’st on thy wife.
ANTIGONUS  I did not, sir.
 These lords, my noble fellows, if they please,
180 Can clear me in ’t.
LORDS  We can, my royal liege.
 He is not guilty of her coming hither.
LEONTES You’re liars all.
LORD 
 Beseech your Highness, give us better credit.
185 We have always truly served you, and beseech
 So to esteem of us. And on our knees we beg,
 As recompense of our dear services
 Past and to come, that you do change this purpose,
 Which being so horrible, so bloody, must
190 Lead on to some foul issue. We all kneel.
LEONTES 
 I am a feather for each wind that blows.
 Shall I live on to see this bastard kneel
 And call me father? Better burn it now
 Than curse it then. But be it; let it live.
195 It shall not neither. To Antigonus. You, sir, come
 you hither,
 You that have been so tenderly officious
 With Lady Margery, your midwife there,
 To save this bastard’s life—for ’tis a bastard,
200 So sure as this beard’s gray. What will you
 adventure
 To save this brat’s life?
ANTIGONUS  Anything, my lord,
 That my ability may undergo
205 And nobleness impose. At least thus much:
 I’ll pawn the little blood which I have left
 To save the innocent. Anything possible.

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ACT 2. SC. 3

LEONTES 
 It shall be possible. Swear by this sword
 Thou wilt perform my bidding.
ANTIGONUS, his hand on the hilt 210 I will, my lord.
LEONTES 
 Mark, and perform it, seest thou; for the fail
 Of any point in ’t shall not only be
 Death to thyself but to thy lewd-tongued wife,
 Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,
215 As thou art liegeman to us, that thou carry
 This female bastard hence, and that thou bear it
 To some remote and desert place quite out
 Of our dominions, and that there thou leave it,
 Without more mercy, to it own protection
220 And favor of the climate. As by strange fortune
 It came to us, I do in justice charge thee,
 On thy soul’s peril and thy body’s torture,
 That thou commend it strangely to some place
 Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.
ANTIGONUS 
225 I swear to do this, though a present death
 Had been more merciful.—Come on, poor babe.
He picks up the baby.
 Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens
 To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say,
 Casting their savageness aside, have done
230 Like offices of pity. To Leontes. Sir, be prosperous
 In more than this deed does require.—And blessing
 Against this cruelty fight on thy side,
 Poor thing, condemned to loss.
He exits, carrying the baby.
LEONTES  No, I’ll not rear
235 Another’s issue.

Enter a Servant.

SERVANT  Please your Highness, posts

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ACT 2. SC. 3

 From those you sent to th’ oracle are come
 An hour since. Cleomenes and Dion,
 Being well arrived from Delphos, are both landed,
240 Hasting to th’ court.
LORD, to Leontes  So please you, sir, their speed
 Hath been beyond account.
LEONTES  Twenty-three days
 They have been absent. ’Tis good speed, foretells
245 The great Apollo suddenly will have
 The truth of this appear. Prepare you, lords.
 Summon a session, that we may arraign
 Our most disloyal lady; for, as she hath
 Been publicly accused, so shall she have
250 A just and open trial. While she lives,
 My heart will be a burden to me. Leave me,
 And think upon my bidding.
They exit.