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The Winter’s Tale
Act 3, scene 2

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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 2
Enter Leontes, Lords, and Officers.

LEONTES 
 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 beloved. Let us be cleared
5 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.
OFFICER 
 It is his Highness’ pleasure that the Queen
10 Appear in person here in court.

Enter Hermione, as to her trial, Paulina, and Ladies.

 Silence!
LEONTES Read the indictment.
OFFICER reads Hermione, queen to the worthy Leontes,
 King of Sicilia, thou art here accused and arraigned
15 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 pretense whereof being by circumstances
 partly laid open, thou, Hermione, contrary to
20 the faith and allegiance of a true subject, didst counsel
 and aid them, for their better safety, to fly away by
 night.


91
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

HERMIONE 
 Since what I am to say must be but that
 Which contradicts my accusation, and
25 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 received. But thus: if powers divine
30 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,
 Whom least will seem to do so, my past life
35 Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
 As I am now unhappy; which is more
 Than history can pattern, though devised
 And played to take spectators. For behold me,
 A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
40 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 honor fore
 Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it
 As I weigh grief, which I would spare. For honor,
45 ’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,
50 With what encounter so uncurrent I
 Have strained t’ appear thus; if one jot beyond
 The bound of honor, or in act or will
 That way inclining, hardened be the hearts
 Of all that hear me, and my near’st of kin
55 Cry fie upon my grave.

93
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

LEONTES  I ne’er heard yet
 That any of these bolder vices wanted
 Less impudence to gainsay what they did
 Than to perform it first.
HERMIONE 60 That’s true enough,
 Though ’tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
LEONTES 
 You will not own it.
HERMIONE  More than mistress of
 Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not
65 At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,
 With whom I am accused, I do confess
 I loved him as in honor he required,
 With such a kind of love as might become
 A lady like me, with a love even such,
70 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,
75 Even since it could speak, from an infant, freely
 That it was yours. Now, for conspiracy,
 I know not how it tastes, though it be dished
 For me to try how. All I know of it
 Is that Camillo was an honest man;
80 And why he left your court, the gods themselves,
 Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.
LEONTES 
 You knew of his departure, as you know
 What you have underta’en to do in ’s absence.
HERMIONE Sir,
85 You speak a language that I understand not.
 My life stands in the level of your dreams,
 Which I’ll lay down.
LEONTES  Your actions are my dreams.

95
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

 You had a bastard by Polixenes,
90 And I but dreamed 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
95 More criminal in thee than it—so thou
 Shalt feel our justice, in whose easiest passage
 Look for no less than death.
HERMIONE  Sir, spare your threats.
 The bug which you would fright me with I seek.
100 To me can life be no commodity.
 The crown and comfort of my life, your favor,
 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
105 I am barred like one infectious. My third comfort,
 Starred most unluckily, is from my breast,
 The innocent milk in it most innocent mouth,
 Haled out to murder; myself on every post
 Proclaimed a strumpet; with immodest hatred
110 The childbed privilege denied, which longs
 To women of all fashion; lastly, hurried
 Here to this place, i’ th’ open air, before
 I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
 Tell me what blessings I have here alive,
115 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 honor,
 Which I would free), if I shall be condemned
 Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else
120 But what your jealousies awake, I tell you
 ’Tis rigor, and not law. Your Honors all,
 I do refer me to the oracle.
 Apollo be my judge.
LORD  This your request

97
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

125 Is altogether just. Therefore bring forth,
 And in Apollo’s name, his oracle.Officers exit.
HERMIONE 
 The Emperor of Russia was my father.
 O, that he were alive and here beholding
 His daughter’s trial, that he did but see
130 The flatness of my misery, yet with eyes
 Of pity, not revenge.

Enter Cleomenes, Dion, with Officers.

OFFICER, presenting a sword 
 You here shall swear upon this sword of justice
 That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have
 Been both at Delphos, and from thence have
135 brought
 This sealed-up oracle, by the hand delivered
 Of great Apollo’s priest, and that since then
 You have not dared to break the holy seal
 Nor read the secrets in ’t.
CLEOMENES, DION 140All this we swear.
LEONTES Break up the seals and read.
OFFICER reads Hermione is chaste, Polixenes blameless,
 Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant,
 his innocent babe truly begotten; and the King shall
145 live without an heir if that which is lost be not
 found.

LORDS 
 Now blessèd be the great Apollo!
HERMIONE  Praised!
LEONTES Hast thou read truth?
OFFICER 
150 Ay, my lord, even so as it is here set down.
LEONTES 
 There is no truth at all i’ th’ oracle.
 The sessions shall proceed. This is mere falsehood.

99
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

Enter a Servant.

SERVANT 
 My lord the King, the King!
LEONTES  What is the business?
SERVANT 
155 O sir, I shall be hated to report it.
 The Prince your son, with mere conceit and fear
 Of the Queen’s speed, is gone.
LEONTES  How? Gone?
SERVANT  Is dead.
LEONTES 
160 Apollo’s angry, and the heavens themselves
 Do strike at my injustice.
Hermione falls.
 How now there?
PAULINA 
 This news is mortal to the Queen. Look down
 And see what death is doing.
LEONTES 165 Take her hence.
 Her heart is but o’ercharged. She will recover.
 I have too much believed mine own suspicion.
 Beseech you, tenderly apply to her
 Some remedies for life.

Paulina exits with Officers carrying Hermione.

170 Apollo, pardon
 My great profaneness ’gainst thine oracle.
 I’ll reconcile me to Polixenes,
 New woo my queen, recall the good Camillo,
 Whom I proclaim a man of truth, of mercy;
175 For, being transported by my jealousies
 To bloody thoughts and to revenge, I chose
 Camillo for the minister to poison

101
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

 My friend Polixenes, which had been done
 But that the good mind of Camillo tardied
180 My swift command, though I with death and with
 Reward did threaten and encourage him,
 Not doing it and being done. He, most humane
 And filled with honor, to my kingly guest
 Unclasped my practice, quit his fortunes here,
185 Which you knew great, and to the hazard
 Of all incertainties himself commended,
 No richer than his honor. How he glisters
 Through my rust, and how his piety
 Does my deeds make the blacker!

Enter Paulina.

PAULINA 190 Woe the while!
 O, cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,
 Break too!
LORD  What fit is this, good lady?
PAULINA, to Leontes 
 What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
195 What wheels, racks, fires? What flaying? Boiling
 In leads or oils? What old or newer torture
 Must I receive, whose every word deserves
 To taste of thy most worst? Thy tyranny,
 Together working with thy jealousies,
200 Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle
 For girls of nine, O, think what they have done,
 And then run mad indeed, stark mad, for all
 Thy bygone fooleries were but spices of it.
 That thou betrayedst Polixenes, ’twas nothing;
205 That did but show thee of a fool, inconstant
 And damnable ingrateful. Nor was ’t much
 Thou wouldst have poisoned good Camillo’s honor,
 To have him kill a king: poor trespasses,
 More monstrous standing by, whereof I reckon

103
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 2

210 The casting forth to crows thy baby daughter
 To be or none or little, though a devil
 Would have shed water out of fire ere done ’t.
 Nor is ’t directly laid to thee the death
 Of the young prince, whose honorable thoughts,
215 Thoughts high for one so tender, cleft the heart
 That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
 Blemished his gracious dam. This is not, no,
 Laid to thy answer. But the last—O lords,
 When I have said, cry woe!—the Queen, the Queen,
220 The sweet’st, dear’st creature’s dead, and vengeance
 for ’t
 Not dropped down yet.
LORD  The higher powers forbid!
PAULINA 
 I say she’s dead. I’ll swear ’t. If word nor oath
225 Prevail not, go and see. If you can bring
 Tincture or luster in her lip, her eye,
 Heat outwardly or breath within, I’ll serve you
 As I would do the gods.—But, O thou tyrant,
 Do not repent these things, for they are heavier
230 Than all thy woes can stir. Therefore betake thee
 To nothing but despair. A thousand knees
 Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,
 Upon a barren mountain, and still winter
 In storm perpetual, could not move the gods
235 To look that way thou wert.
LEONTES  Go on, go on.
 Thou canst not speak too much. I have deserved
 All tongues to talk their bitt’rest.
LORD, to Paulina  Say no more.
240 Howe’er the business goes, you have made fault
 I’ th’ boldness of your speech.
PAULINA  I am sorry for ’t.
 All faults I make, when I shall come to know them,

105
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 3. SC. 3

 I do repent. Alas, I have showed too much
245 The rashness of a woman. He is touched
 To th’ noble heart.—What’s gone and what’s past
 help
 Should be past grief. Do not receive affliction
 At my petition. I beseech you, rather
250 Let me be punished, that have minded you
 Of what you should forget. Now, good my liege,
 Sir, royal sir, forgive a foolish woman.
 The love I bore your queen—lo, fool again!—
 I’ll speak of her no more, nor of your children.
255 I’ll not remember you of my own lord,
 Who is lost too. Take your patience to you,
 And I’ll say nothing.
LEONTES  Thou didst speak but well
 When most the truth, which I receive much better
260 Than to be pitied of thee. Prithee, bring me
 To the dead bodies of my queen and son.
 One grave shall be for both. Upon them shall
 The causes of their death appear, unto
 Our shame perpetual. Once a day I’ll visit
265 The chapel where they lie, and tears shed there
 Shall be my recreation. So long as nature
 Will bear up with this exercise, so long
 I daily vow to use it. Come, and lead me
 To these sorrows.
They exit.