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The Winter’s Tale
Act 5, 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 Leontes, Cleomenes, Dion, Paulina, and
Servants.


CLEOMENES 
 Sir, you have done enough, and have performed
 A saintlike sorrow. No fault could you make
 Which you have not redeemed—indeed, paid down
 More penitence than done trespass. At the last,
5 Do as the heavens have done: forget your evil;
 With them forgive yourself.
LEONTES  Whilst I remember
 Her and her virtues, I cannot forget
 My blemishes in them, and so still think of
10 The wrong I did myself, which was so much
 That heirless it hath made my kingdom and
 Destroyed the sweet’st companion that e’er man
 Bred his hopes out of.
PAULINA  True, too true, my lord.
15 If one by one you wedded all the world,
 Or from the all that are took something good
 To make a perfect woman, she you killed
 Would be unparalleled.
LEONTES  I think so. Killed?
20 She I killed? I did so, but thou strik’st me
 Sorely to say I did. It is as bitter
195

197
The Winter’s Tale
ACT 5. SC. 1

 Upon thy tongue as in my thought. Now, good now,
 Say so but seldom.
CLEOMENES  Not at all, good lady.
25 You might have spoken a thousand things that
 would
 Have done the time more benefit and graced
 Your kindness better.
PAULINA  You are one of those
30 Would have him wed again.
DION  If you would not so,
 You pity not the state nor the remembrance
 Of his most sovereign name, consider little
 What dangers by his Highness’ fail of issue
35 May drop upon his kingdom and devour
 Incertain lookers-on. What were more holy
 Than to rejoice the former queen is well?
 What holier than, for royalty’s repair,
 For present comfort, and for future good,
40 To bless the bed of majesty again
 With a sweet fellow to ’t?
PAULINA  There is none worthy,
 Respecting her that’s gone. Besides, the gods
 Will have fulfilled their secret purposes.
45 For has not the divine Apollo said,
 Is ’t not the tenor of his oracle,
 That King Leontes shall not have an heir
 Till his lost child be found? Which that it shall
 Is all as monstrous to our human reason
50 As my Antigonus to break his grave
 And come again to me—who, on my life,
 Did perish with the infant. ’Tis your counsel
 My lord should to the heavens be contrary,
 Oppose against their wills. Care not for issue.
55 The crown will find an heir. Great Alexander
 Left his to th’ worthiest; so his successor
 Was like to be the best.

199
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ACT 5. SC. 1

LEONTES  Good Paulina,
 Who hast the memory of Hermione,
60 I know, in honor, O, that ever I
 Had squared me to thy counsel! Then even now
 I might have looked upon my queen’s full eyes,
 Have taken treasure from her lips—
PAULINA  And left them
65 More rich for what they yielded.
LEONTES  Thou speak’st truth.
 No more such wives, therefore no wife. One worse,
 And better used, would make her sainted spirit
 Again possess her corpse, and on this stage,
70 Where we offenders now appear, soul-vexed,
 And begin “Why to me?”
PAULINA  Had she such power,
 She had just cause.
LEONTES  She had, and would incense me
75 To murder her I married.
PAULINA  I should so.
 Were I the ghost that walked, I’d bid you mark
 Her eye, and tell me for what dull part in ’t
 You chose her. Then I’d shriek, that even your ears
80 Should rift to hear me, and the words that followed
 Should be “Remember mine.”
LEONTES  Stars, stars,
 And all eyes else dead coals! Fear thou no wife;
 I’ll have no wife, Paulina.
PAULINA 85 Will you swear
 Never to marry but by my free leave?
LEONTES 
 Never, Paulina, so be blest my spirit.
PAULINA 
 Then, good my lords, bear witness to his oath.
CLEOMENES 
 You tempt him over-much.

201
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ACT 5. SC. 1

PAULINA 90 Unless another
 As like Hermione as is her picture
 Affront his eye.
CLEOMENES  Good madam—
PAULINA  I have done.
95 Yet if my lord will marry—if you will, sir,
 No remedy but you will—give me the office
 To choose you a queen. She shall not be so young
 As was your former, but she shall be such
 As, walked your first queen’s ghost, it should take
100 joy
 To see her in your arms.
LEONTES  My true Paulina,
 We shall not marry till thou bid’st us.
PAULINA  That
105 Shall be when your first queen’s again in breath,
 Never till then.

Enter a Servant.

SERVANT 
 One that gives out himself Prince Florizell,
 Son of Polixenes, with his princess—she
 The fairest I have yet beheld—desires access
110 To your high presence.
LEONTES  What with him? He comes not
 Like to his father’s greatness. His approach,
 So out of circumstance and sudden, tells us
 ’Tis not a visitation framed, but forced
115 By need and accident. What train?
SERVANT  But few,
 And those but mean.
LEONTES  His princess, say you, with him?
SERVANT 
 Ay, the most peerless piece of earth, I think,
120 That e’er the sun shone bright on.

203
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ACT 5. SC. 1

PAULINA  O Hermione,
 As every present time doth boast itself
 Above a better gone, so must thy grave
 Give way to what’s seen now. To Servant. Sir, you
125 yourself
 Have said and writ so—but your writing now
 Is colder than that theme—she had not been
 Nor was not to be equalled. Thus your verse
 Flowed with her beauty once. ’Tis shrewdly ebbed
130 To say you have seen a better.
SERVANT  Pardon, madam.
 The one I have almost forgot—your pardon;
 The other, when she has obtained your eye,
 Will have your tongue too. This is a creature,
135 Would she begin a sect, might quench the zeal
 Of all professors else, make proselytes
 Of who she but bid follow.
PAULINA  How, not women?
SERVANT 
 Women will love her that she is a woman
140 More worth than any man; men, that she is
 The rarest of all women.
LEONTES  Go, Cleomenes.
 Yourself, assisted with your honored friends,
 Bring them to our embracement.
Cleomenes and others exit.
145 Still, ’tis strange
 He thus should steal upon us.
PAULINA  Had our prince,
 Jewel of children, seen this hour, he had paired
 Well with this lord. There was not full a month
150 Between their births.
LEONTES  Prithee, no more; cease. Thou
 know’st
 He dies to me again when talked of. Sure,
 When I shall see this gentleman, thy speeches

205
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ACT 5. SC. 1

155 Will bring me to consider that which may
 Unfurnish me of reason. They are come.

Enter Florizell, Perdita, Cleomenes, and others.

 Your mother was most true to wedlock, prince,
 For she did print your royal father off,
 Conceiving you. Were I but twenty-one,
160 Your father’s image is so hit in you,
 His very air, that I should call you brother,
 As I did him, and speak of something wildly
 By us performed before. Most dearly welcome,
 And your fair princess—goddess! O, alas,
165 I lost a couple that ’twixt heaven and Earth
 Might thus have stood, begetting wonder, as
 You, gracious couple, do. And then I lost—
 All mine own folly—the society,
 Amity too, of your brave father, whom,
170 Though bearing misery, I desire my life
 Once more to look on him.
FLORIZELL  By his command
 Have I here touched Sicilia, and from him
 Give you all greetings that a king, at friend,
175 Can send his brother. And but infirmity,
 Which waits upon worn times, hath something
 seized
 His wished ability, he had himself
 The lands and waters ’twixt your throne and his
180 Measured to look upon you, whom he loves—
 He bade me say so—more than all the scepters
 And those that bear them living.
LEONTES  O my brother,
 Good gentleman, the wrongs I have done thee stir
185 Afresh within me, and these thy offices,
 So rarely kind, are as interpreters
 Of my behindhand slackness. Welcome hither,
 As is the spring to th’ earth. And hath he too

207
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ACT 5. SC. 1

 Exposed this paragon to th’ fearful usage,
190 At least ungentle, of the dreadful Neptune,
 To greet a man not worth her pains, much less
 Th’ adventure of her person?
FLORIZELL  Good my lord,
 She came from Libya.
LEONTES 195 Where the warlike Smalus,
 That noble honored lord, is feared and loved?
FLORIZELL 
 Most royal sir, from thence, from him, whose
 daughter
 His tears proclaimed his, parting with her. Thence,
200 A prosperous south wind friendly, we have crossed
 To execute the charge my father gave me
 For visiting your Highness. My best train
 I have from your Sicilian shores dismissed,
 Who for Bohemia bend, to signify
205 Not only my success in Libya, sir,
 But my arrival and my wife’s in safety
 Here where we are.
LEONTES The blessèd gods
 Purge all infection from our air whilst you
210 Do climate here! You have a holy father,
 A graceful gentleman, against whose person,
 So sacred as it is, I have done sin,
 For which the heavens, taking angry note,
 Have left me issueless. And your father’s blest,
215 As he from heaven merits it, with you,
 Worthy his goodness. What might I have been
 Might I a son and daughter now have looked on,
 Such goodly things as you?

Enter a Lord.

LORD  Most noble sir,
220 That which I shall report will bear no credit,

209
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ACT 5. SC. 1

 Were not the proof so nigh. Please you, great sir,
 Bohemia greets you from himself by me,
 Desires you to attach his son, who has—
 His dignity and duty both cast off—
225 Fled from his father, from his hopes, and with
 A shepherd’s daughter.
LEONTES  Where’s Bohemia? Speak.
LORD 
 Here in your city. I now came from him.
 I speak amazedly, and it becomes
230 My marvel and my message. To your court
 Whiles he was hast’ning—in the chase, it seems,
 Of this fair couple—meets he on the way
 The father of this seeming lady and
 Her brother, having both their country quitted
235 With this young prince.
FLORIZELL  Camillo has betrayed me,
 Whose honor and whose honesty till now
 Endured all weathers.
LORD  Lay ’t so to his charge.
240 He’s with the King your father.
LEONTES  Who? Camillo?
LORD 
 Camillo, sir. I spake with him, who now
 Has these poor men in question. Never saw I
 Wretches so quake. They kneel, they kiss the earth,
245 Forswear themselves as often as they speak.
 Bohemia stops his ears and threatens them
 With divers deaths in death.
PERDITA  O my poor father!
 The heaven sets spies upon us, will not have
250 Our contract celebrated.
LEONTES  You are married?
FLORIZELL 
 We are not, sir, nor are we like to be.

211
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ACT 5. SC. 1

 The stars, I see, will kiss the valleys first.
 The odds for high and low’s alike.
LEONTES 255 My lord,
 Is this the daughter of a king?
FLORIZELL  She is
 When once she is my wife.
LEONTES 
 That “once,” I see, by your good father’s speed
260 Will come on very slowly. I am sorry,
 Most sorry, you have broken from his liking,
 Where you were tied in duty, and as sorry
 Your choice is not so rich in worth as beauty,
 That you might well enjoy her.
FLORIZELL, to Perdita 265 Dear, look up.
 Though Fortune, visible an enemy,
 Should chase us with my father, power no jot
 Hath she to change our loves.—Beseech you, sir,
 Remember since you owed no more to time
270 Than I do now. With thought of such affections,
 Step forth mine advocate. At your request,
 My father will grant precious things as trifles.
LEONTES 
 Would he do so, I’d beg your precious mistress,
 Which he counts but a trifle.
PAULINA 275 Sir, my liege,
 Your eye hath too much youth in ’t. Not a month
 ’Fore your queen died, she was more worth such
 gazes
 Than what you look on now.
LEONTES 280 I thought of her
 Even in these looks I made. To Florizell. But your
 petition
 Is yet unanswered. I will to your father.
 Your honor not o’erthrown by your desires,
285 I am friend to them and you. Upon which errand

213
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ACT 5. SC. 2

 I now go toward him. Therefore follow me,
 And mark what way I make. Come, good my lord.
They exit.