Act 3 Scene 2

Scene 2

[Enter Leontes, Lords, and  Officers.]

 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.

 It is his Highness’ pleasure that the Queen
[10]  Appear in person here in court.

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


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

 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.

LEONTES    ="line-3.2.56" title="3.2.56">I ne’er heard yet
 That any of these bolder vices wanted
 Less impudence to gainsay what they did
 Than to perform it first.

[60]HERMIONE   That’s true enough,
 Though ’tis a saying, sir, not due to me.

 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
[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.

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

[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.

 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

[125]  Is altogether just. Therefore bring forth,
 And in Apollo’s name, his oracle. [Officers exit.]

 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.

[140]CLEOMENES, DION  All 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

 Now blessèd be the great Apollo!

HERMIONE   Praised!

LEONTES  Hast thou read truth?

 Ay, my lord, even so as it is here set down.

 There is no truth at all i’ th’ oracle.
 The sessions shall proceed. This is mere falsehood.

[Enter a Servant.]

 My lord the King, the King!

LEONTES   What is the business?

 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.

 Apollo’s angry, and the heavens themselves
 Do strike at my injustice.
[Hermione falls.]
 How now there?

 This news is mortal to the Queen. Look down
 And see what death is doing.

[165]LEONTES   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

 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.]

[190]PAULINA   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

[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!

 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,

 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
 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.]

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