Act 1 Scene 2

Scene 2

[Enter Leontes, Hermione, Mamillius, Polixenes, Camillo,
and Attendants.]


POLIXENES 
 Nine changes of the wat’ry star hath been
 The shepherd’s note since we have left our throne
 Without a burden. Time as long again


 Would be filled up, my brother, with our thanks,
[5]  And yet we should for perpetuity
 Go hence in debt. And therefore, like a cipher,
 Yet standing in rich place, I multiply
 With one “We thank you” many thousands more
 That go before it.

[10] LEONTES   Stay your thanks awhile,
 And pay them when you part.

POLIXENES   Sir, that’s tomorrow.
 I am questioned by my fears of what may chance
 Or breed upon our absence, that may blow
[15]  No sneaping winds at home to make us say
 “This is put forth too truly.” Besides, I have stayed
 To tire your Royalty.

LEONTES   We are tougher, brother,
 Than you can put us to ’t.

[20]POLIXENES   No longer stay.

LEONTES 
 One sev’nnight longer.

POLIXENES   Very sooth, tomorrow.

LEONTES 
 We’ll part the time between ’s, then, and in that
 I’ll no gainsaying.

[25]POLIXENES   Press me not, beseech you, so.
 There is no tongue that moves, none, none i’ th’
 world,
 So soon as yours could win me. So it should now,
 Were there necessity in your request, although
[30]  ’Twere needful I denied it. My affairs
 Do even drag me homeward, which to hinder
 Were in your love a whip to me, my stay
 To you a charge and trouble. To save both,
 Farewell, our brother.

[35]LEONTES   Tongue-tied, our queen?
 Speak you.


HERMIONE 
 I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until
 You had drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,
 Charge him too coldly. Tell him you are sure
[40]  All in Bohemia’s well. This satisfaction
 The bygone day proclaimed. Say this to him,
 He’s beat from his best ward.

LEONTES   Well said, Hermione.

HERMIONE 
 To tell he longs to see his son were strong.
[45]  But let him say so then, and let him go.
 But let him swear so and he shall not stay;
 We’ll thwack him hence with distaffs.
  [To Polixenes.]Yet of your royal presence I’ll
 adventure
[50]  The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia
 You take my lord, I’ll give him my commission
 To let him there a month behind the gest
 Prefixed for ’s parting.—Yet, good deed, Leontes,
 I love thee not a jar o’ th’ clock behind
[55]  What lady she her lord.—You’ll stay?

POLIXENES   No, madam.

HERMIONE 
 Nay, but you will?

POLIXENES   I may not, verily.

HERMIONE   Verily?
[60]  You put me off with limber vows. But I,
 Though you would seek t’ unsphere the stars with
 oaths,
 Should yet say “Sir, no going.” Verily,
 You shall not go. A lady’s “verily” is
[65]  As potent as a lord’s. Will you go yet?
 Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
 Not like a guest, so you shall pay your fees
 When you depart and save your thanks. How say you?


 My prisoner or my guest? By your dread “verily,”
[70]  One of them you shall be.

POLIXENES   Your guest, then, madam.
 To be your prisoner should import offending,
 Which is for me less easy to commit
 Than you to punish.

[75]HERMIONE   Not your jailer, then,
 But your kind hostess. Come, I’ll question you
 Of my lord’s tricks and yours when you were boys.
 You were pretty lordings then?

POLIXENES   We were, fair queen,
[80]  Two lads that thought there was no more behind
 But such a day tomorrow as today,
 And to be boy eternal.

HERMIONE   Was not my lord
 The verier wag o’ th’ two?

POLIXENES 
[85]  We were as twinned lambs that did frisk i’ th’ sun
 And bleat the one at th’ other. What we changed
 Was innocence for innocence. We knew not
 The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dreamed
 That any did. Had we pursued that life,
[90]  And our weak spirits ne’er been higher reared
 With stronger blood, we should have answered
 heaven
 Boldly “Not guilty,” the imposition cleared
 Hereditary ours.

[95]HERMIONE   By this we gather
 You have tripped since.

POLIXENES   O my most sacred lady,
 Temptations have since then been born to ’s, for
 In those unfledged days was my wife a girl;
[100]  Your precious self had then not crossed the eyes
 Of my young playfellow.

HERMIONE   Grace to boot!
 Of this make no conclusion, lest you say


 Your queen and I are devils. Yet go on.
[105]  Th’ offenses we have made you do we’ll answer,
 If you first sinned with us, and that with us
 You did continue fault, and that you slipped not
 With any but with us.

LEONTES   Is he won yet?

[110]HERMIONE 
 He’ll stay, my lord.

LEONTES   At my request he would not.
 Hermione, my dearest, thou never spok’st
 To better purpose.

HERMIONE   Never?

[115]LEONTES   Never but once.

HERMIONE 
 What, have I twice said well? When was ’t before?
 I prithee tell me. Cram ’s with praise, and make ’s
 As fat as tame things. One good deed dying
 tongueless
[120]  Slaughters a thousand waiting upon that.
 Our praises are our wages. You may ride ’s
 With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere
 With spur we heat an acre. But to th’ goal:
 My last good deed was to entreat his stay.
[125]  What was my first? It has an elder sister,
 Or I mistake you. O, would her name were Grace!
 But once before I spoke to th’ purpose? When?
 Nay, let me have ’t; I long.

LEONTES   Why, that was when
[130]  Three crabbèd months had soured themselves to
 death
 Ere I could make thee open thy white hand
 And clap thyself my love; then didst thou utter
 “I am yours forever.”

[135]HERMIONE   ’Tis grace indeed.
 Why, lo you now, I have spoke to th’ purpose twice.


 The one forever earned a royal husband,
 Th’ other for some while a friend.
[She gives Polixenes her hand.]

LEONTES , [aside]   Too hot, too hot!
[140]  To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
 I have tremor cordis on me. My heart dances,
 But not for joy, not joy. This entertainment
 May a free face put on, derive a liberty
 From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
[145]  And well become the agent. ’T may, I grant.
 But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
 As now they are, and making practiced smiles
 As in a looking glass, and then to sigh, as ’twere
 The mort o’ th’ deer—O, that is entertainment
[150]  My bosom likes not, nor my brows.—Mamillius,
 Art thou my boy?

MAMILLIUS   Ay, my good lord.

LEONTES   I’ fecks!
 Why, that’s my bawcock. What, hast smutched thy
[155]  nose?
 They say it is a copy out of mine. Come, captain,
 We must be neat—not neat, but cleanly, captain.
 And yet the steer, the heifer, and the calf
 Are all called neat.—Still virginalling
[160]  Upon his palm?—How now, you wanton calf?
 Art thou my calf?

MAMILLIUS   Yes, if you will, my lord.

LEONTES 
 Thou want’st a rough pash and the shoots that I
 have
[165]  To be full like me; yet they say we are
 Almost as like as eggs. Women say so,
 That will say anything. But were they false
 As o’erdyed blacks, as wind, as waters, false
 As dice are to be wished by one that fixes


[170]  No bourn ’twixt his and mine, yet were it true
 To say this boy were like me. Come, sir page,
 Look on me with your welkin eye. Sweet villain,
 Most dear’st, my collop! Can thy dam?—may ’t
 be?—
[175]  Affection, thy intention stabs the center.
 Thou dost make possible things not so held,
 Communicat’st with dreams—how can this be?
 With what’s unreal thou coactive art,
 And fellow’st nothing. Then ’tis very credent
[180]  Thou may’st co-join with something; and thou dost,
 And that beyond commission, and I find it,
 And that to the infection of my brains
 And hard’ning of my brows.

POLIXENES   What means Sicilia?

[185]HERMIONE 
 He something seems unsettled.

POLIXENES   How, my lord?

LEONTES 
 What cheer? How is ’t with you, best brother?

HERMIONE   You look
 As if you held a brow of much distraction.
[190]  Are you moved, my lord?

LEONTES   No, in good earnest.
 How sometimes nature will betray its folly,
 Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime
 To harder bosoms! Looking on the lines
[195]  Of my boy’s face, methoughts I did recoil
 Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreeched,
 In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled
 Lest it should bite its master and so prove,
 As ornaments oft do, too dangerous.
[200]  How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,
 This squash, this gentleman.—Mine honest friend,
 Will you take eggs for money?

MAMILLIUS   No, my lord, I’ll fight.


LEONTES 
 You will? Why, happy man be ’s dole!—My brother,
[205]  Are you so fond of your young prince as we
 Do seem to be of ours?

POLIXENES   If at home, sir,
 He’s all my exercise, my mirth, my matter,
 Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy,
[210]  My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all.
 He makes a July’s day short as December,
 And with his varying childness cures in me
 Thoughts that would thick my blood.

LEONTES   So stands this
[215]  squire
 Officed with me. We two will walk, my lord,
 And leave you to your graver steps.—Hermione,
 How thou lov’st us show in our brother’s welcome.
 Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap.
[220]  Next to thyself and my young rover, he’s
 Apparent to my heart.

HERMIONE   If you would seek us,
 We are yours i’ th’ garden. Shall ’s attend you there?

LEONTES 
 To your own bents dispose you. You’ll be found,
[225]  Be you beneath the sky.   [Aside.] I am angling now,
 Though you perceive me not how I give line.
 Go to, go to!
 How she holds up the neb, the bill to him,
 And arms her with the boldness of a wife
[230]  To her allowing husband!
[Exit Hermione, Polixenes, and Attendants.]
 Gone already.
 Inch thick, knee-deep, o’er head and ears a forked
 one!—
 Go play, boy, play. Thy mother plays, and I

[235]  Play too, but so disgraced a part, whose issue


 Will hiss me to my grave. Contempt and clamor
 Will be my knell. Go play, boy, play.—There have
 been,
 Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now;
[240]  And many a man there is, even at this present,
 Now while I speak this, holds his wife by th’ arm,
 That little thinks she has been sluiced in ’s absence,
 And his pond fished by his next neighbor, by
 Sir Smile, his neighbor. Nay, there’s comfort in ’t
[245]  Whiles other men have gates and those gates
 opened,
 As mine, against their will. Should all despair
 That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind
 Would hang themselves. Physic for ’t there’s none.
[250]  It is a bawdy planet, that will strike
 Where ’tis predominant; and ’tis powerful, think it,
 From east, west, north, and south. Be it concluded,
 No barricado for a belly. Know ’t,
 It will let in and out the enemy
[255]  With bag and baggage. Many thousand on ’s
 Have the disease and feel ’t not.—How now, boy?

MAMILLIUS 
 I am like you, they  say.

LEONTES   Why, that’s some comfort.—
 What, Camillo there?

[260]CAMILLO , [coming forward]   Ay, my good lord.

LEONTES 
 Go play, Mamillius. Thou ’rt an honest man.
[Mamillius exits.]
 Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.

CAMILLO 
 You had much ado to make his anchor hold.
 When you cast out, it still came home.

[265]LEONTES   Didst note it?


CAMILLO 
 He would not stay at your petitions, made
 His business more material.

LEONTES   Didst perceive it?
  [Aside.] They’re here with me already, whisp’ring,
[270]  rounding:
 “Sicilia is a so-forth.” ’Tis far gone
 When I shall gust it last.—How came ’t, Camillo,
 That he did stay?

CAMILLO   At the good queen’s entreaty.

[275]LEONTES 
 “At the queen’s” be ’t. “Good” should be pertinent,
 But so it is, it is not. Was this taken
 By any understanding pate but thine?
 For thy conceit is soaking, will draw in
 More than the common blocks. Not noted, is ’t,
[280]  But of the finer natures, by some severals
 Of headpiece extraordinary? Lower messes
 Perchance are to this business purblind? Say.

CAMILLO 
 Business, my lord? I think most understand
 Bohemia stays here longer.

[285]LEONTES 
 Ha?

CAMILLO   Stays here longer.

LEONTES   Ay, but why?

CAMILLO 
 To satisfy your Highness and the entreaties
 Of our most gracious mistress.

[290]LEONTES   Satisfy?
 Th’ entreaties of your mistress? Satisfy?
 Let that suffice. I have trusted thee, Camillo,
 With all the nearest things to my heart, as well
 My chamber-counsels, wherein, priestlike, thou
[295]  Hast cleansed my bosom; I from thee departed
 Thy penitent reformed. But we have been


 Deceived in thy integrity, deceived
 In that which seems so.

CAMILLO   Be it forbid, my lord!

[300]LEONTES 
 To bide upon ’t: thou art not honest; or,
 If thou inclin’st that way, thou art a coward,
 Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining
 From course required; or else thou must be
 counted
[305]  A servant grafted in my serious trust
 And therein negligent; or else a fool
 That seest a game played home, the rich stake
 drawn,
 And tak’st it all for jest.

[310]CAMILLO   My gracious lord,
 I may be negligent, foolish, and fearful.
 In every one of these no man is free,
 But that his negligence, his folly, fear,
 Among the infinite doings of the world,
[315]  Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my lord,
 If ever I were willful-negligent,
 It was my folly; if industriously
 I played the fool, it was my negligence,
 Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful
[320]  To do a thing where I the issue doubted,
 Whereof the execution did cry out
 Against the non-performance, ’twas a fear
 Which oft infects the wisest. These, my lord,
 Are such allowed infirmities that honesty
[325]  Is never free of. But, beseech your Grace,
 Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass
 By its own visage. If I then deny it,
 ’Tis none of mine.

LEONTES   Ha’ not you seen, Camillo—
[330]  But that’s past doubt; you have, or your eyeglass


 Is thicker than a cuckold’s horn—or heard—
 For to a vision so apparent, rumor
 Cannot be mute—or thought—for cogitation
 Resides not in that man that does not think—
[335]  My wife is slippery? If thou wilt confess—
 Or else be impudently negative
 To have nor eyes nor ears nor thought—then say
 My wife’s a hobby-horse, deserves a name
 As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
[340]  Before her troth-plight. Say ’t, and justify ’t.

CAMILLO 
 I would not be a stander-by to hear
 My sovereign mistress clouded so without
 My present vengeance taken. ’Shrew my heart,
 You never spoke what did become you less
[345]  Than this, which to reiterate were sin
 As deep as that, though true.

LEONTES   Is whispering nothing?
 Is leaning cheek to cheek? Is meeting noses?
 Kissing with inside lip? Stopping the career
[350]  Of laughter with a sigh?—a note infallible
 Of breaking honesty. Horsing foot on foot?
 Skulking in corners? Wishing clocks more swift?
 Hours minutes? Noon midnight? And all eyes
 Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only,
[355]  That would unseen be wicked? Is this nothing?
 Why, then the world and all that’s in ’t is nothing,
 The covering sky is nothing, Bohemia nothing,
 My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings,
 If this be nothing.

[360]CAMILLO   Good my lord, be cured
 Of this diseased opinion, and betimes,
 For ’tis most dangerous.

LEONTES   Say it be, ’tis true.


CAMILLO 
 No, no, my lord.

[365]LEONTES   It is. You lie, you lie.
 I say thou liest, Camillo, and I hate thee,
 Pronounce thee a gross lout, a mindless slave,
 Or else a hovering temporizer that
 Canst with thine eyes at once see good and evil,
[370]  Inclining to them both. Were my wife’s liver
 Infected as her life, she would not live
 The running of one glass.

CAMILLO   Who does infect her?

LEONTES 
 Why, he that wears her like her medal, hanging
[375]  About his neck—Bohemia, who, if I
 Had servants true about me, that bare eyes
 To see alike mine honor as their profits,
 Their own particular thrifts, they would do that
 Which should undo more doing. Ay, and thou,
[380]  His cupbearer—whom I from meaner form
 Have benched and reared to worship, who mayst see
 Plainly as heaven sees Earth and Earth sees heaven
 How I am galled—mightst bespice a cup
 To give mine enemy a lasting wink,
[385]  Which draft to me were cordial.

CAMILLO   Sir, my lord,
 I could do this, and that with no rash potion,
 But with a ling’ring dram that should not work
 Maliciously like poison. But I cannot
[390]  Believe this crack to be in my dread mistress,
 So sovereignly being honorable. I have loved thee—

LEONTES  Make that thy question, and go rot!
 Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled,
 To appoint myself in this vexation, sully
[395]  The purity and whiteness of my sheets—
 Which to preserve is sleep, which being spotted


 Is goads, thorns, nettles, tails of wasps—
 Give scandal to the blood o’ th’ Prince, my son,
 Who I do think is mine and love as mine,
[400]  Without ripe moving to ’t? Would I do this?
 Could man so blench?

CAMILLO   I must believe you, sir.
 I do, and will fetch off Bohemia for ’t—
 Provided that, when he’s removed, your Highness
[405]  Will take again your queen as yours at first,
 Even for your son’s sake, and thereby for sealing
 The injury of tongues in courts and kingdoms
 Known and allied to yours.

LEONTES   Thou dost advise me
[410]  Even so as I mine own course have set down.
 I’ll give no blemish to her honor, none.

CAMILLO   My lord,
 Go then, and with a countenance as clear
 As friendship wears at feasts, keep with Bohemia
[415]  And with your queen. I am his cupbearer.
 If from me he have wholesome beverage,
 Account me not your servant.

LEONTES   This is all.
 Do ’t and thou hast the one half of my heart;
[420]  Do ’t not, thou splitt’st thine own.

CAMILLO   I’ll do ’t, my lord.

LEONTES 
 I will seem friendly, as thou hast advised me.
[He exits.]

CAMILLO 
 O miserable lady! But, for me,
 What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner
[425]  Of good Polixenes, and my ground to do ’t
 Is the obedience to a master, one
 Who in rebellion with himself will have
 All that are his so too. To do this deed,


 Promotion follows. If I could find example
[430]  Of thousands that had struck anointed kings
 And flourished after, I’d not do ’t. But since
 Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment bears not one,
 Let villainy itself forswear ’t. I must
 Forsake the court. To do ’t or no is certain
[435]  To me a breakneck. Happy star reign now!
 Here comes Bohemia.


[Enter Polixenes.]


POLIXENES , [aside]   This is strange. Methinks
 My favor here begins to warp. Not speak?—
 Good day, Camillo.

[440]CAMILLO   Hail, most royal sir.

POLIXENES 
 What is the news i’ th’ court?

CAMILLO   None rare, my lord.

POLIXENES 
 The King hath on him such a countenance
 As he had lost some province and a region
[445]  Loved as he loves himself. Even now I met him
 With customary compliment, when he,
 Wafting his eyes to th’ contrary and falling
 A lip of much contempt, speeds from me, and
 So leaves me to consider what is breeding
[450]  That changes thus his manners.

CAMILLO   I dare not know, my
 lord.

POLIXENES 
 How, dare not? Do not? Do you know and dare not?
 Be intelligent to me—’tis thereabouts;
[455]  For to yourself what you do know, you must,
 And cannot say you dare not. Good Camillo,
 Your changed complexions are to me a mirror
 Which shows me mine changed too, for I must be


 A party in this alteration, finding
[460]  Myself thus altered with ’t.

CAMILLO   There is a sickness
 Which puts some of us in distemper, but
 I cannot name the disease, and it is caught
 Of you that yet are well.

[465]POLIXENES   How caught of me?
 Make me not sighted like the basilisk.
 I have looked on thousands who have sped the

 better
 By my regard, but killed none so. Camillo,
[470]  As you are certainly a gentleman, thereto
 Clerklike experienced, which no less adorns
 Our gentry than our parents’ noble names,
 In whose success we are gentle, I beseech you,
 If you know aught which does behoove my
[475]  knowledge
 Thereof to be informed, imprison ’t not
 In ignorant concealment.

CAMILLO   I may not answer.

POLIXENES 
 A sickness caught of me, and yet I well?
[480]  I must be answered. Dost thou hear, Camillo?
 I conjure thee by all the parts of man
 Which honor does acknowledge, whereof the least
 Is not this suit of mine, that thou declare
 What incidency thou dost guess of harm
[485]  Is creeping toward me; how far off, how near;
 Which way to be prevented, if to be;
 If not, how best to bear it.

CAMILLO   Sir, I will tell you,
 Since I am charged in honor and by him
[490]  That I think honorable. Therefore mark my counsel,
 Which must be e’en as swiftly followed as
 I mean to utter it, or both yourself and me
 Cry lost, and so goodnight.


POLIXENES   On, good Camillo.

CAMILLO 
[495]  I am appointed him to murder you.

POLIXENES 
 By whom, Camillo?

CAMILLO   By the King.

POLIXENES   For what?

CAMILLO 
 He thinks, nay with all confidence he swears,
[500]  As he had seen ’t or been an instrument
 To vice you to ’t, that you have touched his queen
 Forbiddenly.

POLIXENES   O, then my best blood turn
 To an infected jelly, and my name
[505]  Be yoked with his that did betray the Best!
 Turn then my freshest reputation to
 A savor that may strike the dullest nostril
 Where I arrive, and my approach be shunned,
 Nay, hated too, worse than the great’st infection
[510]  That e’er was heard or read.

CAMILLO   Swear his thought over
 By each particular star in heaven and
 By all their influences, you may as well
 Forbid the sea for to obey the moon
[515]  As or by oath remove or counsel shake
 The fabric of his folly, whose foundation
 Is piled upon his faith and will continue
 The standing of his body.

POLIXENES   How should this grow?

[520]CAMILLO 
 I know not. But I am sure ’tis safer to
 Avoid what’s grown than question how ’tis born.
 If therefore you dare trust my honesty,
 That lies enclosèd in this trunk which you
 Shall bear along impawned, away tonight!


[525]  Your followers I will whisper to the business,
 And will by twos and threes at several posterns
 Clear them o’ th’ city. For myself, I’ll put
 My fortunes to your service, which are here
 By this discovery lost. Be not uncertain,
[530]  For, by the honor of my parents, I
 Have uttered truth—which if you seek to prove,
 I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer
 Than one condemned by the King’s own mouth,
 thereon
[535]  His execution sworn.

POLIXENES   I do believe thee.
 I saw his heart in ’s face. Give me thy hand.
 Be pilot to me and thy places shall
 Still neighbor mine. My ships are ready and
[540]  My people did expect my hence departure
 Two days ago. This jealousy
 Is for a precious creature. As she’s rare,
 Must it be great; and as his person’s mighty,
 Must it be violent; and as he does conceive
[545]  He is dishonored by a man which ever
 Professed to him, why, his revenges must
 In that be made more bitter. Fear o’ershades me.
 Good expedition be my friend, and comfort
 The gracious queen, part of his theme, but nothing
[550]  Of his ill-ta’en suspicion. Come, Camillo,
 I will respect thee as a father if
 Thou bear’st my life off hence. Let us avoid.

CAMILLO 
 It is in mine authority to command
 The keys of all the posterns. Please your Highness
[555]  To take the urgent hour. Come, sir, away.
[They exit.]



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