A line-by-line translation

The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale Translation Act 1, Scene 2

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Enter LEONTES, HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, POLIXENES, CAMILLO, and Attendants

POLIXENES

Nine changes of the watery star hath been The shepherd's note since we have left our throne Without a burthen: time as long again Would be filled up, my brother, with our thanks; 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.

POLIXENES

It's been nine months since I left my throne in Bohemia without a care in the world. I'd be happy to stay another nine months, brother, except that I would owe you forever. All I can repay you with are my thanks! That being said, I'll have to multiply my single "thank you" into many thousands more.

LEONTES

Stay your thanks a while;And pay them when you part.

LEONTES

Oh, stop thanking me. You can "pay" me when you leave.

POLIXENES

Sir, that's to-morrow. I am question'd by my fears, of what may chance Or breed upon our absence; that may blow No sneaking winds at home, to make us say 'This is put forth too truly:' besides, I have stay'd To tire your royalty.

POLIXENES

I'm leaving tomorrow, sir. I'm worried about what might have happened in Bohemia while I've been gone—unfavorable winds may be blowing, if you know what I mean. Besides, I've over-stayed my welcome here and I've worn you out.

LEONTES

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

LEONTES

I'm tougher than you give me credit for!

POLIXENES

No longer stay.

POLIXENES

I can't stay any longer.

LEONTES

One seven-night longer.

LEONTES

Just one more week?

POLIXENES

Very sooth, to-morrow.

POLIXENES

Really, tomorrow.

LEONTES

We'll part the time between's then; and in thatI'll no gainsaying.

LEONTES

We'll say goodbye in a week, and after that I won't argue any more.

POLIXENES

Press me not, beseech you, so. There is no tongue that moves, none, none i' the world, So soon as yours could win me: so it should now, Were there necessity in your request, although '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.

POLIXENES

Please, stop pushing me. There is no one in the whole world better at convincing me to do things than you. And now, if you really needed me, you would have almost won me over—except that I'd still have to say "no." Duty calls and I have to go home. If you keep me here, you'll only be hurting me in the long run; if I stay, I'll only be a burden to your hospitality. So if I leave, it's a win-win! Goodbye, brother.

LEONTES

Tongue-tied, our queen?speak you.

LEONTES

Hermione, are you tongue-tied? Say something!

HERMIONE

I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until You have drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir, Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you are sure All in Bohemia's well; this satisfaction The by-gone day proclaim'd: say this to him, He's beat from his best ward.

HERMIONE

Sir, I'd planned to stay quiet until you'd pushed him to the point of swearing not to stay. You're too hard on him. Tell him everything in Bohemia's fine—we heard good news yesterday. If you tell him that, he's lost his best reason for leaving.

LEONTES

Well said, Hermione.

LEONTES

Well said, Hermione.

HERMIONE

To tell, he longs to see his son, were strong: 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. Yet of your royal presence I'll adventure 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 Prefix'd for's parting: yet, good deed, Leontes, I love thee not a jar o' the clock behind What lady-she her lord. You'll stay?

HERMIONE

Of course, that he misses his son is a good excuse. If he says that, we'll let him go. And if he swears that, we'll not only let him go, we'll chase him out the door with frying pans! Despite that, I'll still beg your royal self to stay another week. When my husband goes to Bohemia I'll give him permission to stay there a month past the agreed-upon departure date—and, Leontes, you know I love you not one bit less than any woman loves her husband. 

[To POLIXENES] Will you stay?

POLIXENES

No, madam.

POLIXENES

No, ma'am.

HERMIONE

Nay, but you will?

HERMIONE

Oh, please, won't you?

POLIXENES

I may not, verily.

POLIXENES

Truly, I can't.

HERMIONE

Verily! 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 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,' One of them you shall be.

HERMIONE

"Truly!" You can keep putting me off with promises, but even if you swore by all the stars in the sky, I'd still say, "Sir, you're staying." Truly, you can't leave—a woman's "truly" is as strong as a man's. Are you still intent on leaving? You'll force me to keep you as a prisoner rather than as a guest. Instead of thanking me, you'll have to pay your fees when you leave. What do you say to that? Will you be my prisoner, or my guest? Judging by your oh-so-serious "truly," you'll have to be one of them.

POLIXENES

Your guest, then, madam:To be your prisoner should import offending;Which is for me less easy to commitThan you to punish.

POLIXENES

I'll be your guest, then. For me to be your prisoner would imply that I'd committed some crime against you. It'd be harder for me to do that than it would be for you to punish me.

HERMIONE

Not your gaoler, then,But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question youOf my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys:You were pretty lordings then?

HERMIONE

Then I'm not your jailer; I'm your kind hostess. Come on, I'll ask you all about your and my husband's shenanigans back when you were kids. You were cute little kings-to-be back then, weren't you?

POLIXENES

We were, fair queen,Two lads that thought there was no more behindBut such a day to-morrow as to-day,And to be boy eternal.

POLIXENES

We were two kids who lived like there was no tomorrow, and thought we'd be boys forever.

HERMIONE

Was not my lordThe verier wag o' the two?

HERMIONE

And wasn't my husband the bigger troublemaker out of you two?

POLIXENES

We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun, And bleat the one at the other: what we changed Was innocence for innocence; we knew not The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd That any did. Had we pursued that life, And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven Boldly 'not guilty;' the imposition clear'd Hereditary ours.

POLIXENES

We were like two lambs that frolicked in the sunshine and bleated to each other; we were completely innocent and knew nothing about evil. We couldn't even comprehend evil. If we'd stayed like that, and we'd never had to grow up, we could have gone to heaven and honestly told God that we'd never sinned.

HERMIONE

By this we gatherYou have tripp'd since.

HERMIONE

Should we take that to mean that you've slipped up since then?

POLIXENES

O my most sacred lady! Temptations have since then been born to's; for In those unfledged days was my wife a girl; Your precious self had then not cross'd the eyes Of my young play-fellow.

POLIXENES

Oh, you virtuous woman! We have definitely come across temptation since then. But back in those days, my wife was still a young girl, and you hadn't yet caught my young playmate's eye.

HERMIONE

Grace to boot! Of this make no conclusion, lest you say Your queen and I are devils: yet go on; The offences we have made you do we'll answer, If you first sinn'd with us and that with us You did continue fault and that you slipp'd not With any but with us.

HERMIONE

And wasn't that lucky! Please, don't finish your story. Next you're going to say that your queen and I are devils. Actually, keep going—we'll admit to being the cause of your sin as long as you admit you sinned with us for the first time and swear you haven't sinned with anyone else since.

LEONTES

Is he won yet?

LEONTES

Have you convinced him yet?

HERMIONE

He'll stay my lord.

HERMIONE

He'll stay, sweetheart.

LEONTES

At my request he would not.Hermione, my dearest, thou never spokestTo better purpose.

LEONTES

He wouldn't when I asked! Hermione, you've never spoken better.

HERMIONE

Never?

HERMIONE

Never?

LEONTES

Never, but once.

LEONTES

Never, except 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 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 beat an acre. But to the goal: My last good deed was to entreat his stay: 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 the purpose: when? Nay, let me have't; I long.

HERMIONE

What? Have I said the right thing twice? When was the first time? Please tell me. Butter me up with praise 'til I'm as fat as a pig for the slaughter. If you don't compliment a good deed, you'll stop that person from doing a thousand more good things that person might have done. Your compliments are my reward. For a single kiss, you can ride me for a mile before you'd have to kick me with your spurs. Back to the point: if my most recent accomplishment was convincing him to stay, what was the first one? This accomplishment must have a sister, unless I misunderstood you. If only her name were "Grace!" There was another time I said something good? What was it? Please tell me; I'm dying to know.

LEONTES

Why, that was when Three crabbed months had sour'd themselves to death, Ere I could make thee open thy white hand And clap thyself my love: then didst thou utter 'I am yours for ever.'

LEONTES

Obviously that was when, after three long, bitter months, I convinced you to give me your hand in marriage. At that moment, you said, "I am yours forever."

HERMIONE

'Tis grace indeed.Why, lo you now, I have spoke to the purpose twice:The one for ever earn'd a royal husband;The other for some while a friend.

HERMIONE

That was definitely "grace," wasn't it? Well, look at that, I've said the right thing two whole times. The first time, I earned a royal husband forever; the second time, I earned a friend for a while.

LEONTES

[Aside] Too hot, too hot! 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, And well become the agent; 't may, I grant; But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers, As now they are, and making practised smiles, As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment My bosom likes not, nor my brows! Mamillius, Art thou my boy?

LEONTES

[To himself] Too far, too far! Friendships that get too close always end with the "friends" having sex. I'm having a heart attack. My heart is racing, but not with excitement—definitely not. They might as well be relaxed and open with each other here at the party, and blame it on the plentiful food and drink. But holding hands and linking fingers, and smiling stupidly at each other and sighing as if they were having an orgasm—that kind of "party" hurts my heart and my head.

[To MAMILLIUS] Mamillius, are you my son?

MAMILLIUS

Ay, my good lord.

MAMILLIUS

Yes, sir.

LEONTES

I' fecks! Why, that's my bawcock. What, hast smutch'd thy 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 call'd neat.— Still virginalling Upon his palm!— How now, you wanton calf! Art thou my calf?

LEONTES

Goodness gracious! There's my little chickadee. Is that some dirt on your nose? They say it looks just like mine. Come on, buddy, we should be part of the same herd. Did you know that a bull, a cow, and a calf are called a herd?

[Looking toward POLIXENES and HERMIONE]
Still holding his hand!

[To MAMILLIUS]
Well, my silly little calf. Are you my calf?

MAMILLIUS

Yes, if you will, my lord.

MAMILLIUS

Yes, of course, sir.

LEONTES

Thou want'st a rough pash and the shoots that I have, 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'er-dyed blacks, as wind, as waters, false As dice are to be wish'd by one that fixes 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?— Affection! thy intention stabs the centre: Thou dost make possible things not so held, Communicatest with dreams;—how can this be?— With what's unreal thou coactive art, And fellow'st nothing: then 'tis very credent Thou mayst co-join with something; and thou dost, And that beyond commission, and I find it, And that to the infection of my brains And hardening of my brows.

LEONTES

You'll need a beard and some horns if you want to be just like me! They say we're two peas in a pod—well, women say so, and they'd say anything. Women are as fake as dyed-blonde hair, as stable as wind, as solid as water, as fair as loaded dice—and yet, it's true that this boy looks like me. Come here, buddy, look at me with your dreamy eyes! You precious thing! My dear! My son! Could your mother—can it be? I'm going crazy! Madness is making me think this, making me believe impossible things, making nightmares a reality. How can this be? Madness and unreality together make nothing, so it makes sense that it would hook up with something, and it does, beyond compare, and I'm there already—so much so that my brain is sick and horns are sprouting out of my head!

POLIXENES

What means Sicilia?

POLIXENES

Is Leontes all right?

HERMIONE

He something seems unsettled.

HERMIONE

He seems a little upset.

POLIXENES

How, my lord!What cheer? how is't with you, best brother?

POLIXENES

[To LEONTES] Hey, are you all right? How are you, brother?

HERMIONE

You look as if you held a brow of much distractionAre you moved, my lord?

HERMIONE

Your forehead looks wrinkled with thought. Are you upset, my love?

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 Of my boy's face, methoughts I did recoil Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech'd, In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled, Lest it should bite its master, and so prove, As ornaments oft do, too dangerous: How like, methought, I then was to this kernel, This squash, this gentleman. Mine honest friend, Will you take eggs for money?

LEONTES

No, really, I'm fine.

[To himself] See how our bodies give us away, giving other people a chance to laugh at us! Just now, looking at my son's face, I went back in time twenty-three years and saw myself back before I wore pants, in my green velvet coat, with a blunt practice sword (it was blunt so that I didn't cut myself, since that kind of toy is dangerous when you're a kid). Back then I was so much like this kid. 

[To MAMILLIUS]
Buddy, would you let yourself be robbed?

MAMILLIUS

No, my lord, I'll fight.

MAMILLIUS

No, sir, I'll fight.

LEONTES

You will! why, happy man be's dole! My brother,Are you so fond of your young prince as weDo seem to be of ours?

LEONTES

You will? Well, lucky me! 

[To POLIXENES] Brother, do you love your son as much as I seem to love mine?

POLIXENES

If at home, sir, He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter, Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy, 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.

POLIXENES

When I'm at home I spend all my time playing, laughing, and working with him. He's my friend and my enemy, my shadow, my soldier, my little king-in-training. He makes the days fly by and his crazy antics keep me from taking myself too seriously.

LEONTES

So stands this squire Officed with me: we two will walk, my lord, And leave you to your graver steps. Hermione, How thou lovest us, show in our brother's welcome; Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap: Next to thyself and my young rover, he's Apparent to my heart.

LEONTES

It's the same with me and my son. Well, Mamillius and I will walk along and leave you two to more serious business. Hermione, you can show your love for me by giving Polixenes a warm welcome. Let him have what is expensive in Sicily for a small price. Next to you and our son, he's the person I care about the most.

HERMIONE

If you would seek us,We are yours i' the garden: shall's attend you there?

HERMIONE

If you need us, we'll be in the garden. Should we wait for you there?

LEONTES

To your own bents dispose you: you'll be found, 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 To her allowing husband! [Exeunt POLIXENES, HERMIONE, and Attendants] Gone already! Inch-thick, knee-deep, o'er head and ears a fork'd one! Go, play, boy, play: thy mother plays, and I Play too, but so disgraced a part, whose issue Will hiss me to my grave: contempt and clamour Will be my knell. Go, play, boy, play. There have been, Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now; And many a man there is, even at this present, Now while I speak this, holds his wife by the arm, That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence And his pond fish'd by his next neighbour, by Sir Smile, his neighbour: nay, there's comfort in't Whiles other men have gates and those gates open'd, As mine, against their will. Should all despair That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind Would hang themselves. Physic for't there is none; 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 With bag and baggage: many thousand on's Have the disease, and feel't not. How now, boy!

LEONTES

Do whatever you want. I'll find you as long as you're underneath the sky.

[To himself] I'm reeling them in now, even if you can't see my fishing line. Oh, come on! Look how she holds up her mouth, her lips to him! As confidently as if he were her own husband! [POLIXENES, HERMIONE, and their servants leave] There they go! I'm in thick and deep, over my head, and horns are sprouting above my ears! 

[To MAMILLIUS] Go play, boy—play! Your mother's playing, and I play such a horrible part that its reviews will put me in my grave; booing and hissing will be the last thing I hear.

[To the audience] Unless I'm mistaken, plenty of men have been cheated on by their wives before now. There may even be a man here, as I'm speaking, holding his wife by the arm not knowing she slept with someone else while he was gone. Little does he know that his neighbor (you know the one, Mr. Smiley) stuck his fishing rod in that pond while he was out of town. It's actually comforting to know that I'm not alone in having something taken from me against my will. If all men who've been cheated on gave up on themselves, ten percent of the male population would hang themselves. There's no solution to it. We live on a raunchy planet and the raunchiness can strike at any time (and powerfully, believe you me) from the east, west, north, or south. It'll let the enemy in and out with bag and baggage. Thousands of us suffer from this and have no idea. 

[To MAMILLIUS] What's up, son?

MAMILLIUS

I am like you, they say.

MAMILLIUS

They say I'm like you.

LEONTES

Why that's some comfort. What, Camillo there?

LEONTES

Well, that's comforting.

[Enter CAMILLO]
Hey, Camillo, is that you?

CAMILLO

Ay, my good lord.

CAMILLO

Yes, sir.

LEONTES

Go play, Mamillius; thou'rt an honest man. [Exit MAMILLIUS] Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.

LEONTES

Mamillius, go play. That's a good boy. [MAMILLIUS leaves]

Camillo, this all-important man has decided to stay longer. 

CAMILLO

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

CAMILLO

You worked hard to make him stay. As hard as you tried, he insisted he had to get home.

LEONTES

Didst note it?

LEONTES

Did you notice that?

CAMILLO

He would not stay at your petitions: madeHis business more material.

CAMILLO

He wouldn't stay when you asked. It's like the more you pushed, the more he was convinced his business was more important.

LEONTES

Didst perceive it? [Aside] They're here with me already, whispering, rounding'Sicilia is a so-forth:' 'tis far gone,When I shall gust it last. How came't, Camillo,That he did stay?

LEONTES

Did you pick up on that?

[To himself] They're all gossiping about me already, whispering, "Leontes is such-and-such." It'll be too late by the time I hear about it. Camillo, why did he finally decide to stay?

CAMILLO

At the good queen's entreaty.

CAMILLO

Because the good queen asked.

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, But of the finer natures? by some severals Of head-piece extraordinary? lower messes Perchance are to this business purblind? say.

LEONTES

The queen, huh? Whether or not she's "good" is up for debate. Did anyone else notice this besides you? I mean, you're pretty intelligent, but idiots wouldn't pick up on that, right? It would have escaped the average person—they'd be totally blind to the matter. What do you say to that?

CAMILLO

Business, my lord! I think most understandBohemia stays here longer.

CAMILLO

The matter, sir! I think most people can understand the fact that Polixenes is staying here longer.

LEONTES

Ha!

LEONTES

Ha!

CAMILLO

Stays here longer.

CAMILLO

He's staying here longer.

LEONTES

Ay, but why?

LEONTES

Yes, but why?

CAMILLO

To satisfy your highness and the entreatiesOf our most gracious mistress.

CAMILLO

To satisfy you and because of your lovely wife's invitation.

LEONTES

Satisfy! The 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-councils, wherein, priest-like, thou Hast cleansed my bosom, I from thee departed Thy penitent reform'd: but we have been Deceived in thy integrity, deceived In that which seems so.

LEONTES

"Satisfy!" "Satisfy" my wife's invitation! That says it all. I've trusted you, Camillo, with my darkest secrets. I've confessed my soul to you as if you were a priest, and you've cleared my conscience and helped me to be a better man. But now I see I was wrong about you. I thought you were a good man, but you're not!

CAMILLO

Be it forbid, my lord!

CAMILLO

That can't be, sir!

LEONTES

To bide upon't, thou art not honest, or, If thou inclinest that way, thou art a coward, Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining From course required; or else thou must be counted A servant grafted in my serious trust And therein negligent; or else a fool That seest a game play'd home, the rich stake drawn, And takest it all for jest.

LEONTES

To be clear: you're a liar. You're a coward who shrinks away from honesty and who's afraid to do the right thing. You're either a servant who won my trust only so you could betray me, or an idiot who sees what's going on and, for his own gain, pretends it's all a joke.

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, Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my lord, If ever I were wilful-negligent, It was my folly; if industriously I play'd the fool, it was my negligence, Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful To do a thing, where I the issue doubted, Where of the execution did cry out Against the non-performance, 'twas a fear Which oft infects the wisest: these, my lord, Are such allow'd infirmities that honesty 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.

CAMILLO

Sir, I may be careless, stupid, and afraid, but nobody's perfect. Carelessness, stupidity, and fear are just part of being in the world; you can't avoid them. As long as I've worked for you, sir, any time I messed up, it was because I was stupid. If I acted stupidly, it's because I made a mistake and didn't think it through. If I were ever so afraid to do something, so afraid I couldn't control the consequences that I wasn't able to carry it out, well, that's a fear even the smartest people have to deal with. But, sir, I'm begging you to be straight with me. Tell me to my face how I messed up. If I deny it, then you'd better believe I didn't do it.

LEONTES

Ha' not you seen, Camillo— But that's past doubt, you have, or your eye-glass Is thicker than a cuckold's horn, —or heard,— For to a vision so apparent rumour Cannot be mute,—or thought,—for cogitation Resides not in that man that does not think,— 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 Before her troth-plight: say't and justify't.

LEONTES

Camillo, haven't you seen (but you must have, unless your glasses are as thick as a cuckold's horn) or heard (since something so obvious must have started rumors) or thought (for only someone incapable of thinking wouldn't have thought of this) that my wife is unfaithful? Unless you're planning to say "no" or you're willing to claim that you're blind, deaf, and dumb, admit that my wife's a slut who deserves every name you'd call a corner prostitute. Just say it and swear by it.

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 Than this; which to reiterate were sin As deep as that, though true.

CAMILLO

I'd hate to even be a bystander overhearing someone talk about Hermione that way—I'd have to fight them. For goodness' sake, you've never said anything that made you look as badly as you do now. Just to repeat what you said would be a crime, even if it were true.

LEONTES

Is whispering nothing? Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses? Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career Of laughing 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, 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.

LEONTES

Is whispering nothing? Leaning against each other, touching cheeks? Rubbing noses? French-kissing? Laughing until you can't breathe? Here's one you can't ignore—playing footsie? Hiding in corners? Counting down the minutes and hours until midnight, when, while all eyes but theirs are closed in sleep, they might be wicked in secret? Is all that nothing? Well, then, the world and everything in it is nothing, the universe is nothing, Bohemia is nothing, my wife is nothing, and everything I'm saying is nothing, if this is "nothing."

CAMILLO

Good my lord, be curedOf this diseased opinion, and betimes;For 'tis most dangerous.

CAMILLO

Sir, please stop believing this sick lie, and soon; it's really dangerous.

LEONTES

Say it be, 'tis true.

LEONTES

Say that it's true.

CAMILLO

No, no, my lord.

CAMILLO

No, no, sir.

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, Inclining to them both: were my wife's liver Infected as her life, she would not live The running of one glass.

LEONTES

It is! You lie! You lie! I say you lie, Camillo, and I hate you. You're a disgusting lowlife, a mindless slave, or maybe just a two-faced liar who can pay lip-service to good while really doing evil. If my wife's liver were as diseased as her whole life is, she'd drop dead in an instant.

CAMILLO

Who does infect her?

CAMILLO

Who infected her?

LEONTES

Why, he that wears her like a medal, hanging About his neck, Bohemia: who, if I Had servants true about me, that bare eyes To see alike mine honour as their profits, Their own particular thrifts, they would do that Which should undo more doing: ay, and thou, 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; Which draught to me were cordial.

LEONTES

Um, the guy who's carrying her around like a trophy—Polixenes! And if I had loyal servants working for me, that kept an eye out for my reputation instead of just for their own profit and gain, they would do what needs to be done to end all this. Yeah, you heard me. You, his cupbearer (don't forget, by the way, that I helped you get out of poverty and make a life for yourself, though you're clearly ungrateful), you who see clearly how wronged I am, should poison him. Put him to sleep for good—that would be the best medicine for me.

CAMILLO

Sir, my lord, I could do this, and that with no rash potion, But with a lingering dram that should not work Maliciously like poison: but I cannot Believe this crack to be in my dread mistress, So sovereignly being honourable. I have loved thee,—

CAMILLO

Sir, I'm capable of doing that, and I wouldn't use any fast-acting poison. I'd use something slow, that'd drift him off the sleep so that he wouldn't feel a thing. But I can't believe Hermione would do this; she's always been so good. I've been loyal to you—

LEONTES

Make that thy question, and go rot! Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled, To appoint myself in this vexation, sully 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' the prince my son, Who I do think is mine and love as mine, Without ripe moving to't? Would I do this? Could man so blench?

LEONTES

Just stop there, and go to hell! Do you think I'm so crazy and confused that I would make this up? Do you think I would destroy my own reputation and my marriage, just to welcome all the pain and difficulty that will come of that? Do you really think I would just bastardize my son (who I think is mine and who I love as my own) without a good reason? Would I do that? Would any man have the guts to do that?

CAMILLO

I must believe you, sir: I do; and will fetch off Bohemia for't; Provided that, when he's removed, your highness 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.

CAMILLO

Sir, I have to believe you. I do. I'll take Bohemia out as long as, once he's gone, you'll take the queen back immediately for your son's sake and to stop any potential gossip from spreading to our allies' courts and countries at large.

LEONTES

Thou dost advise meEven so as I mine own course have set down:I'll give no blemish to her honour, none.

LEONTES

You're telling me to do exactly what I had already decided to do myself. I won't ruin Hermione's reputation, not at all.

CAMILLO

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

CAMILLO

Well, sir, then you should put on a happy face and go back to have dinner with Polixenes and Hermione. I'm his cupbearer. If he drinks an un-poisoned beverage, then I'm out of a job.

LEONTES

This is all:Do't and thou hast the one half of my heart;Do't not, thou split'st thine own.

LEONTES

That's it. Do it and I'll love you forever. If you don't do it, you're signing your own death warrant.

CAMILLO

I'll do't, my lord.

CAMILLO

I'll do it, sir.

LEONTES

I will seem friendly, as thou hast advised me.

LEONTES

And I'll put on a happy face, like you told me.

Exit

CAMILLO

O miserable lady! But, for me, What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner 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 Of thousands that had struck anointed kings And flourish'd after, I'ld not do't; but since Nor brass nor stone nor parchment bears not one, Let villany itself forswear't. I must Forsake the court: to do't, or no, is certain To me a break-neck. Happy star, reign now! Here comes Bohemia.

CAMILLO

Poor Hermione! But what am I supposed to do? If I do my job of serving Leontes, then I have to poison Polixenes (who's innocent). Leontes is messed up in the head and wants everyone else to be miserable, too. If I do this, he'll promote me. But, wait—even if I could look through the history books and find thousands of men who'd killed kings and done well afterward, I still wouldn't do it. And, in fact, since not a single record would tell you such a story, it's obvious how wrong this is in every way. I have to get out of here. Whether I do it or not, I'll be hanged. Man, I could use some luck right about now! Here comes Polixenes.

Re-enter POLIXENES

POLIXENES

This is strange: methinksMy favour here begins to warp. Not speak?Good day, Camillo.

POLIXENES

This is weird, I think I'm starting to be less popular here. Why isn't he saying anything? Hello, Camillo.

CAMILLO

Hail, most royal sir!

CAMILLO

Greetings, sir!

POLIXENES

What is the news i' the court?

POLIXENES

What's new at court?

CAMILLO

None rare, my lord.

CAMILLO

Nothing special, sir.

POLIXENES

The king hath on him such a countenance As he had lost some province and a region Loved as he loves himself: even now I met him With customary compliment; when he, Wafting his eyes to the contrary and falling A lip of much contempt, speeds from me and So leaves me to consider what is breeding That changeth thus his manners.

POLIXENES

The king has the face of someone who's just lost a much-loved territory in wartime. Just now I saw him and greeted him as always. He looked down at the floor, muttered to himself, and ran away, leaving me wondering what's going on that would so totally change his behavior.

CAMILLO

I dare not know, my lord.

CAMILLO

I'm afraid to know, sir.

POLIXENES

How! dare not! do not. Do you know, and dare not? Be intelligent to me: 'tis thereabouts; 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 Myself thus alter'd with 't.

POLIXENES

Afraid? Do you know, but are afraid of what you know? Share your knowledge; it's in there somewhere, you must know. You can't just stand there and say, "I'm afraid to know." Camillo, your face is as white as I imagine mine is right now. I'm realizing this must have something to do with me. Something has changed forever for me, hasn't it?

CAMILLO

There is a sicknessWhich puts some of us in distemper, butI cannot name the disease; and it is caughtOf you that yet are well.

CAMILLO

There's a sickness affecting some of us, but I don't know what to call the disease. And, even though you're well, you're the one who's contagious.

POLIXENES

How! caught of me! Make me not sighted like the basilisk: I have look'd on thousands, who have sped the better By my regard, but kill'd none so. Camillo,— As you are certainly a gentleman, thereto Clerk-like 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 behove my knowledge Thereof to be inform'd, imprison't not In ignorant concealment.

POLIXENES

What? I'm contagious? Don't talk about me like I'm a basilisk; I've looked at thousands of people, and they've been fine. I've never killed anyone just by sight. Camillo, I know you're a good guy, and experienced in your job, which is as much a credit to you as a fancy last name is to royalty. I'm begging you, if you know anything that I should know, please don't keep it from me. 

CAMILLO

I may not answer.

CAMILLO

I can't say.

POLIXENES

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

POLIXENES

I'm contagious, even though I'm not sick? You have to explain. Listen, Camillo, I demand, if you're honorable and you believe me to be, too, that you tell me what horrible things are coming my way. Tell me how far off they are (or how close at hand). Tell me how to avoid it or, if I can't, how to deal with it.

CAMILLO

Sir, I will tell you;Since I am charged in honour and by himThat I think honourable: therefore mark my counsel,Which must be even as swiftly follow'd asI mean to utter it, or both yourself and meCry lost, and so good night!

CAMILLO

Sir, I'll tell you, since you're bringing honor into this. Listen closely and do exactly what I say as soon as I say it, otherwise you and I are both done for!

POLIXENES

On, good Camillo.

POLIXENES

Go on, Camillo.

CAMILLO

I am appointed him to murder you.

CAMILLO

He ordered me to murder you.

POLIXENES

By whom, Camillo?

POLIXENES

Who ordered you, Camillo?

CAMILLO

By the king.

CAMILLO

The king.

POLIXENES

For what?

POLIXENES

Why?

CAMILLO

He thinks, nay, with all confidence he swears,As he had seen't or been an instrumentTo vice you to't, that you have touch'd his queenForbiddenly.

CAMILLO

He thinks—actually, he swears as confidently as if he saw you do it or told you to do it himself—that you're having a secret affair with Hermione.

POLIXENES

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

POLIXENES

Well, then I might as well be dying of cancer and be named Judas Iscariot. My reputation is ruined. From now on, I'll stink of this. I'll walk into a room and everyone will complain about the stench. I'll be shunned and hated more than the worst epidemic in the history of the world.

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 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.

CAMILLO

You could swear by every star in the sky and you could force the tides to stop ebbing and flowing before you could convince him that what he now believes isn't true. He's built it up in his mind so much now that he'll defend it with his life.

POLIXENES

How should this grow?

POLIXENES

How did this happen?

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 enclosed in this trunk which you Shall bear along impawn'd, away to-night! Your followers I will whisper to the business, And will by twos and threes at several posterns Clear them o' the city. For myself, I'll put My fortunes to your service, which are here By this discovery lost. Be not uncertain; For, by the honour of my parents, I Have utter'd truth: which if you seek to prove, I dare not stand by; nor shall you be safer Than one condemn'd by the king's own mouth, thereon His execution sworn.

CAMILLO

I don't know, but it's probably safer to get out of the way than it is to stand around and debate about how it got started. If you trust me, pack your things and leave tonight. I'll whisper the plan to your servants and we'll leave the city in groups of two or three, all by different gates. From this point on, I offer my services to you, considering I'll be dead if I'm found here after you're gone. I swear on my parents' lives that everything I've told you is true. If you want to test it on Leontes, you better believe I won't stick around—you'll be as condemned to die as a criminal sitting on death row.

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 neighbour mine. My ships are ready and 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 He is dishonour'd by a man which ever Profess'd 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 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.

POLIXENES

I believe you; the look on his face said it all. Give me your hand: if you lead me out of here, you can continue to work for me as my servant. My ships are ready and my people are, too, because they had expected to leave two days ago. Leontes is jealous of a very special woman and, because she's so special, his jealousy is intense; because he's a powerful king, his jealousy will be violent, too, and because he thinks he's been betrayed by his best friend, his revenge will be horrific. I'm paralyzed with fear. Let's hope we have a safe journey out and that the queen doesn't become a victim, too, of his delusions. Come on, Camillo. I'll love you as much as I love my own father if you can get me out of here alive. Let's go.

CAMILLO

It is in mine authority to commandThe keys of all the posterns: please your highnessTo take the urgent hour. Come, sir, away.

CAMILLO

I have the power to tell the gatekeepers to unlock the gates whenever I want, so just let me know when you think we should leave. Come on, sir, let's go.

Exeunt

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Bailey sincox
About the Translator: Bailey Sincox

Bailey Sincox is a PhD student in English at Harvard University, where she researches the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her teaching experience includes accessible online courses with edX on Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. She holds a Master's from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's from Duke University.