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The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale Translation Act 2, Scene 1

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Enter HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, and Ladies

HERMIONE

Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,'Tis past enduring.

HERMIONE

Take Mamillius with you. He's wearing me out; I can't deal with him anymore.

FIRST LADY

Come, my gracious lord,Shall I be your playfellow?

FIRST LADY

Come here, little man. Will you play with me?

MAMILLIUS

No, I'll none of you.

MAMILLIUS

No, I don't want you.

FIRST LADY

Why, my sweet lord?

FIRST LADY

Why not, little man?

MAMILLIUS

You'll kiss me hard and speak to me as ifI were a baby still. I love you better.

MAMILLIUS

You'll kiss me too hard and talk to me like I'm still a baby. 

[To SECOND LADY] I love you better.

SECOND LADY

And why so, my lord?

SECOND LADY

And why's that, sir?

MAMILLIUS

Not for becauseYour brows are blacker; yet black brows, they say,Become some women best, so that there be notToo much hair there, but in a semicircleOr a half-moon made with a pen.

MAMILLIUS

Not because your eyebrows are dark, although they say dark eyebrows look good on some women. It's better if you pluck them in a semi-circle, or draw a half-moon shape with a pen.

SECOND LADY

Who taught you this?

SECOND LADY

Who taught you this?

MAMILLIUS

I learnt it out of women's faces. Pray nowWhat colour are your eyebrows?

MAMILLIUS

I learned it from women's faces. I have a question: what color are your eyebrows?

FIRST LADY

Blue, my lord.

FIRST LADY

Blue, sir.

MAMILLIUS

Nay, that's a mock: I have seen a lady's noseThat has been blue, but not her eyebrows.

MAMILLIUS

No, you're joking. I've seen a lady's nose that was blue, but never her eyebrows.

FIRST LADY

Hark ye;The queen your mother rounds apace: we shallPresent our services to a fine new princeOne of these days; and then you'ld wanton with us,If we would have you.

FIRST LADY

Listen, your mother is coming over. Pretty soon we'll have a new prince to take care of, and then you'll wish we'd play with you more.

SECOND LADY

She is spread of lateInto a goodly bulk: good time encounter her!

SECOND LADY

She's looking really pregnant all of a sudden. She'll go into labor soon!

HERMIONE

What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, nowI am for you again: pray you, sit by us,And tell 's a tale.

HERMIONE

What are you all talking about?

[To MAMILLIUS]
Come here, Mamillius, I'm ready to deal with you again. Come on, come sit by me and tell me a story.

MAMILLIUS

Merry or sad shall't be?

MAMILLIUS

A happy story, or a sad story?

HERMIONE

As merry as you will.

HERMIONE

As happy as you want it to be.

MAMILLIUS

A sad tale's best for winter: I have oneOf sprites and goblins.

MAMILLIUS

A sad story's best for winter. I know one about ghosts and goblins.

HERMIONE

Let's have that, good sir.Come on, sit down: come on, and do your bestTo fright me with your sprites; you're powerful at it.

HERMIONE

Let's hear it, then. Come on, sit down, come on. And do your best to scare me with your ghosts—you're very good at that.

MAMILLIUS

There was a man—

MAMILLIUS

"There was a man—

HERMIONE

Nay, come, sit down; then on.

HERMIONE

No, come and sit down. Now go on.

MAMILLIUS

Dwelt by a churchyard: I will tell it softly;Yond crickets shall not hear it.

MAMILLIUS

—who lived by a church." I'll whisper it so quietly that the crickets out there won't be able to hear it.

HERMIONE

Come on, then,And give't me in mine ear.

HERMIONE

Come on, then, and whisper it in my ear.

Enter LEONTES, with ANTIGONUS, lords and others

LEONTES

Was he met there? his train? Camillo with him?

LEONTES

Did you find him? His servants? Was Camillo with him?

FIRST LORD

Behind the tuft of pines I met them; neverSaw I men scour so on their way: I eyed themEven to their ships.

FIRST LORD

I saw them while I was hiding behind a cluster of pine trees. I never saw men hurry away so quickly. I watched them go all the way to their ships.

LEONTES

How blest am I In my just censure, in my true opinion! Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accursed In being so blest! There may be in the cup A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart, And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge Is not infected: but if one present The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides, With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider. Camillo was his help in this, his pander: There is a plot against my life, my crown; All's true that is mistrusted: that false villain Whom I employ'd was pre-employ'd by him: He has discover'd my design, and I Remain a pinch'd thing; yea, a very trick For them to play at will. How came the posterns So easily open?

LEONTES

I am so blessed—I knew it; I was right. If only I knew less! This blessing is a curse! If someone has a cup with a poisonous spider hiding in it, he can drink and not be poisoned because his knowledge isn't infected. But if you pull the spider out of the cup, show it to him, and explain that he just drank poison, he'll start vomiting. I have drunk, and seen the spider. Camillo was his accomplice; they're planning to kill me and take over my throne. Everything I suspected turned out to be true. That dirty liar—who worked for me— was a double agent working for Polixenes. He figured out what I knew, but I'm still in their clutches and they're still playing me for a fool.

[To FIRST LORD] How were they able to open the gates?

FIRST LORD

By his great authority;Which often hath no less prevail'd than soOn your command.

FIRST LORD

Camillo had the power to open them—he's done it many times at your command.

LEONTES

I know't too well.Give me the boy: I am glad you did not nurse him:Though he does bear some signs of me, yet youHave too much blood in him.

LEONTES

Ah, I knew that.

[To HERMIONE] Give me the boy. I'm glad you didn't breastfeed him. Even though he looks kind of like me, you have too many of your genes in him already.

HERMIONE

What is this? sport?

HERMIONE

Is this a joke?

LEONTES

Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;Away with him! and let her sport herselfWith that she's big with; for 'tis PolixenesHas made thee swell thus.

LEONTES

[To the female servants] Take Mamillius away. He's not allowed to be around her anymore. Take him away! She can entertain herself with the guy that knocked her up.

[To HERMIONE]  I know it was Polixenes that got you pregnant.

HERMIONE

But I'ld say he had not,And I'll be sworn you would believe my saying,Howe'er you lean to the nayward.

HERMIONE

But I say it wasn't him, and I am sure you will believe me, even if you were inclined to think otherwise .

LEONTES

You, my lords, Look on her, mark her well; be but about To say 'she is a goodly lady,' and The justice of your hearts will thereto add 'Tis pity she's not honest, honourable:' Praise her but for this her without-door form, Which on my faith deserves high speech, and straight The shrug, the hum or ha, these petty brands That calumny doth use—O, I am out— That mercy does, for calumny will sear Virtue itself: these shrugs, these hums and ha's, When you have said 'she's goodly,' come between Ere you can say 'she's honest:' but be 't known, From him that has most cause to grieve it should be, She's an adulteress.

LEONTES

All right, men, take a good look at her. I know what you're thinking: "She's an attractive woman, but it's too bad that she's a liar and a cheater." You can compliment her outer beauty, sure—I mean, she deserves that! But then you have to admit that liars use their good looks to manipulate others into thinking they're good people! Your shrugs and your "hmms" show you're hesitant to say "she's honest," right? Everybody believe me; I'm the the real victim. She's having an affair.

HERMIONE

Should a villain say so,The most replenish'd villain in the world,He were as much more villain: you, my lord,Do but mistake.

HERMIONE

If the worst villain in the world said that, he'd be twice as evil just for saying so. But you—you've only made a mistake.

LEONTES

You have mistook, my lady, Polixenes for Leontes: O thou thing! Which I'll not call a creature of thy place, Lest barbarism, making me the precedent, Should a like language use to all degrees And mannerly distinguishment leave out Betwixt the prince and beggar: I have said She's an adulteress; I have said with whom: More, she's a traitor and Camillo is A federary with her, and one that knows What she should shame to know herself But with her most vile principal, that she's A bed-swerver, even as bad as those That vulgars give bold'st titles, ay, and privy To this their late escape.

LEONTES

[To HERMIONE] You've made the mistake, sweetheart: mistaking Polixenes for Leontes. You monster! I can't call you a queen anymore, because if I did, the word "queen" would cease to mean anything. You might as well call a beggar a queen.

[To all] I've said it: she's having an affair, and I said with whom. On top of that, she's a traitor and Camillo is in cahoots with her. He knew all about the dirty deeds she and Polixenes got up to. He knew she was a whore and he knew all about their plan to escape.

HERMIONE

No, by my life. Privy to none of this. How will this grieve you, When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord, You scarce can right me throughly then to say You did mistake.

HERMIONE

No; I swear on my life. There was nothing to know. You'll regret this when you come to your senses—you'll regret the things you've said about me! Sweetheart, you can almost totally fix this now if you admit you made a mistake.

LEONTES

No; if I mistakeIn those foundations which I build upon,The centre is not big enough to bearA school-boy's top. Away with her! to prison!He who shall speak for her is afar off guiltyBut that he speaks.

LEONTES

No. If the foundation of everything I believe turns out to be fake, the whole thing will collapse. 

[To the lords] Take her away to the prison! Anyone who tries to defend her is guilty, too.

HERMIONE

There's some ill planet reigns: I must be patient till the heavens look With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords, I am not prone to weeping, as our sex Commonly are; the want of which vain dew Perchance shall dry your pities: but I have That honourable grief lodged here which burns Worse than tears drown: beseech you all, my lords, With thoughts so qualified as your charities Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so The king's will be perform'd!

HERMIONE

There's some kind of evil in the air. I'll have to be patient until this all clears up. Listen, everyone: unlike most women, I'm not one to cry, and the fact that I'm not shedding a tear might lead you not to pity me. But I promise you that my heart is hurting more right now than tears could show. I'm begging you, all of you, to think clearly, see me clearly, and help the king to do the right thing!

LEONTES

Shall I be heard?

LEONTES

Is anyone listening to me?

HERMIONE

Who is't that goes with me? Beseech your highness, My women may be with me; for you see My plight requires it. Do not weep, good fools; There is no cause: when you shall know your mistress Has deserved prison, then abound in tears As I come out: this action I now go on Is for my better grace. Adieu, my lord: I never wish'd to see you sorry; now I trust I shall. My women, come; you have leave.

HERMIONE

Who's coming with me? Begging your pardon, Leontes, but I need some women to come with me on account of the pregnancy. 

[To her servants]
Don't cry; there's no reason to cry. You can cry if and when you find out that I actually deserve to be in prison. What's happening here is only a chance for me to demonstrate grace

[To LEONTES] Goodbye, sir. I never hoped to see you regret something; now I'm sure I will.

[To her servants] Ladies, come on, you have permission.

LEONTES

Go, do our bidding; hence!

LEONTES

Go, do what I say! Get out!

Exit HERMIONE, guarded; with Ladies

FIRST LORD

Beseech your highness, call the queen again.

FIRST LORD

Please, sir, tell the queen to come back.

ANTIGONUS

Be certain what you do, sir, lest your justiceProve violence; in the which three great ones suffer,Yourself, your queen, your son.

ANTIGONUS

You'd better be sure of what you're doing, sir, or what you think is "justice" will devolve into violence that only causes you, your queen, and your son to suffer.

FIRST LORD

For her, my lord,I dare my life lay down and will do't, sir,Please you to accept it, that the queen is spotlessI' the eyes of heaven and to you; I mean,In this which you accuse her.

FIRST LORD

Sir, I swear on my life that the queen is innocent; I'd even die to defend it if you'd accept my sacrifice. I mean, she's innocent of what you've accused her.

ANTIGONUS

If it prove She's otherwise, I'll keep my stables where I lodge my wife; I'll go in couples with her; Than when I feel and see her no farther trust her; For every inch of woman in the world, Ay, every dram of woman's flesh is false, If she be.

ANTIGONUS

If it turns out otherwise, I'll make my wife sleep in the stable. I'll rig her to my carriage and won't trust her any farther than I can throw her. I mean, if Hermione's a cheater, then every atom of every woman in the world is, too.

LEONTES

Hold your peaces.

LEONTES

Everyone shut up.

FIRST LORD

Good my lord,—

FIRST LORD

Sir—

ANTIGONUS

It is for you we speak, not for ourselves: You are abused and by some putter-on That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the villain, I would land-damn him. Be she honour-flaw'd, I have three daughters; the eldest is eleven The second and the third, nine, and some five; If this prove true, they'll pay for't: by mine honour, I'll geld 'em all; fourteen they shall not see, To bring false generations: they are co-heirs; And I had rather glib myself than they Should not produce fair issue.

ANTIGONUS

We're speaking for your sake, not ours. You've clearly been manipulated by some crook, and we'll punish him for it. I wish I knew the guy; I would ruin his life. If Hermione's corrupt . . . I have three daughters. The oldest is eleven, the younger two are nine and five. If this turns out to be true, they'll pay for it. I swear I'll neuter all of them. They'll never hit puberty and they'll never give birth to their own bastard children. Keep in mind, they're supposed to inherit my money and everything equally. I'd rather castrate myself than see them unable to have their own families.

LEONTES

Cease; no more.You smell this business with a sense as coldAs is a dead man's nose: but I do see't and feel'tAs you feel doing thus; and see withalThe instruments that feel.

LEONTES

Stop, no more. You're onto the scent about as much as a dead man's nose. But I do see how emotional you are, and I feel for you. I still have the capacity to feel.

ANTIGONUS

If it be so,We need no grave to bury honesty:There's not a grain of it the face to sweetenOf the whole dungy earth.

ANTIGONUS

If that's true, then we shouldn't have to do away with truth altogether. Right now it's like truth has disappeared from the face of the earth.

LEONTES

What! lack I credit?

LEONTES

What, you don't believe me?

FIRST LORD

I had rather you did lack than I, my lord,Upon this ground; and more it would content meTo have her honour true than your suspicion,Be blamed for't how you might.

FIRST LORD

I'd prefer not to believe you, sir, on this issue. I'd rather see Hermione defended, no matter how you might be blamed for starting things.

LEONTES

Why, what need we Commune with you of this, but rather follow Our forceful instigation? Our prerogative Calls not your counsels, but our natural goodness Imparts this; which if you, or stupefied Or seeming so in skill, cannot or will not Relish a truth like us, inform yourselves We need no more of your advice: the matter, The loss, the gain, the ordering on't, is all Properly ours.

LEONTES

Well, what do I need you guys for? I can carry out the investigation myself. I don't ask your opinions because I want them; I ask because I'm a generous guy. If you're too idiotic and inept to realize the truth like I have, then I guess I don't need your advice anymore. The accusation, the execution, and the stakes are all mine.

ANTIGONUS

And I wish, my liege,You had only in your silent judgment tried it,Without more overture.

ANTIGONUS

And I wish, sir, that you'd thought this out in your head and never said it aloud.

LEONTES

How could that be? Either thou art most ignorant by age, Or thou wert born a fool. Camillo's flight, Added to their familiarity, Which was as gross as ever touch'd conjecture, That lack'd sight only, nought for approbation But only seeing, all other circumstances Made up to the deed, doth push on this proceeding: Yet, for a greater confirmation, For in an act of this importance 'twere Most piteous to be wild, I have dispatch'd in post To sacred Delphos, to Apollo's temple, Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know Of stuff'd sufficiency: now from the oracle They will bring all; whose spiritual counsel had, Shall stop or spur me. Have I done well?

LEONTES

Why would you say that? Either you're the most ignorant old man I've ever met or you were born an idiot. The fact that Camillo ran away, on top of Hermione and Polixenes' disgusting hook-ups (even if we didn't see them, we have all the evidence except the visual proof), on top of everything else, makes putting Hermione on trial absolutely necessary. It would be wrong to go about something this serious haphazardly, so I've sent my servants Cleomenes and Dion (you know them; they're good guys) to Delphos, to Apollo's temple. They'll bring back a prophecy from the oracle that will settle everything, for good or bad. How did I do?

FIRST LORD

Well done, my lord.

FIRST LORD

Well done, sir.

LEONTES

Though I am satisfied and need no more Than what I know, yet shall the oracle Give rest to the minds of others, such as he Whose ignorant credulity will not Come up to the truth. So have we thought it good From our free person she should be confined, Lest that the treachery of the two fled hence Be left her to perform. Come, follow us; We are to speak in public; for this business Will raise us all.

LEONTES

Though I'm satisfied and don't need to know anything more than I already know, the oracle will put other people's minds at ease, especially those ignorant nonbelievers who can't stomach the truth. I decided it was a good idea to keep Hermione in prison so that she didn't try to escape like Polixenes and Camillo. Come on, follow me. I'm going to speak publicly, since news of this ordeal is bound to have spread.

ANTIGONUS

[Aside] To laughter, as I take it,If the good truth were known.

ANTIGONUS

[To himself] And everyone's laughing at him and at us, if truth be told.

Exeunt

The winters tale
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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.