A line-by-line translation

The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale Translation Act 3, Scene 2

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Enter LEONTES, Lords, and Officers

LEONTES

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 clear'd 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.

LEONTES

My extreme grief notwithstanding, I hereby pronounce this trial open. It pulls at my heart strings; really, it does: the party tried here today is both the daughter of a king and my beloved wife. In doing this, it should be clear that I'm not a tyrant; I'm proceeding openly in the due course of justice, whether it leads to a "guilty" sentence or an "innocent" one.

[To the officers] Bring in the prisoner.

OFFICER

It is his highness' pleasure that the queenAppear in person here in court. Silence!

OFFICER

The king has ordered that the queen appear at court in person. Silence!

Enter HERMIONE guarded; PAULINA and Ladies attending

LEONTES

Read the indictment.

LEONTES

Read the indictment.

OFFICER

[Reads] Hermione, queen to the worthy Leontes, king of Sicilia, thou art here accused and arraigned 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 pretence whereof being by circumstances partly laid open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the faith and allegiance of a true subject, didst counsel and aid them, for their better safety, to fly away by night.

OFFICER

[Reads from an official document] Hermione, Queen of Sicily and wife of King Leontes: you are here accused and called to account for high treason, for committing adultery with Polixenes, King of Bohemia, and conspiring with Camillo to assassinate your husband the king. By nature of the circumstances, you are also charged with aiding and abetting the fugitives to their escape, which violates the trust and duty of a true subject.

HERMIONE

Since what I am to say must be but that Which contradicts my accusation and 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 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, Who least will seem to do so, my past life Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true, As I am now unhappy; which is more Than history can pattern, though devised And play'd to take spectators. For behold me A fellow of the royal bed (which owe 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 honour 'fore Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour, '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, With what encounter so uncurrent I Have strain'd to appear thus: i f one jot beyond The bound of honour, or in act or will That way inclining, harden'd be the hearts Of all that hear me, and my near'st of kin Cry fie upon my grave!

HERMIONE

Since what I'm about to say can only be a rejection of my accusations, and the only testimony this court will hear on my behalf is my own, it's hardly worth it for me to say "not guilty." Since you've already decided I'm a liar, you'll only interpret my words as lies. But listen: if God watches over us, as he does, then I'm sure that innocence will triumph over false accusations, and that patience will defeat tyranny

[To LEONTES] You should know better than anyone (though, at the moment, you seem to know the least) how pure and faithful I've been my entire life. No falsified history can change that, no matter how well it's fabricated and performed for spectators. 

Look at me: I'm the king's wife (making me half of the royal government), the daughter of a powerful king, the mother of a young prince, and I'm standing here babbling on to defend my life and reputation to any old person who'll come and listen. Honestly? My life is about as precious to me as my grief, which I'd rather not have to bear. I care about my reputation because it affects my children's future; that's the only reason I stand here now.

Sir, I appeal to your own conscience. Remember how much you loved me—and how much I deserved it—before Polixenes came to your court. Since he came, I've only tried to remain worthy of your love. If I've done a single thing outside the demands of duty, either in thought or deed, then everyone who hears me can hate me and my own family can curse my grave!

LEONTES

I ne'er heard yetThat any of these bolder vices wantedLess impudence to gainsay what they didThan to perform it first.

LEONTES

It's hardly uncommon for someone who committed such heinous offenses to deny them later. 

HERMIONE

That's true enough;Through 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.

HERMIONE

That may be true of people who've actually done such things; it has nothing to do with me.

LEONTES

You will not own it.

LEONTES

So you won't admit it?

HERMIONE

More than mistress of Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not At all acknowledge. For Polixenes, With whom I am accused, I do confess I loved him as in honour he required, With such a kind of love as might become A lady like me, with a love even such, 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 spoke, 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 dish'd For me to try how: all I know of it Is that Camillo was an honest man; And why he left your court, the gods themselves, Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.

HERMIONE

I can't admit to things that I haven't done. As far as Polixenes is concerned, I can only confess that I loved him as much as I should, with the kind of love that a woman in my position should give—the kind of love that you, yourself, commanded that I show. If I hadn't cared for him, I would have been disobedient to you and inhospitable toward your friend. I mean, you've loved Polixenes since before you could speak, since you were a baby, and he's always loved you back. As for conspiracy: I've never tasted it, despite the fact that you keep serving it to me on a plate. All I know is that Camillo was an honest man. God only knows why he left your court; I have no idea.

LEONTES

You knew of his departure, as you knowWhat you have underta'en to do in's absence.

LEONTES

You knew he was planning to leave, and you very well know what you've been working on in his absence.

HERMIONE

Sir,You speak a language that I understand not:My life stands in the level of your dreams,Which I'll lay down.

HERMIONE

You're speaking a language that I don't understand. It's as if my life were being made up by your dreams; I'll lay down what life I have now.

LEONTES

Your actions are my dreams; You had a bastard by Polixenes, And I but dream'd 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, More criminal in thee than it,—so thou Shalt feel our justice, in whose easiest passage Look for no less than death.

LEONTES

Your actions are my dreams! Oh, so you had Polixenes's bastard, and I just dreamed it? Like all of your kind, you're past shame, past truth. Denying your crimes only proves you've committed them. The brat is gone, on its own now, since no father will claim it—though that's more your fault than the brat's. Now you'll feel my justice. Expect nothing less than a death sentence.

HERMIONE

Sir, spare your threats: The bug which you would fright me with I seek. To me can life be no commodity: The crown and comfort of my life, your favour, 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 I am barr'd, like one infectious. My third comfort Starr'd most unluckily, is from my breast, The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth, Haled out to murder: myself on every post Proclaimed a strumpet: with immodest hatred The child-bed privilege denied, which 'longs To women of all fashion; l astly, hurried Here to this place, i' the open air, before I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege, Tell me what blessings I have here alive, 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 honour, Which I would free, if I shall be condemn'd Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else But what your jealousies awake, I tell you 'Tis rigor and not law. Your honours all, I do refer me to the oracle: Apollo be my judge!

HERMIONE

You can save your threats. Death doesn't scare me; death is what I'm after. Life holds nothing for me now. Your love, the light of my life? I've given up on that—it's gone, although I don't know where or why it went. My second blessing, my firstborn son? I'm barred from seeing him as if I had a contagious disease. My third blessing, my poor daughter, was ripped from my breast, the innocent milk still in her innocent mouth, and hauled out to be murdered. I've been publicized as a whore on every street-corner, was denied the normal hospital care for women who've just given birth, and, finally, was rushed to this place—in the open air—before I'd even gotten my strength back.

[To LEONTES] So, my king: tell me what blessings I have to live for, that would make me afraid to die? Therefore, carry on. But hear this, and don't misunderstand me: I don't value my own life at all, but my reputation—that I would clear. If I'm going to be condemned on your suspicions alone, with no proof except whatever your jealous mind has come up with, well—that is injustice, not law. 

[To all] Gentlemen, I defer to the oracle. May Apollo be my judge!

FIRST LORD

This your requestIs altogether just: therefore bring forth,And in Apollos name, his oracle.

FIRST LORD

Your request is perfectly reasonable. In Apollo's name, bring forth the oracle.

Exeunt certain Officers

HERMIONE

The Emperor of Russia was my father:O that he were alive, and here beholdingHis daughter's trial! that he did but seeThe flatness of my misery, yet with eyesOf pity, not revenge!

HERMIONE

The Emperor of Russia was my father. I wish he were alive to see his daughter on trial now! Seeing my misery, he'd take pity, not revenge. 

Re-enter Officers, with CLEOMENES and DION

OFFICER

You here shall swear upon this sword of justice, That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have Been both at Delphos, and from thence have brought The seal'd-up oracle, by the hand deliver'd Of great Apollo's priest; and that, since then, You have not dared to break the holy seal Nor read the secrets in't.

OFFICER

Swear on this sword of justice that you, Cleomenes and Dion, have been to Delphos and have brought back the sealed oracle delivered to you by Apollo's priest. Swear that, since then, you have neither broken the holy seal nor read the secrets inside.

DION

All this we swear.

DION

We swear to all of this.

LEONTES

Break up the seals and read.

LEONTES

Break the seal and read it.

OFFICER

[Reads] Hermione is chaste;Polixenes blameless; Camillo a true subject; Leontesa jealous tyrant; his innocent babe truly begotten;and the king shall live without an heir, if thatwhich is lost be not found.

OFFICER

[Reading the oracle]
Hermione is virtuous,
Polixenes is blameless,
Camillo is a loyal subject,
Leontes is a jealous tyrant,
The baby is his biological daughter,
And the king will have no heir
Until he finds that which is lost.

LORDS

Now blessed be the great Apollo!

LORDS

Bless you, Apollo!

HERMIONE

Praised!

HERMIONE

Praise Apollo!

LEONTES

Hast thou read truth?

LEONTES

Have you read the truth?

OFFICER

Ay, my lord; even soAs it is here set down.

OFFICER

Yes, sir. Exactly as it's written down.

LEONTES

There is no truth at all i' the oracle:The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood.

LEONTES

The oracle is complete garbage. The trial will proceed. This is a pack of lies.

Enter Servant

SERVANT

My lord the king, the king!

SERVANT

Sir, the king, the king!

LEONTES

What is the business?

LEONTES

What's going on here?

SERVANT

O sir, I shall be hated to report it!The prince your son, with mere conceit and fearOf the queen's speed, is gone.

SERVANT

Oh sir, please don't shoot the messenger. The prince, your son, out of worrying so much about his mother, is gone.

LEONTES

How! gone!

LEONTES

What do you mean, "gone?"

SERVANT

Is dead.

SERVANT

He's dead.

LEONTES

Apollo's angry; and the heavens themselvesDo strike at my injustice. [HERMIONE swoons] How now there!

LEONTES

Apollo is angry. The heavens themselves are punishing me for my injustice.

[HERMIONE faints]
Look out!

PAULINA

This news is mortal to the queen: look downAnd see what death is doing.

PAULINA

This news has killed the queen. Look down and see what death is doing!

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. [Exeunt PAULINA and Ladies, with HERMIONE] 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; 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 My swift command, though I with death and with Reward did threaten and encourage him, Not doing 't and being done: he, most humane And fill'd with honour, to my kingly guest Unclasp'd my practise, quit his fortunes here, Which you knew great, and to the hazard Of all encertainties himself commended, No richer than his honour: how he glisters Thorough my rust! and how his pity Does my deeds make the blacker!

LEONTES

Take her away. Her heart is just a little strained; she'll recover. I put too much stock in my own suspicions. Please, take care of her, get her some medicine. [PAULINA and the female servants carry HERMIONE out]

Apollo, please forgive my blasphemy against your oracle! I'll make up with Polixenes, win my wife over again, bring Camillo back since I know now that he's a good guy. I was too carried away with my jealousy and got caught up with bloody thoughts of revenge. I told Camillo to poison my friend Polixenes, which would have happened if Camillo hadn't questioned my command (even though I threatened him with death if he didn't obey). He admirably told Polixenes what I had planned, then gave up his comfortable position here to help Polixenes get away. He risked everything to do what was right. His goodness glitters through my dark intentions, making my actions look even more dark by contrast!

Re-enter PAULINA

PAULINA

Woe the while!O, cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,Break too.

PAULINA

Oh, woe is me! My heart is about to break!

FIRST LORD

What fit is this, good lady?

FIRST LORD

What's the matter with you, ma'am?

PAULINA

What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me? 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, 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 by-gone fooleries were but spices of it. That thou betray'dst Polixenes,'twas nothing; That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant And damnable ingrateful: nor was't much, Thou wouldst have poison'd good Camillo's honour, To have him kill a king: poor trespasses, More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon 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 honourable thoughts, Thoughts high for one so tender, cleft the heart That could conceive a gross and foolish sire Blemish'd 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, The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead, and vengeance for't Not dropp'd down yet.

PAULINA

You tyrant, what tortures do you have in store for me? Stretch me on the rack? Burn me at the stake? Boil me in oil? What range of old and new punishments will I receive for cursing you the way you deserve? Your tyranny and your jealous fantasies, which were more immature than young boys' passing thoughts and more useless then nine-year-old girls' daydreams—well, just consider what your fantasies have done! If you can get your head around it, you'll really go crazy now! Everything you've done was just a byproduct of that. You betrayed Polixenes, but that was nothing; it just proved you were flaky and a damned ungrateful idiot. It wasn't so bad, either, that you wrecked Camillo's life by trying to force him to kill a king. Those were small offenses compared to what came next. You abandoned your daughter to the wilderness: that's not such a big deal (though even the devil himself wouldn't have done it). And really, it's not your fault that the sensitive, young prince died of a broken heart, from disbelief that his disgusting, foolish father would destroy his beloved mother. No, sir. You don't have to answer for any of this. But this most recent thing (and, gentleman, prepare to cry out as soon as you hear it): the queen, the queen, the sweetest, dearest creature is dead, and vengeance for it remains to be seen.

FIRST LORD

The higher powers forbid!

FIRST LORD

God forbid!

PAULINA

I say she's dead; I'll swear't. If word nor oath Prevail not, go and see: if you can bring Tincture or lustre 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 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 To look that way thou wert.

PAULINA

I said she's dead; I'll swear it. If you don't believe me, go and see for yourself. If you can bring the color back to her cheeks, open her eyes, or get her breathing again, it would be a miracle. You tyrant! Don't you dare repent what you've done. These crimes couldn't be offset even if you mustered every ounce of remorse in your body. From now on, your whole life should be nothing but misery. A thousand people praying naked and fasting on a mountain in a perpetual winter storm for ten thousand years could not convince the gods to have mercy on you.

LEONTES

Go on, go onThou canst not speak too much; I have deservedAll tongues to talk their bitterest.

LEONTES

Go on; go on. It's impossible for you to say too much. I deserve the most bitter words anyone can offer.

FIRST LORD

Say no more:Howe'er the business goes, you have made faultI' the boldness of your speech.

FIRST LORD

Say no more. Whatever's happened, you overstepped your boundaries in making that speech.

PAULINA

I am sorry for't: All faults I make, when I shall come to know them, I do repent. Alas! I have show'd too much The rashness of a woman: he is touch'd To the noble heart. What's gone and what's past help Should be past grief: do not receive affliction At my petition; I beseech you, rather Let me be punish'd, 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; I'll not remember you of my own lord, Who is lost too: take your patience to you, And I'll say nothing.

PAULINA

I'm sorry for that. Any faults that come to my attention, I'm sure I'll repent for. [LEONTES starts to cry] Well, well. Just call me a classic, over-emotional woman; I've hurt the king's feelings.

[To LEONTES] Don't cry over what's in the past and can't be helped. And don't be upset only because I told you to—I'd rather you punished me for reminding you of what you forgot. Now sir, forgive me for speaking so harshly. I loved your queen so much—oops, I did it again! I won't talk about her anymore, or about your children, or about my husband, Antigonus, who is lost, too. Beg your pardon; I won't say a word.

LEONTES

Thou didst speak but well When most the truth; which I receive much better 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 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 Unto these sorrows.

LEONTES

No, you said the right thing; you spoke the truth. I welcome it, actually, more than I would welcome your pity. Please, show me the dead bodies of my wife and son. I'll make them a double grave, and, as a mark of my shame, will write on their gravestones how and why they died. I'll visit the chapel where they're buried every day and will spend all my time crying over them. I'll do this for as long as I live. Lead me to my heartbreak. 

Exeunt

The winters tale
Join LitCharts A+ and get the entire The Winter's Tale Translation as a printable PDF.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
  • Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
  • Downloads of 812 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 19,116 quotes covering 812 books
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms
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.