The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

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LEONTES

80You knew of his departure, as you know
What you have underta’en to do in’s absence.

LEONTES

You knew that he was leaving, and you know what you have tried to do in his absence.

HERMIONE

Sir,
You speak a language that I understand not:
My life stands in the level of your dreams,
85Which I’ll lay down.

HERMIONE

Sir, I don’t understand what you are saying. I’ll give up my life, which is the target of your delusions.

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:
90Which 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
95Look for no less than death.

LEONTES

My “delusions” are made of your actions. You had a bastard child with Polixenes—maybe I just dreamed it! You are past any shame, as women like you are, or any truth. Just as I’ve cast out your brat, whose lack of a father is more your fault than the child’s, I’ll devise a punishment for you, the least of which will be death.

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,
100I 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,
105The 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; lastly, hurried
110Here 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,
115I 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,
120I do refer me to the oracle:
Apollo be my judge!

HERMIONE

Sir, save your threats. I’d seek out the terrible punishment you threaten me with. Life has no value for me now. Having your favor was my highest goal and my comfort, and I give it up as lost now, though I don’t know how. My second joy in life, my first son, is kept from me as though I have a disease. My third comfort, that unlucky child with the innocent milk still in its innocent mouth, has been taken from my breast and dragged out to be murdered. I’ve been publicly declared a whore, with outrageous hatred denied the rest after childbirth that all women of my rank deserve, and hurried here into the open air before I’ve regained my strength. Now, my lord, tell me what I have to live for, and why I should fear death. Go ahead. But listen to what I say, which I say not for the sake of my life but for my honor: if I am condemned on mere guesses and your jealousy without any proof, it is merely severity and not justice. Your honors, I commend myself to the oracle, and let Apollo be my judge!