The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

Bohemia. A desert country near the sea.
Bohemia, a desert country near the sea.
Enter ANTIGONUS with a Child, and a Mariner
ANTIGONUS, who is carrying a child, and a Mariner enter.
Thou art perfect then, our ship hath touch’d upon
The deserts of Bohemia?
You are sure that our ship has landed at the desert of Bohemia?
Ay, my lord: and fear
We have landed in ill time: the skies look grimly
5And threaten present blusters. In my conscience,
The heavens with that we have in hand are angry
And frown upon ’s.
Yes, my lord, and I fear we’ve landed at a bad time. The sky is dark, and it looks as though a storm approaches. It seems to me that the heavens are angry at what we are about to do and are unhappy with us.
Their sacred wills be done! Go, get aboard;
Look to thy bark: I’ll not be long before
10I call upon thee.
Let their sacred will be done! Go aboard, and see to your ship. I’ll call for you shortly.
Make your best haste, and go not
Too far i’ the land: ’tis like to be loud weather;
Besides, this place is famous for the creatures
Of prey that keep upon’t.
Go as quickly as you can, and don’t venture too far inland. It promises to be a dreadful storm, and this area is famous for its predators.
15Go thou away:
I’ll follow instantly.
Go away. I’ll be right behind you.
I am glad at heart
To be so rid o’ the business.
I’m happy to be done with this business.
He exits.
Come, poor babe:
20I have heard, but not believed,
the spirits o’ the dead
May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
Appear’d to me last night, for ne’er was dream
So like a waking. To me comes a creature,
25Sometimes her head on one side, some another;
I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,
So fill’d and so becoming: in pure white robes,
Like very sanctity, she did approach
My cabin where I lay; thrice bow’d before me,
30And gasping to begin some speech, her eyes
Became two spouts: the fury spent, anon
Did this break-from her: ‘Good Antigonus,
Since fate, against thy better disposition,
Hath made thy person for the thrower-out
35Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,
Places remote enough are in Bohemia,
There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe
Is counted lost for ever, Perdita,
I prithee, call’t. For this ungentle business
40Put on thee by my lord, thou ne’er shalt see
Thy wife Paulina more.’ And so, with shrieks
She melted into air. Affrighted much,
I did in time collect myself and thought
This was so and no slumber. Dreams are toys:
45Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,
I will be squared by this. I do believe
Hermione hath suffer’d death, and that
Apollo would, this being indeed the issue
Of King Polixenes, it should here be laid,
50Either for life or death, upon the earth
Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well!
There lie, and there thy character: there these;
Which may, if fortune please, both breed thee, pretty,
And still rest thine. The storm begins; poor wretch,
55That for thy mother’s fault art thus exposed
To loss and what may follow! Weep I cannot,
But my heart bleeds; and most accursed am I
To be by oath enjoin’d to this. Farewell!
The day frowns more and more: thou’rt like to have
60A lullaby too rough: I never saw
The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamour!
Well may I get aboard! This is the chase:
I am gone for ever.
Come, poor child. I’ve heard but never believed that the spirits of the dead might walk the earth. But perhaps it is true, because last night your mother appeared to me, and no dream ever seemed so real. She comes to me with her head to one side or the other, and I’ve never seen anyone so filled with sorrow and so beautiful. Dressed in pure white robes, she came to my room where I was resting. She bowed three times to me, and struggling to speak, she broke into tears. Once her fury was spent, these words came out: “Good Antigonus, since fate, against your good nature, has chosen you to cast out my child according to your oath, leave her in the remote places of Bohemia. There you weep, and leave the child crying. Since she is lost forever, I ask you to call her


Latin for “lost one.”

. Because of this terrible business forced upon you, you will never see your wife Paulina again.” And then she disappeared, shrieking. Very frightened, I finally got myself together and decided it had truly happened and wasn’t a dream. Dreams are just trifles, but for this once, even if it’s superstition, I’ll be ruled by one. I believe that Hermione has died, and that this child is truly the child of King Polixenes, so Apollo would want her to be left, whether to life or death, on the land of her real father. Blossom, fare you well! (he lays down the child and a scroll) Lie there, and I’ll put an account of your parentage with you. (he puts down a box) These jewels and gold will help pay for your upbringing, and if fortune pleases, leave some left over for you. (thunder) The storm is beginning. Poor child, because of your mother’s transgressions you are left out to die! I can’t weep, but my heart bleeds, and I’m cursed for having to do this deed. Farewell! The day gets worse and worse. You are likely to be lulled to sleep with a rough lullaby. I’ve never seen the sky look so dark during the day. What a savage noise! I’ll be lucky to get on board! This is the hunt! I’m gone forever.