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The Winter's Tale

William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 3

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POLIXENES

No, madam.

POLIXENES

No, madam.

HERMIONE

55Nay, but you will?

HERMIONE

No, but you will?

POLIXENES

I may not, verily.

POLIXENES

I can’t, honestly.

HERMIONE

Verily!
You put me off with limber vows; but I,
Though you would seek to unsphere the
60stars with oaths,
Should yet say ‘Sir, no going.’ Verily,
You shall not go: a lady’s ‘Verily’ ’s
As potent as a lord’s. Will you go yet?
Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
65Not 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

Honestly! You counter me with weak vows, but even if you would try to take the stars out of the sky with your oaths, I’ll still say you are not going. Truly, you won’t go—my “truly” is as powerful as yours. Will you still go? You’ll force me to keep you like a prisoner, not like a guest, and you’ll have to pay a fine at the end, rather than give us thanks. What do you think? My prisoner, or my guest? “Truly,” as you say, you’ll be one of the two.

POLIXENES

Your guest, then, madam:
70To be your prisoner should import offending;
Which is for me less easy to commit
Than you to punish.

POLIXENES

Your guest then, madam. Being your prisoner would suggest I’ve offended you, which would be more difficult and painful for me than your punishment.

HERMIONE

Not your gaoler, then,
But your kind hostess. Come, I’ll question you
75Of my lord’s tricks and yours when you were boys:
You were pretty lordings then?

HERMIONE

I won’t be your jailer, then, but your kind hostess. Come, I’ll ask you about the tricks you and my husband played when you were boys. You were handsome princes then?