The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 2

page Act 3 Scene 2 Page 2

Original Text

Modern Text

HERMIONE

Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts my accusation and
The testimony on my part no other
25But 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,
30I 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,
35As 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,
40The 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,
45And 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
50Have strain’d to appear thus: if 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 going to say must contradict this accusation and the only testimony in my favor comes from me, it hardly helps to say “not guilty.” I’m believed to be a liar, so whatever I say will be considered false. But if the gods watch what we humans do, I don’t doubt that innocence will win out against false accusation and tyranny. You, my lord, know that my past life has been faithful, pure, and true, though you seem to know this least of anyone. Those qualities are now matched by my unhappiness, which is greater than history has ever seen, even if it were created and performed to enthrall an audience. Look at me, who has slept in the royal bed, who owns part of the throne as the daughter of a great king, the mother of the prince who will one day take the throne, forced to defend my life and my honor in front of anyone who cares to come and hear. I care as much for life as I do for grief, which I could do without. Honor, though, is passed down from me to my children, so I will make a stand for that. I appeal to your conscience to remember how you held me in good graces before Polixenes came to court, and how I deserved to be regarded so. Since he came to court, think of what was so unacceptable about my behavior that I now appear on trial. If I have acted in any way dishonorably, or even seemed inclined to do so, may all that hear me harden their hearts, and may even my closest relatives curse my grave!