The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 2

page Act 3 Scene 2 Page 8

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FIRST LORD

What fit is this, good lady?

FIRST LORD

What is wrong, good lady?

PAULINA

What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
What wheels? racks? fires? what flaying? boiling?
In leads or oils? what old or newer torture
195Must 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
200And 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,
205Thou 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
210Would 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
215Blemish’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
220Not dropp’d down yet.

PAULINA

How have you decided to torment me, tyrant? With

wheels, racks, fires, or flaying? With lead or oil?

All are forms of torture.

wheels, racks, fires, or flaying? With lead or oil?
What old or new torture must I receive, since my every word deserves the worst you could give me? Think of what your jealousy—which is too silly even for boys, and too immature and foolish for a nine-year-old girl—together with your tyranny has done, and then you’ll go mad! All of your earlier insanities were just a foretaste of this. Your betrayal of Polixenes was nothing—it just showed you to be a fickle and ungrateful fool. Neither was it much that you tried to tarnish Camillo’s honor by commissioning him to assassinate a king. These are just small misdeeds, with a more monstrous one waiting. I suppose the fact that you threw your baby daughter to the crows is little or nothing beside this, even though a devil would have shed tears from his fiery eyes before he did that. And the death of the young prince isn’t directly your fault. His heart tore in two at the thought that his gracious mother had been so disgraced by his vulgar and foolish father. This is not the worst act you’ll have to answer for. But this last deed—Oh, lords, when I have told you to grieve, it is because the queen, that dearest, sweetest creature, is dead, and she has not yet been avenged.