The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 4

page Act 4 Scene 4 Page 12

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CLOWN

What hast here? ballads?

YOKEL

What do you have here? Ballads?

MOPSA

Pray now, buy some: I love a ballad in print o’
life, for then we are sure they are true.

MOPSA

Please, buy some. I love having a ballad written out, because then we are sure it’s true.

AUTOLYCUS

Here’s one to a very doleful tune, how a usurer’s
285wife was brought to bed of twenty money-bags at a
burthen and how she longed to eat adders’ heads and
toads carbonadoed.

AUTOLYCUS

Here’s one that’s sung to a very mournful tune: how a money lender’s wife delivered twenty bags of money in one birth, and she wanted to eat snakes’ heads and toads grilled.

MOPSA

Is it true, think you?

MOPSA

Do you think it’s true?

AUTOLYCUS

Very true, and but a month old.

AUTOLYCUS

Very true, and only a month old.

DORCAS

290Bless me from marrying a usurer!

DORCAS

May I never marry a loan shark!

AUTOLYCUS

Here’s the midwife’s name to’t, one Mistress
Tale-porter, and five or six honest wives that were
present. Why should I carry lies abroad?

AUTOLYCUS

Here’s the name of the midwife who helped at the birth, one Mistress Taleporter, and the five or six who witnessed it. Why should I spread lies around?

MOPSA

Pray you now, buy it.

MOPSA

Please, buy it.

CLOWN

295Come on, lay it by: and let’s first see more
ballads; we’ll buy the other things anon.

YOKEL

Come on, put it aside, and let’s see more ballads before we buy anything.

AUTOLYCUS

Here’s another ballad of a fish, that appeared upon
the coast on Wednesday the four-score of April,
forty thousand fathom above water, and sung this
300ballad against the hard hearts of maids: it was
thought she was a woman and was turned into a cold
fish for she would not exchange flesh with one that
loved her: the ballad is very pitiful and as true.

AUTOLYCUS

Here’s another ballad about a fish that appeared on the shore on Wednesday, the eightieth of April, two hundred and forty thousand feet above sea level, and sang this song to soften the hearts of young women. Some thought it was a woman who had been changed into a cold fish because she wouldn’t sleep with the man who loved her. The ballad is as sad as it is true.