The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

MAMILLIUS
Yes, if you will, my lord.
MAMILLIUS
Yes, if you’d like me to be, my lord.
LEONTES
Thou want’st a rough pash and the shoots that I have,
To be full like me: yet they say we are
160Almost as like as eggs; women say so,
That will say anything but were they false
As o’er-dyed blacks, as wind, as waters, false
As dice are to be wish’d by one that fixes
No bourn ’twixt his and mine, yet were it true
165To say this boy were like me. Come, sir page,
Look on me with your welkin eye: sweet villain!
Most dear’st! my collop! Can thy dam?—may’t be?—
Affection! thy intention stabs the centre:
Thou dost make possible things not so held,
170Communicatest with dreams;—how can this be?—
With what’s unreal thou coactive art,
And fellow’st nothing: then ’tis very credent
Thou mayst co-join with something; and thou dost,
And that beyond commission, and I find it,
175And that to the infection of my brains
And hardening of my brows.
LEONTES
You need a shaggy head and

horns

Men whose wives have been unfaithful, or cuckolds, were often depicted with horns.

horns
to be just like me. Still, they say we are as alike as a pair of eggs. Women say that, and they will say anything. But even if they were

as false as Africans or black fabric

A common belief at the time was that Africans were sexually promiscuous and thus “false” in that they weren’t faithful. Black fabric, meanwhile, became weak, or “false,” as a result of the chemicals used to make the black dye.

as false as Africans or black fabric
, or as fickle as the wind and the water, or fixed as a cheating gambler wants the dice to be, it would still be true that this boy looks like me. Come, sir page, look at me with your sky blue eye. Sweet villain! Dearest! My flesh! Can your mother have? Could it be? Jealousy’s intensity strikes me through to my heart and makes things that are impossible seem possible. That jealousy speaks in dreams. How can this be? It collaborates with what’s unreal and corresponds to nothing in real life. Then it’s very believable that my jealousy may be real, and she’s gone beyond what’s permitted, and I would find out and grow insane, and my brow would harden into horns.
POLIXENES
What means Sicilia?
POLIXENES
What is Leontes saying?
HERMIONE
He something seems unsettled.
HERMIONE
He seems upset.
POLIXENES
How, my lord?
POLIXENES
How are you, my lord?

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