The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 4

page Act 4 Scene 4 Page 20

Original Text

Modern Text

Discovering himself
He takes off his disguise.
Whom son I dare not call; thou art too base
To be acknowledged: thou a sceptre’s heir,
That thus affect’st a sheep-hook! [To the Shepherd] Thou old traitor,
I am sorry that by hanging thee I can
470But shorten thy life one week. [To PERDITA] And thou, fresh piece
Of excellent witchcraft, who of force must know
The royal fool thou copest with,—
I don’t dare call you son. You are too lowly for me to acknowledge. You are the heir of a king, and you want to be a shepherd! (to the Shepherd) You old traitor, I’m sorry that hanging you will only shorten your life by a week! (to Perdita) And you, you skilled little witch, you must know you are dealing with a royal fool—

SHEPHERD

O, my heart!

SHEPHERD

Oh, my heart!

POLIXENES

I’ll have thy beauty scratch’d with briers, and made
475More homely than thy state. For thee, fond boy,
If I may ever know thou dost but sigh
That thou no more shalt see this knack, as never
I mean thou shalt, we’ll bar thee from succession;
Not hold thee of our blood, no, not our kin,
480Far than Deucalion off: mark thou my words:
Follow us to the court. Thou churl, for this time,
Though full of our displeasure, yet we free thee
From the dead blow of it. And you, enchantment.—
Worthy enough a herdsman: yea, him too,
485That makes himself, but for our honour therein,
Unworthy thee,—if ever henceforth thou
These rural latches to his entrance open,
Or hoop his body more with thy embraces,
I will devise a death as cruel for thee
490As thou art tender to’t.

POLIXENES

I’ll have your beautiful face scratched with thorns and made worse than your social rank. (to Florizel) As for you, foolish boy, if I ever find out that you’ve so much as sighed about not seeing this whore again—as I mean you won’t—I’ll bar you from inheriting the throne. I won’t consider you related to me at all. Listen to me: follow me to the court, you delinquent, because this time I’ll let you off easy, even though I am full of rage. (to Perdita) And you, witch, you’re only good enough for a herdsman, and would be for Florizel, too, who lowers himself to the position of shepherd, if not for the royal blood in his veins. If you ever come near him or put your arms around him again, I’ll devise a death for you that is as cruel as you are vulnerable to it.