The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

LEONTES
180What cheer? how is’t with you, best brother?
LEONTES
What news? How are you, my best brother?
HERMIONE
You look as if you held a brow of much distraction
Are you moved, my lord?
HERMIONE
You look distracted. Are you upset, my lord?
LEONTES
No, in good earnest.
How sometimes nature will betray its folly,
185Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime
To harder bosoms! Looking on the lines
Of my boy’s face, methoughts I did recoil
Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech’d,
In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled,
190Lest it should bite its master, and so prove,
As ornaments oft do, too dangerous:
How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,
This squash, this gentleman. Mine honest friend,
Will you take eggs for money?
LEONTES
No, truly. Sometimes nature shows its weakness, its tenderness, and makes itself a source of amusement for harder hearts. Looking at my boy’s face, I thought I had gone back twenty-three years and saw myself

without trousers

Leontes means he saw himself as a young boy who was not yet wearing men’s clothing. In England at the time, boys younger than six were dressed in gowns. Putting a boy in trousers, or breeches, signified the boy’s transition out of childhood.

without trousers
, in my green velvet coat, with my dagger carefully sheathed so I would not hurt myself on it and so it wouldn’t prove too dangerous, as toys often do. I thought how alike I was at that age to this child, this young boy, this gentleman. My honest friend, will you accept something relatively worthless in exchange for something valuable?
MAMILLIUS
195No, my lord, I’ll fight.
MAMILLIUS
No, my lord, I’ll fight.
LEONTES
You will! why, happy man be’s dole! My brother,
Are you so fond of your young prince as we
Do seem to be of ours?
LEONTES
You will! May happiness be his fortune! My brother, are you as fond of your young prince as I seem to be of mine?
POLIXENES
If at home, sir,
200He’s all my exercise, my mirth, my matter,
Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy,
My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all:
He makes a July’s day short as December,
And with his varying childness cures in me
205Thoughts that would thick my blood.
POLIXENES
When I’m home, sir, he’s my occupation, my laughter, all I worry about. First he’s my sworn friend, then he’s an enemy, a freeloader, a soldier, and a statesman, all together. He makes a long summer’s day feel as short as a day in the middle of winter. And his childish ways keep me from gloomy thoughts.

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