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The Winter's Tale

William Shakespeare

  Act 5 Scene 1

page Act 5 Scene 1 Page 5

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LEONTES

My true Paulina,
We shall not marry till thou bid’st us.

LEONTES

My faithful Paulina, I won’t marry until you tell me to.

PAULINA

That
105Shall be when your first queen’s again in breath;
Never till then.

PAULINA

That will be when your first queen is alive again, not until then.
Enter a Gentleman
A Gentleman enters.

GENTLEMAN

One that gives out himself Prince Florizel,
Son of Polixenes, with his princess, she
The fairest I have yet beheld, desires access
110To your high presence.

GENTLEMAN

A man who calls himself Prince Florizel, son of Polixenes, asks to see you. With him is his princess, who is the fairest lady I have ever seen.

LEONTES

What with him? he comes not
Like to his father’s greatne his approach,
So out of circumstance and sudden, tells us
’Tis not a visitation framed, but forced
115By need and accident. What train?

LEONTES

What is this? He arrives without the ceremony someone of his station requires. That he appears so suddenly and unexpectedly tells me that it wasn’t a planned visit, but one forced by circumstances. How many does he have with him?

GENTLEMAN

But few,
And those but mean.

GENTLEMAN

Only a few, and those of rather low rank.

LEONTES

His princess, say you, with him?

LEONTES

You say his princess is with him?

GENTLEMAN

Ay, the most peerless piece of earth, I think,
120That e’er the sun shone bright on.

GENTLEMAN

Yes, and she is the most incomparable woman that the sun has ever shone upon.

PAULINA

O Hermione,
As every present time doth boast itself
Above a better gone, so must thy grave
Give way to what’s seen now! Sir, you yourself
125Have said and writ so, but your writing now
Is colder than that theme, ‘She had not been,
Nor was not to be equall’d;’—thus your verse
Flow’d with her beauty once: ’tis shrewdly ebb’d,
To say you have seen a better.

PAULINA

Oh, Hermione, just as every era thinks it’s better than the one past, so must you make way for a new woman. Sir, you yourself have said and written that she was never, and never would be, equaled in beauty, but now you change your mind. Your poetry was once filled with reports of her beauty, but it must have declined since you say that you have seen someone more beautiful.