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The Winter's Tale

William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 12

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My gracious lord,
I may be negligent, foolish and fearful;
300In every one of these no man is free,
But that his negligence, his folly, fear,
Among the infinite doings of the world,
Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my lord,
If ever I were wilful-negligent,
305It was my folly; if industriously
I play’d the fool, it was my negligence,
Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful
To do a thing, where I the issue doubted,
Where of the execution did cry out
310Against the non-performance, ’twas a fear
Which oft infects the wisest: these, my lord,
Are such allow’d infirmities that honesty
Is never free of. But, beseech your grace,
Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass
315By its own visage: if I then deny it,
’Tis none of mine.


My gracious lord, I may be negligent, foolish, and cowardly. No man is free from all those vices, and they will occasionally turn up. In your affairs, my lord, if I was ever deliberately negligent, it was because of my foolishness. If I ever pretended to be a fool, it was because of my neglectfulness and my inability to judge the consequences. If ever I was afraid to do something when I was uncertain of the outcome—and the deed was so necessary it had to be done—it was a fear that even wise men feel. My lord, these are acceptable weaknesses that honesty is always plagued by. But I beg your grace to be blunt: tell me exactly what I did wrong. Then if I deny that I did it, it truly is not my fault.


Ha’ not you seen, Camillo,—
But that’s past doubt, you have, or your eye-glass
Is thicker than a cuckold’s horn,—or heard,—
320For to a vision so apparent rumour
Cannot be mute,—or thought,—for cogitation
Resides not in that man that does not think,—
My wife is slippery? If thou wilt confess,
Or else be impudently negative,
325To have nor eyes nor ears nor thought, then say
My wife’s a hobby-horse, deserves a name
As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
Before her troth-plight: say’t and justify’t.


Haven’t you seen? You have, that’s not in doubt, unless you are willfully blind. Or perhaps you have heard, since rumors can’t be mute in the face of something so obvious. Or maybe you have thought, since every man who thinks must have thought it. Isn’t my wife deceiving me? You must confess, unless you want to shamelessly deny that you have either eyes or ears or thought, that my wife is a whore, and deserves a name as awful as any base woman deserves who sleeps with a man before she is married. Say it and affirm it.