The Winter's Tale

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 1

page Act 2 Scene 1 Page 4

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HERMIONE

What is this? sport?

HERMIONE

What is this, a joke?

LEONTES

75Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;
Away with him! and let her sport herself
With that she’s big with; for ’tis Polixenes
Has made thee swell thus.

LEONTES

Take the boy away. He won’t be near her anymore. Take him away! Let her play with the one she’s pregnant with now, since it is Polixenes’s child.

HERMIONE

But I’ld say he had not,
80And I’ll be sworn you would believe my saying,
Howe’er you lean to the nayward.

HERMIONE

I’ll say it is not and will swear that you should believe me, whatever you think to the contrary.

LEONTES

You, my lords,
Look on her, mark her well; be but about
To say ‘she is a goodly lady,’ and
85The justice of your hearts will thereto add
‘Tis pity she’s not honest, honourable:’
Praise her but for this her without-door form,
Which on my faith deserves high speech, and straight
The shrug, the hum or ha, these petty brands
90That calumny doth use—O, I am out—
That mercy does, for calumny will sear
Virtue itself: these shrugs, these hums and ha’s,
When you have said ‘she’s goodly,’ come between
Ere you can say ‘she’s honest:’ but be ’t known,
95From him that has most cause to grieve it should be,
She’s an adulteress.

LEONTES

My lords, look at her closely. If you are tempted to say, “She is a fine lady,” the wisdom of your hearts will add, “A shame that she isn’t virtuous or honorable.” Praise her for anything but her outward form, which does deserve praise, and immediately you must shrug or mutter to yourself. Those are the expressions that slander uses—no, I’m wrong—that mercy uses, because slander only attacks someone who is virtuous. These shrugs and mutterings after you say, “She’s goodly” interrupt you before you can say, “She’s virtuous.” Listen to the man who has the most reason to be upset about it: she’s an adulteress.