The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

The Winter's Tale

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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

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Description

One of Shakespeare’s later plays, best described as a tragic-comedy, the play falls into two distinct parts. In the first Leontes is thrown into a jealous rage by his suspicions of his wife Hermione and his best-friend, and imprisons her and orders that her new born daughter be left to perish. The second half is a pastoral comedy with the ‘lost’ daughter Perdita having been rescued by shepherds and now in love with a young prince. The play ends with former lovers and friends reunited after the apparently miraculous resurrection of Hermione.


103 pages, with a reading time of ~3.25 hours (25,755 words), and first published in 1611. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

Antechamber in LEONTES’ palace.

[Enter CAMILLO and ARCHIDAMUS]

ARCHIDAMUS

If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.

CAMILLO

I think, this coming summer, the King of Sicilia means to pay Bohemia the visitation which he justly owes him.

ARCHIDAMUS

Wherein our entertainment shall shame us we will be justified in our loves; for indeed–

CAMILLO

Beseech you,–

ARCHIDAMUS

Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge: we cannot with such magnificence–in so rare–I know not what to say. We will give you sleepy drinks, that your senses, unintelligent of our insufficience, may, though they cannot praise us, as little accuse us.

CAMILLO

You pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely.

ARCHIDAMUS

Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.

CAMILLO

Sicilia cannot show himself over-kind to Bohemia. They were trained together in their childhoods; and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection, which cannot choose but branch now. Since their more mature dignities and royal necessities made separation of their society, their encounters, though not personal, have been royally attorneyed with interchange of gifts, letters, loving embassies; that they have seemed to be together, though absent, shook hands, as over a vast, and embraced, as it were, from the ends of opposed winds. The heavens continue their loves!

ARCHIDAMUS

I think there is not in the world either malice or matter to alter it. You have an unspeakable comfort of your young prince Mamillius: it is a gentleman of the greatest promise that ever came into my note.

CAMILLO

I very well agree with you in the hopes of him: it is a gallant child; one that indeed physics the subject, makes old hearts fresh: they that went on crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to see him a man.

ARCHIDAMUS

Would they else be content to die?

CAMILLO

Yes; if there were no other excuse why they should desire to live.

ARCHIDAMUS

If the king had no son, they would desire to live on crutches till he had one.

[Exeunt]

SCENE II

A room of state in the same.

[Enter LEONTES, HERMIONE, MAMILLIUS, POLIXENES, CAMILLO, and Attendants]

POLIXENES

Nine changes of the watery star hath been The shepherd’s note since we have left our throne Without a burthen: time as long again Would be find up, my brother, with our thanks; And yet we should, for perpetuity, Go hence in debt: and therefore, like a cipher, Yet standing in rich place, I multiply With one ‘We thank you’ many thousands moe That go before it.

LEONTES

                Stay your thanks a while;   And pay them when you part.

POLIXENES

Sir, that’s to-morrow. I am question’d by my fears, of what may chance Or breed upon our absence; that may blow No sneaping winds at home, to make us say ‘This is put forth too truly:’ besides, I have stay’d To tire your royalty.

LEONTES

We are tougher, brother, Than you can put us to’t.

POLIXENES

No longer stay.

LEONTES

One seven-night longer.

POLIXENES

Very sooth, to-morrow.

LEONTES

We’ll part the time between’s then; and in that I’ll no gainsaying.

POLIXENES

Press me not, beseech you, so. There is no tongue that moves, none, none i’ the world, So soon as yours could win me: so it should now, Were there necessity in your request, although ‘Twere needful I denied it. My affairs Do even drag me homeward: which to hinder Were in your love a whip to me; my stay To you a charge and trouble: to save both, Farewell, our brother.

LEONTES

Tongue-tied, our queen? speak you.

HERMIONE

I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until You have drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir, Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you are sure All in Bohemia’s well; this satisfaction The by-gone day proclaim’d: say this to him, He’s beat from his best ward.

LEONTES

Well said, Hermione.

HERMIONE

To tell, he longs to see his son, were strong: But let him say so then, and let him go; But let him swear so, and he shall not stay, We’ll thwack him hence with distaffs. Yet of your royal presence I’ll adventure The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia You take my lord, I’ll give him my commission To let him there a month behind the gest Prefix’d for’s parting: yet, good deed, Leontes, I love thee not a jar o’ the clock behind What lady-she her lord. You’ll stay?