ACT II
Scene 3
 

Sicilia. The palace of LEONTES

Enter LEONTES, ANTIGONUS, LORDS, and SERVANTS

LEONTES
Nor night nor day no rest! It is but weakness
To bear the matter thus- mere weakness. If
The cause were not in being- part o' th' cause,
She, th' adultress; for the harlot king
Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank
And level of my brain, plot-proof; but she
I can hook to me- say that she were gone,
Given to the fire, a moiety of my rest
Might come to me again. Who's there?

FIRST SERVANT
My lord?

LEONTES
How does the boy?

FIRST SERVANT
He took good rest to-night;
'Tis hop'd his sickness is discharg'd.

LEONTES
To see his nobleness!
Conceiving the dishonour of his mother,
He straight declin'd, droop'd, took it deeply,
Fasten'd and fix'd the shame on't in himself,
Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,
And downright languish'd. Leave me solely. Go,
See how he fares. [Exit SERVANT] Fie, fie! no thought of him!
The very thought of my revenges that way
Recoil upon me- in himself too mighty,
And in his parties, his alliance. Let him be,
Until a time may serve; for present vengeance,
Take it on her. Camillo and Polixenes
Laugh at me, make their pastime at my sorrow.
They should not laugh if I could reach them; nor
Shall she, within my pow'r.

Enter PAULINA, with a CHILD

FIRST LORD
You must not enter.

PAULINA
Nay, rather, good my lords, be second to me.
Fear you his tyrannous passion more, alas,
Than the Queen's life? A gracious innocent soul,
More free than he is jealous.

ANTIGONUS
That's enough.

SECOND SERVANT
Madam, he hath not slept to-night; commanded
None should come at him.

PAULINA
Not so hot, good sir;
I come to bring him sleep. 'Tis such as you,
That creep like shadows by him, and do sigh
At each his needless heavings- such as you
Nourish the cause of his awaking: I
Do come with words as medicinal as true,
Honest as either, to purge him of that humour
That presses him from sleep.

LEONTES
What noise there, ho?

PAULINA
No noise, my lord; but needful conference
About some gossips for your Highness.

LEONTES
How!
Away with that audacious lady! Antigonus,
I charg'd thee that she should not come about me;
I knew she would.

ANTIGONUS
I told her so, my lord,
On your displeasure's peril, and on mine,
She should not visit you.

LEONTES
What, canst not rule her?

PAULINA
From all dishonesty he can: in this,
Unless he take the course that you have done-
Commit me for committing honour- trust it,
He shall not rule me.

ANTIGONUS
La you now, you hear!
When she will take the rein, I let her run;
But she'll not stumble.

PAULINA
Good my liege, I come-
And I beseech you hear me, who professes
Myself your loyal servant, your physician,
Your most obedient counsellor; yet that dares
Less appear so, in comforting your evils,
Than such as most seem yours- I say I come
From your good Queen.

LEONTES
Good Queen!

PAULINA
Good Queen, my lord, good Queen- I say good Queen;
And would by combat make her good, so were I
A man, the worst about you.

LEONTES
Force her hence.

PAULINA
Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes
First hand me. On mine own accord I'll off;
But first I'll do my errand. The good Queen,
For she is good, hath brought you forth a daughter;
Here 'tis; commends it to your blessing.

[Laying down the child]

LEONTES
Out!
A mankind witch! Hence with her, out o' door!
A most intelligencing bawd!

PAULINA
Not so.
I am as ignorant in that as you
In so entitling me; and no less honest
Than you are mad; which is enough, I'll warrant,
As this world goes, to pass for honest.

LEONTES
Traitors!
Will you not push her out? Give her the bastard.
[To ANTIGONUS] Thou dotard, thou art woman-tir'd, unroosted
By thy Dame Partlet here. Take up the bastard;
Take't up, I say; give't to thy crone.

PAULINA
For ever
Unvenerable be thy hands, if thou
Tak'st up the Princess by that forced baseness
Which he has put upon't!

LEONTES
He dreads his wife.

PAULINA
So I would you did; then 'twere past all doubt
You'd call your children yours.

LEONTES
A nest of traitors!

ANTIGONUS
I am none, by this good light.

PAULINA
Nor I; nor any
But one that's here; and that's himself; for he
The sacred honour of himself, his Queen's,
His hopeful son's, his babe's, betrays to slander,
Whose sting is sharper than the sword's; and will not-
For, as the case now stands, it is a curse
He cannot be compell'd to 't- once remove
The root of his opinion, which is rotten
As ever oak or stone was sound.

LEONTES
A callat
Of boundless tongue, who late hath beat her husband,
And now baits me! This brat is none of mine;
It is the issue of Polixenes.
Hence with it, and together with the dam
Commit them to the fire.

PAULINA
It is yours.
And, might we lay th' old proverb to your charge,
So like you 'tis the worse. Behold, my lords,
Although the print be little, the whole matter
And copy of the father- eye, nose, lip,
The trick of's frown, his forehead; nay, the valley,
The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek; his smiles;
The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger.
And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it
So like to him that got it, if thou hast
The ordering of the mind too, 'mongst all colours
No yellow in't, lest she suspect, as he does,
Her children not her husband's!

LEONTES
A gross hag!
And, lozel, thou art worthy to be hang'd
That wilt not stay her tongue.

ANTIGONUS
Hang all the husbands
That cannot do that feat, you'll leave yourself
Hardly one subject.

LEONTES
Once more, take her hence.

PAULINA
A most unworthy and unnatural lord
Can do no more.

LEONTES
I'll ha' thee burnt.

PAULINA
I care not.
It is an heretic that makes the fire,
Not she which burns in't. I'll not call you tyrant
But this most cruel usage of your Queen-
Not able to produce more accusation
Than your own weak-hing'd fancy- something savours
Of tyranny, and will ignoble make you,
Yea, scandalous to the world.

LEONTES
On your allegiance,
Out of the chamber with her! Were I a tyrant,
Where were her life? She durst not call me so,
If she did know me one. Away with her!

PAULINA
I pray you, do not push me; I'll be gone.
Look to your babe, my lord; 'tis yours. Jove send her
A better guiding spirit! What needs these hands?
You that are thus so tender o'er his follies
Will never do him good, not one of you.
So, so. Farewell; we are gone.

Exit

LEONTES
Thou, traitor, hast set on thy wife to this.
My child! Away with't. Even thou, that hast
A heart so tender o'er it, take it hence,
And see it instantly consum'd with fire;
Even thou, and none but thou. Take it up straight.
Within this hour bring me word 'tis done,
And by good testimony, or I'll seize thy life,
With that thou else call'st thine. If thou refuse,
And wilt encounter with my wrath, say so;
The bastard brains with these my proper hands
Shall I dash out. Go, take it to the fire;
For thou set'st on thy wife.

ANTIGONUS
I did not, sir.
These lords, my noble fellows, if they please,
Can clear me in't.

LORDS
We can. My royal liege,
He is not guilty of her coming hither.

LEONTES
You're liars all.

FIRST LORD
Beseech your Highness, give us better credit.
We have always truly serv'd you; and beseech
So to esteem of us; and on our knees we beg,
As recompense of our dear services
Past and to come, that you do change this purpose,
Which being so horrible, so bloody, must
Lead on to some foul issue. We all kneel.

LEONTES
I am a feather for each wind that blows.
Shall I live on to see this bastard kneel
And call me father? Better burn it now
Than curse it then. But be it; let it live.
It shall not neither. [To ANTIGONUS] You, Sir, come you hither.
You that have been so tenderly officious
With Lady Margery, your midwife there,
To save this bastard's life- for 'tis a bastard,
So sure as this beard's grey- what will you adventure
To save this brat's life?

ANTIGONUS
Anything, my lord,
That my ability may undergo,
And nobleness impose. At least, thus much:
I'll pawn the little blood which I have left
To save the innocent- anything possible.

LEONTES
It shall be possible. Swear by this sword
Thou wilt perform my bidding.

ANTIGONUS
I will, my lord.

LEONTES
Mark, and perform it- seest thou? For the fail
Of any point in't shall not only be
Death to thyself, but to thy lewd-tongu'd wife,
Whom for this time we pardon. We enjoin thee,
As thou art liegeman to us, that thou carry
This female bastard hence; and that thou bear it
To some remote and desert place, quite out
Of our dominions; and that there thou leave it,
Without more mercy, to it own protection
And favour of the climate. As by strange fortune
It came to us, I do in justice charge thee,
On thy soul's peril and thy body's torture,
That thou commend it strangely to some place
Where chance may nurse or end it. Take it up.

ANTIGONUS
I swear to do this, though a present death
Had been more merciful. Come on, poor babe.
Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens
To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say,
Casting their savageness aside, have done
Like offices of pity. Sir, be prosperous
In more than this deed does require! And blessing
Against this cruelty fight on thy side,
Poor thing, condemn'd to loss!

Exit with the child

LEONTES
No, I'll not rear
Another's issue.

Enter a SERVANT

SERVANT
Please your Highness, posts
From those you sent to th' oracle are come
An hour since. Cleomenes and Dion,
Being well arriv'd from Delphos, are both landed,
Hasting to th' court.

FIRST LORD
So please you, sir, their speed
Hath been beyond account.

LEONTES
Twenty-three days
They have been absent; 'tis good speed; foretells
The great Apollo suddenly will have
The truth of this appear. Prepare you, lords;
Summon a session, that we may arraign
Our most disloyal lady; for, as she hath
Been publicly accus'd, so shall she have
A just and open trial. While she lives,
My heart will be a burden to me. Leave me;
And think upon my bidding.

Exeunt