The Winter's Tale

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter Leontes, Lords, and Officers


This sessions, to our great grief we pronounce,
session, sessions (n.) judicial assembly, trial, court

Even pushes 'gainst our heart: the party tried
push (v.) strike, press hard, thrust

The daughter of a king, our wife, and one

Of us too much beloved. Let us be cleared

Of being tyrannous, since we so openly

Proceed in justice, which shall have due course,
course (n.) 2 habit, custom, practise, normal procedure

Even to the guilt or the purgation.
purgation (n.) 2 acquittal, clearing away of guilt

Produce the prisoner.


It is his highness' pleasure that the Queen

Appear in person here in court.

Enter Hermione, guarded, Paulina, and Ladies




Read the indictment.



Hermione, Queen to the worthy Leontes,

King of Sicilia, thou art here accused and arraigned of high

treason, in committing adultery with Polixenes, King of

Bohemia, and conspiring with Camillo to take away the

life of our sovereign lord the King, thy royal husband;

the pretence whereof being by circumstances partly laid
circumstance (n.) 1 detail(s), particular(s), specifics
pretence (n.) 1 plan, design, intention, purpose

open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the faith and allegiance

of a true subject, didst counsel and aid them, for their

better safety, to fly away by night.


Since what I am to say must be but that

Which contradicts my accusation, and

The testimony on my part no other

But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
boot (v.) 1 help, serve, benefit, be useful [to]

To say ‘ Not guilty:’ mine integrity

Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,

Be so received. But thus: if powers divine

Behold our human actions – as they do –

I doubt not then but innocence shall make

False accusation blush, and tyranny
false (adj.) 1 treacherous, traitorous, perfidious See Topics: Frequency count

Tremble at patience. You, my lord, best know –

Who least will seem to do so – my past life

Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
continent (adj.) 1 chaste, temperate, restrained

As I am now unhappy; which is more

Than history can pattern, though devised
history (n.) 2 history-play, chronicle, stage drama
pattern (v.) 1 parallel, match, equal

And played to take spectators. For behold me,
take (v.) 6 captivate, delight, enrapture

A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
owe (v.) 1 own, possess, have See Topics: Frequency count

A moiety of the throne, a great king's daughter,
moiety (n.) 2 half, equal share

The mother to a hopeful prince, here standing

To prate and talk for life and honour 'fore
prate (v.) prattle, chatter, blather See Topics: Frequency count

Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it

As I weigh grief, which I would spare; for honour,
spare (v.) 2 avoid, shun, keep away from
weigh (v.) 2 consider, take into account

'Tis a derivative from me to mine,
derivative (n.) thing proceeding, heritage, inheritance

And only that I stand for. I appeal
stand for (v.) 1 defend, uphold, protect, support

To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
conscience (n.) 1 internal reflection, inner voice, inmost thought

Came to your court, how I was in your grace,
grace (n.) 1 honour, favour, recognition, respect

How merited to be so; since he came,

With what encounter so uncurrent I
encounter (n.) 3 behaviour, conduct, manner of meeting
uncurrent (adj.) 2 exceptional, aberrant, out of the ordinary

Have strained t' appear thus: if one jot beyond
strain (v.) 5 transgress, go beyond, exceed

The bound of honour, or in act or will

That way inclining, hardened be the hearts

Of all that hear me, and my near'st of kin

Cry fie upon my grave!


                         I ne'er heard yet

That any of these bolder vices wanted
want (v.) 4 require, demand, need

Less impudence to gainsay what they did
gainsay (v.) 3 deny, renounce, disown

Than to perform it first.


                         That's true enough,

Through 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
due (adj.) appropriate, proper, fitting


You will not own it.


                         More than mistress of

Which comes to me in name of fault I must not

At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,

With whom I am accused, I do confess

I loved him as in honour he required:
require (v.) 5 deserve, merit, justify

With such a kind of love as might become
become (v.) 1 be fitting, befit, be appropriate to See Topics: Frequency count

A lady like me; with a love even such,

So and no other, as yourself commanded;

Which not to have done I think had been in me

Both disobedience and ingratitude

To you and toward your friend, whose love had spoke

Even since it could speak, from an infant, freely

That it was yours. Now, for conspiracy,

I know not how it tastes, though it be dished
dish (v.) present on a dish, put in front of one

For me to try how. All I know of it

Is that Camillo was an honest man;

And why he left your court the gods themselves,

Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.
wot (v.) 1 learn, know, be told See Topics: Frequency count


You knew of his departure, as you know

What you have underta'en to do in's absence.



You speak a language that I understand not.

My life stands in the level of your dreams,
level (n.) 1 [archery] direct aim, target, range

Which I'll lay down.


                         Your actions are my dreams.

You had a bastard by Polixenes,

And I but dreamed it. As you were past all shame –

Those of your fact are so – so past all truth;
fact (n.) evil deed, wicked act, crime

Which to deny concerns more than avails; for as

Thy brat hath been cast out, like to itself,

No father owning it – which is indeed

More criminal in thee than it – so thou

Shalt feel our justice, in whose easiest passage
passage (n.) 1 incident, occurrence, event, happening

Look for no less than death.


                         Sir, spare your threats!

The bug which you would fright me with I seek.
bug (n.) 1 bogey, bugbear, imaginary terror
fright (v.), past form frighted frighten, scare, terrify See Topics: Frequency count

To me can life be no commodity:
commodity (n.) 2 asset, advantage, benefit

The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,

I do give lost, for I do feel it gone,
give (v.) 4 consider, account, hold [in mind]

But know not how it went. My second joy,

And first-fruits of my body, from his presence

I am barred, like one infectious. My third comfort,

Starred most unluckily, is from my breast –
starred (adj.) born under a star

The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth –

Haled out to murder. Myself on every post
hale (v.) 1 drag, pull, haul

Proclaimed a strumpet; with immodest hatred
immodest (adj.) 2 improper, immoderate, inordinate
strumpet (n.) harlot, prostitute, whore

The childbed privilege denied, which 'longs
childbed (adj.) of being in labour, belonging to confinement

To women of all fashion; lastly, hurried
fashion (n.) 6 kind, type, sort

Here to this place, i'th' open air, before

I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
limit (n.) 1 prescribed time, fixed period

Tell me what blessings I have here alive

That I should fear to die. Therefore proceed.

But yet hear this – mistake me not: no life,

I prize it not a straw; but for mine honour,
straw (n.) trivial matter, trifle

Which I would free – if I shall be condemned

Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else

But what your jealousies awake, I tell you

'Tis rigour and not law. Your honours all,

I do refer me to the oracle:
refer (v.) 1 entrust, commit, commend

Apollo be my judge!


                         This your request

Is altogether just. Therefore bring forth,

And in Apollo's name, his oracle.

Exeunt certain Officers


The Emperor of Russia was my father.

O that he were alive, and here beholding

His daughter's trial! That he did but see

The flatness of my misery; yet with eyes
flatness (n.) completeness, absoluteness, limitless nature

Of pity, not revenge!

Enter Officers, with Cleomenes and Dion


You here shall swear upon this sword of justice

That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have

Been both at Delphos, and from thence have brought

This sealed-up oracle, by the hand delivered

Of great Apollo's priest; and that since then

You have not dared to break the holy seal,

Nor read the secrets in't.


                         All this we swear.


Break up the seals and read.
break up (v.) 1 break, open [a seal]



Hermione is chaste; Polixenes blameless;

Camillo a true subject; Leontes a jealous tyrant; his

innocent babe truly begotten; and the King shall live without

an heir, if that which is lost be not found.


Now blessed be the great Apollo!




Hast thou read truth?


                         Ay, my lord, even so

As it is here set down.


There is no truth at all i'th' oracle!

The sessions shall proceed: this is mere falsehood.
mere (adj.) 1 complete, total, absolute, utter See Topics: Frequency count

Enter Servant


My lord the King, the King!


                         What is the business?


O sir, I shall be hated to report it:

The Prince your son, with mere conceit and fear
conceit (n.) 2 imagining, brooding, fanciful thinking
mere (adj.) 1 complete, total, absolute, utter See Topics: Frequency count

Of the Queen's speed, is gone.
speed (n.) 3 fate, lot, fortune


                         How! Gone?


                                                         Is dead.


Apollo's angry, and the heavens themselves

Do strike at my injustice.

Hermione faints

                         How now there!


This news is mortal to the Queen: look down
mortal (adj.) 1 fatal, deadly, lethal

And see what death is doing.


                         Take her hence.

Her heart is but o'ercharged; she will recover.
overcharged (adj.) 1 overburdened, overtaxed, overwrought

I have too much believed mine own suspicion.

Beseech you, tenderly apply to her

Some remedies for life.

Exeunt Paulina and Ladies, bearing Hermione

                         Apollo, pardon

My great profaneness 'gainst thine oracle!

I'll reconcile me to Polixenes;

New woo my queen; recall the good Camillo –

Whom I proclaim a man of truth, of mercy:

For, being transported by my jealousies

To bloody thoughts and to revenge, I chose

Camillo for the minister to poison

My friend Polixenes; which had been done,

But that the good mind of Camillo tardied
tardy (v.) delay, retard, hold back

My swift command, though I with death and with

Reward did threaten and encourage him,

Not doing it and being done. He, most humane,

And filled with honour, to my kingly guest

Unclasped my practice, quit his fortunes here –
practice (n.) 1 scheme, plot, stratagem, intrigue
unclasp (v.) reveal, display, divulge

Which you knew great – and to the hazard

Of all incertainties himself commended,
commend (v.) 2 commit, entrust, hand over
incertainty (n.) uncertainty

No richer than his honour. How he glisters
glister (v.) glitter, sparkle, gleam

Through my rust! And how his piety

Does my deeds make the blacker!

Enter Paulina


                         Woe the while!

O cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it,
lace (n.) lacing of stays, bodice-string

Break too!


                         What fit is this, good lady?


What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
studied (adj.) 1 deliberate, carefully planned, intentional

What wheels? Racks? Fires? What flaying? Boiling

In leads or oils? What old or newer torture
lead (n.) 2 cauldron [of molten lead]
oil (n.) 1 [vat of] boiling oil

Must I receive, whose every word deserves

To taste of thy most worst? Thy tyranny,

Together working with thy jealousies –

Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle
fancy (n.) 5 imagining, flight of fancy, fanciful thought
green (adj.) 3 weak, undeveloped
idle (adj.) 3 foolish, stupid, empty-headed

For girls of nine – O think what they have done,

And then run mad indeed, stark mad! For all

Thy bygone fooleries were but spices of it.
spice (n.) touch, trace, dash

That thou betrayedst Polixenes 'twas nothing:

That did but show thee of a fool inconstant,

And damnable ingrateful. Nor was't much
ingrateful (adj.) 1 ungrateful, unappreciative

Thou wouldst have poisoned good Camillo's honour

To have him kill a king – poor trespasses,

More monstrous standing by: whereof I reckon

The casting forth to crows thy baby daughter

To be or none or little, though a devil

Would have shed water out of fire ere done't;

Nor is't directly laid to thee, the death

Of the young Prince, whose honourable thoughts –

Thoughts high for one so tender – cleft the heart

That could conceive a gross and foolish sire
conceive (v.) 3 imagine, fancy

Blemished his gracious dam. This is not, no,

Laid to thy answer. But the last – O lords,

When I have said, cry woe! The Queen, the Queen,
said, I / you have finished speaking, had one's say See Topics: Discourse markers

The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead! And vengeance for't

Not dropped down yet.
power (n.) 9 (usually plural) gods, deities, divinities


                         The higher powers forbid!


I say she's dead; I'll swear't. If word nor oath

Prevail not, go and see. If you can bring

Tincture or lustre in her lip, her eye,
tincture (n.) 2 colour, glow, brightness

Heat outwardly or breath within, I'll serve you

As I would do the gods. But, O thou tyrant,

Do not repent these things, for they are heavier
heavy (adj.) 1 sorrowful, sad, gloomy See Topics: Frequency count

Than all thy woes can stir. Therefore betake thee
betake (v.) 1 go, take oneself off, make one's way

To nothing but despair. A thousand knees,

Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,

Upon a barren mountain, and still winter
still (adv.) 1 constantly, always, continually See Topics: Frequency count

In storm perpetual, could not move the gods

To look that way thou wert.


                         Go on, go on:

Thou canst not speak too much; I have deserved

All tongues to talk their bitt'rest.


                         Say no more.

Howe'er the business goes, you have made fault

I'th' boldness of your speech.


                         I am sorry for't.

All faults I make, when I shall come to know them,

I do repent. Alas, I have showed too much

The rashness of a woman! He is touched

To th' noble heart. What's gone and what's past help

Should be past grief. Do not receive affliction

At my petition, I beseech you; rather

Let me be punished, that have minded you
mind (v.) 2 put in mind, remind

Of what you should forget. Now, good my liege,

Sir, royal sir, forgive a foolish woman.

The love I bore your queen – lo, fool again!

I'll speak of her no more, nor of your children;

I'll not remember you of my own lord,
remember (v.) 1 remind, bring to someone's mind

Who is lost too. Take your patience to you,

And I'll say nothing.


                         Thou didst speak but well

When most the truth; which I receive much better

Than to be pitied of thee. Prithee, bring me

To the dead bodies of my queen and son.

One grave shall be for both: upon them shall

The causes of their death appear, unto

Our shame perpetual. Once a day I'll visit

The chapel where they lie, and tears shed there

Shall be my recreation. So long as nature
recreation (n.) 3 refreshment, pastime, diversion

Will bear up with this exercise, so long
exercise (n.) 4 religious practice, spiritual observance

I daily vow to use it. Come,

And lead me to these sorrows.


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