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The Winter's Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 81 pages of information about The Winter's Tale.

[Exeunt.]

SCENE II.  The same.  A Court of Justice

[Enter Leontes, Lords, and Officers appear, properly seated.]

Leontes
This sessions,—­to our great grief we pronounce,—­
Even pushes ’gainst our heart;—­the party tried,
The daughter of a king, our wife; and one
Of us too much belov’d.  Let us be clear’d
Of being tyrannous, since we so openly
Proceed in justice; which shall have due course,
Even to the guilt or the purgation.—­
Produce the prisoner.

Officer
It is his highness’ pleasure that the queen
Appear in person here in court.—­

Crier
                                 Silence!

[Hermione, is brought in guarded; Paulina, and Ladies attending.]

Leontes
Read the indictment.

Officer. [Reads.] ’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 open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the faith and allegiance of true subject, didst counsel and aid them, for their better safety, to fly away by night.’

Hermione
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
To say ‘Not guilty’:  mine integrity,
Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
Be so receiv’d.  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
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,
As I am now unhappy:  which is more
Than history can pattern, though devis’d
And play’d to take spectators; for behold me,—­
A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
A moiety of the throne, a great king’s daughter,
The mother to a hopeful prince,—­here standing
To prate and talk for life and honour ’fore
Who please to come and hear.  For life, I prize it
As I weigh grief, which I would spare:  for honour,
’Tis a derivative from me to mine,
And only that I stand for.  I appeal
To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
Came to your court, how I was in your grace,
How merited to be so; since he came,
With what encounter so uncurrent I
Have strain’d t’ appear thus:  if one jot beyond
The bound of honour, or in act or will
That way inclining, harden’d be the hearts
Of all that hear me, and my near’st of kin
Cry fie upon my grave!

Leontes
                        I ne’er heard yet
That any of these bolder vices wanted
Less impudence to gainsay what they did
Than to perform it first.

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