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The bug, which you would fright me with, I seek.
To me can life be no commodity:

The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,
I do give lost; for I do feel it gone,

But know not how it went: My second joy,
And first-fruits of my body, from his presence,
I am barr'd, like one infectious: My third com-

Starr'd most unluckily,2 is from my breast,

The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth,
Haled out to murder: Myself on every post
Proclaim'd a strumpet; With immodest hatred,
The child-bed privilege denied, which 'longs
To women of all fashion:-Lastly, hurried
Here to this place, i'the open air, before
I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
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,
(Which I would free,) if I shall be condemn'd
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;

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This your request

Is altogether just: therefore, bring forth,
And in Apollo's name, his oracle.

[Exeunt certain Officers

Her. The emperor of Russia was my father:
O, that he were alive, and here beholding
His daughter's trial! that he did but see

2 Starr'd most unluckily,] i. e. born under an inauspicious




strength of limit.] Strength to pass the limits of the child-bed chamber.

The flatness of my misery; yet with

Of pity, not revenge!


Re-enter Officers, with CLEOMENES and DION,

Offi. 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 seal'd-up oracle, by the hand deliver'd
Of great Apollo's priest; and that, since then,
You have not dar'd to break the holy seal,
Nor read the secrets in't.

Cleo. Dion.

All this we swear. Leon. Break up the seals, and read.

Offi. [Reads.] 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.

Lords. Now blessed be the great Apollo!


Leon. Hast thou read truth?


As it is here set down.


Ay, my lord; even so

Leon. There is no truth at all i'the oracle:

The sessions shall proceed; this is mere falsehood.

Enter a Servant, hastily.

Serv. My lord the king, the king!


What is the business?

Serv. O sir, I shall be hated to report it:

The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear

The flatness of my misery;] That is, how low, how flat I am laid by my calamity. JOHNSON.

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Do strike at my injustice. [HERMIONE faints.] How now there?

Paul. This news is mortal to the queen :-Look


And see what death is doing.


Take her hence:

Her heart is but o'ercharg'd; she will recover.-
I have too much believ'd mine own suspicion:-
'Beseech you, tenderly apply to her
Some remedies for life.-Apollo, pardon

[Exeunt PAULINA and Ladies, with HERM.
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
My swift command, though I with death, and

Reward, did threaten and encourage him,
Not doing it, and being done: he, most humane,
And fill'd with honour, to my kingly guest
Unclasp'd my practice; quit his fortunes here,
Which you knew great; and to the certain hazard
Of all incertainties himself commended,"

No richer than his honour:-How he glisters


"Of the queen's speed,] Of the event of the queen's trial: so we still say, he sped well or ill. JOHNSON.

6 commended,] i. e. committed.

Thorough my rust! and how his piety
Does my deeds make the blacker 17


Re-enter PAULINA.

Woe the while!

O, cut my lace; lest my heart, cracking it,
Break too!

1 Lord. What fit is this, good lady?

Paul. What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?

What wheels? racks? fires? What flaying? boiling,
In leads, or oils? what old, or newer torture
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
For girls of nine!-O, think, what they have done,
And then run mad, indeed; stark mad! for all
Thy by-gone fooleries were but spices of it.
That thou betray'dst Polixenes, 'twas nothing;
That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant,
And damnable ungrateful: nor was't much,

Thou would'st have poison'd good Camillo's ho



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

Does my deeds make the blacker!] This vehement retraction of Leontes, accompanied with the confession of more crimes than he was suspected of, is agreeable to our daily experience of the vicissitudes of violent tempers, and the eruptions of minds oppressed with guilt. JOHNSON.

8 Thou wouldst have poison'd good Camillo's honour,] How should Paulina know this? No one had charged the King with this crime except himself, while Paulina was absent, attending on Hermione. The poet seems to have forgotten this

Would have shed water out of fire, ere don'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


That could conceive, a gross and foolish sire
Blemish'd 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


The sweetest, dearest,

geance for't

Not dropp'd down yet.

1 Lord.

creature's dead; and ven

The higher powers forbid ! Paul. 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,
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
Than all thy woes can stir: therefore betake thee
To nothing but despair. A thousand knees
Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,
Upon a barren mountain, and still winter
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 deserv'd
All tongues to talk their bitterest.

1 Lord.
Say no more;
Howe'er the business goes, you have made fault
I'the boldness of your speech.


though a devil

Would have shed water out of fire, ere don't:] i. e. a devil would have shed tears of pity o'er the damned, ere he would have committed such an action.

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