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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 1 am now unhappy; which is more
Than history can pattern, though devised,
And played to take spectators. For behold me,—
A fellow of the royal bed, which owe x
A moiety of the throne, a greaj king's daughter,
The mother to a hopeful prince—here standing
To prate and talk for life, and honor, 'fore
Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it
As I weigh grief, which I would spare; for honor,
'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 strained, to appear thus:2 if one jot beyond
The bound of honor; 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!
Leon. I ne'er heard yet,
That any of these bolder vices wanted
Her. That's true enough;
Though 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
Leon. You will not own it.
Her. More than mistress of,
Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not
1 Own, possess.
2 Encounter so uncurrent is unallowed or unlawful meeting,—Strained means swerved or gone astray from the line of duty. The explanations of this passage are not very satisfactory. It appears to be designed as a question.
3 It is to be observed that originally, in our language, two negatives did not affirm, but only strengthen the negation. In this passage, Johnson observes that, according to the present use of words, less should be more, or wanted should be had.
At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,
(With whom I am accused,) I do confess
I loved him, as in honor he required;
With such a kind of love, as might become
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 knowr not how it tastes; though it be dished
For me to try how. All I know of it,
Is, that Camillo was an honest man;
And wThy he left your court, the gods themselves,
Wotting no more than I, are ignorant.
Leon. You knew of his departure, as you know
Leon. Your actions are my dreams;
You had a bastard by Polixenes,
Her. Sir, spare your threats;
The bug,3 which you would fright me wdth, I seek. To me can life be no commodity.
1 See note 1, p. 35. To stand within the level of a gun is to stand in a direct line with its mouth, and in danger of being hurt by its discharge. This expression often occurs in Shakspeare.
2 i. e. they who have done like you.
The crown and comfort of my life, your favor,
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 barred, like one infectious. My third comfort,
Starred most unluckily,1 is from my breast,
The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth,
Haled out to murder; myself on every post
Proclaimed 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.2 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 honor,
1 Lord. This your request
Is altogether just: therefore, bring forth,
[Exeunt certain Officers. j
Her. The emperor of Russia was my father.
1 "Starred most unluckily;" ill-starred, born under an inauspicious planet.
2 Strength of limit, i. e. the degree of strength which it is customary to acquire before women are suffered to go abroad after child-bearing.
3 The completeness of my misery.
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 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.
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.1
Lords. Now blessed be the great Apollo!
Leon. Hast thou read truth?
Offi. Ay, my lord; even so
As it is here set down.
Leon. There is no truth at all i'the oracle.
Enter a Servant, hastily.
Serv. My lord the king, the king!
Leon. What is the business?
Serv. O, sir, I shall be hated to report it; The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear Of the queen's speed,2 is gone.
Leon. How! gone?
Serv. Is dead.
Leon. Apollo's angry; and the Heavens themselves Do strike at my injustice. [hermione faints.
How now there?
Paul. This news is mortal to the queen.—Look down, And see what death is doing.
1 This is almost literally from Greene's novel.
2 i. e. of the event of the queen's trial. We still say, he sped well or ill.
Leon. Take her hence;
Her heart is but o'ercharged; she will recover.—
[Exeunt Paulina and Ladies, with Herm
Paul. Woe the while!
O cut my lace; lest my heart, cracking it,
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
1 Certain is not in the first folio; it was supplied by the editor of the second.