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Even then will rush to knowledge. Go, fresh horses ;
And gracious be the issue !
A court of justice.
Leontes, Lords, and Officers, appear properly seated.
Leo. 'HIS session, to our great grief, we pronounce,
Even pushes 'gainst our heart: the party try'd,
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.
. It is his highness' pleasure, that the queen Appear in person here in court. Silence!
Hermione is brought in guarded; Paulina and Ladies. Leo. Read the indictment.
Offi. 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 Bithynia, and conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign lord the king, thy royal busband; the pretence whereof being by circumstances partly lay'd 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.
Her. 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 falshood, 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 accusations 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 have
I strain’d t'appear thus ? if one jot beyond
The bounds 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 !
Leo. I never heard yet
of those bolder vices wanted Less impudence to gainsay what they did Than to perform it first.
Her. That's true enough,
Though ’tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
Leo. You will not own it.
Her. More than I'm mistress of,
Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not
At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,
With whom I am accus’d, I do confess,
I lov’d him, as in honour he requir’d;
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 towards 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 dish'd
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.
Leo. You knew of his departure, as you know
have underta'en to do in's abfence.
You speak a language that I understand not :
My life stands in the level of your dreams,
Which I'll lay down.
Leo. Your actions are my dreams.
You had a bastard by Polixenes,
And I but dream'd it: as you are past all shame,
(Those of your fact are) so you're past all truth;
Which to deny, concerns more than avails :
For as thy brat's 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
Look for no less than death.
Her. Sir, spare your threats ;
The bug, which you would fright we with, I seek :
To me can life be no commodity;
The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,
I do give loft, for I do feel it
But know not how it went. My second joy,
The first-fruits of my body, from his presence
I'm barr'd like one infectious. My third comfort,
Starr'd most unluckily, is from my breast
(The innocent milk in it's most innocent mouth)
Hald out to murder; myself on every post
Proclaim’d a strumpet with immodest hatred;
The child-bed privilege deny'd which ʼlongs
To women of all fashion ; lastly, hurried
Here to this place, i'th' open air, before
I have got strength of limbs. And 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 :
Apollo be my judge.
Enter Dion, and Cleomines.
Lord. This your request
Is altogether just; therefore bring forth,
And in Apollo's name, his oracle.
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
The Aatness of my misery; yet with eyes.
Of pity, not revenge !
. You here shall swear upon the sword of justice, That you, Cleomines 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.
Leo. Break up the seals, and read.
. Hermione is chaste, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, bis innocent babe truly begotten; and the king Mall live without an heir, if that which is loft be not found.
Lords. Now blessed be the great Apollo !
Her. Praised !
Leo. Hast thou read the truth?
. Ay, my lord, even so as here set down.
Leo. There is no truth at all i'th' oracle:
The session shall proceed; this is mere falfhood.
Enter Servant. Ser. My lord the king, the king! Leo. What is the business?
Ser. O sir, I shall be hated to report it.
The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear
of the queen’s speed, is gone.
Leo. How gone?
Ser. Is dead.
Leo. Apollo's angry; and the heaven's themselves
Do strike at my injustice. How now there? [Her. faints.
Pau. This news is mortal to the queen: look down,
And see what death is doing.
Leo. Take her hence;
Her heart is but o'er-charg'd; she will recover.
[Exeunt Paulina and Ladies with Hermione.