(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/ )
Leontes — King of Sicilia
Mamillius — young Prince of Sicilia
Hermione –Queen to Leontes
Camillo, Antigonus, Cleomenes, Dion — Lords of Sicilia
Perdita — daughter of Leontes and Hermione
Paulina — wife of Antigonus and closest friend to Hermione
Emilia — waiting lady to Hermione
Polixenes — King of Bohemia
Florizel — Prince of Bohemia
Clown — his son
Autolycus — rogue
Archidamus — Lord of Bohemia
Mopsa and Dorcas — shepherdesses
Two Waiting Ladies
Time (a silent figure in this version)
Gist of the story: Polixenes, King of Bohemia, comes to visit his old friend Leontes, King of Sicilia, for an extended visit. Leontes believes wrongly that Polixenes and Queen Hermione have been having an affair and that Hermione’s pregnancy is attributable to Polixenes. Leontes orders Camillo to poison Polixenes, but Camillo warns Polixenes, and they flee to Bohemia. The Queen has been put in prison, and young Prince Mamillius is sick from grief. When the Queen’s baby is born, Leontes orders Antigonus to take the infant girl to a remote place and abandon her. Leontes has sent to the oracle of Delphi for confirmation of the Queen’s guilt, but the oracle replies that she is innocent. A servant announces the death of Mamillius, and Paulina announces the death of Hermione. Leontes is crushed by guilt and remorse. Antigonus has taken the baby to Bohemia, where he dies from a bear attack. The baby is found by two shepherds, who name her Perdita and adopt her. They can tell she is of high birth. Sixteen years later, Prince Florizel and Perdita fall in love, but Polixenes will not allow his son to marry a shepherdess. Florizel and Perdita flee to Sicilia after being advised by Camillo. Polixenes chases after the young couple, accompanied by Camillo and the two shepherds. In the court of Leontes, the truth is revealed. Perdita is the long-lost baby of Leontes and Hermione. Polixenes consents to the marriage. Paulina now leads everyone to her house to view a statue of Hermione. But the statue is actually Hermione herself, who has stayed in hiding until her daughter should be found and returned. All the characters are reconciled, and the widowed Paulina is married off to Camillo.
(This play has one of the most complicated plots in all of Shakespeare, and in its original form it’s a monster for a non-literary audience. Nevertheless, there are wonderful elements of comedy, tragedy, fantasy, and romance, and characters we can identify with. Our mission, as always, has been to take what Shakespeare has given us, add our own inspiration, and make it work for an audience of ordinary people. The “experts” tell us that The Winter’s Tale is about the struggle between good and evil, with evil being represented by Leontes. I’m going to disagree. Good people can make terrible mistakes, especially if blinded by jealousy. The issue is, can a man who has erred as badly as Leontes still find redemption? The Winter’s Tale is not considered one of Shakespeare’s best plays, but you will find this restyling of it memorable and enjoyable. This is the first modernized version of The Winter’s Tale ever published.)
Act 1, Scene 1. [This scene is intended to be done somewhat like a vaudeville comedy routine.] Sicilia. Camillo and Archidamus come in from opposite sides and meet at mid-stage and face the audience.
Camillo: Archidamus! How are you?
Arch: Just fine. How are you?
Camillo: I’m great. You hardly ever come to Sicilia any more.
Arch: Well, you know, King Polixenes is so busy looking after Bohemia, he doesn’t get to travel much. So a visit like this is a big deal. I’m sure it’s the same with your King.
Camillo: Yes, Leontes is a busy man. But old friendships never die.
Arch: That’s true. Polixenes and Leontes go way back. They went to school together.
Camillo: Yes. The Sicilian Boys’ Academy of Smartness. It used to be a great school.
Arch: Used to be? What about now?
Camillo: Ach! It’s so different. It’s completely infected by political correctness.
Arch: Oh? Who’s the Principal?
Camillo: A real asshole–Dr. John Frank Corvino.
Arch: Dr. John Frank Corvino? Who’s he?
Camillo: He’s a phagocyte with an attitude.
Arch: A phagocyte with an attitude?
Camillo: A gay activist.
Arch: Uh-oh. One of those. Does he teach anything?
Camillo: Yes. Philosophy.
Arch: Oh, well, I suppose you have to be smart to teach philosophy.
Camillo: No. He’s a jerk. In fact, he’s so stupid he offended the Duke of Sherbourne.
Arch. (Shocked): He offended the Duke of Sherbourne?
Arch: Whoa!–Maybe he didn’t realize who he was dealing with.
Camillo: That’s entirely possible, but it won’t stop the Duke from getting revenge. The Duke of Sherbourne never forgets an insult. He’ll stick it to Corvino.
Arch: What’ll he do?
(Camillo whispers in Archidamus’s ear.)
Arch: Oh! Brilliant!
Camillo: Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.
Arch: That’s what they say.
Camillo: So anyway, how are all the Bohemians?
Arch: They’re fine. They hang out in the coffee houses. They drink espresso, play bongos, and read beat poetry. You should come–you and the King.
Camillo: We will. He intends to visit next summer.
Arch: It’ll be hard to match your hospitality. You guys really roll out the red carpet.
Camillo: Well, it’s all for the sake of friendship, you know. Leontes and Polixenes must be the two closest friends who ever lived. Leontes spares no expense.
Arch: Say, that little Prince of yours is such a cute kid.
Camillo: Mamillius. Oh, yes, everyone loves him. The nicest boy who ever lived. And smart, too. The old people refuse to die until they see him become King.
Arch: How old is he?
Arch: And they refuse to die until he becomes King, eh?
Camillo: That’s what they say. We may have an awful lot of really old people in Sicilia.
Arch: And I suppose the day after he becomes King, they’ll say, “Okay, now I can die.” And then they’ll die. Is that it?
Camillo: Well, maybe not the day after.
Arch: They might need a few days to think it over–and make suitable arrangements.
Camillo: Yes, I suppose. So what would you like to do while you’re in Sicilia?
Arch: Em–well, I was, uh, planning to visit a certain cultural attraction,
Camillo: Which would be what–specifically?
Arch: The Sicilian Girls’ Beauty School.
Camillo: The Sicilian Girls’ Beauty School? I’m not sure I know it.
Arch: Sure, you do. It’s the one with no sign in front.–The one will the red door.–You know.
Camillo: Oh–that beauty school. Right. I do know it.–Not from the inside, of course.
Arch: I’ve got my vacation money–(He jingles coins in his pocket)–and I’m going to spend it.
Camillo: Well, have a good time. And if anyone asks for you, what excuse should I give?
Arch: I’m looking at art.
Camillo: That’s believable. All right, then. Have a good time.
Arch: I will.
(They leave separately. On the way out, Archidamus says, “Phagocyte with an attitude. That’s funny.”)
Act 1, Scene 2. In the court of Leontes. Leontes, Hermione, and Polixenes are seated at a table. They’ve just finished lunch. Hermione, who is pregnant, is sitting between the men. Sitting apart are Mamillius and Camillo. Camillo is playing with the boy.
Polixenes: I’m sure I’ve exhausted your hospitality as well as your patience, Leontes. Nine months I’ve been here. How much longer can you stand me?
Leontes: Nine months? It hardly seems that long–does it, Hermione?
Hermione: Ha! That’s because you’re not pregnant!
Polixenes: Ha, ha!–But seriously, I must return to Bohemia. I have my duties, after all.
Leontes: There’s no rush. Stay another week at least.
Polixenes: If I stay another week, it’ll turn into a month. No, I really must go. I’ve made up my mind.
Leontes: Tell him to stay, Hermione.
Hermione (Humourously): Yes, I’ll make him stay. I’ll just make him my prisoner. (To Polixenes) How would you like that? I’ll put you in a room and lock you in.
Hermione: But I’d much rather be your hostess than your jailer. Wouldn’t you prefer that?
Polixenes: If you put it that way.
Hermione: Good. Then it’s settled. You’ll stay another week. (To Leontes) You see how persuasive I am?
(Leontes reacts with an ambiguous expression, as if he is vaguely bothered by something.)
Hermione: Tell me, Polixenes, when you and Leontes were schoolboys, which of you was naughtier?
Polixenes: We were both as innocent as lambs, madam. And we remained that way until we met our wives–eh, Leontes?–ha, ha!
Hermione: So we corrupted you, did we?
Polixenes: How else did we end up married?
Hermione: Then we’re devils, are we–leading you astray?
Polixenes: Always. Women have their power over men.–Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we, Leontes?
Hermione: What’s the matter, Leontes?
Leontes: A bit of indigestion, that’s all. Why don’t you take Polixenes outside and show him the garden.
Hermione: He’s seen it a hundred times.
Leontes: See how the hemlock is doing.
(Hermione isn’t sure what to make of that remark, so she just shrugs. She gets up and takes Polixenes by the arm.)
Hermione: All right, then. Come, Polixenes, we’ll go look at all the pretty flowers–and the hemlock.
(Hermione and Polixenes go out. Leontes gets up and beckons Mamillius to him.)
Leontes: Mamillius, are you really my boy?
Mamillius: What do you mean, father?
Leontes: I mean, am I your father, and are you my son?
Mamillius: Of course, father. Don’t I look like you? Everyone says I do.
Leontes: Yes.–All that’s missing is two little horns on your head. Then you’d look exactly like me.
Mamillius: Two little horns? I don’t understand.
Leontes: Never mind. It’s a joke only grown-ups understand. Now be a good boy and go play in your room. I want to talk to Camillo in private.
Mamillius: All right, father.
Leontes: Camillo, did you notice that Polixenes wouldn’t stay when I asked him to, but he agreed to stay when the Queen asked him?
Camillo: Em–yes, my lord.
Leontes: And why do you suppose he changed his mind?
Camillo: To make you happy, my lord.
Leontes: No! Not to make me happy–to make the Queen happy!
Camillo: My lord?
Leontes: Didn’t you see the way they were playing footsie under the table?
Camillo: No, my lord.
Leontes: The two of them have been playing games the whole time he’s been here. Remember when the Queen made that joke about being pregnant? Think about it, Camillo. He’s been here nine months, and the Queen is almost nine months pregnant. What does that tell you?
Camillo: It’s just a coincidence, my lord.
Leontes: Don’t tell me it’s a coincidence! I’ve seen them hold hands. And the way she takes him by the arm. And all those times they go off by themselves to be alone. And all the sly looks, and all the little jokes and innuendoes. And the way he compliments her.
Camillo: They’re just being friendly, my lord. And I haven’t seen anything unusual.
Leontes: Are you blind, Camillo? Are you stupid?
Camillo: No, my lord.
Leontes: Or do you think I’m stupid?
Camillo: No, my lord.–I, uh–I hope you’re not suggesting what it sounds like.
Leontes: I’m not just suggesting. I’m saying it outright. The Queen is–how shall I put it–loose in her morals.
Camillo: Oh, now really, sir, you can’t mean that.
Leontes: I certainly do mean it. Do you think I’m wrong?
Camillo: Well–I should hope so, sir.
Leontes: If I were imagining all these things, then I’d be crazy, wouldn’t I? Do you think I’m crazy?
Camillo: Well–no, sir.–Perhaps merely mistaken.
Leontes: I’m not mistaken. I’ve been dishonoured. It’s like a knife in my heart. At a time like this I need those people close to me to be loyal. You must do something for me, Camillo.
Camillo: Yes, my lord.
Leontes: Tonight at dinner you’ll bring him his cup of wine, as usual. There’ll be something in it–something that will solve my problem.
Camillo: My lord–you know I’m loyal. I always have been. But please don’t ask me to do such a thing.
Leontes (Angrily): Would you have me be dishonoured? I gave you your position. Don’t forget that. You owe me this favour.–And think of my poor boy. Do you want his life to be ruined? My dishonour will be his.
Camillo (Very pained): I’ll do as you say, my lord. But promise me that when it’s done, you’ll reconcile with the Queen–for the sake of the boy.
Leontes: Yes. I will.
Camillo: Then you can count on me, sir.
Leontes: Until then, we must both act as if nothing is wrong, so he won’t suspect.
(Leontes leaves. Camillo is clearly unhappy. He ponders.)
Camillo: Nobody ever murdered a king and was better off for it. If I obey, I lose. And if I disobey, I lose as well. I’ll have no future in Sicilia.
(Polixenes comes in.)
Polixenes: Camillo, is everything all right?
Camillo: All right, sir?–I–I hardly know.
Polixenes: Is something bothering the King?
Camillo (Turning away): I–wouldn’t say so, sir.
Polixenes: You’re hiding something.
Camillo: No, sir.
Polixenes: Yes, you are. Something’s the matter. (Camillo is silent.) Perhaps I can help. But I have to know what it is.
Camillo: The King–he’s–sick.
Polixenes: Sick? In what way?
Camillo: It’s because of you, sir.
Polixenes: Because of me? What have I done?
Camillo: Sir, if I tell you the truth, I’m finished here in Sicilia. I’m supposed to be loyal to the King.
Polixenes: Yes, yes, you’re loyal, but never mind that. If this concerns me, I have a right to know, don’t you think? Would it not be honourable to tell me? Do I not deserve that consideration?
Camillo: Yes, sir.
Polixenes: Then tell me.
Camillo: My lord–the King believes–that you–and the Queen–have been having–immoral relations.
Polixenes: What! That’s ridiculous!
Camillo: It’s what he believes, sir. And furthermore–he gave me instructions to give you poisoned wine at dinner.
Polixenes: Poisoned wine! Good God! Has he lost his mind?
Camillo: I can only think so, sir.
Polixenes: I’ll talk to him. I’ll reason with him.
Camillo: My lord, you can’t reason with him any more than you can reason with a forest fire. His emotions are out of control. You must get away–tonight. I can arrange it. I’ll get you and your people out of the city before he knows anything.–Of course, if I stay here, I’m dead.
Polixenes: Then you’ll come with me to Bohemia. You’ll be all right there. I’ll take care of you.
Camillo: Thank you, my lord.–Now you’d best come with me.
Act 2, Scene 1. In the court of Leontes. Hermione and two of her Waiting Ladies are playing with Mamillius.
Mamillius: Everyone’s always kissing me. I’m not a baby.
First Lady: We kiss you because we love you.
Mamillius: When I grow up, I won’t let anyone kiss me.
Second Lady: You say that now, but you’ll change your mind later–won’t he, madam?
Mamillius: Mother, am I going to have a brother to play with?
Hermione: Yes. Either a brother or a sister.
Mamillius: I’d rather have a brother. Can you make sure it’s a brother?
Hermione: I can’t make sure.
Mamillius: Oh, but you must!
Second Lady: He’s a funny boy.–Mamillius, tell me a joke.
Mamillius: All right. (Thinks.) What is the longest word in the world?
Second Lady: I don’t know. What?
Mamillius: “Smiles”–because there is a mile between the first and last letters.
Hermione: Isn’t he clever?–Now tell us a tale.
Mamillius: A sad tale or a happy one?
Hermione: Whichever you prefer.
Mamillius: A sad tale is best for winter.
Hermione: Why is that?
Mamillius: Because a sad tale would spoil a summer’s day, but in the winter the days are already spoiled, so a sad tale can do them no harm.
First Lady: The boy’s a philosopher!
Second Lady: Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s King.
Mamillius: I shall be a wise King–and ladies may only kiss me if I like them very much, and if they don’t pinch me on the cheek.
(Laughter. Then Leontes storms in with Antigonus and two Lords.)
Leontes (To his party): He’s gone? And all his party? And Camillo, too?
First Lord: Yes. They were getting on their ship.
Leontes: Aha! Just as I thought! And Camillo was in league with Polixenes all along!
Hermione: My lord, what’s the matter?
Leontes: Give me my son! (He takes Mamillius by the arm.) I don’t want him near you. (To the First Lady) Take him to his room.
(The First Lady takes Mamillius out.)
Hermione: Is this some sort of game?
Leontes: You’re the one who knows all about games. You’ve been playing one with Polixenes.
(For the rest of this scene, Hermione remains composed and dignified.)
Hermione: I’ve been playing a game with Polixenes?
Leontes: Yes. And there are your winnings. (He points to her belly.)
Hermione: I could swear that you’re wrong, but I prefer merely to say that you’re wrong–because a silly accusation should not be answered with an oath.
Leontes (To his party): Look at her! Your Queen! The adulteress!
Hermione: If anyone else called me that, he’d be a villain of the worst sort. You, on the other hand, are simply mistaken.
Leontes: I’d call you what you really are, but such language is not fit to be heard in a king’s court. So I will just say that you are an adulteress–and a traitor–like your friend Camillo, who was obviously acting as your go-between with Polixenes.
Hermione: The planets must be lined up very badly to drive a king out of his mind. That’s the only explanation I can think of.
Leontes: If the planets were lined up to drive me out of my mind, they would have driven the rest of the world out of their minds as well. But that plainly is not the case. Therefore, I am not mad. Therefore, you will go to prison. (To one of the Lords) You take her.
Lord: Yes, my lord.
Hermione: You would put a pregnant woman in prison? At least let me have my ladies with me.
Leontes: As you wish.
Hermione: I’m sorry for you, my lord–not so much for what you’re doing now, but for how you’ll feel about it later, when you’ve regained your sanity.
(Hermione and the Second Lady leave, escorted by the Lord.)
Second Lord: Your Majesty, please call her back.
Antigonus: If you’re wrong, sir, it will be terrible for you, and the Queen, and your son.
Second Lord: Yes, my lord. I can’t believe the Queen is what you say she is.
Antigonus: I don’t know who put the idea in your head, sir, but it’s just impossible.
Leontes: Impossible? No. You’re just too dull-witted to see the obvious. Camillo took off with Polixenes. Why? Because he wanted to protect Polixenes and himself. And why? Because Polixenes was guilty of having sex with the Queen, and Camillo was guilty of helping them. It’s perfectly logical.
Antigonus: And what will the people think of all this, sir?
Leontes: The people will understand when I have the truth confirmed by the oracle at Delphi. [Author’s note: Shakespeare actually refers to Delphos, or Delos — a minor error.] I’ve sent Cleomenes and Dion to the temple of Apollo. They’ll come back with the confirmation.–Come. I must explain it to the people.
(They leave, but Antigonus pauses to speak aside.)
Antigonus: But what if the oracle doesn’t confirm?
Act 2, Scene 2. A prison. Paulina comes in.
Paulina (Calling): Jailer!
(The Jailer comes in.)
Jailer: Yes, madam?
Paulina: You know me, don’t you?
Jailer: Yes, madam–Paulina, the wife of Antigonus.
Paulina: I wish to speak to the Queen.
Jailer: I’m sorry, madam. I’m not allowed to admit visitors.
Paulina: Well, could I at least speak to one of her ladies? Could I speak to Emilia?
Jailer: Oh–I suppose. Wait here. I’ll get her.
(The Jailer goes out and returns with Emilia.)
Paulina: Emilia, how is the Queen?
Emilia: She had her baby.
Emilia: Yes. It was a bit early, but they’re both fine. It’s a girl.
Paulina: That’s wonderful. The King should be told. In fact, he should see the baby. It might change the way he feels. Ask the Queen if she’ll trust me to take the baby to show the King.
Emilia: Do you think it would do any good?
Paulina: I think so. At least let me try.
Emilia: I’ll see what she says.
Jailer: Madam, I have no instructions about letting the baby out.
Paulina: Were you instructed to put the baby in prison?
Jailer: No. She wasn’t even born yet.
Paulina: Right. The King hasn’t given you any instructions either way because he doesn’t know about her. Therefore, he can’t criticize you for letting her out.
Jailer: Well–if you put it that way.
Paulina: I’ll take full responsibility. Don’t worry about it.
Jailer: All right, madam.
Act 2, Scene 3. In the court of Leontes. Leontes comes in with Antigonus, Lords, and Attendants.
Leontes: I can’t get any sleep just thinking about that bitch. I’m so angry with her, I’d just as soon burn her at the stake. (To an Attendant) How is Mamillius?
Attendant: Still sick, sir–but he slept better last night.
Leontes: It’s her fault that he’s sick. He knows his mother has been disgraced. How can a child that age deal with it? (To the Attendant) Go stay with him.
(The Attendant leaves.)
Leontes: If I ever get my hands on Polixenes and Camillo, I’ll murder them. But that’ll have to wait. Right now it’s the Queen who’s going to pay.
(Paulina comes in with the baby.)
Leontes: You keep out of here!
Paulina: I will not!
Antigonus (Aside to Paulina): Not now, for God’s sake. He’s in a bad mood. He hasn’t slept.
Paulina (Loudly): I’ve brought medicine for his sleep.
Leontes: Antigonus, I told you to keep your wife out of here.
Antigonus: I’m sorry, my lord.
Paulina: My good King, let me speak. I come from your good Queen.
Leontes: Don’t call her good.
Paulina: She is good. And if I were a man, I’d defend her honour with a sword.
Antigonus (Aside): Oh, God.
Leontes: Go away. I’m not listening to you.
Paulina: My lord–this is your daughter!
(She puts the baby down.)
Leontes: You’re on the Queen’s side! Get out! (To the others) Get rid of her! (To Antigonus) Give that bastard kid back to her!
Paulina (To Antigonus): Don’t you dare.
(Antigonus stands there looking helpless.)
Leontes (To Antigonus): You let your wife dictate to you like that?
Antigonus: My lord, I–
Leontes: You’re all traitors! I’m surrounded by traitors!
Antigonus: My lord–
Paulina: There are no traitors here–just an angry King who would slander his own Queen, make his son sick, and disavow his own daughter.
Antigonus (Aside): Oh, God.
Leontes: The baby is not mine! It belongs to Polixenes! Let ’em all burn at the stake!
Paulina: She is your daughter. Look at her features. The only thing missing is your jealous rage.
Leontes (To Antigonus): If you can’t control your wife, I’ll have you hanged!
Antigonus: My lord, if you hanged every husband who couldn’t control his wife, there’d be very few men left in the kingdom.
Leontes (To Paulina): Perhaps it would be simpler to have you burned at the stake.
Paulina: Do as you wish, sir. I’m not afraid. My conscience is clear. And I will tell you face to face in front of everyone that everything you believe about the Queen is purely a figment of your imagination. You have no evidence to accuse her.
Leontes: How dare you! (To Antigonus) Get her out of here! That’s an order! Or I’ll have her thrown out by force!
Paulina: You don’t have to use force, my lord. I’ll go. But I leave your daughter with you. May the gods protect her. (To Antigonus and the other Lords) You’re not doing the King any good if you don’t speak up.–Goodbye.
Leontes: Did you put her up to this?
Antigonus: Certainly not, my lord.
Leontes: But you let her get away with it, so it’s all the same.
Antigonus: It seems I can’t please you today, no matter what, my lord.
Lords: It’s not his fault, sir.
Leontes: You’re all traitors! (To Antigonus) I want you to take that baby and throw it in the fire! That’s an order! You do it now, and when it’s done, you come back and tell me it’s done! Otherwise I’ll have you executed!
First Lord: Please! My lord! This is wrong!
Second Lord: We beg you, sir!
(Leontes pauses and calms himself somewhat.)
Leontes (To Antigonus): I suppose you don’t want to kill the baby, do you?
Antigonus: No, my lord.
Leontes: But if I relieve you of that responsibility, you’ll do whatever I order?
Antigonus: Yes, my lord.
Leontes: All right, then. This is what you’ll do.–You’ll take the baby far away–to some remote place–and leave it there. What happens after that is not your doing. We’ll leave it to Nature–or Fate.–Now, go ahead. Pick it up.
(Antigonus picks up the baby, reluctantly and sadly. He just stands there.)
Leontes: Go on now. Take it away.
(Antigonus goes out with the baby. Then a Servant comes in.)
Servant: My lord, Cleomenes and Dion are back from Delphi.
Leontes: Ah! That was quick. It must mean good news. Now we’ll get the truth straight from the oracle.–You lords make arrangements for the Queen’s trial. I want everything to be open and public. I want everyone to know that I’ve been right about her all along.–Go now.
(All leave except Leontes.)
Act 3, Scene 1. This scene is deleted.
Act 3, Scene 2. A court of justice. Leontes, Lords, and Officers come in.
Leontes: The Court is now in session to hear the charges against Queen Hermione. And you will all see soon enough that any suggestion that I have been cruel or unfair is absurd. (To an Officer) Bring her in.
(The Officer goes out and returns immediately with Hermione, who is escorted by two of her Ladies and Paulina.)
Leontes (To another Officer): Read the indictment.
Second Officer (Reading): “Hermione, Queen of Sicilia, you are accused of treason in committing adultery with Polixenes, King of Bohemia, and conspiracy with Camillo to conceal knowledge of this adultery from the King, and counseling Polixenes and Camillo to flee from Sicilia.” How do you plead?
Hermione: I could plead not guilty, but why should I bother? Those who are already convinced of my guilt will count whatever I say as a lie. It’s better to let divine powers shame those who accuse falsely. Before Polixenes came to Sicilia, no one ever said anything bad about me. My King was as happy then as I am unhappy now. (To Leontes) If I was kind and sweet to Polixenes, it is just as I should have been to your oldest friend–nothing more.
Leontes: That’s just what I’d expect you to say.
Hermione: And as for conspiracy, it’s only a word to me. I don’t know how it’s done. I always regarded Camillo as an honest man. I have no idea why he left.
Leontes: You knew all about it. And you probably agreed to do certain things when he was gone.
Hermione: These things are in your imagination.
Leontes: Your actions create what I imagine. Where did that bastard child come from–out of my imagination? No. It was real enough. And I have cast it out to die. And the same will happen to you.
Hermione: I’m not afraid of death. I count myself as dead already. My husband has turned against me, my baby is cast out to die, and I am publicly denounced as an adulteress. Can there be anything worse for a queen? If you intend to kill me, then go ahead and do it. But don’t call it justice. It’s just an act of personal hatred inspired by your sick jealousy. For justice, I leave it to the oracle, for the oracle never lies.
Leontes: Indeed. As you say, the oracle never lies. And the final evidence against you shall be presented now.–Officer!
(An Officer goes out and returns immediately with Cleomenes and Dion, one of them holding a scroll.)
Officer: Your names, for the record.
Officer: Do you swear that you are returned from the oracle at Delphi, bearing the scroll of the priest of Apollo, and that his seal is unbroken, and no one else knows what is written in it?
Cleomenes and Dion: Yes. We swear.
Leontes: Break the seal and read.
(The Officer takes the scroll, opens it, and reads.)
Officer (Reading): “Hermione, Queen of Sicilia, is chaste and virtuous–” (Murmurings in the Court) — “Polixenes, King of Bohemia, is innocent of any wrongdoing. Camillo is loyal and honourable. King Leontes is a jealous tyrant, the baby is his, and he shall have no heir until that which is lost is found again.”
(Louder murmurings in the Court.)
Leontes: Give me that! (He snatches the scroll away and reads it.) These are lies! Lies!
(He throws down the scroll. Shocked murmurings in the Court.)
Lords: That’s blasphemy!
(A Servant comes in.)
Servant: My lord!
Servant: Sir–the young Prince–
Leontes: Yes? The Prince what?
Servant: The young Prince–is dead.–He was overcome by grief about his mother.
Paulina: Oh!–The Queen! She’ll die!
Leontes: Take her to her room. Look after her. Do whatever you have to do.
(Paulina and the Ladies take Hermione out. Leontes is stricken with remorse. [A silent pause is needed here to fill time.])
Leontes (Speaking slowly): I’ve offended the gods.–I’ve been wrong.–The oracle doesn’t lie.–My Queen is innocent. Polixenes is innocent. And Camillo–thank God he disobeyed my orders. He’s the good one. He’s as good as I’ve been bad.
(Paulina returns, looking angry.)
Paulina: Hail, tyrant!
Paulina: A tyrant like you must surely be praised for accomplishing so much wickedness in such a short time. Shall I be next? Shall I be boiled in oil? Or shall I merely be thrown to lions or wolves?
Paulina: You blacken the name of your own Queen, you try to murder your best friend, you drive away a loyal subject, you cast out your own baby to die, you sicken your son with such grief that he dies–and now–your Queen, my lord–lies dead.
Leontes: No! Say it isn’t so!
Paulina: She is dead–her noble heart broken–her will to live destroyed–thanks to you. I hope you’re proud of yourself.
(Leontes falls to his knees in tears.)
Lord: Paulina! Stop! The King is sorry!
(Paulina sees the King crying and takes pity on him.)
Paulina: Forgive me, my lord. I spoke too harshly.
Leontes: No–not too harshly.–Not harshly enough for the wrongs I’ve done. (He rises.) Let me see my Queen and my son one last time. I will have them buried together. I’ll visit their grave every day for the rest of my life–and remind myself of my foolishness–and my wickedness.
Act 3, Scene 3. A seacoast in Bohemia. [Author’s note: We’re supposed to forget that Bohemia had no seacoast. Only Shakespeare could get away with this.] Antigonus, holding the baby, comes in with a Mariner.
Antigonus: You’re sure this is Bohemia?
Mariner: Yes, my lord. And from the look of the sky, there’s a bad storm coming. Perhaps the gods are angry with us.
[Director may sprinkle in some lightning and thunder in this scene.]
Antigonus: They may well be. You’d best get aboard your ship. I’ll signal you when I’m through with my–my errand.
Mariner: Be quick about it, sir. And don’t go inland. There are wild animals in this country.
(The Mariner leaves.)
Antigonus: Poor baby. I must leave you in this god-forsaken place. (To the audience) I had a dream. The Queen appeared to me and told me to leave the baby in Bohemia. And the baby shall be named Perdita–meaning, the lost one. And for my part in carrying out this sad mission, I shall never see my wife, Paulina, again.–Hermione must be dead, otherwise how else could her spirit come to me like that? And why Bohemia, unless Polixenes really is the father of this baby? (To the baby) Poor baby, I lay you down now. (He lays the baby down.) And if there is goodness in you, may the gods have mercy and see you live.
(He looks about. Then he hears the roar of a bear. He screams and runs out, chased by the bear. After a brief interval, an old Shepherd comes in.)
Shepherd: What sort of lunatics would be out hunting bears on a day like this? Young hotheads looking for thrills. And they’ve scattered my sheep in the process. Where the hell are my sheep? (He sees the baby.) Whoa!–What the!–(He investigates more closely.) Oh, my God, it’s a baby! (He picks the baby up.) Who left you here? Are you illegitimate, or what?–Oh, well, I can’t leave you out here.
(The Clown comes in. This is the Shepherd’s son.)
Clown: Oy! Oy!
Shepherd: What are you oy-oying about, you idiot?
Clown: You won’t believe what I saw.
Shepherd: What did you see?
Clown: I saw a ship go down. It was terrible. And on the beach there was a man who was attacked by a bear. He was dying. I couldn’t help him.
Shepherd: Terrible! Terrible!–I wonder if it has anything to do with this.–Look what I just found.
Clown: A baby?
Clown: Is it alive?
Shepherd: Yes. It’s a little girl. And look at this.–Feel that material.
(The Clown examines more closely and finds something, but the audience can’t see what.)
Clown: Hey–look at this!
Shepherd: Oh, my!
Clown: This is no ordinary baby.
Shepherd: She must belong to somebody rich.–You know, I was told by fairies that I’d be rich someday.
Clown: Then we’d better take good care of this baby.–What shall we call her?
Shepherd: We’ll call her Perdita–the lost one.–Now listen, this is our secret, understand?
Clown: Right–You go home, and I’ll bury that poor guy on the beach.
Shepherd: That’s a good deed for you. And this is my good deed. Let’s hope it means good luck–and riches–for both of us.
(They leave separately.)
Act 4, Scene 1. This scene is deleted. In its place, a silent figure representing Time comes out before the curtain and holds up a sign: “16 Years Later.” Time leaves as the curtain rises for the next scene.
Act 4, Scene 2. The court of Polixenes in Bohemia. Polixenes comes in with Camillo.
Polixenes: Aw, Camillo, I don’t want you to go back to Sicilia.
Camillo: I know, but it’s been so many years that I’ve been away. And Leontes has written to me. He wants me back. He’s changed. I feel sorry for him.
Polixenes: Bah! Let him stew in his juices. Besides, I need you here. You’ve become very valuable to me. I couldn’t replace you.
Camillo: It’s been an honour and a pleasure to serve you, my lord. But I want to be buried in the place I was born.
(A silent pause.)
Polixenes: Have you seen my son, the Prince?
Camillo: Not for three days. He’s hardly ever around lately.
Polixenes: There’s a reason.
Camillo: What, my lord?
Polixenes: I’ve had him followed. It seems he goes to visit a certain shepherd.
Camillo: Florizel is visiting a shepherd?
Polixenes: Yes. Only this particular shepherd has gotten quite prosperous.
Camillo: Do you mean the one with the beautiful daughter?
Polixenes: That’s the one. I think Florizel likes her.
Camillo: I get the picture.
Polixenes: Yeah. I’m worried he might do something stupid. Mother Nature doesn’t recognize differences of social class.
Camillo: Quite right, sir.
Polixenes: I want you to go over there with me and investigate. We’ll disguise ourselves as shepherds, okay?
Camillo: Yes, my lord. I’ll do that for you.
Polixenes: I knew I could count on you.–Come on.
Act 4, Scene 3. On a country path in Bohemia. Autolycus comes in singing.
When roses are in bloom
And chickens are a-clucking,
I like to sport with ladies
Who are very good at–(He stops and covers his mouth to tease the audience. Then he continues.)
When laundry’s drying on the line,
I think of it as giving–
To me, that is, because a thief
Has got to make a living.
(He speaks directly to the audience.)
Auto: Autolycus. Your servant. Where do you keep the silverware?–Ha!–I’m not named Autolycus for nothing. Autolycus was a famous thief in mythology. And I was conceived under the planet Mercury, so my father knew I’d grow up to be a thief. Now, I don’t claim to be the King of Thieves, or even the Prince of Thieves. No, no. That would be too high-profile. A clever thief doesn’t want to attract attention. A little bit here, a little bit there, and I get by–know what I mean? There’s a sucker born every minute–thank God–Oh! And I see one coming now.
(Autolycus moves far apart as the Clown comes in, walking slowly and trying to calculate on the palm of his hand.)
Clown: Let’s see–eleven sheep make a tod–twenty-eight pounds of wool–one tod will sell for one pound and a shilling–fifteen hundred sheep–that makes, em–
Auto (Aside to the audience): I’m gonna shear this sheep. Just watch.
Clown: I can’t do it.–Now, what do I have to buy for the sheep-shearing feast?–Three pounds of sugar, five pounds of currants–and Perdita wants rice–I don’t like rice, but she’s in charge. She made twenty-four wreaths of flowers for the shearers. Imagine that.–Oh, and I need saffron, and mace, and dates–I don’t like dates–and nutmeg, and ginger, and prunes, and raisins–
(Autolycus lies on the ground and pretends to be in distress.)
Auto: Oh!–Oh!–I’m hurt!
Clown: My goodness! What’s the matter?
Auto: Help me, sir! I’ve been beaten and robbed!
Clown: Oh, you poor man! Let me help you.
(The Clown helps him up. Autolycus is clinging to him.)
Auto: You are too kind, sir.–Ouch!–My shoulder blade really hurts. Would you hold me up?
Clown: Of course.
(Autolycus leans on the Clown and discreetly picks his pocket.)
Clown: Do you need any money, sir?
Auto: No, no. It would hurt my pride to accept anything. But you’re very kind to offer.
Clown: Who was it who robbed you?
Auto: Some fellow who used to be a servant of Prince Florizel–but he got fired because of his virtues.
Clown: His virtues? Oh, no, you mean his vices.
Auto: Yes, yes, vices–of course. I merely think of them as virtues. This man has been a carnival performer. He had a trained monkey. Then he was a bill-collector. Then he did puppet shows. Then he married a tinker’s widow not far from my estate. But he’s a rogue through and through. Why, he even stole my clothes and gave me these rags to wear.
Clown: My goodness!–What’s his name?
Clown: I’ve heard of him. He’s a thief, that’s what he is.
Auto: As you say, sir.
Clown: And a coward, too, from what I hear. If you’d acted tough, he would’ve run away, most likely.
Auto: I’m not the fighting sort, sir. I’m–well–meek, you might say.
Clown: The meek shall inherit the earth.
Auto: Indeed, they shall. And if they’re clever, they can get an advance on their inheritance.
(The Clown is puzzled by the joke.)
Clown: Em–are you feeling any better, sir?
Auto: Oh, yes, much better, thank you. I think I can walk to my cousin’s from here.
Clown: Shall I escort you?
Auto: No, no, thank you. You’ve already done me great service.
Clown: All right, then. I’ll be on my way. I have to buy some things for our sheep-shearing feast. Goodbye.
Auto: Goodbye, sir.
(The Clown leaves.)
Auto: I like a good sheep-shearing feast. Plenty of pockets to pick.
(He goes out singing.)
Oh, every day’s a bright one,
And every road’s a good one,
And every tart’s a sweet one
To a happy rogue like me.
Act 4, Scene 4. Outside the Shepherd’s cottage. Florizel and Perdita come in. She is wearing garlands of flowers. He is dressed simply, like a country person.
Florizel: You look like a goddess with all those flowers. You’ll be the queen of the sheep-shearing feast.
Perdita: I’m as overdressed as you are underdressed. I wouldn’t dare go around like this if it weren’t for the feast. People like to be a bit silly. It’s the custom.
Florizel: And falconing is a royal custom. I wouldn’t have found you if my falcon hadn’t flown over your land.
Perdita: Some accidents are happy. But your father won’t be happy if he finds you here.–A prince consorting with a shepherd? And the way you’re dressed. Not exactly royal.
Florizel: If I didn’t dress like this, how could I come and see you? Even the gods in mythology sometimes disguised themselves to get close to the ones they wanted to seduce. Not that I want to seduce you, of course. I intend to be a gentleman with you, no matter how I feel about you.
Perdita: Gentleman or not, your father will break us up if he finds out.
Florizel: Oh, don’t think about it now. It’s a holiday. Everyone is supposed to be happy. Pretend it’s our wedding.
Perdita: Oh! If only!
Florizel: I see you have some guests coming, so just be cheerful.
(The Shepherd and Clown come in, followed by Polixenes and Camillo in disguise, other Shepherds and Shepherdesses, including Mopsa and Dorcas. Dorcas is holding many flowers of different kinds.)
Shepherd: Daughter, you’re neglecting your duties. When my wife was alive, she was the perfect hostess. She looked after all the visitors. We have some strangers here who have come to enjoy the feast with us, so be nice to them. We want them to be our friends.
Perdita: Yes, father. (To Polixenes) Welcome, sir. (To Camillo) And welcome to you, too, sir.–Dorcas, let me have those, please. (She takes the flowers from Dorcas and gives some to Polixenes and Camillo.) Here’s rosemary for remembrance–and rue for grace.
Polixenes: Ah–winter flowers. A suitable choice for older people.
Perdita: This time of year everyone else has pink carnations, but I don’t care for them.
Polixenes: Why not?
Perdita: They’re too artificial, don’t you think? The gardeners cross the reds and the whites and make pinks. I think that’s unnatural.
Polixenes: Not at all. It’s still pollination. Nature provides the means. The gardeners simply make use of it.
Perdita: I suppose you could look at it that way.
Polixenes: You should go ahead and grow them.
Perdita: Oh, no, that’s not for me. I wouldn’t want them in my garden any more than I’d paint myself to attract a suitor. (She gives flowers to the other Shepherds.) For you, my friends, here’s lavender, and marjoram, and marigold. These are mid-summer flowers–just right for people of a middle age.
Shepherds: Thank you.
Camillo: Shepherdess, if I were one of your flock, I wouldn’t bother to graze. Just looking at you would be food enough.
Perdita: Then you would surely starve, sir. (She gives flowers to the Sheperdesses.) And for you, daffodils–flowers of the spring–suitable for young maidens. (Aside to Florizel) And if I had any lilies for you, I’d cover you with them.
Florizel (Aside to Perdita): Like a corpse, eh?
Perdita (Aside to Florizel): No, to lie upon you–in love.
Florizel (Aside to Perdita): Is there a sweeter girl in all the land? Everything you do is perfect.
Perdita (Aside to Florizel): You flatter me too much–Doricles. [Author’s note: Florizel has assumed the name Doricles to conceal his identity when he is among the shepherds. Only Perdita knows his real identity.]
Florizel (Aside to Perdita): It’s not flattery. (He takes her hand.) I’ll never leave you.
Polixenes (Aside to Camillo): She’s quite extraordinary for a country girl, isn’t she?
Camillo (Aside to Polixenes): Yes.
Polixenes (Aside to Camillo): You’d almost think she must come from a noble family.
Camillo (Aside to Polixenes): Yes, she does give that impression.–They’re certainly sweet on each other. That’s pretty obvious.
Clown: Let’s have some dancing. What do you say?
Dorcas: Dance with Mopsa–if you don’t mind garlic breath.
Mopsa: You should talk, Dorcas.
(Music is heard. [It just comes out of nowhere. This is Shakespeare, okay?] The Shepherds and Shepherdesses pair off, and Florizel dances with Perdita.)
Polixenes (To the old Shepherd): Who’s the fellow dancing with your daughter?
Shepherd: He calls himself Doricles. Says he has a big farm. He loves my daughter, and she loves him, too. And I’ll tell you confidentially, if he marries her, he’s in for a very big surprise.
(A Servant comes in.)
Servant (To the Shepherd): Master, there’s a traveling vendor, and he’s got ballads to sell, and lots of other good stuff.
Clown: I love a good ballad. I especially love sad ballads sung happily and happy ballads sung sadly.
Shepherd: You always were a weird kid.
Clown: Bring in that vendor.
(The Servant goes out.)
Perdita: I hope they’re not dirty songs he’s selling.
(Autolycus comes in carrying a big sack. He is dressed differently or disguised so the Clown doesn’t recognize him.)
Auto: Hello, hello! Fine merchandise for everyone. Men, buy something for your sweetheart.
Mopsa (To the Clown): Buy me something. You promised.
Dorcas: Maybe he’s got one of those specialty rubber items for ladies.
Mopsa: Shut up, you.
Clown: Stop now. No fighting.
Mopsa: Buy me something nice in lace, or a pair of gloves.
Clown: I told you someone stole my purse. Don’t you remember?
Auto: There are too many thieves in this country, that’s for sure.
Clown: Well, you won’t be robbed here, don’t worry. Now then, what about those ballads you’ve got?
Auto: Oh, yes! Ballads! (He takes a bunch of CD’s out of his sack.) Let’s see what we’ve got here–Ah! Here’s a good one–“Sheep-Shearing Ballads of Western Australia,” sung by Mel Gibson–And here we have “Sheep-Shearing Ballads of the Tibetan Buddhist Monks”–“Favorite Sheep-Shearing Ballads of the Mormons,” featuring Donnie and Marie Osmond–“Sheep-Shearing Ballads of Nova Scotia,” sung by Anne Murray–“Butcher My Sheep,” by Metallica–“Sheep-Shearing Songs and Marches of the Luftwaffe”–“Motivational Sheep-Shearing Songs,” by Dr. Wayne Dyer–“I’m Walking to a Farm to Shear Sheep,” by Ivor Cutler–“Hot Blood From a Sheep’s Throat,” by Iron Maiden–“Hip-Hop Sheep-Shearing, Volume One”–“Sheep-Shearing Polkas”–“Mr. Spock’s Sheep-Shearing Songs of the Vulcans”–Justin Bieber, “Sheep-Shearing For Lovers”–“A Glutton For Mutton,” by Gordon Ramsay–and last but not least–“Don’t Tell Me I Love My Sheep Too Much,” by Boy George.
Clown (To Mopsa): I think I’d enjoy that one.
(Mopsa makes a bad face. Then the Servant returns.)
Servant (To the Shepherd): Master, there are some entertainers come to entertain us with their jumping.
Servants: Yes. They call themselves the Jumping Fairies From Church and Wellesley.
Shepherd: All right. Let’s see ’em.
(The Servant goes out. A moment later, several effeminate men in ridiculous costumes come in jumping and doing a sort of pseudo-ballet. There is stunned silence as everyone observes them. Then they go out jumping.)
Shepherd (To the Clown): I suppose we should tip them. (He gives the Clown some coins.) Go and thank them for the entertainment. And make sure they don’t come back.
Clown: All right.–Mopsa and Dorcas, come with me.
(The Clown, Mopsa, and Dorcas leave.)
Auto: Oh, well, if you’ll excuse me. I think I’ll go look for some customers for my wares.
Polixenes (Aside to Camillo): I think it’s time I broke up this romance.
Camillo (Aside to Polixenes): You know best, sir.
Polixenes (To Florizel): When I was your age, I would’ve spent all my money on a girl I liked. But you haven’t bought this girl anything.
Florizel: Oh, she’s not interested in trifles. She values those things that come from the heart. And so do I. Even if I were the richest man on earth, it would mean nothing to me without her love.
Shepherd: What do you say to that, Perdita?
Perdita: I agree with Doricles perfectly.
Shepherd: Then I’d say we have a marriage waiting to be done. (To Polixenes and Camillo) You can be witnesses. I give my daughter to Doricles–and a lot goes with it.
Florizel: A lot more goes with me, sir–that is, someday when I inherit.
Shepherd: Yes, yes. Come now, join hands.
(Florizel and Perdita join hands.)
Polixenes: Excuse me. Just a minute. (To Florizel) Do you have a father, by any chance?
Florizel: Yes, of course.
Polixenes: Does he know about this?
Florizel: No, he doesn’t. And he won’t.
Polixenes: Why? Is he feeble-minded? Is he bedridden?
Florizel: No, he’s quite well.
Polixenes: Then shouldn’t he be here at his son’s wedding?
Florizel: No, I don’t think so.
Polixenes: Don’t you think you should at least talk this over with him?
Polixenes: I think he deserves to know what you intend to do. After all, he’s your father.
Shepherd: Yes, I agree.–Doricles, tell your father. I’m sure he’ll be happy.
Florizel: But I don’t want him to know. I want you to marry us now.
(Polixenes removes his disguise.)
Polixenes: Well, you can forget about this damn marriage! Some son you are! And a prince, no less–dressed like a country bumpkin! (To Perdita) And you, young lady–don’t pretend you didn’t know he was Prince Florizel.
Shepherd (Swooning): Oh!
Polixenes (To Florizel): If you ever see this girl again, you can forget about inheriting anything–and that includes the throne. (To the Shepherd) You keep your daughter away from my son, or you’ll be in big trouble. (To Perdita) And you, girl, have no business flirting with a prince. If you persist, you’ll be severely punished.–This party’s over!
(Polixenes leaves. [Extraneous characters can leave at this point.])
Perdita: I was afraid of this. (To Florizel) You have to leave, for your own good.–Leave me to cry alone.
Shepherd: And here I thought I was going to be happy in my old age. Now I feel ruined. (To Perdita) You knew he was the Prince. You should’ve known you could never marry him–foolish girl!
(The Shepherd leaves.)
Florizel: I don’t care what my father says. It’s my life, and I’ll do what I want.
Camillo: Your father’s in a bad mood, sir. Don’t quarrel with him now.
Florizel (Finally recognizing Camillo): Camillo!
(Camillo removes his disguise.)
Camillo: Yes, my lord.
Perdita: I told you this would happen.
Florizel: Nothing’s changed. No power on earth can keep me from you. And to hell with my inheritance.
Camillo: Ach–how youth is ruled by emotion.
Florizel: So what? It’s my emotion. I’m just being true to myself. If my father can’t deal with that, it’s his problem.
Camillo: Be careful what you say, my lord.
Florizel: I’m being honest, that’s all. I promised to marry Perdita, and I’m going to. If that means not seeing my father again, so be it.–If you have any influence with him–and I know you do after all these years–try to make him see things my way.
Camillo: I could try, but not while he’s as angry as he is now.
Florizel: Well, I don’t intend to wait for him to be in a better mood. I’m taking matters into my own hands. I’ll take Perdita away from here.
Camillo: To where?
Florizel: Whichever way the winds blow. It doesn’t matter.
Camillo: My lord, I wish you’d think about this more rationally.
(Perdita takes Florizel aside for a private conversation.)
Camillo (Aside): He’s made up his mind. He’s going to leave.–If there were some way I could steer this in the right direction, I might be able to do them some good–and–get myself back to Sicilia and my old King.
(Florizel and Perdita return.)
Florizel: It’s decided. Perdita will go with me. There’s a ship we can take.
Camillo: Ah–yes–em–I’ve been thinking. There may be a way out of this. I have an idea.
Florizel: What is it?
Camillo: Go to Sicilia and present yourself and Perdita to King Leontes. He’ll be glad to see you. He and your father have been on the outs for many years, but I know Leontes would like to patch up with him.
Florizel: I’m going to have to have some pretext for showing up in Sicilia.
Camillo: You tell Leontes that your father sent you, for the sake of their old friendship.–Em–You know what, I’ll write everything down for you because it’s a bit complicated. The main thing is that he has to believe your father sent you.
Florizel: You’re giving me hope now. I appreciate it.
Camillo: I can’t guarantee the outcome, but it’s certainly a better plan than sailing off at random and leaving it all to chance. Who knows where you’d end up? And if you ended up in a rotten place, it might wreck your marriage.
Perdita: True love can survive any hardship.
(Camillo gives her a look of admiration before replying.)
Camillo: You really are a remarkable girl.
Florizel: She’s not like any other shepherdess you’ll ever meet.
Camillo: She has too much wisdom for a shepherdess.
Perdita (Bashfully): Oh–sir.
Florizel: There’s just one problem, Camillo. If I’m supposed to be sent by my father, we can’t show up in Sicilia dressed like rustics.
Camillo: I’ll take care of that. I’ll get you some proper gear.–Here, I’ll tell you what–
(Camillo takes the two of them aside and huddles in a private conversation. Now Autolycus comes in without his sack.)
Auto (To the audience): Ha! These hillbillies are such easy marks. I sold every piece of crap in my bag. I was like a one-man bazaar. And I lifted plenty of wallets, too–ha, ha!
(Camillo, Florizel, and Perdita return.)
Camillo: It’ll be okay. My instructions will take care of you in Sicilia, and when Leontes writes back to me, I’ll use his letters to smooth everything over with your father. [Author’s note: Shakespeare doesn’t stick to this, however. Camillo doesn’t wait to get any letters back from Leontes. The way we should understand this is that Camillo is telling Florizel something plausible to reassure him.]
Perdita: Thank you, Camillo. We’d be lost without you.
Camillo (Noticing Autolycus): Maybe we can use this fellow.–Hold on.
Auto. (Aside to the audience): Oops! Hope they didn’t hear me.
Camillo: You there! Vendor!
Auto: I’m innocent, sir, innocent. I’m just a poor traveling vendor.
Camillo: Yes, yes. No one’s accusing you of anything. I just want you to swap coats with my young friend here. [Author’s note: Florizel is wearing nicer clothes than Autolycus at the moment.]
Auto: Are you sure, sir?
Camillo: Yes. I’ll even throw in a little tip for you. (He gives Autolycus some money.)
Auto. (Aside): What’s the catch?
Florizel (Taking off his coat): Come on. We’re in a hurry.
Auto: All right, sir.
(Autolycus takes off his coat, and the two of them trade.)
Camillo (To Perdita): And you’ve got to hide your face. Take Florizel’s hat and pull it down real low and try to be as inconspicuous as possible while you’re on the ship.
(Florizel gives her his hat.)
Camillo (Aside to the audience): After the kids leave for Sicilia, I’ll tell Polixenes where they’ve gone and persuade him to chase after them–with me, of course.–(To Florizel and Perdita) Come.
(Camillo, Florizel, and Perdita leave.)
Auto: This is my lucky day. Of course, to be a successful crook, you have to keep your wits about you. As for that Prince, if I were an honest man, I’d tell his father that the kid is running away with the fiancee. But am I an honest man? No-o-o-o.
(The Shepherd and Clown come in. The Shepherd is holding a small bundle.)
Auto (Aside to the audience): They won’t recognize me in this coat. Let’s see what I can do with them.
Clown (To the Shepherd): Father, you just have to explain to the King that Perdita isn’t your flesh and blood. She’s adopted. So if he’s angry with her, he shouldn’t take it out on you.–And besides, you can show him those secret things that we’ve been keeping all these years.
Shepherd: You think this is the time?
Clown: Yes. The King will see everything differently.
Shepherd: I should think so. And I’ll tell him his son was the one who started the relationship, not Perdita.
Clown: That’s right. And what’s more, the last thing in the world you’d want is to be an in-law to the King.
(The Shepherd does a double-take to this comment.)
Shepherd: Well, anyway, let’s go see the King.
Auto. (Aside): Oops! I’ve gotta slow these guys down. (He takes off his false beard and assumes an air of authority.)–Ahem!–And where might you humorous rustic gentlemen be going?
Shepherd: To the palace to see the King.
Auto: Oh, to the palace to see the King. Just like that, eh? And who are you? Where do you live? What’s your business with the King? What’s your occupation? Do you have a criminal record?
Clown: We’re just plain, simple shepherds.
Auto: You don’t look like shepherds to me. Anyone around here can say they’re shepherds just because there are plenty of them around here. But that doesn’t make it true.
Shepherd: Are you a courtier, sir? [Author’s note: A close associate to the King; one who frequents his court.]
Auto: Of course. Can’t you tell by the way I look–and my condescending attitude? What do you take me for–an impostor?
Shepherd: Oh, no, sir. No disrespect intended.
Auto: Good. Now, then–do you have something, em–of a communicative nature for the King?
Clown: He means, do we have any contagious diseases?
Shepherd: No, no, nothing like that. We’re in perfect health.
Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): He’s obviously a man of authority.
Shepherd (Aside to the Clown): His coat’s all right–but it doesn’t fit him.
Auto: What’s in that bundle you’re carrying?
Shepherd: Secrets, sir. Secret things which must be communicated–em, that is–things we must show to the King. At the palace. As soon as possible.
Auto: Well, I’m sorry, old man, but he’s not at the palace now. He’s gone aboard a ship to purge his melancholy.
Clown: I didn’t know he had a collie. Does he mean to drown it?
Auto: Melancholy–sadness–grief–you lummox.
Shepherd: Ah, I understand. It’s about his son, the Prince. The Prince wants to marry a shepherd’s daughter–or so I’ve heard.
(The Shepherd and Clown exchange a guilty look.)
Auto: That shepherd–if he’s not in prison yet, he’d better run for his life. Do you know what’ll happen to him?
Shepherd: Em–no–not really.
Auto: He’ll be whipped. He’ll be stretched on a rack. He’ll be beaten. He’ll be starved.–In what order I’m not sure.–Brr!–I shudder to think of his fate!
Clown: Really, sir?
Auto: Yes. And those close to him, too. They’ll be punished the same way.–Ah, well, it has to be, you know. It’s the law.
Clown (Nervously): And does this shepherd have any–sons–for instance?
Auto: Yes, he has a son, as I’m given to understand. And that poor boy has no idea what horrible, unspeakable, ghastly, vile, ghoulish, and excruciatingly painful tortures await him.–But never mind those criminals. You seem like good, honest fellows. Tell me what business you have with the King. You’ll need my help to see him.–And a little consideration for my efforts will expedite your business–if you understand my meaning. I’ll take you straight to him–on the ship.
Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): I think you have to give him some gold.
Shepherd (Aside to the Clown): Gold? You think so?
Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): I’m thinking about those tortures. Best to be on the safe side.
Shepherd (To Autolycus): We’d appreciate your help, sir. I can give you whatever gold I have on me, and an equal amount later. This young man–my son–
Clown: Cousin!–Very distant cousin.–Not close at all.
Shepherd: Yes–my cousin–fourth cousin, three times removed.
Clown: I was removed twice originally, but I removed myself a third time just to be on the safe side.
Shepherd: He’ll be my guarantee for the rest of the gold.
Auto: Very good, sir.
(The Shepherd gives Autolycus his gold.)
Auto: Thank you, sir. You are generous. (To the Clown) And are you a party to this business, too?
Clown: Em–yes–in a way. My business hangs on his.
Auto: Oh, let the criminals hang–ha, ha! It’ll be an example to others.
(The Shepherd looks momentarily sick.)
Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): We’ve got to get to the King and show him what we have. That’s the only way to save ourselves. (To Autolycus) Em–sir–I’ll give you the same amount of gold as my old cousin here if you’ll get us to the King.
Auto: I have faith in people, so I trust you. Now you just come with me.–Em, why don’t you just go on ahead. I’m going to stop and take a whiz. I’ll catch up with you.
(The Shepherd and Clown go out.)
Auto: How can a man be honest when Fortune is so generous to a crook? And on top of that, I get to do a good deed for the Prince. I’ll take these guys to him, and if it gives him some advantage to hold on to them, he’ll reward me. Otherwise, if he doesn’t want them, I’ll take them to the King, and he’ll reward me.
(He leaves, following the Shepherds.)
Act 5, Scene 1. The Court of Leontes in Sicilia. Leontes, Cleomenes, Dion, Paulina, and Servants are present when the curtain goes up.
Cleomenes: My lord, you’ve repented enough for your mistakes. The gods have forgiven you by now, so try to forgive yourself.
Leontes: I can’t. I wronged my kingdom and destroyed the finest queen who ever lived.
Paulina: That’s for sure. You’ll never find another like the one you–killed.
Leontes: Please, Paulina.–It’s true, but it hurts to be reminded.
Cleomenes: Paulina–really. A lady should speak more gently.
Paulina: You want the King to marry again.
Dion: Why shouldn’t he marry again? The kingdom should have a queen–and an heir.
Paulina: There’s no one else who is worthy to take the place of Hermione. And besides, what did the oracle say? The King would have no heir until his lost child was found.–Which is very unlikely since Antigonus never came back. (To Leontes) Forget about having any more children. When you’re gone, the kingdom will chose someone else to rule–whoever is worthiest.
Leontes: I should have listened to you sixteen years ago. Then I’d still have my Queen–and my two children. (Pause) If I were to marry again, I suppose Hermione’s ghost would return to haunt me.
Paulina: As well she should.
Leontes: I won’t marry. You’ve convinced me.
Paulina: At least–agree not to marry unless I approve.
Leontes: Yes, yes. I promise.
Paulina: You are witnesses. The King has promised.
Cleomenes: Madam, you are overstepping yourself.
Paulina: My thinking is very clear on this. For the King to marry again, I must find someone that Hermione’s ghost would approve of.–And that will happen when Hermione breathes again.
Leontes: You speak in riddles, Paulina–but I promised to leave the decision to you.
(A Servant comes in.)
Servant: My lord, a gentleman who claims to be Prince Florizel, the son of Polixenes, has arrived–with his Princess. He wishes to see you.
Leontes: What!–Prince Florizel?
Servant: Yes, my lord.
Leontes: I can’t believe it.–Does he have a large party with him?
Servant: No, my lord. Hardly anyone.
Leontes: And he has a Princess, you say?
Servant: Yes, my lord. And she’s the most beautiful lady I’ve ever seen.
Servant: Oh, but she is, madam. Wait till you meet her.
Leontes: Cleomenes, bring them in.
Cleomenes: Yes, my lord.
Leontes: What a surprise–the Prince of Bohemia showing up out of the blue. It couldn’t have been planned or he’d have a large party with him.
Paulina: Just think–if Mamillius were alive, he’d be the same age as Florizel.
Leontes: Please, Paulina. Don’t remind me of my son.
(Cleomenes returns with Florizel, Perdita, and a couple of Servants.)
Leontes: Prince Florizel! (He takes the boy by the shoulders affectionately.) You’re the spitting image of your father, my boy. I’m delighted you’ve come.–And your Princess! She’s so beautiful.
Florizel: Her name is Perdita.
Leontes: Perdita–the lost one. Welcome.
(Leontes kisses her hand. Paulina reacts to the words “the lost one.”)
Leontes: Ah, to think if my son and daughter were alive, they’d probably look very much like you.–But I lost them because of my foolishness. And I lost your father’s friendship. How I wish I could see him again.
Florizel: My father sends you his most heartfelt greetings. He’d be here himself, but he isn’t well enough to travel. But he wants you to know that he thinks of you every day with the greatest possible love that old friends can have.
Leontes (On the verge of tears): Oh, Polixenes!–The finest gentleman I ever knew. To think he would find it in his heart to forgive an old fool like me after the way I wronged him.–My boy, you and your Princess are welcome here. Is she from Bohemia?
Florizel: No, she’s from Libya, my lord. She’s the daughter of King Smalus.
Florizel: We were returning to Bohemia, and I stopped here at my father’s request to see you. The rest of my party have gone on to Bohemia to let my father know that I’m married and all is well.
Leontes: I’m very happy for you. And your father deserves the happiness of your marriage–something that I’ll never know, unfortunately.
(A Lord comes in. [Author’s note: The text is ambiguous about whether this is a Sicilian Lord or one who has just arrived with Polixenes. But I say it’s a Sicilian Lord.])
Lord: My lord, King Polixenes has arrived–(Reactions of shock from everyone)–He sends you greetings–and–he asks you to place his son under arrest for fleeing from Bohemia with a shepherd’s daughter.
(Gasps of astonishment.)
Leontes: Polixenes is here? In Sicilia?
Lord: Yes, my lord. I’ve just come from him. He followed the Prince here. And he’s got the father and brother of the girl with him.
Florizel (To Perdita): We’ve been betrayed. Camillo betrayed us.
Lord (To Florizel and Leontes): He’s here, too.
Leontes: Who is–Camillo?
Lord: Yes, my lord. He was conferring with the two shepherds. The King is very angry with those shepherds. He was threatening to have them executed.
Perdita (To Florizel): Oh, no!–We won’t be married after all.
Leontes (To Florizel): You said you were married.
Florizel: No–we’re not. And we’re not likely to be now.
Leontes: You said she was the daughter of a king.
Florizel: She would be if she married me.
Leontes: Oh, now, Florizel–You’re in the wrong, you know. A prince can’t just marry any girl he falls in love with. It’s no wonder your father is angry.
Florizel (To Perdita): I still love you, no matter what.
Perdita: And I still love you.
Florizel (To Leontes): My lord, think of when you were young and in love. That’s how we feel now. Talk to my father. Please. Try to change his mind. Tell him it would be a favour to you. He’ll do it out of friendship.
Leontes (Gazing at Perdita): If he won’t let you marry her, I’m tempted to marry her myself.
Paulina: You forget your age, sir.
Leontes: Of course, I was being facetious. But she does remind me of Hermione.–Doesn’t she, Paulina?
Paulina: Yes. There is some resemblance.
Leontes (To Florizel): My boy, if your intentions are honourable and not just a youthful whim, I’ll plead your case to your father.–Come.
(They all leave.)
Act 5, Scene 2. Outside the palace of Leontes. Autolycus comes in with a (First) Gentleman.
Auto: What happened inside the court, sir?
First Gent: I didn’t catch it all, but the old shepherd was telling how he saved this bundle from the day he discovered an abandoned baby. And then they opened it, and everyone was astonished, and we were all ordered out of the room.
Auto: Really! I’d love to know what was in that bundle.
First Gent: So would I. Whatever it was, it made the King and Camillo look at each other with tears in their eyes. Whether they were happy or sad, I don’t know.–Wait. Maybe Rogero knows more.
(The Second Gentleman, Rogero, comes in.)
First Gent: Rogero! What happened in there?
Second Gent: The oracle’s prophecy has been fulfilled. The King’s daughter has been found.
First Gent: The King’s daughter? You mean that shepherd girl?
Second Gent: Yep. She’s the King’s long-lost daughter.
First Gent: How is that possible?
Second Gent: Here comes Paulina’s steward. He’ll explain it.
(The Third Gentleman comes in.)
Third Gent: Well, gentlemen, the King has found his heir. That girl is his daughter. Even Florizel didn’t know. Even she didn’t know.
First Gent: How did they find out?
Third Gent: The old shepherd opened the bundle he was saving since the day he found the girl abandoned. And inside was Queen Hermione’s mantle and her favourite jewel. And there were also letters in Antigonus’s handwriting. And, of course, the girl looks like both her parents.
Second Gent: What a revelation to both the Kings!
Third Gent: You said it. They were hugging each other and crying for joy. And Leontes was hugging Florizel and calling him “son.” And the old shepherd was crying, too.
Second Gent: Whatever happened to Antigonus?
Third Gent: He died from a bear attack, of all things. And the ship that brought him sank in a storm, and all the evidence of the baby’s identity was lost. The shepherd who found the baby examined the bundle she was wrapped in, and they could tell from what they found inside that it was no ordinary baby. But they didn’t know who she was or where she came from.
Second Gent: It’s really sad about Antigonus. I feel sorry for Paulina.
Third Gent: Yeah, it was sad to be reminded of him, but at least she found out how he died. She was very happy to meet the girl, though–Perdita. And Perdita wanted to know everything about her mother from Paulina, because Paulina and the Queen were very close. And then Leontes confessed what happened sixteen years ago. That was a painful moment for him, and for the girl, too.
First Gent: Are they still in the court?
Third Gent: No. It seems that there’s a statue of Hermione that Paulina commissioned on her own that she’s been keeping secret all this time. It’s in her house on the outskirts of town. It’s supposed to be so life-like that you’d think it was a living person. It was done by a sculptor named Romano. They’ve all gone to see it.
Second Gent: That’s interesting. You know, ever since Hermione died, Paulina’s been going to that house every day, and she would never say what for.
First Gent: Well, I want to see that statue. Let’s go.
(The three Gentlemen go out, leaving Autolycus alone.)
Auto (To the audience): Huh!–If I didn’t have such a virtuous reputation, I could’ve come out of this with some sort of title. I mean, I did contribute to these events–sort of. Anyway, here’s what happened. I took the two shepherds to the Prince’s boat, and I told him they had some sort of mysterious bundle. Unfortunately, he was in no mood to talk to me, and he told me to get lost. So after he sailed off, I took them to the King’s boat.–And that was a little embarrassing for me because by now they figured out I wasn’t a courtier at all. But I did deliver them to the King, which is what I promised. Unfortunately, he was only thinking about chasing after his son, and he was too angry with the shepherds to listen to anything about their bundle. We were under way by then, and the King said he’d deal with them when we got to Sicilia. Camillo made sure they stayed out of sight as much as possible.–Oh! Here they are now.
(Autolycus smiles excessively as the Shepherd and Clown come in, now wearing new clothes.)
Shepherd: Just think, son. We’re in-laws of two kings now. And your children will be ladies and gentlemen–by birth, ha, ha!
Clown (To Autolycus): There you are, you faker! You refused to fight me when we were on the ship because I was beneath your rank. Well, look at me now! (Indicates his clothes.) I dare you to say now that I’m not a gentleman born.
Auto: Oh, indeed you are, sir–a gentleman born.
Clown: Yes–and for a good four hours now.
Shepherd: Me, too.
Clown (To Autolycus): But I was a gentleman first because the Prince took my hand and called me “brother,” and then the two Kings called my father “brother.” And then the Prince and Princess–my sister, of course–both called my father “father.” And we all cried tears of joy.
Shepherd: And may we cry many times more.
Clown: Yes, otherwise what’s the good of being gentlemen?
Auto: I beg you to forgive any wrongs I may have done to your worships–and put in a good word for me to the Prince, okay?
Shepherd (To the Clown): We should. Now that we’re gentlemen, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
Clown: Ah–Yes. (To Autolycus) Will you reform yourself and lead a virtuous life?
Auto: As much as it pleases your worship.
Clown: Good. Then I will swear to the Prince that you are as honest as any man in Bohemia.
Shepherd: You shouldn’t swear. Just say it.
Clown: Just say it? That’s for the lower classes. No, no, I’ll have none of that. Now that I’m a gentleman, I’ll swear–a lot.
Shepherd: And what if it turns out to be untrue?
Clown: I’m sure it will be as true as I please it to be.
Auto: In the sense of wish.
Clown: Yes, all right.
Auto: Then neither of us will be lying.
Clown (To the Shepherd): There, you see? (To Autolycus) I’ll even swear to the Prince that you’re sober and brave.
Auto: I appreciate that, sir. And I give you my word that I shall wish to be as much as you wish it to be.
Clown: Good. (To the Shepherd) You see how good I am at this? I may even end up with a title.
Shepherd: My son, the noble.
Clown: Now, the Kings and the other lords and ladies, of whom we are of a kindred nature, have gone to see the Queen’s statue. (To Autolycus) Come with us. We’re your masters now. And don’t worry. We will be as good as you would wish to be if you were in our place.
Auto: Oh–you’re very kind, sir.
(They all leave.)
Act 5, Scene 3. Paulina’s house in Sicilia. There is a curtain covering the statue. Paulina, Leontes, Polixenes, Florizel, Perdita, Camillo and Lords come in.
Leontes: You have a wonderful collection of art, Paulina. But now we want to see that statue of Hermione.
Paulina: I’ll show it to you now. I keep it separate from everything else. It is without a doubt the finest work of art you will ever see in your life. I think of it as living art because it looks perfectly real. But you will see Hermione not as you remember her sixteen years ago. The sculptor has added the features of age to show how she would look today. (She goes to the curtain.) Behold.
(She removes the curtain, revealing Hermione standing like a statue. There are reactions of hushed awe.)
Leontes (Sadly): My Hermione.–She is older, but still beautiful.–How I wish I could have her back instead of this statue.–My heart aches! (He covers his face in grief.)
Perdita: My dear mother!–Dearest, dearest Queen.–I would kiss your hand.
(Perdita reaches for Hermione’s hand, but Paulina stops her.)
Paulina: No, madam, you mustn’t. The colour is not dry yet.
Leontes: Neither shall my eyes be dry–until I am dead.
Camillo: Our sorrows always outlive our joys.
Polixenes (To Leontes): My brother, I would gladly take half your pain as my own. In a way, I feel responsible.
Leontes: No one else is responsible. Let me bear my pain. It is well-deserved.
Paulina: I didn’t intend to upset you, my lord. Let me cover the statue. I can see it’s upsetting you.
Leontes: No, no. Leave it. I want to look at it.
Paulina: If you keep looking at it, your mind will convince you that it’s alive.
Leontes: It must be alive. I could swear I saw it move–just a little. How could an artist do this?–Polixenes, am I imagining things, or is this statue alive?
Polixenes: It certainly looks alive. I can’t explain it.
Paulina: Perhaps this is too much for you, my lord. I should draw the curtain.
Leontes: No!–If I’m mad, then let me be mad–as long as I can look at her. It gives me comfort.–I want to kiss her.
Paulina: No, my lord! The colour on her lips is still wet. You might ruin it.
Perdita: She’s so real. I could stand here forever.–This is my mother–the mother I never knew.
Leontes: Oh, daughter–blame me for that.
Paulina: My lord, if you think you can bear the shock, I can make this statue step down and take your hand. But I don’t want you to accuse me of witchcraft.
Leontes: No. I wouldn’t accuse you of anything. Whatever you can make her do, I’ll be grateful for it.
Paulina: Those who have faith should stay. Those who object should leave.
Leontes: We’re all staying. Go ahead.
Paulina: Music! Awake her! (Music is heard.) The time has come. Be stone no more. Hermione–you live!
(Hermione moves slowly at first. She steps down and takes Leontes by the hand. Gasps of astonishment.)
Leontes: Her hand is warm! She’s alive!
(Hermione embraces him.)
Camillo: She lives! The Queen lives!
Paulina (To Hermione): Your daughter, madam–Perdita.
(Hermione embraces Perdita.)
Polixenes: She was never dead–was she?
Paulina: No. I hid her here.
Hermione: Daughter, where were you all these years? How did you come back?
Perdita: Oh, mother–It’s a long story. I’ll need all night to tell you.
Leontes (To Paulina): You kept her here for sixteen years?
Paulina: Yes–until the oracle’s prophecy might be fulfilled.
Hermione: Paulina told me what the oracle’s prophecy was, and it gave me a reason to hope that my daughter would someday be found. I’ve waited patiently for that to happen.
Paulina: Spread the word throughout the kingdom. That which was lost has been found. And the Queen lives.–So be happy again.–As for me, I have only the sorrow of my loss to grow old with–the memory of my beloved Antigonus.
Leontes: Ah, no, Paulina. I won’t let that happen. For what you’ve done for me, you deserve happiness for the rest of your life. You must marry again.–And I know just the man for you. As good and honourable a man as I’ve ever known–Camillo.
(He takes Paulina’s hand and Camillo’s hand and joins them together.)
Leontes (To Hermione): Our old friend Polixenes is now our brother.–This is his son, Florizel. He’s going to marry Perdita.
(Hermione embraces Florizel.)
Hermione: My son.
Leontes: We have sixteen years of history to catch up on.–Paulina, you be the hostess. Lead us.
Paulina: Gladly, my lord.–This way, everyone.
(Paulina leads them all out. Curtain.)
Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org