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of high treason, in committing adultery with Polixenes, king of Bohemia; and conspiring with Camillo to take away the life of our sovereign lord the king, thy royal husband: the pretence* whereof being by circumstances partly laid open, thou, Hermione, contrary to the faith and allegiance of 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


To say, Not guilty: mine integrity,
Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,
Be so receiv'd. But thus,- If powers divine
Behold our human actions, (as they do,)
I doubt not then, but innocence shall make
False accusation blush, and tyranny
Tremble at patience.—You, my lord, best know,
(Who least will seem to do so,) my past life
Hath been as continent, as chaste, as true,
As I am now unhappy; which is more
Than history can pattern, though devis’d,
And play'd, to take spectators: For behold me,-
A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
A moiety of the throne, a great king's daughter,
The mother to a hopeful prince,-here standing,
To prate and talk for life, and honour, 'fore
Who please to come and hear. For life, I prize it6

pretence] Is, in this place, taken for a scheme laid, a design formed.


mine integrity, &c.] That is, my virtue being accounted wickedness, my assertion of it will pass but for a lie. Falsehood means both treachery and lie. Johnson.

· For life, I prize it-] Life is now to me only grief, and as such only is considered by me: I would therefore willingly dismiss it. Johnson.


As I weigh grief, which I would spare: for honour,
'Tis a derivative from me to mine,
And only that I stand for. I appeal
To your own conscience, sir, before Polixenes
Came to your court, how I was in your grace,
How merited to be so; since he came,
With what encounter so uncurrent I
Have strain’d, to appear thus: if one jot beyond
The bound of honour; or, in act, or will,
That way inclining; harden'd be the hearts
Of all that hear me, and my near'st of kin
Cry, Fye upon my grave!

I ne'er heard yet,

of these bolder vices wanted
Less impudence to gainsay what they did,
Than to perform it first.

That's true enough;
Though 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.

Leon. You will not own it.

More than mistress of, Which comes to me in name of fault, I must not At all acknowledge. For Polixenes,

7 'Tis a derivative from me to mine,] This sentiment, which is probably borrowed from Ecclesiasticus, iii. 11, cannot be too often impressed on the female mind: “The glory of a man is from the honour of his father; and a mother in dishonour, is a reproach unto her children." STEEVENS. 8 I ne'er heard yet, That any of these bolder vices wanted Less impudence to gainsay what they did,

Than to perform it first.] It is apparent that according to the proper, or at least, according to the present, use of words, less should be more, or wanted should be had. But Shakspeare is very uncertain in his use of negatives. It may be necessary once to observe, that in our language, two negatives did not originally affirm, but strengthen the negation. This mode of speech was in time changed, but, as the change was made in opposition to long custom, it proceeded gradually, and uniformity was not obtained but through an intermediate confusion. Johnson.

(With whom I am accus’d,) I do confess,
Ì 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,
you, and toward


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.

Leon. You knew of his departure, as you know What you have underta'en to do in his absence.

Her. Sir,
You speak a language that I understand not:
My life stands in the level of your dreams,
Which I'll lay down.

Your actions are my dreams;
You had a bastard by Polixenes,
And I but dream'd it :-As you were past all shame, ,
(Those of

your fact are so,') so past all truth: Which to deny, concerns more than avails:

For as

Thy brat hath been 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.

Sir, spare your threats;


My life stands in the level -] To be in the level is, to be within the reach.

(Those of your fact are so,)] i.e. guilt.


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,' 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;
Apollo be my judge.
1 Lord.

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

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

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

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The flatness of my misery;" yet with eyes
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

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.

Off. [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?

Ay, my lord; even só As it is here set down.

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! Leon.

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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