The Winter's Tale

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The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare. Although listed as a comedy in the first Folio, modern editors have relabelled the play a romance. There has been a good deal of dispute over when the play was written, with dates ranging from 1594 to 1610 or 1611. It is sometimes considered to be one of the "problem plays" because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending.

Act I

  • Camillo: You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.
    Archidamus: Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me, and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.
    • Scene i

  • You put me off with limber vows; but I,
    Though you would seek to unsphere the stars with oaths,
    Should yet say, Sir, no going. Verily,
    You shall not go; a lady's verily's
    As potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?
    Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
    Not like a guest; so you shall pay your fees
    When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?
    My prisoner or my guest? by your dread verily,
    One of them you shall be.
    • Hermione, scene ii

  • We were, fair queen,
    Two lads that thought there was no more behind,
    But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
    And to be boy eternal.
    • Polixenes, scene ii

  • What we chang'd
    Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
    The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd
    That any did.
    • Polixenes, scene ii

  • Of this make no conclusion, lest you say
    Your queen and I are devils: yet, go on;
    The offences we have made you do, we'll answer,
    If you first sinn'd with us, and that with us
    You did continue fault, and that you slipp'd not
    With any but with us.
    • Hermione, scene ii

  • Leontes: Hermione, my dearest, thou never spok'st
    To better purpose.
    Hermione: Never?
    Leontes: Never, but once.
    Hermione: What! have I twice said well? when was't before?
    • Scene ii

  • My last good deed was to entreat his stay;
    What was my first? it has an elder sister,
    Or I mistake you: O, would her name were Grace!
    But once before I spoke to the purpose: when?
    Nay, let me have't; I long.
    • Hermione, scene ii

  • They say we are
    Almost as like as eggs.
    • Leontes, scene ii

  • I may be negligent, foolish, and fearful;
    In every one of these no man is free,

    But that his negligence, his folly, fear,
    Among the infinite doings of the world,
    Sometime puts forth. In your affairs, my lord,
    If ever I were wilfull-negligent,
    It was my folly; if industriously
    I play'd the fool, it was my negligence,
    Not weighing well the end; if ever fearful
    To do a thing, where I the issue doubted,
    Whereof the execution did cry out
    Against the non-performance, 'twas a fear
    Which oft infects the wisest. These, my lord,
    Are such allow'd infirmities that honesty
    Is never free of. But, beseech your grace,
    Be plainer with me; let me know my trespass
    By its own visage; if I then deny it,
    'Tis none of mine.
    • Camillo, scene ii

  • You may as well
    Forbid the sea for to obey the moon,
    As, or by oath remove, or counsel shake
    The fabric of his folly, whose foundation
    Is pil'd upon his faith, and will continue
    The standing of his body.
    • Camillo, scene ii

  • I am sure 'tis safer to
    Avoid what's grown than question how 'tis born.
    • Camillo, scene ii

  • This jealousy
    Is for a precious creature; as she's rare,
    Must it be great; and, as his person's mighty,
    Must it be violent: and as he does conceive
    He is dishonour'd by a man which ever
    Profess'd to him, why, his revenges must
    In that be made more bitter. Fear o'ershades me.
    • Polixenes, scene ii

Act II

  • There’s some ill planet reigns:
    I must be patient till the heavens look
    With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords,
    I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
    Commonly are — the want of which vain dew
    Perchance shall dry your pities — but I have
    That honourable grief lodg’d here, which burns
    Worse than tears drown. Beseech you all, my lords,
    With thoughts so qualified as your charities
    Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
    The king’s will be perform’d!
    • Hermione, scene i

  • The silence often of pure innocence
    Persuades, when speaking fails.
    • Paulina, scene ii


  • It shall scarce boot me
    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.
    • Hermione, scene ii

  • Leontes: I ne'er heard yet
    That any of these bolder vices wanted
    Less impudence to gainsay what they did,
    Than to perform it first.
    Hermione: That's true enough;
    Though 'tis a saying, sir, not due to me.
    • Scene ii

  • 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!
    • Hermione, scene ii

  • Apollo's angry; and the heavens themselves
    Do strike at my injustice.
    • Leontes, scene ii

  • What’s gone, and what’s past help,
    Should be past grief.
    • Paulina, scene ii

  • Exit, pursued by a Bear.
    • Stage direction, scene iii

  • Heavy matters, heavy matters! But look thee here, boy. Now bless thyself:
    thou met'st with things dying, I with things new-born.
    • Shepherd, scene iii

Act IV

  • I, — that please some, try all; both joy and terror
    Of good and bad; — that make and unfold error; —
    Now take upon me, in the name of Time,
    To use my wings. Impute it not a crime
    To me or my swift passage, that I slide
    O'er sixteen years, and leave the growth untried
    Of that wide gap, since it is in my power
    To o'erthrow law, and in one self-born hour
    To plant and o'erwhelm custom.
    • Time, scene i

  • A snapper-up of unconsidered trifles.
    • Autolycus, scene ii

  • A merry heart goes all the day,
    Your sad tires in a mile-a.
    • Autolycus, scene ii

  • O Proserpina,
    For the flowers now, that, frighted, thou let’st fall
    From Dis’s waggon! Daffodils,
    That come before the swallow dares, and take
    The winds of March with beauty; violets dim,
    But sweeter than the lids of Juno’s eyes,
    Or Cytherea’s breath; pale primroses,
    That die unmarried, ere they can behold
    Bright Phœbus in his strength, — a malady
    Most incident to maids; bold oxlips, and
    The crown-imperial; lilies of all kinds,
    The flower-de-luce being one!
    • Perdita, scene iv

  • When you do dance, I wish you
    A wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do
    Nothing but that.
    • Florizel, scene iv

  • I love a ballad in print a’-life; for then we are sure they are true.
    • Mopsa, scene iv

  • To unpath'd waters, undream'd shores.
    • Camillo, scene iv

Act V

  • I am asham'd: does not the stone rebuke me,
    For being more stone than it?
    • Leontes, scene iii

  • Still, methinks,
    There is an air comes from her! What fine chisel
    Could ever yet cut breath?
    • Leontes, scene iii

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