David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 4

 — 4.4 —

Prince Florizel and Perdita talked together in front of the old shepherd’s cottage. Both were dressed for the festival. Florizel was dressed as a shepherd because he was in disguise, but because Perdita was the Hostess of the Festival, she was dressed in fine clothing, and she was carrying flowers.

Florizel said, “Your fine clothing, which you do not normally wear, gives you a new life. You seem to be a different person. No longer are you a shepherdess; instead, you are Flora, goddess of spring, as she looks during the beginning of April. This sheep-shearing festival is like a meeting of the minor gods, and it is as if you are the Queen of the Festival.”

“Sir, my gracious lord, it does not become me to protest your exaggerations,” Perdita replied. “Pardon me for even mentioning them! Your social position is high, and everyone in the country knows who you are, but you have disguised yourself by wearing the clothing of a shepherd. I am a lowly maiden, but now I am wearing the fancy clothing of a goddess. Except that every feast has its share of foolishness and the feeders digest the foolishness because they are accustomed to seeing it at feasts, I would blush to see you in such clothing, and I believe that I would faint if I saw my reflection in a mirror.”

“I bless the time when my good falcon made her flight across your father’s grounds,” Florizel said. “That is how I came to meet you.”

“May Jupiter give you a good reason to be happy about meeting me!” Perdita said. “As for myself, the great difference in our social status causes me to feel dread; you, because of your high social status, are not accustomed to fear anything. Even now I tremble to think that your father, by some accident, should pass this way as you did. Oh, may the Fates give you, dressed as you are in shepherd’s clothing, good fortune! How would your father look if he were to see his so noble work so vilely bound? You are like a good book that has been badly bound. What would your father say? How would I, dressed in all this unaccustomed finery, stand the sternness of his presence?”

“Foresee nothing but jollity and happiness,” Florizel said. “The gods themselves, humbling their deities because of love, have even taken the shapes of beasts upon themselves. Jupiter, the King of the gods, became a bull and bellowed so that he could be with the mortal woman Europa. The green Neptune, god of the sea, became a ram and bleated so that he could be with the mortal woman Theophane. The fire-robed god, Golden Apollo, the god of the Sun, became a poor humble shepherd, like me, so that he could be with the mortal woman Issa, as we learn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

“Their transformations were never for a masterpiece of beauty such as yours, and their lusts were never as chaste as mine, since my desires do not overwhelm my honor, nor do my lusts burn hotter than my faith. My love for you is honorable.”

“But, sir, your resolution cannot hold when it is opposed, as it must be, by the power of King Polixenes, your father. One of these two things must happen, and we will find out which one at that time: either you must change your purpose, or I must change my life.”

If Florizel changed his purpose, he would obey his father and not marry Perdita. If Florizel did not change his purpose, then Perdita would change her life. One way for her to change her life would be to run away with Florizel, but Perdita may have meant that the King would force her to change her life by giving up Florizel.

“Dearest Perdita,” Florizel said, “do not darken the mirth of the feast with these unlikely and negative thoughts. Either I’ll be yours, my fair one; or if I cannot, then I will not be my father’s son. I shall not be any good to myself or to anyone if I cannot be yours. To this I am and will be most constant — it does not matter if destiny and fate oppose me.

“Be merry, gentle one. Strangle such thoughts as these with the sights of the feast that is starting. Your guests are coming, so brighten your countenance and smile as if today were the day of celebration of that nuptial that we two have sworn shall come. I swear that we shall be wed.”

“May Lady Fortune bring us good luck!” Perdita said.

Florizel said, “Look, your guests are approaching. Devote yourself to entertaining them sprightly, and let’s be red-faced with mirth.”

The old shepherd, Clown, and other revelers walked toward them, including the shepherdesses Mopsa and Dorcas. Disguised with false beards, King Polixenes and Camillo also walked toward them.

The old shepherd said, “Come on, daughter! When my old wife was alive, on this feast day she served as keeper of the pantry, keeper of the wine cellar, cook, head of the household, and servant of the household. She welcomed all and served all. She would sing her song and dance her turn. Now she would be here, at the upper end of the table, and then she would be in the middle. She would lean over the shoulder of one man and then of another. Her face would be on fire because of her labor, and the drink she took to quench the fire she would use to toast each guest. You are shy and retiring as if you were a guest and not the Hostess of the Feast. Please, greet warmly these two friends whom we do not know; that is the way to make good friends. By knowing them, we become better friends. Come, quench your blushes and present yourself as the person whom you are: the Hostess of the Feast.”

The disguised King Polixenes said, “Do so, and bid us welcome to your sheep-shearing. If you do that, your good flock shall prosper.”

Perdita said to him, “Sir, welcome. My father wishes me to serve as the hostess on this day.”

To the disguised Camillo, she said, “You’re welcome, sir.”

She then said, “Give me those flowers there, Dorcas.”

Dorcas handed her the flowers, and Perdita gave them to the two disguised old men, saying, “Reverend sirs, for you there’s the flower rosemary for remembrance and the flower rue for grace; these keep their appearance and scent all the winter long. May both of you have grace and remembrance, and welcome to our shearing!”

The disguised King Polixenes said, “Shepherdess, you are a pretty girl — you do well to give us flowers that suit our age.”

“Sir, the year is growing older, although it is not yet the death of the summer or the birth of trembling winter. Therefore, the fairest flowers of the season are carnations and streaked, multicolored gillyflowers, which some call nature’s bastards. We do not have that kind of flower in our garden, and I do not care to get cuttings of them to put in our garden.”

The disguised King Polixenes asked, “Why, gentle maiden, do you neglect them and do not want them in your garden?”

“I have heard it said that the streaks of color in these flowers were created by gardeners and not by Nature,” Perdita replied.

The disguised King Polixenes said, “Let us say that is true. Should it matter? How is Nature made better? Nature is made better by no means except what Nature makes. If a gardener is able to breed flowers that have beautiful streaks of color, so what? Nature made the gardener. A man may add art to Nature, but Nature made the art that made the man.

“You see, sweet maiden, we marry a gentler scion to the wildest stock, and make a bark of baser kind conceive by a bud of nobler race. For example, we can graft a branch of a tree that bears tasty apples to a crabapple tree. This improves Nature — rather, it changes Nature — but the art that creates the change is itself created by Nature. The gardener must work in accordance with what Nature teaches him.”

“That is so,” Perdita said.

“Then make your garden rich in gillyflowers, and do not call them bastards.”

Perdita had another reason for not wanting to have gillyflowers in the garden. The colors in gillyflowers reminded many people of painting, which was associated with the makeup worn by prostitutes. Also, she regarded makeup as unnatural.

She said to the disguised King Polixenes, “I’ll not put a spade in earth to create a hole to plant one cutting of them, no more than were I painted I would wish this youth to say it were well and only because of the makeup would he desire to make me pregnant.”

She said to the disguised Camillo, “Here’s flowers for you. Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram. Here is the marigold, which goes to bed with the Sun and with him rises, weeping tears of dew. It closes its petals when the Sun sets and opens them when the Sun rises. These are flowers of middle summer, and I think they are given to men of middle age. You’re very welcome here.”

The disguised Camillo complimented her beauty: “I would stop grazing, if I were one of your flock, and live only by gazing.”

“If you were to do that,” Perdita replied, “you would become so lean that the windy blasts of January would blow right through you.”

She said to Florizel, “Now, my fairest friend, I wish that I had some flowers of the spring that might become your time of day —”

She then said to the young shepherdesses, Mopsa and Dorcas, “— and yours, and yours, who still wear upon your virgin branches your growing maidenhood: You wear the garments of young virgins.”

Perdita then said, “Proserpina, I wish I had the spring flowers that you dropped when Dis, god of the underworld, frightened you by kidnapping you to make you his wife. From his chariot, you dropped daffodils, which come up in the spring before the swallow dares to return from the South and which charm the winds of March with beauty. You dropped violets that droop, but are sweeter than the eyelids of the goddess Juno or the breath of the goddess Venus. You dropped pale primroses that die unmarried, before they can behold the bright Sun in his strength. They die unmarried — because they grow in the shade and are unkissed by the Sun — in the early spring before the Sun reaches its full strength in the summer; this is a malady that often affects maidens.”

The disease called green sickness, which is known today as hypochromic anemia, sometimes afflicted young girls in this society. The disease gave the sufferer’s skin a greenish tint.

Perdita continued, “Proserpina also dropped bold oxlips and the crown imperial, and lilies of all kinds, the flower-de-luce being one! I lack these flowers, or I would make garlands of them for you, Mopsa and Dorcas, and I would make my sweet friend, Florizel, garlands that I would strew all over him!”

“What, like a corpse?” Florizel said.

In this society, people strewed flowers over corpses.

“No, like a riverbank for lovers to lie and play on,” Perdita said, “Not like a corpse; or if like a body, a body not to be buried, but one that is alive and in my arms.

“Come, take your flowers. I think that I am playing the Queen as I have seen people do in Whitsuntide festivals. Surely, this fancy robe I am wearing has changed my disposition and personality.”

“Whatever you do betters whatever you have already done,” Florizel said. “When you speak, sweetheart, I want you to speak forever. When you sing, I want you to sing while you are buying and selling, while you are giving alms, while you are praying, and while you are doing other things. When you dance, I wish that you were a wave of the sea, so that you might forever do nothing but continually move — always and forever. Each thing you do, unique in each detail, crowns whatever you are doing at whatever time, and all your actions are supreme.”

Perdita said to Florizel, who was using a pseudonym, “Oh, Doricles, your praises of me are excessive. Except that your youth, and the true blood that peeps fairly through your skin, plainly show that you are an unstained shepherd, I might fear, if I were wise, my Doricles, that you wooed me the false way.”

Perdita knew that Florizel’s intentions toward her were honest; otherwise, she might have been afraid that he was trying to flatter her into bed. In fact, Florizel was unstained. True, he was not a shepherd, but Perdita had to call him that because they were in the presence of other people.

Florizel replied, “I think you have as little reason to fear me as I have intentions to do anything that would make you fear me. But come; let us dance, please. Give me your hand, my Perdita. In this way, turtledoves form a pair. They mate for life and never mean to part.”

“I swear that is true,” Perdita said.

Florizel and Perdita danced.

The disguised King Polixenes said, “This is the prettiest low-born lass that ever ran on the grassy ground. Everything she does or seems to be makes her appear to be better than a peasant. She seems as if she is too noble for this place. It seems that she ought to be a Princess, not a shepherdess.”

“Doricles is telling her something that makes her blush,” Camillo said. “Truly, she is the Queen of curds and cream — she is the May Queen.”

Clown said to the band of musicians, “Come on, strike up the band! Start playing!”

He wanted to dance with Mopsa, so a jealous Dorcas said, “Mopsa is your partner in the dance, which involves kissing. Give her some garlic to eat so it will improve her breath and her kissing.”

An indignant Mopsa said, “Hey!”

Clown said, “No arguing. No arguing. We need to be on our best manners here.”

Clown and Mopsa joined a dance of shepherds and shepherdesses.

The disguised King Polixenes asked, “Please, good shepherd, tell me who this handsome shepherd is who is dancing with your daughter?”

“They call him Doricles,” the old shepherd said, “and he boasts that he has lots of good pastureland, but he has told me this himself, and I believe it — he looks honest. He says he loves my daughter; I think so, too. Never has the Moon gazed upon the water the way he so often stands and looks into my daughter’s eyes as if he were reading them. To speak plainly, I think there is not half a kiss’ difference in the love one feels for the other — they love each other a lot, and equally.”

The disguised King Polixenes said, “She dances well.”

“That is how she does everything,” the old shepherd said, “although I should be silent since I am biased. But if young Doricles marries her, she shall bring him good things that he does not dream of.”

A servant entered and said to the old shepherd, “Master, if you could hear the peddler who is at the door, you would never dance again to a drum and fife; no, the bagpipe could not move you. This peddler sings several different tunes faster than you can count money; he utters them as if he had eaten and lived on ballads and all men’s ears were glued to his tunes.”

Clown said, “He could never have come at a better time; he shall come in. I love a ballad only too well, if it has sad lyrics set to a merry tune, or if it is a very pleasant thing indeed and sung sadly and lamentably.”

The servant said, “He has songs for man or woman, of all sizes.”

The servant meant that the songs were of various lengths.

The servant continued, “No haberdasher can so fit his customers with gloves as the peddler can fit his customers with ballads. He has the prettiest love-songs for maidens; the love-songs are without bawdry, which is strange and unusual. They have such delicate refrains of dildos and fadings, ‘jump her and thump her,’ and where some dirty-mouthed rascal would, as it were, mean mischief and break a foul gap into the song so he can make a dirty joke, the peddler makes the maiden say, ‘Whoop, do me no harm, good man.’ The maiden puts the dirty-minded man off and slights him with ‘Whoop, do me no harm, good man.’”

The servant apparently did not know the meaning of “dildo” when he said that the peddler did not sing bawdy songs. The servant also apparently did not know that many of the other words the peddler said and many of the lyrics the peddler sang were bawdy in nature.

The disguised King Polixenes said about the peddler, “This is a splendid fellow.”

“Believe me,” Clown said, “you are talking about an wonderfully inventive fellow.”

He then asked the servant, “Has he any wares that are not shop-soiled?”

The servant replied, “He has ribbons of all the colors in the rainbow. He has points more than all the lawyers in Bohemia can learnedly handle, although they come to him by the gross.”

The points were laces that were used to attach hose to a jacket, but the servant was also punning on legal points.

The servant continued, “He has linen tapes, caddis-ribbons for garters, and delicate fabrics such as cambrics and lawns for dressmaking. Why, he sings a song about the stuff he has for sale. He sings about and praises his wares as if they were gods or goddesses; you would think a smock were a she-angel, he sings such praise about the sleeve cuffs and the embroidery on the front of it.”

“Please bring him in,” Clown said, “and let him approach while singing.”

Perdita said, “Warn him not to use any scurrilous words in his tunes.”

The servant left to tell the peddler to come in.

“Some of these peddlers,” Clown said, “have more in them than you would think, sister.”

“Yes, good brother,” Perdita said, “or more than I wish to think.”

Autolycus, who was disguised enough that Clown did not recognize him, entered the scene. (He was wearing a false beard.) He had put the money that he had stolen from Clown to good use. He sang this song about the wares he had for sale:

Lawn as white as driven snow;

Crape black as ever was a crow;

Gloves as perfumed as damask roses;

Masks for faces and for noses;

Black bead bracelet, necklace amber,

Perfume for a lady’s chamber;

Golden coifs and stomachers,

For my lads to give their dears.

Pins and poking-sticks of steel,

What maidens need from head to heel.

Come buy from me, come; come and buy, come and buy;

Buy, lads, or else your lasses will cry. Come and buy.”

Lawn is a kind of linen. Stomachers are stiff embroidered bodices, and poking-sticks are used to maintain ruffs.

Clown said to the peddler, Autolycus, “If I were not in love with Mopsa, you would get no money from me; but being as enthralled and in bondage to love as I am, it will lead to the bondage of certain ribbons and gloves. You will tie them into a bundle after I buy them.”

The archaic meaning of “enthrall” is “to enslave.” A “thrall” is a slave.

“I was promised the ribbons and gloves as gifts in time for the feast, but they are not too late now,” Mopsa said.

“He has promised you more than that, or there are liars,” Dorcas said.

“He has paid you all he promised you,” Mopsa said. “Maybe he has given you more than he promised, and it will shame you to give to him that extra back again.”

Dorcas and Mopsa were fighting over Clown. Dorcas had been Clown’s girlfriend, but Mopsa was now his girlfriend. Mopsa may have been hinting that the extra that Clown had given Dorcas was a child and that Dorcas would give Clown the child after it was born.

Clown, who was embarrassed by the fighting, complained, “Are there no manners left among maidens? Will they wear their undergarments where they should bear their faces?”

He felt that they were airing dirty laundry in public, and he felt that this conversation, if made at all, ought to be made in private.

He continued, “Is there not milking-time, or when you are going to bed, or when you are in front of the kiln-hole, to whistle off these secrets? Can’t you talk about this at those more private times? Do you have to be tittle-tattling in front of all our guests? It is good that our guests are whispering so that we cannot hear what they are saying. Clam up your tongues, and say not a word more. Tie up your tongue as one could tie up the clapper of a bell.”

“I have said what I had to say,” Mopsa said. “Come, you promised to give me a tawdry-lace and a pair of sweet gloves.”

In this society, gloves were perfumed, and a tawdry-lace was a brightly colored scarf that was worn around the neck.

“Haven’t I told you how I was cheated on the road and lost all my money?” Clown said to Mopsa.

Autolycus said, “Indeed, sir, conmen are abroad; therefore, men ought to be wary.”

“Fear not, man,” Clown said. “You shall lose nothing here.”

“I hope that you are right, sir,” Autolycus said, “because I have about me many parcels of value.”

“What do you have here?” Clown asked. “Ballads?”

“Please, buy some,” Mopsa said. “I dearly love a ballad in print because then we are sure they are true.”

“Here’s one set to a very sad tune,” Autolycus said. “It is about how a usurer’s wife was brought to bed of twenty moneybags at a burden and how she longed to eat adders’ heads and sliced, broiled toads.”

One way to interpret what Autolycas had said was that a usurer’s wife had given birth to twenty moneybags all at once. Another way to interpret it was that a usurer’s wife had been persuaded by the gift of twenty moneybags to go to bed with the giver — her husband? — and bear the burden of his weight on her.

“Is it true, do you think?” Mopsa asked.

“Very true, and only a month old,” Autolycus replied.

“May God keep me from marrying a usurer!” Dorcas said.

“Here’s the midwife’s name on it as a witness,” Autolycas said. “Her name is Mistress Taleporter, and here are the names of five or six honest wives who were present. Why should I carry lies abroad?”

“Please,” Mopsa said to Clown, “buy it.”

“Come on, set it aside,” Clown said, “and let’s first see more ballads; we’ll buy the other things soon.”

Autolycus said, “Here’s another ballad. This one is about a fish that appeared upon the coast on Wednesday on the eightieth of April, forty thousand fathoms above water, and sang this ballad against the hard hearts of maidens. People think that the fish was a woman who was turned into a cold fish because she would not exchange flesh — have sex — with one who loved her. The ballad is as sad as it is true. The ballad is pitiful.”

“Is it true, too, do you think?” Dorcas asked.

“Five justices have certified that it is true, and there were more witnesses than my pack will hold,” Autolycus replied.

“Lay it aside, too,” Clown said. “Let’s see another.”

“This is a merry ballad, but it is a very pretty one,” Autolycas said.

“Let’s have some merry ones,” Mopsa said.

“Why, this is a very merry one and goes to the tune of ‘Two maids wooing a man.’ There’s scarcely a maiden westward who is not singing it,” Autolycas said. “This song is in demand, I can tell you.”

“We can both sing it,” Mopsa said to Dorcas.

She then said to Autolycus, “If you’ll take a part —” then she said to Clown, “— you shall hear it; it is in three parts.”

“We learned the tune a month ago,” Dorcas said.

“I can bear my part,” Autolycas said. “You must know that singing is my occupation. Let’s start.”

Autolycus sang, “Get you hence, for I must go

Where it does not suit you to know.”

Dorcas sang, “Whither?

Mopsa sang, “Oh, whither?

Dorcas sang, “Whither?

Mopsa sang, “It becomes your oath full well,

You to me your secrets tell.”

Dorcas sang, “Me, too — let me go thither.”

Mopsa sang, “Or you go to the farm or mill.”

Dorcas sang, “If to either, you do evil.”

Autolycus sang, “Neither.”

Dorcas sang, “What, neither?

Autolycus sang, “Neither.”

Dorcas sang, “You have sworn to be my love.”

Mopsa sang, “You have sworn it more to me.

Then whither do you go? Tell us, whither?

Clown said to Mopsa and Dorcas, “We’ll sing this song ourselves soon. My father and the gentlemen are having a serious talk, and we’ll not trouble them.”

He said to Autolycus, “Come, carry your pack and follow me. Girls, I’ll buy for you both. Peddler, we want to have the first choice. Follow me, girls.”

Clown exited with Mopsa and Dorcas.

Autolycus said, “And you shall pay well for them.”

He followed them, singing this song:

Will you buy any tape,

Or lace for your cape,

My dainty duck, my dear-a?

Any silk, any thread,

Any trifles for your head,

Of the newest and finest, finest wear-a?

Come to the peddler;

Money’s a meddler

That does offer for sale all men’s ware-a.”

The last two lines meant, “Money gets involved in everything, and it keeps everything in circulation.”

A servant said to the old shepherd, “Master, there are three drivers of carts, three shepherds, three cowherds, and three swineherds, who have made themselves all men of hair by wearing animal skins. They call themselves Saltiers, or Leaping Satyrs, and they have a dance that the wenches say is a gallimaufry, aka hodgepodge, of gambols, because they — the wenches — are not in it, but the Saltiers themselves are of the opinion that if it is not too rough for some who know little but the genteel game of bowling, it will plentifully please the audience.”

“Away with them!” the old shepherd said. “We’ll have none of it. We have had too much low-down tomfoolery already.”

He said to the disguised King Polixenes, “I know, sir, that we weary you.”

The disguised King Polixenes replied, “You weary those who refresh and entertain us. Please, let us see these four trios of country workers.”

“One trio of them, by their own report, sir, has danced before the King; and even the worst of the trios jumps twelve foot and a half by the furniture maker’s ruler,” the servant said.

“Stop your prating,” the old shepherd said. “Since these good men would like to see their dance, let them come in, but quickly.”

“Why, they are waiting at the door, sir,” the servant said, and then he left to carry out his orders.

The twelve Satyrs danced — wildly — and the old shepherd and the disguised King Polixenes talked.

After the dance, the disguised King Polixenes said to the old shepherd, “Father, you’ll learn more about that soon.”

In their society, old men were often addressed as “father” as a term of respect. It did not necessarily mean that the old man was the biological father of the person addressing him.

The disguised King Polixenes went to Camillo and asked, “Has the obvious love relationship of my son the Prince and this young shepherdess gone too far? Yes. It is time to part them. The old shepherd is a simple man and has told me what I need to know.”

The disguised King Polixenes said to Florizel, his son the Prince, “How now, fair shepherd! Your heart is full of something that takes your mind away from feasting. Truly, when I was young and in love as you are now, I was wont to load my girlfriend with small gifts. I would have ransacked the peddler’s silken treasury and have poured it upon her to gain her approval; you, however, have let the peddler leave and have bought nothing from him. If your lass should misinterpret this as you lacking love or generosity, you would be at a loss for a reply, at least if you want to make her happy.”

Florizel replied, “Old sir, I know that she does not prize such trifles as those that the peddler has. The gifts she looks for from me are packed and locked up in my heart, which I have given to her already, but not delivered. I love her, but I am not yet legally married to her.”

He said to Perdita, “Listen as I utter vows that I shall keep all my life. I will say them with this ancient sir as my witness; he, it seems, has once loved! I take your hand, this hand, as soft as the down of a dove and as white as it or the tooth of a dark-skinned Ethiopian, or the fanned snow that’s sifted by the northern blasts of icy wind twice over.”

“What can follow such an elaborate preface?” the disguised King Polixenes asked. “How prettily the young shepherd seems to wash and make whiter the hand that was already white!”

He said to Florizel, “I have interrupted you. Continue your speech; let me hear what you have to say.”

“Do, and be a witness to it,” Florizel said.

“And shall this my neighbor be a witness, too?” the disguised King Polixenes asked, indicating the disguised Camillo.

“And he shall be a witness, and more than he. Let men, the Earth, the Heavens, and all know that, if I were crowned the most imperial monarch, and if I were very worthy of the crown, and if I were the handsomest youth who ever made eyes swerve to look at him, and if I had strength and knowledge more than was ever mortal man’s, I would not prize them without her love. For her I would employ them all. I would commend them to the service of Perdita or condemn them to their own perdition. I want to marry Perdita.”

“Well spoken,” the disguised King Polixenes said.

“This shows a sound affection,” the disguised Camillo said.

“But, my daughter,” the old shepherd asked, “do you feel the same way about him?”

“I cannot speak as well as he, not even close,” Perdita replied, “but all meaning will be the same. I understand that he feels about me the same way I feel about him.”

Using a dressmaking metaphor, she said, “By the pattern of my own thoughts, I cut out the purity of his.” In other words, she was saying that the purity of her thoughts validated the purity of his thoughts because her thoughts mirrored his. She added, “I want to marry him.”

The old shepherd rejoiced and said, “Hold hands! You have made a bargain!”

The old shepherd said to the disguised King Polixenes and the disguised Camillo, “Unknown friends, you shall bear witness to this engagement. I give my daughter to him, and I will make her portion equal his. My daughter’s dowry will equal what he brings to the marriage.”

“Oh, her equal portion must be the virtue of your daughter,” Florizel said. “Once a certain person is dead, I shall possess more than you can dream of now; later you can marvel at all I possess. But, come on, let us make a legal and binding engagement before these witnesses.”

The old shepherd said to Florizel, “Come, hold out your hand,” and he said to Perdita, “Daughter, hold out your hand.”

“Wait,” the disguised King Polixenes said to Florizel. “Wait a moment, young shepherd, please. Do you have a father?”

“Yes, I do, but what about him?”

“Does he know about this?”

“He does not, and he shall not.”

The disguised King Polixenes said, “In my opinion a father is very suitable to be a guest at the wedding of his son. Please tell me these things. Has your father grown incapable of reason? Has he become stupid with age and mind-altering illnesses? Can he speak? Can he hear? Can he distinguish one man from another man? Can he manage his own estate? Is he bed-ridden? Is he in his second childhood?”

“No, good sir,” Florizel replied. “He has his health, and he is stronger than most men his age.”

“By my white beard,” the disguised King Polixenes said, “You are doing him, if what you said is true, a wrong that is somewhat unfilial. A good son would not treat his father this way. It is reasonable that my son should choose a wife for himself, but it is also reasonable that the father, all of whose joy comes from fair and good and worthy descendants, should give his advice when it comes to making such a choice.”

“I agree with what you say, my grave sir,” Florizel said, “but for some other reasons, which are not suitable for you to know, I will not tell my father about this engagement.”

“Let him know it,” the disguised King Polixenes said.

“He shall not.”

“Please, let him know it.”

“No, he must not.”

The old shepherd said to Florizel, “Let him know, my son. When he knows your choice, he will have no reason to grieve. Perdita will be an excellent wife for you.”

“Come, come, he must not,” Florizel said. “Let us make a legal and binding engagement.”

Pulling off his fake beard, King Polixenes said, “I now make for you a binding divorce, young sir. I dare not call you my son. You are too base to be acknowledged as my son. You, a scepter’s heir, are in love with a shepherd’s crook — a shepherdess!”

He said to the old shepherd, “You old traitor, I am sorry that by hanging you I can shorten your life by only one week.”

He said to Perdita, “And you, young masterpiece of excellent witchcraft, you cunning young witch, who of course must know the Prince, that royal fool you are involved with —”

Shocked at seeing his King, and shocked at knowing that his King was angry at him and his daughter, the old shepherd said, “Oh, my heart!”

King Polixenes said to Perdita, “I’ll have your beauty scratched with briers, and you will be made more homely and lowly than your social status.”

He said to his son, Prince Florizel, “As for you, fond and foolish boy, if I should ever know that you even sigh because you shall never again see this trifle of a woman — and I do mean never — we will bar you from succession. You will never become King. We will not regard you as being of our blood — no, you will not be our kin. You will be a more distant relative to me than is Deucalion, the only man to survive the Great Flood and therefore the father of all men. Listen to us. Follow us back to the court.”

Continuing to use the royal plural, he said to the old shepherd, “You churl, for this time, although we are full of displeasure at you, yet we free you from the deadly blow of it. We will not kill you at this time.”

He said to Perdita, “And as for you, enchantment, you are beautiful, and full of virtue, although you are low born. You are worthy enough to marry a herdsman. Yes, you are also worthy enough to marry my son — if he were not a Prince. Because of his actions, however, my son has made himself unworthy of you. If ever henceforth you leave these rural latches open so that my son can enter here, or if you ever use your arms to make a hoop around his body with your embraces, I will devise a death as cruel for you as you are vulnerable to it.”

He departed.

Perdita said, “Despite the King’s threat to have me killed, I was not much afraid because once or twice I was about to speak and tell him plainly that the same Sun that shines upon his court does not hide its visage from our cottage but looks on all alike.”

She said to Florizel, “Will it please you, sir, to leave? I told you what would come of this. Please, take care of yourself and do not endanger your position — make sure that you will someday become King. Being engaged to you has been a dream of mine — but now that I am awake, I’ll Queen it not an inch farther. Instead, I will milk my ewes and weep.”

Camillo, still disguised, said to the old shepherd, “How are you, father? Speak before you die. Keeping your emotions bottled up can kill you.”

“I cannot speak,” the old shepherd replied, “nor think nor dare to know that which I know.”

He said to Prince Florizel, “Sir! You have undone a man who is 83 years old. I thought that I would go peacefully to my grave and even die in the same bed in which my father died, and then lie close by his honest bones, but now some hangman must put on my shroud and lay me in a grave in which no priest shovels in dust. I will not receive a Christian burial.”

He said to Perdita, “Oh, cursed wretch, who knew that this man was the Prince, and dared to be engaged to him! Undone! Undone! If I might die within this hour, I would have lived long enough to die when I desire.”

The old shepherd departed.

Florizel said to the disguised Camillo, “Why are you looking that way at me? I am sorry that this has happened, but I am not afraid. My intention of being married to Perdita is delayed, but my intention has not changed. What I was, I still am. I am like a dog who strains to go forward, resisting the leash that is trying to pull him back; I am not following my leash, even unwillingly.”

Camillo said, “My gracious lord, you know your father’s temper. At this time he will allow no speech about you marrying this shepherdess, and I guess that you do not intend to talk to him. I also think that he will hardly endure your sight now and for a while, I fear. Therefore, until the fury of his Highness settles, do not see him.”

“I do not intend to,” Florizel said.

He looked closer at the disguised Camillo and said, “I think that you are … Camillo?”

“I am he, my lord,” Camillo replied as he removed his false beard.

Perdita said to Florizel, “How often have I told you that this would happen! How often have I said that my being your beloved would last only until your father found out about it!”

“Our engagement cannot fail except by me violating my faith and my word,” Florizel said, “and if that ever happens then let Nature crush the sides of the Earth together and destroy all the seeds of generation on Earth! Let all life end!

“Lift up your head, Perdita, and look more cheerfully. My father can take away my succession as King, if he wishes. What I wish to acquire is you. I prefer love of a woman to love of a crown.”

“Be advised,” Camillo said.

He meant, “Be careful,” but Florizel pretended that he had meant, “Be counseled.”

Florizel said, “I am being counseled, and by my fancy — my true love. If my reason will obey my love, then I will have reason and be sane. If not, then my senses, being better pleased with madness, will bid it welcome. If I cannot have my love, I will go insane.”

“This is desperate, sir,” Camillo replied.

“Call it desperate if you want,” Florizel said, “but since it fulfills the vow I made to Perdita, I must call it honesty. Camillo, I will not break my oath to Perdita, my fair beloved, for Bohemia, or for the pomp that may be gleaned there, nor for all the Sun sees or all that the Earth holds enclosed within its womb or the profound sea hides in unknown fathoms. Therefore, I ask you, since you have always been my father’s honored friend, that when he shall learn that I am gone — as, truly, I do not intend to see him any more — to give him good advice during his anger. Let fortune and me fight it out to determine my future. This you may know and so tell my father: I am going to sea with Perdita, whom I cannot hold on to and love on the shore of Bohemia. Fortunately for us, I have a vessel anchored nearby, but unfortunately for us it is not prepared for this plan. What course I mean to hold you need not know, and I will not tell you.”

“Oh, my lord!” Camillo said. “I wish that your spirit were more inclined to listen to my advice, or more focused on what you need!”

“Listen, Perdita,” Florizel said. He added to Camillo, “I’ll talk to you in a moment.” Florizel and Perdita talked together quietly.

Camillo said to himself, “He has made up his mind and won’t change it. He has resolved to flee from his father and Bohemia. Now I would be happy if I could make his going from Bohemia do these things: serve my needs, save him from danger, show him respect and honor, and allow me to see again my dear Sicily and that unhappy King Leontes, my master, whom I so much thirst to see.”

Florizel said, “Now, good Camillo, we can talk. I am so weighed down with business that requires my careful attention that I am forgetting my manners and ignoring you.”

“Sir, I think that you have heard of my poor services that I have done for your father because of my respect for him.”

“You have given my father very noble service and you have deserved very noble recompense,” Florizel said. “It is my father’s music to speak about your deeds, and he takes care to recompense them as you deserve.”

“Well, my lord,” Camillo said, “if you may please to think I love the King and through him love the person nearest to him, who is your gracious self, embrace my advice. If your more ponderous and settled project may suffer alteration, on my honor I’ll point you to where you shall have such a reception as shall become your Highness. It will be a country where you may enjoy your betrothed, Perdita, from whom, I see, you will not be separated except — God forbid! — by your ruination. If you go to this country, you may marry her, and I will do my best in your absence to mollify your father and bring him to accept your marriage.”

“How, Camillo, may this, which is almost a miracle, be done?” Florizel asked. “If you do this, I will call you something more than a man and afterward always have trust in you.”

“Have you thought about the place where you will go to?” Camillo asked.

“Not yet,” Florizel replied. “We did not expect my father to discover our engagement, and because it was discovered we must take action without preparation — we acknowledge that we are the slaves of chance and that every wind may blow us where it pleases.”

“Then listen to me,” Camillo said. “If you will not change your mind and stay in Bohemia, and if you insist on fleeing from your father, then sail to Sicily and present yourself and your Princess, as I see that she will become, before King Leontes. Perdita shall be dressed as becomes the partner of your bed. I think I can foretell that King Leontes will freely open his arms and weep as he welcomes you. He will ask you, King Polixenes’ son, for forgiveness, as if you were your father. He will kiss the hands of your young and lively Princess. Again and again King Leontes will talk about his repentance for the unkindness he showed to your father and about the kindness and affection that he feels now for your father and you. He will chide to Hell his unkindness and will bid his kindness to grow faster than thought or time.”

“Worthy Camillo, what reason for my visit shall I tell King Leontes?”

“Tell him that you were sent by King Polixenes, your father, to greet him and to give him comfort. Sir, I shall write down how you will behave toward King Leontes and the information that you will say your father told you to tell him. I know things that are known only by King Polixenes, King Leontes, and me, and I will write them down for you. That will let you know the things you should say when you meet with King Leontes. That way, he will think that you have your father’s permission to be at his court and that you are telling him things that your father wants him to know.”

“I am bound to you,” Florizel said. “Some sense is in this.”

“This course of action is more promising than a wild abandoning of yourselves to uncharted waters and undreamed-of shores. That course is very certain to bring you miseries enough, with no hope to help you, for as soon as you shake off one misery you will take on another. Your course of action is in no way as certain as your anchors, which at best can keep you in a place where you will hate to be. Besides, as you know, prosperity is what keeps love whole; affliction alters love’s fresh complexion and heart.”

“One of these is true,” Perdita said. “I think that affliction may alter for the worse one’s complexion, but not alter one’s heart and mind.”

“Do you think so?” Camillo asked. He liked her comment. He added, “There shall not in your father’s house be born another as wise as you for a very long time.”

“My good Camillo,” Florizel said, “Perdita is as above her breeding as she is below our birth. Her birth may be below that of a Prince, but her character is much above that of a peasant.”

“I cannot say that it is a pity that she lacks education,” Camillo said, “because she seems to be the superior of most people who teach.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” Perdita said. “For your kind words I will blush my thanks.”

“You are my prettiest Perdita,” Florizel said, “but we are in a mess. It is as if we were standing on thorns!”

He added, “Camillo, you have been the preserver of my father, and now you are my preserver. You, the medicine and physician of our house, have saved the life of my father and are now saving my life. How can we carry out your plan? We are not equipped like the son of the King of Bohemia, nor shall we appear as such in Sicily until we find proper clothing and equipment.”

“My lord,” Camillo said, “fear not. I think you know that all my fortune and possessions still remain in Sicily. I will make sure that you will be as royally dressed and equipped as if I myself were you, a Prince. Let me talk to you a moment so that I can prove to you that you shall lack nothing.”

They talked quietly.

Meanwhile, Autolycus, who thought that he was alone, walked to a spot near them and said to himself, “Ha, ha! What a fool Honesty is! And Trust, his sworn brother, is a very simple gentleman! I have sold all my trumpery. Not a counterfeit stone, not a ribbon, mirror, bag of sweet-smelling herbs, brooch, notebook, ballad, knife, tape, glove, shoelace, bracelet, ring made of horn remains to keep my pack from fasting — my pack is completely empty of merchandise. The peasants thronged to see who would buy first, as if my trinkets were sacred and brought a benediction to the buyer. Because of that, I was able to see whose purse or wallet was fattest. What I saw, I remembered, and I put it to my own good use. Clown, who lacks something that would make him a reasonable man, grew so in love with the wenches’ song that he would not stir his feet until he had learned both the tune and the words; the singing so drew the rest of the herd to me that all their senses other than hearing melted away. You might have stolen someone’s underwear because the wearer was paying so little attention to anything but the song. It was nothing to steal a moneybag that was hanging from someone’s belt. I could have filed keys off of chains because the peasants had no hearing and no feeling except for my Sir Clown’s song, and admiring the nonsense of it. Therefore, during this time of their lethargy I picked pockets and cut the strings of most of their bags filled with money to spend at the festival. If the old shepherd had not come in with a hubbub because of his daughter and the King’s son and scared my pigeons away from my trap of trumpery, I would not have left a purse alive in the whole army.”

Camillo said to Florizel, “No, that is not a good objection. My letters, by the means I told you about, will be in Sicily as soon as you arrive.”

Florizel started to ask, “And those that you’ll procure from King Leontes —”

Camillo finished for him, “— shall satisfy your father.”

Perdita said to Camillo, “May good luck come to you! All that you have said seems reasonable and favorable.”

Seeing Autolycus, Camillo said, “Who have we here? We’ll make use of this man; we ought to omit nothing that may give us aid.”

Camillo’s plan was for Florizel and this man, Autolycus, to exchange clothing. That would help disguise Florizel’s identity.

Autolycus heard them talking and, shaking with fear, said to himself, “If they have overheard me talking to myself just now, why, I will be hanged.”

Camillo said, “How are you, good fellow? Why are you shaking? Do not be afraid, man. We mean no harm to you.”

“I am a poor fellow, sir,” Autolycus said.

“Continue to be poor,” Camillo replied. “No one here will steal your poverty from you. Yet for the outside of your poverty — your clothing — we must make an exchange; therefore, take off your outer clothing now. You must realize that there’s a necessity in it — we want you to exchange garments with this gentleman. Although the bargain is worst on his side — his clothing is better than yours — yet wait just a minute. Here is some money for you.”

“I am a poor fellow, sir,” Autolycus said.

He thought, I know you well enough. I know who you are, and I know that you are planning a trick of some kind.

Camillo said, “Please, hurry. The gentleman is half flayed — half undressed — already.”

“Are you in earnest, sir?” Autolycus said. “Are you serious about this exchange of clothing?”

He thought, I smell the trick of it.

Florizel said, “Hurry, please.”

“Indeed, you have paid me, but I cannot with conscience take it,” Autolycus said.

“Unbuckle, unbuckle,” Camillo said.

Florizel and Autolycus exchanged clothing. Florizel’s clothing was much better than the clothing of Autolycus. Although Florizel’s clothing was not as fancy as that of a Prince, it was fancy enough to be worn at a festival by a shepherd who owned much pastureland — the kind of person whom Florizel had pretended to be. Autolycus had spent much of the money he had stolen from Clown on trumpery to fill his peddler’s pack.

Camillo said to Perdita, “Fortunate mistress — let my words be a prophecy that will come true for you! You must go into some shrubbery that will hide you so you can take off some of your exterior fancy clothing that you wore as Queen of the sheep-shearing festival. Take your sweetheart’s hat and pluck it down over your brows, hide your face, take off your mantle, and, as much as you can, disguise the truth of your own appearance. Do this so that you may — for I am afraid of spying eyes — get onboard the ship without being seen.”

The words “disguise the truth of your own appearance” were interesting. Perdita was dressed as if she were the Queen of the Festival — she was dressed as royalty — and in fact she was a Princess. The way she appeared to be was in fact what she really was.

Perdita said, “I see the play so lies that I must bear a part. I see that our plan requires that I hide my identity.”

“Yes,” Camillo said. “It is required.”

He asked Florizel, “Are you ready now?”

Florizel said, “If I should happen to meet my father, he would not know that I am his son.”

Camillo said, “You shall not wear a hat.”

He took Florizel’s hat and gave it to Perdita, saying, “Come, lady, come. This is for you.”

He said to Autolycus, “Farewell, my friend.”

Adieu, sir,” Autolycus said.

“Oh, Perdita,” Florizel said, “we two have forgotten something! Let me speak to you.”

While they talked together, Camillo said quietly to himself, “What I will do next shall be to tell King Polixenes about this escape and where Florizel and Perdita are bound. By doing that, I hope that I shall persuade the King to follow them. In his company, I shall once again see Sicily, for whose sight I have the longing of a woman. I want to see Sicily as strongly as a pregnant woman wants to eat strange foods.”

Camillo was not intentionally betraying Florizel and Perdita. He believed that the two ought to arrive in Sicily in plenty of time for them to be married before King Polixenes arrived. If the two lovers were already lawfully married, King Polixenes would be much more likely to accept their marriage. Rough weather, however, could slow their journey.

“May Fortune speed us on our way!” Florizel said. “Thus we set out, Camillo, to go to the seashore.”

“The swifter your speed, the better,” Camillo replied.

Florizel, Perdita, and Camillo departed.

“I understand the business, and I hear it,” Autolycus said to himself, “To have an open ear, a quick eye, and a nimble hand is necessary for a cutpurse; a good nose is also needed to smell out work for the other senses. I see that this is a time in which the unjust man thrives. What an exchange had this been even without booty! What booty is here with this exchange! I greatly benefited by this exchange of clothing, and I got some money in addition!

“Surely the gods this year are conspiring with us, and we may do anything extempore, without planning it in advance. The Prince himself is guilty of a piece of iniquity; he is stealing away from his father with his clog — Perdita — at his heels.

“If I thought it were a piece of honesty to tell King Polixenes what his son the Prince is doing, I would not do it. I am a knave, and I believe it to be more knavish to conceal what the Prince is doing. I will act in such a way that I am loyal to my profession.”

The old shepherd and his son, Clown, walked toward Autolycus, but they did not see him.

Autolycus said to himself, “Let me move aside. I don’t want them to see me now. Here is more matter for a hot brain to think about. Every lane’s end, shop, church, court session, and hanging yield a careful man work. I may be able to benefit by eavesdropping on these two.”

Clown said to his father, the old shepherd, “See, see — what a man you are now! You are in so much trouble! The only thing we can do is to tell the King that Perdita is a changeling; she is not of your flesh and blood. Instead, she is a child left by the fairies.”

“Listen to me,” the old shepherd said.

“No, youlisten to me.”

“Go on, then.”

Clown said, “Because Perdita is not of your flesh and blood, your flesh and blood have not offended King Polixenes, and so your flesh and blood are not to be punished by him. Show King Polixenes those things you found around her when you found her when she was an infant. Show him those secret things, all but what she has with her — what she is wearing as Queen of the Sheep-shearing Festival. Once you do this, you need not fear being punished, I assure you. You can let the law go whistle.”

“I will tell the King everything, every word, yes, and his son’s pranks, too,” the old shepherd said. “The Prince, I say, is no honest man, neither to his father nor to me — not when he attempts to make me the King’s brother-in-law.”

Of course, the old shepherd would have been the father of the King’s daughter-in-law; he would not have been the King’s brother-in-law.

Clown said, “Indeed, brother-in-law was the farthest-off relative you could have been to the King and then your blood had been the dearer by I know how much an ounce. By being related to King Polixenes, your blood would be more valuable than if you were just a simple shepherd.”

Autolycus said to himself, sarcastically, “These puppies are very wise!”

“Well, let us go to the King,” the old shepherd said. “There are things in this bundle that will make him wonder, think hard, and scratch his beard.”

Autolycus said to himself, “This complaint may in some way be an impediment to the flight of my master: Prince Florizel. At least, he is my old master: I used to serve him.”

“Pray heartily that King Polixenes is in the palace,” Clown said.

“Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance,” Autolycus said to himself. “Let me take off my peddler’s disguise.”

He removed his false beard and said, “How now, rustics! Where are you bound?”

The old shepherd and his son did not recognize Autolycus, who was now wearing fancy clothing as well as being beardless.

The old shepherd said, “We are going to the palace, if it is all right with your worship.”

Autolycus asked for much information: “Tell me the business you have there, the nature of that bundle, the place of your dwelling, your names, your ages, what property you have, your upbringing, and anything else that is fit to be known.”

“We are but plain fellows, sir,” Clown said.

“That is a lie,” Autolycus said. “You are rough and hairy. Tell me no lies. Lying becomes none but tradesmen, and they often give us soldiers the lie by giving us poor quality or short quantity … no, wait — we pay them for their goods with stamped coins, not stabbing steel, so therefore they do not give us the lie; instead, they sell it.”

“Your worship almost gave a lie,” Clown said, “but fortunately you caught yourself and corrected yourself.”

“Are you a courtier, if you don’t mind my asking, sir?” the old shepherd said.

“Whether I mind it or not, I am a courtier,” Autolycus said. “Don’t you see the air of the court in the clothing I am wearing? Doesn’t my gait have in it the measure of the court? Doesn’t your nose smell court-odor emanating from me? Don’t I look down on your baseness because I am a member of the upper class? Do you think that because I am talking to you in order to learn your business that I am therefore no courtier? I am a courtier from top to bottom, and I am a courtier who will either push on or pluck back your business at the palace. And now I command you to tell me what business you have at the palace.”

“My business, sir, is with King Polixenes,” the old shepherd said.

“What advocate do you have to go to him?” Autolycus asked.

“I don’t know what you mean, sir,” the old shepherd replied.

Clown said to the old shepherd, “The court-word for ‘advocate’ is a pheasant. Say that you don’t have one.”

Clown thought that “advocate” meant “influence.” One way to influence a judge of a local court was with a bribe. A common bribe was poultry.

“None, sir,” the old shepherd said. “I have no pheasant, rooster, or hen.”

“How blessed are we who are not simple men!” Autolycus said proudly. “Yet nature might have made me as these are. Therefore I will not look down on them.”

Autolycus was talking much like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14:

He [Jesus] spake also this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were just, and despised others.

Two men went up into the Temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘O God, I thank thee that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican.

‘I fast twice in the week: I give tithe of all that ever I possess.’

But the Publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to Heaven, but smote his breast, saying, ‘Oh, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’

I tell you, this man departed to his house, justified rather than the other: for every man that exalteth himself shall be brought low, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Autolycus began to pick his teeth with a toothpick. This was a recent fashionable activity among the upper class.

Clown said to his father, “This man cannot be anything but a great courtier.”

“His garments are rich, but he does not wear them well,” the old shepherd said.

Fancy clothing is uncomfortable for those who are not accustomed to wear it and for those whom it does not fit.

“He seems to be all the more noble in being eccentric,” Clown said. “He is a great man, I promise you. I know that because he picks his teeth.”

“What is in that bundle you are carrying?” Autolycus asked. “Why are you carrying that box?”

The old shepherd replied, “Sir, secrets lie in this bundle and box that no one but the King must know, and he shall know those secrets within this hour, if I may come into his presence and talk to him.”

“Old man, you have lost your labor,” Autolycus said. “That will not happen.”

“Why, sir?”

Autolycus, thinking quickly of a plan, lied, “The King is not at the palace; he has gone aboard a new ship to purge his melancholy and get fresh air for himself. If you are capable of knowing serious things, you must know that the King is full of grief.”

“So it is said, sir,” the old shepherd said. “He grieves that his son wanted to have married a shepherd’s daughter.”

“If that shepherd is not under arrest, let him flee from here,” Autolycus said. “If he is arrested, the curses he shall have and the tortures he shall feel will break the back of a man and the heart of a monster.”

“Do you think so, sir?” Clown asked.

“Not the old shepherd alone shall suffer whatever heavy and bitter vengeance ingenuity can make, but those who are related to the old shepherd, even if they are distantly related and removed fifty times, shall also all come under the jurisdiction of the hangman. Although it is a great pity, yet it is necessary. This old sheep-whistling rogue — this ram-tender — attempted to have his daughter become a member of the nobility by marrying Prince Florizel! Some say the old shepherd shall be stoned, but that death is too soft for him, in my opinion. He attempted to drag our country’s throne into a shelter for sheep — a sheepcote! For him, all deaths are too few, and the sharpest death is too easy.”

“Has the old man a son, sir?” Clown asked. “Have you heard whether he has a son, sir?”

“He does have a son, who shall be flayed alive,” Autolycus said. “Then honey will be poured over him and he will be set on the top of a wasp’s nest, and then he will be forced to stand until he is three quarters and a little bit more dead. After that, he will be revived with strong drink, and as raw as he is at that time, on the hottest day the almanac forecasts, he shall be set against a brick wall, with the Sun shining on him from the South, and the Sun shall see him swollen because of horsefly bites.

“But why are we talking about these traitorous rascals, whose miseries are to be smiled at because their offences are so great?” Autolycus said. “Tell me, for you seem to be honest plain men, what business you have with King Polixenes. For a consideration, aka bribe, I will take you to the ship where he is onboard. I will take you into his presence, and I will whisper to him and plead on your behalf. If it is possible for any man other than the King to accomplish your purposes, I am the man who can do it.”

Clown said to his father, “He seems to be very powerful. Make a deal with him, and give him gold. Although a powerful person can be a stubborn bear, with the gift of gold, one can often lead a powerful person by the nose. Show the inside of your wallet to the outside of his hand, and we can solve our problem. Remember ‘stoned,’ and ‘flayed alive.’”

“If it please you, sir, to undertake the business for us, here is the gold I have on me,” the old shepherd said to Autolycus. “I’ll give you as much more as this and leave this young man as security until I bring you the additional gold.”

“After I have done what I promised to do?” Autolycus asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, give me the gold you have on you,” Autolycus said.

He then asked Clown, “Are you a party in this business?”

“In some way I am, sir,” Clown replied, “but although my case is a pitiful one, I hope I shall not be flayed out of it.”

Clown was punning. A case is a situation that law enforcement officers investigate, and a case or a casing is a covering. Clown’s body was covered with skin.

“Oh, that’s the case of the shepherd’s son,” Autolycus said. “Hang him; he’ll be made an example to others.”

Clown said to his father, “Take comfort, good comfort! We have a plan. We must go to the King and show him our strange sights — this bundle and box. King Polixenes must know that Perdita is not your daughter nor my sister; we are done for otherwise.”

Clown said to Autolycus, “Sir, I will give you as much as this old man does when the business is performed, and I will remain with you, as he said, as your security until the gold is brought to you.”

“I will trust you,” Autolycus said. “Walk ahead of me and go toward the seashore. Go on the right. I will look upon the hedge and follow you.”

“Look upon the hedge” was a euphemism for “urinate.”

Clown said to his father, “We are blessed that we met this man — yes, we are blessed.”

“Let’s walk ahead of him as he asked us to,” the old shepherd said. “God sent him to us so he could do us good.”

The old shepherd and his son walked away.

While urinating, Autolycus said to himself, “If I had a mind to be honest, I see that Fortune would not allow me to be honest. She drops rewards in my mouth. I am presented now with a double opportunity: gold and a means to do my former master Prince Florizel good. Who knows how this may turn out to be to my advantage?

“I will bring these two moles, these blind ones, onboard the ship that Prince Florizel is on. If he thinks it fit to put them on shore again and if he thinks that the information they want to present to the King does not concern him, let him call me a rogue for being so officious. I am impervious against that insult and the shame that goes with it. I will present these two men to him; there may be something good in it for me.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

Buy the Paperback: THE WINTER’S TALE

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