David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 1-3 (Conclusion)

 — 5.1 —

In a room of the palace in Sicily, King Leontes, Cleomenes, Dion, and Paulina were speaking. Some gentlemen were also present. Cleomenes and Dion were the two lords whom King Leontes had sent to consult the oracle of Apollo sixteen years earlier.

Cleomenes said to King Leontes, “Sir, you have done enough; you have performed a saint-like penitence. No sin could you have committed that you have not redeemed; indeed, you have paid down more penitence than you have done trespass. Now, finally, do as the Heavens have done: Forget your sins, and with them forgive yourself.”

“While I remember Hermione and her virtues,” King Leontes said, “I cannot forget my blemishes in comparison to her virtues, and so I continually think of the wrong I myself did, which was so great that it has made my Kingdom heirless and destroyed the sweetest companion who ever gave a man hope for the future.”

“That is true, too true, my lord,” Paulina said. “If, one by one, you wedded all the women in the world, or from each of the women who exist took something good in order to make a perfect woman, the woman — Hermione — you killed would still be unparalleled.”

“I think so, too,” King Leontes said. “Killed! The woman I killed! I did kill her, but you strike and hurt me sorely, when you say I killed her; it is as bitter upon your tongue as in my thoughts. Now, please, say only seldom that I killed her.”

Cleomenes said to Paulina, “It is best not to say it at all, good lady. You might have spoken a thousand things that would have been more beneficial and kinder.”

“You are one of those people who want King Leontes to get a new wife,” Paulina replied.

“If you don’t want the King to remarry,” Dion said, “you don’t pity the state, nor the continuance of the King’s most sovereign name. King Leontes — and Sicily — needs a royal heir. You are not thinking about what dangers, because his Highness has no living heir, may drop upon his Kingdom and devour citizens who are not sure what to do. What is more holy than to rejoice that the former Queen is well in Heaven? What would be holier than — for the sake of the King and Sicily, for our present comfort, and for our future good — to bless the bed of majesty again with a sweet spouse in it?”

“There is none worthy to grace the bed of the King,” Paulina said. “None is worthy when compared with the Queen who is gone. Besides, the gods must have their secret purposes fulfilled. Has not the divine Apollo said, and is it not the tenor of his oracle, that King Leontes shall not have an heir until his lost child — his daughter — is found? But that his daughter shall be found is altogether as unnatural from the point of view of our human reason as it would be for my husband, Antigonus, to break out of his grave and come again to me. Antigonus, I swear on my life, perished with the infant. It is your counsel that King Leontes should be contrary to the Heavens and oppose the will of the gods.”

Paulina then said to King Leontes, “Don’t worry about having an heir. The crown will find an heir. Remember that Alexander the Great left his crown to the worthiest; that way, his successor was likely to be the best.”

“Good Paulina, who I know honors the memory of Hermione,” King Leontes said, “I wish that I had always obeyed your counsel! If I had, even now I might have looked upon my Queen’s full, not hollow, eyes, have taken treasure from her lips —”

“— and left them richer for what they yielded,” Paulina said.

“You speak the truth,” King Leontes said. “There are no more such wives; therefore, there is no wife for me. A wife worse than Paulina, and better treated by me, would make her sainted spirit once again possess her corpse, and on this stage, where I would stand, offending her, she would appear soul-vexed, and begin, ‘Why are you insulting me by treating better than you treated me a wife who is worse than me?”

“Had she such power, she would have just cause to do that,” Paulina said.

“She would have,” King Leontes said, “and she would provoke me to murder the new wife I married.”

“I would do the same thing,” Paulina said. “Were I the ghost who walked, I would tell you to look at your new wife’s eyes, and then I would ask you to tell me because of what dull part in them you chose to make her your wife, and then I would shriek so that your ears would split to hear me, and the words that would follow the shriek would be ‘Remember my eyes.’”

“Her eyes were stars, stars,” King Leontes said, “and all other eyes else were dead coals! You need fear no wife. I will have no wife, Paulina.”

“Will you swear never again to marry except with my freely given permission?” Paulina asked.

“I swear,” King Leontes said, “on my immortal soul!”

“Then, my good lords,” Paulina said, “bear witness to his oath.”

“You tempt him to swear to follow the wrong path,” Cleomenes said. “He should not swear this oath.”

“He shall not marry unless another woman, as like Hermione as is her picture, appears in front of his eyes,” Paulina replied.

“Good madam —” Cleomenes began.

“I am finished,” Paulina said to him.

She then said to King Leontes, “Yet, if my lord does marry again — if you will, sir; I make no promise, but if you do — give me the duty of choosing a Queen for you. She shall not be as young as was your former Queen, but she shall be such as, if your first Queen’s ghost should walk on this Earth, it should feel joy if it saw her in your arms.”

Using the royal plural, King Leontes said, “My true Paulina, we shall not marry until you allow us.”

“That shall be when your first Queen is alive again,” Paulina said. “You shall not remarry until that happens.”

A gentleman entered the room and said, “A man who says that he is Prince Florizel, son of King Polixenes of Bohemia, along with his Princess, the most beautiful woman whom I have ever seen, desires to speak to your Highness.”

“Who is with him?” King Leontes asked. “He has not come here in a manner befitting his father’s greatness. His approach, so lacking in ceremony and so sudden, tells us that this is not a planned visit, but has been forced on him by need and accident. What train of followers does he have with him?”

“He has very few followers, and those are lower class,” the gentleman replied.

“Did you say his Princess is with him?”

“Yes, she is the most peerless mortal piece of earth, I think, that the Sun has ever shone brightly on.”

“Oh, Hermione,” Paulina said, “as every present time boasts itself to be better than a better age that has passed, so must your grave give way to what’s seen now! This living Princess is being called more beautiful than you, my late Queen!”

She said to the gentleman, “Sir, you yourself have spoken and written about Queen Hermione’s beauty, but your writing now is colder than that theme. You wrote about her, ‘She had not been, nor ever was to be equaled.’ Your verse flowed with her beauty once: it is shrewdly ebbed now that you say that you have seen a better woman than Hermione.”

“Please pardon me, madam,” the gentleman said. “I have almost forgotten Hermione — I beg your pardon — but this new woman, when you see her, will have your praises, too. This is a creature who, if she were to begin a religious sect, might quench the zeal of all followers of other religions, and make proselytes of everyone whom she asked to follow her.”

“Men, perhaps, but not women,” Paulina scoffed.

“Women will love her because she is a woman more worthy than any man,” the gentleman said. “Men will love her because she is the rarest of all women.”

“Go, Cleomenes,” King Leontes ordered. “You, assisted with your honored friends, will bring them here so that we can welcome them. Still, it is strange that Prince Florizel should visit us without previous notification.”

Cleomenes and a few other gentlemen departed.

Paulina said, “If our Prince Mamillius, that jewel of children, had seen this hour, he would be much like this lord. There is not even a month’s difference in the time of their births.”

“Please, say no more about Mamillius,” King Leontes said. “Cease talking about him. You know that he dies to me again when I hear him talked about. I am sure that when I shall see this gentleman, your speeches will make me think about my son’s death, and that may take away my reason.”

He looked up and said, “Here they come.”

Cleomenes and the other gentlemen escorted Prince Florizel and Perdita into the room and the presence of King Leontes.

King Leontes said, “Prince Florizel, we know that your mother was completely true to her husband because she made an exact copy of your royal father when she conceived and gave birth to you. If I were twenty-one years old again, your father’s image is so stamped in you — his exact appearance, manner, and bearing! — that I would call you brother, as I did him, and speak about some wild deed that he and I did together.

“You are very dearly welcome! And your fair Princess — she is a goddess! Sadly, I lost a couple — my wife and my son — who between Heaven and Earth might have stood begetting wonder as you and your Princess, a gracious couple, do. I also lost — through my own folly — the society and the friendship of your splendid father, whom, although my life is miserable, I hope to live long enough to once more see.”

Prince Florizel said, “By my father’s command, I have here landed on Sicily and from him I give you all greetings that a King, in friendship, can send his brother. Except that the infirmity that attends old age has somewhat seized hold of and taken away some of the ability he wishes he had, he himself would have traveled the lands and waters that lie between your throne and his so that he could see you, whom he loves — he told me to tell you this — more than all living Kings who bear scepters.”

“Oh, King Polixenes, my brother, you good gentleman!” King Leontes said. “The wrongs I have done you stir afresh within me, and these your official friendly greetings, which are so wonderfully kind, show me that I have been remiss in not sending you such friendly greetings.

“You, Prince Florizel, are as welcome here as is the spring to the Earth. And King Polixenes has also exposed this paragon — your Princess — to the fearful, or at least, rough treatment of the dreadful Neptune, god of the seas, to greet a man not worth her trouble, much less the risk of her life.”

“My good lord,” Prince Florizel said, “my Princess came from Libya.”

“Isn’t Libya where the warlike Smalus, that noble and honored lord, is feared and loved?” King Leontes asked.

“Yes, most royal sir, she came from there,” Prince Florizel said. “When she parted from him, his tears proclaimed that she was his daughter. From Libya, a friendly and helpful south wind helped us sail here so we could obey the order my father gave me to visit your Highness. I have sent away from your Sicilian shores the best part of my train of followers. They are heading for Bohemia to tell my father the good news of my success in getting a wife from Libya and the good news that my wife and I have safely arrived in Sicily.”

“May the blessed gods purge all disease from our air while you stay here!” King Leontes said. “You have a holy father, a graceful gentleman, against whose person, as sacred as it is, I have sinned, for which the Heavens, taking angry note of my sin, have left me without a child. In contrast, your father is blessed — and he deserves to be blessed by Heaven — with you, who are worthy of his goodness.

“I wish that I had acted differently so that now I might have a son and daughter to look on — a son and daughter as good as you!”

A lord entered the room and said, “Most noble sir, that which I shall report would not be believed if the proof of it were not so near. If it should please you, great sir, King Polixenes of Bohemia greets you from himself by me. He wants you to arrest his son, who has — casting aside his dignity as a Prince and his duty as a son — fled from his father, from his hopes of inheriting the crown, and with a shepherd’s daughter.”

“Where’s the King of Bohemia?” King Leontes asked. “Tell me.”

“He is here in your city,” the lord said. “I just now came from him. I speak amazedly; and my confused speech is suitable for my wonderment and my message. While he was hurrying to your court, chasing, it seems, this fair couple here, he met on the way the father of this woman — who has the appearance of a lady — and her brother, both of whom fled from their country with this young Prince.”

“Camillo has betrayed me,” Florizel said, “although his honor and honesty until now endured all weathers. Never before has he betrayed me.”

The lord said, “You will be able to charge him with that. He’s with the King, your father.”

“Who? Camillo?” King Leontes asked.

“Yes, Camillo, sir,” the lord said. “I spoke with him; he is now interrogating these two poor men whom I mentioned. I have never seen wretches so quake in fear like them. They kneel, and they kiss the earth; they perjure and contradict themselves as often as they speak. The King of Bohemia stops his ears, and he threatens them with different ways of torturing them to death.”

“Oh, my poor father!” Perdita said. “The immortal gods have set informers upon us. The immortal gods will not allow us to be formally married.”

“Are you formally married?” King Leontes asked.

“We are not, sir, nor are we likely to be,” Prince Florizel replied. “The stars, I see, will kiss the valleys first. The odds of a high-born person marrying a low-born person are the same as that of all the stars kissing the valleys.”

“My lord,” King Leontes asked, “is this woman the daughter of a King?”

“She is,” Prince Florizel replied, “when once she is my wife.”

“That ‘once’ I see by your good father’s speed will come on very slowly,” King Leontes said. “I am sorry, very sorry, you have displeased him and ignored your duty to obey him, and I am as sorry that your choice to be your wife is not as rich in birth as she is in beauty. If she were, then you might very well enjoy her.”

Prince Florizel said to Perdita, “Dear, look up and cheer up. Although Lady Fortune, who is clearly an enemy to us, should chase us with my father, she has no power at all to change our love for each other.”

He then said to King Leontes, “I beg you, sir, remember when you were as young as I am now. Remember the love that you felt then, and step forth and be my advocate. At your request, my father will grant precious things as if they were trifles.”

“If he would do so,” King Leontes said, “I would beg to be given your precious woman here, whom he considers to be only a trifle.”

“Sir, my liege,” Paulina said, “your eye has too much youth in it. Not a month before your Queen died, she was worthier of such gazes of admiration than the woman you look on now.”

“I was thinking of my late Queen even as I gazed at this woman,” King Leontes replied.

He said to Prince Florizel, “But I have not yet answered your petition. I will do that now. I will go to your father. As long as your honor is not overthrown by your desires — as long as you do not have premarital sex with this woman — I am a friend to your desires and to you. I now go to your father as your advocate; therefore, follow me and see what progress I make as your advocate. Come, my good lord.”

 — 5.2 —

Autolycus and a gentleman talked together in front of King Leontes’ palace.

Autolycus asked the gentleman, “Please tell me, sir, if you were present at this narration of events.”

“I was present at the opening of the old shepherd’s bundle, and I heard the old shepherd tell the manner of how he found it. After a period of amazedness, we were all ordered out of the chamber. One more thing I thought I heard the shepherd say is that he found the child.”

“I would very gladly know what else happened,” Autolycus said.

“I can give you only an incomplete account of what happened,” the gentleman replied, “but the changes I perceived in King Leontes and Camillo were exclamation marks of admiration. They seemed almost, with staring at one another, to tear the lids of their eyes — it was as if their eyes were starting out of their heads. Speech was in their dumbness, and language in their very gestures; they looked as if they had heard of a world ransomed, or one destroyed. A notable passion of wonder appeared in them, but the wisest beholder, who knew no more than what he saw, could not say if the meaning were joy or sorrow, but it had to be one or the other to an extreme degree. They were either very happy or filled with much sorrow.”

Another gentleman arrived, and the first gentleman said, “Here comes a gentleman who perhaps knows more than I know.”

He asked the newly arrived gentleman, “What is the news, Rogero?”

Rogero replied, “We can see nothing but bonfires everywhere in celebration of the news: The oracle is fulfilled because the King’s daughter has been found. Such a deal of wonder is broken out within this hour that ballad-makers will not be able to express it.”

A third gentleman arrived, and Rogero said, “Here comes the Lady Paulina’s steward; he can tell you more.”

Rogero said to the third gentleman, “How goes it now, sir? This news that is called true is so like an old tale that the truth of it is in strong suspicion. Has the King truly found his heir?”

“That is very true,” the third gentleman said, “if truth ever were made pregnant — filled out — by circumstantial evidence. That which you hear you’ll swear you see because there is such consistency in the evidence. The mantle of Queen Hermione’s, her jewel on the mantle’s neck, the letters of Antigonus found with it that are known to be in his handwriting, the majesty of the daughter in her resemblance to her mother, the quality of nobleness that her nature shows above her upbringing, and many other evidences proclaim Perdita with all certainty to be the King’s daughter. Did you see the meeting of the two Kings: Leontes and Polixenes?”

Rogero replied, “No.”

“Then you have lost a sight, which needed to be seen, as speaking is not sufficient to convey it. At the two Kings’ meeting, you might have beheld one joy crown another, so and in such manner that it seemed sorrow wept to take leave of them, for their joy waded in tears. The Kings cast up their eyes and held up their hands, and their countenances were so distorted by their emotion that the two Kings had to be distinguished by their clothing rather than by their faces. Our King, who was ready to leap out of his skin because of his joy at finding his daughter, as if that joy had now become a loss, cried, ‘Oh, your mother, your mother!’ Then he asked the King of Bohemia for forgiveness, then he embraced his son-in-law, and then again he vehemently embraced his daughter. Next he thanked the old shepherd, who stood by like a weather-bitten conduit of many Kings’ reigns — the old shepherd looked like a gargoyle from whose mouth rainwater pours. I never heard of such another encounter, which lames any report that tries to follow it and undoes any description that tries to describe it.”

“Can you tell me, please, what became of Antigonus, who carried the child away from here?” Rogero asked.

“That is like an old tale still, which will have content to relate, although everyone has stopped believing the tale and no one is listening to it. Antigonus was torn to pieces by a bear. The shepherd’s son witnessed this. He has not only his innocence and guilelessness, of which he seems to have much, to justify him, but he also has a handkerchief and rings that Paulina recognized as belonging to Antigonus.”

The first gentleman asked, “What became of Antigonus’ ship and his followers?”

“They were shipwrecked at the same instant of their master’s death and in the view of the old shepherd’s son so that all the people who helped to expose the child were lost at the moment when it was found. But a noble combat between joy and sorrow was fought in Paulina! She had one eye declined because her husband has been confirmed to be dead, and the other eye elevated because the oracle has been fulfilled; she wept with one eye and laughed with the other. Paulina lifted Princess Perdita from the earth, and so locked her in her hug that it was as if she wanted to pin her to her heart so that she might never again be in danger of being lost.”

The first gentleman said, “The dignity and excellence of this scene were worth the audience of Kings and Princes; for by such was it acted.”

The third gentleman said, “One of the prettiest touches of all was some angling that caught the water — my tears — although not the fish of my eyes. During the telling of the Queen’s death, with the manner how she came to it bravely confessed and lamented by King Leontes, his daughter, who paid close attention, was wounded. She made one sign of dolor after another, and with a sign of mourning she — I dare say — bled tears. I am sure that my own heart wept blood. Whoever was most marble there changed color; even those who were the most hard-hearted melted. Some fainted, and all sorrowed. If everyone in the world could have seen it, the woe would have been universal.”

“Have they returned to the court?” the first gentleman asked.

“No,” the third gentleman replied. “The Princess heard about her mother’s statue, which is in the keeping of Paulina. The statue is a masterpiece many years in the making and has been just now completed by that talented Italian master Julio Romano, who, if he had eternity and could put breath into his work, would take away from Nature her job of creating living human beings, so perfectly is he her imitator. He has made his statue so closely resemble Hermione that they say a person would speak to the statue and wait in expectation of an answer. They have eagerly gone to see the statue, and there they intend to dine.”

The second gentleman said, “I thought that Paulina had some great matter going on there because she has privately twice or thrice a day, ever since the death of Hermione, visited that remote house. Shall we go there and add our company to the rejoicing?”

The first gentleman said, “Who would be anywhere else if he had the benefit of access? With every wink of an eye some new grace will be born. Our absence makes us unthrifty to our knowledge — we are wasting an opportunity to add to our knowledge. Let’s go.”

The gentlemen departed.

Alone, Autolycus said, “Now, if I did not have a dash of my former life in me, good things would drop on my head. I brought the old shepherd and his son aboard the Prince’s ship, and I told him that I had heard them talk about a bundle and I know not what. Unfortunately, the shepherd’s daughter, as the Prince then thought her to be, although he was overly fond of her, began to be very seasick, and the Prince was almost as seasick, and so the solution of this mystery remained undiscovered. But it is all one to me. Even if I had been the finder out of this secret, it would not have been appreciated because of my many criminal actions.”

The old shepherd and Clown walked toward Autolycus. They were dressed in the clothing of gentlemen.

Autolycus said, “Here come those I have done good to against my will; they are already appearing in the blossoms of their good fortune.”

“Come, boy,” the old shepherd said. “I am past fathering more children, but your sons and daughters will be all gentlemen born.”

This was not quite accurate — daughters cannot be gentlemen. In addition, a gentleman born has to have had three generations of nobility on both sides — the paternal and the maternal. The old shepherd’s grandchildren — Clown’s children — would most likely have three generations only on the paternal side.

Clown said to Autolycus, “You are well met, sir. You declined to fight with me the other day because I was not a gentleman born. Do you see these clothes? Say to me that you do not see them and that you still think that I am not a gentleman born. You had best say that these robes are not gentlemen born. Give me the lie, do, and try whether I am not now a gentleman born. As a gentleman, I must fight anyone who says that I am lying and that I am not a gentleman.”

“I know you are now, sir, a gentleman born,” Autolycus replied.

“Yes, and I have been a gentleman born for these last four hours,” Clown said.

“And so have I, boy,” the old shepherd said.

“So you have, but I was a gentleman born before my father because the King’s son took me by the hand, and called me brother first,” Clown said, “and then the two Kings called my father brother; and then the Prince my brother and the Princess my sister called my father, father; and so we wept, and those were the first gentleman-like tears that ever we shed.”

“We may live, son, to shed many more.”

“Yes, or else it would be hard luck, being in so preposterous estate as we are.”

Clown meant that they were in a prosperousstate, but “preposterous” seems more apt.

“I humbly ask you, sir,” Autolycus said, “to pardon all the faults I have committed to your worship and to give a good report about me to the Prince my master.”

“Please do, son,” the old shepherd said. “We must be gentle now that we are gentlemen.”

The old shepherd’s notion of gentlemen was that they are generous.

“Will you amend your life?” Clown asked Autolycus.

“Yes, if your worship wants me to.”

“Give me your hand,” Clown said. “I will swear to the Prince that you are as honest and true a fellow as any fellow is in Bohemia.”

“You may say it, but do not swear it,” the old shepherd said.

“Not swear it, now I am a gentleman?” Clown said. “Let peasants and farmers say it, I’ll swear it.”

“Suppose that you swear to something that is false, son?”

“Even if it is false, a true gentleman may swear it on behalf of his friend,” Clown replied.

He said to Autolycus, “I’ll swear to the Prince that you are a brave fellow and good with weapons and that you will not be drunk; but I know that you are not a brave fellow and are not good with weapons and that you will be drunk. Nevertheless, I’ll swear it, and I wish that you were a brave fellow and good with weapons.”

“I will try to be one to the best of my ability,” Autolycus said.

“Yes, by any means prove that you are a brave fellow,” Clown said. “If I do not wonder how you can dare to be drunk when you are not a brave fellow, then do not trust me. Listen! King Polixenes and King Leontes, and the Prince and the Princess, our kindred, are going to see the Queen’s image. Come and follow us — we’ll be your good advocates.”

 — 5.3 —

In the chapel of Paulina’s house were King Leontes, King Polixenes, Prince Florizel, Princess Paulina, some lords, and some attendants.

King Leontes said, “Oh, dignified and good Paulina, I have received great comfort from you!”

“Sovereign sir, I have always meant well even if sometimes I have not done well. All my services you have paid for in full, but you are more than gracious when, with your crowned brother — King Polixenes — and these your engaged heirs — Prince Florizel and Princess Perdita — of your Kingdoms, you visit my poor house. This is an honor that I will never be able to repay you.”

“Oh, Paulina,” King Leontes said, “we are giving you the trouble of hosting us, but we came to see the statue of our Queen. We have passed through your art gallery, which has many notable artworks, but we have not seen the artwork that my daughter came to look upon: the statue of her mother.”

Paulina replied, “As she lived peerless, so her dead likeness, I do well believe, excels whatever yet you looked upon or the hand of man has done; therefore, I keep it lonely, apart from the other artworks. But here it is, in my chapel. Prepare to see life as closely imitated as ever still sleep has imitated death. Look at it, and say it is well created.”

Paulina drew a curtain and revealed the artwork. All were silent as they looked at the statue of Hermione.

Paulina said, “I like your silence; it very much shows your wonder. However, you should speak. First, you, my liege, don’t you think that it comes very near to life?”

King Leontes said, “This is Hermione’s natural posture! Criticize me, dear stone, so that I may say indeed you are Hermione. Or rather, you are she in that you are not criticizing me because Hermione was as tender and gentle as infancy and grace. But, Paulina, Hermione was not as wrinkled as this statue is. She was not as old as this statue seems to be.”

King Polixenes said, “Not as old by many years.”

“This reveals the excellence of the sculptor,” Paulina said. “He has sculpted Hermione as if sixteen years had passed. He has sculpted her as she would be if she were still alive today.”

“The statue looks as she would look now if she were still alive,” King Leontes said. “She would have added much to the quality of my life, and my soul is pierced because she is not alive. Oh, in life she stood like this statue. She had such life of majesty, warm life — but the statue coldly stands — when I first wooed her! I am ashamed. Doesn’t the stone rebuke me for being more stone — in my heart — than it? Oh, royal sculptural masterpiece, there’s magic in your majesty, which has conjured me to remember and has taken the ability to move from your daughter, Perdita, who is standing as still as stone, like you.”

Perdita said, “Give me permission — and do not say that it is superstition — to kneel before this statue and implore her blessing.”

She said to the statue, “Lady, dear Queen, whose life ended when my life had just began, give me that hand of yours to kiss.”

“Be patient!” Paulina said. “Do not touch the statue. It has been newly set on the pedestal and newly painted — the paint is not dry.”

Camillo said to King Leontes, “My lord, your sorrow was too sorely laid on you. The winds of sixteen winters cannot blow away your sorrow, and the Suns of sixteen summers cannot dry up your sorrow. Scarcely any joys have lasted that long, and all other sorrows have killed and ended themselves before that length of time.”

“My dear brother,” King Polixenes said to King Leontes, “let me, who was a cause of this, have permission to take off so much grief from you as I will bear myself. Let me share your sorrow and so relieve you of a part of it.”

“Indeed, my lord,” Paulina said to King Leontes, “if I had thought the sight of my poor image of Hermione would have so affected you — for the stone sculpture is mine — I would not have showed it to you.”

She moved to draw the curtain shut.

King Leontes said, “Do not draw the curtain.”

“You shall not look any longer at the statue,” Paulina said, “lest your imagination make you think that the statue moves.”

“Let it be so, let it happen,” King Leontes said. “May I die if I don’t already think that —”

He was going to say “the statue moves,” but instead he asked, “— who was the sculptor who created this?”

He then asked King Polixenes, “Look at it, my lord. Wouldn’t you say that the statue breathes — and that those veins do truly carry blood?”

“The statue is masterly created,” King Polixenes said. “Life truly seems warm upon her lips.”

King Leontes said, “The way that the eyes are set seem to make them move. Art is mocking us by making us think that art is life.”

“I’ll draw the curtain,” Paulina said. “My lord is almost so far transported that he’ll soon think that the statue is alive.”

“Sweet Paulina, make me think that for the next twenty years!” King Leontes said. “No sane senses of the world can match the pleasure of the madness of thinking that this statue is alive. Let the curtain alone.”

“I am sorry, sir, that I have thus far afflicted you, but I could afflict you farther,” Paulina said.

“Do that, Paulina,” King Leontes said, “because this affliction has a taste as sweet as any heart-warming drink. Still, I think, breath is coming from her. What fine chisel could ever cut breath? Let no man mock me, for I will kiss her.”

“My good lord, don’t kiss the statue,” Paulina said. “The ruddiness upon her lips is wet paint. You’ll mar the statue if you kiss it and stain your own lips with oily painting. Shall I draw the curtain?”

“No,” King Leontes said. “Do not draw the curtain for the next twenty years.”

“I could stand here for that long and look at this statue,” Perdita said.

Paulina said, “Either stop and immediately leave this chapel, or prepare yourself to experience more amazement. If you can behold it, I’ll make the statue truly move, descend from the pedestal, and take you by the hand; but then you’ll think — which I protest is not true — that I am assisted by wicked powers.”

King Leontes said, “What you can make her do, I will be happy to see. What you can make her speak, I will be happy to hear. It is as easy to make her speak as move.”

“It is required that you awaken your faith,” Paulina said. “Everyone stand still, and let’s go on. Anyone who thinks that what I am about to do is unlawful business can depart.”

“Proceed,” King Leontes said. “No foot shall stir away from here.”

Paulina said, “Music, wake her; begin to play!”

Music started to play.

Paulina said to the statue, “It is time; descend.”

The statue, of course, did not move.

“Be stone no more.”

The statue, of course, did not move.

“Approach.”

The statue, of course, did not move.

“Strike all who look upon you with marvel and wonder.”

The statue, of course, did not move.

“Come, and I’ll fill your grave up.”

The statue, of course, did not move.

“Move, and come here. Bequeath to death your numbness, because dear life redeems you from death.”

The statue moved.

Paulina said, “You can see that she moves.”

The living Hermione came down from the pedestal and went to King Leontes and held out her hand to him.

Paulina said to King Leontes, “Do not be startled. Her actions shall be as holy as you hear my spell is lawful. I am not practicing black magic. Do not shun her until you see her die again because if you shun her then you kill her twice. Do not hold back. Present your hand to her. When she was young, you wooed her; in old age is she now to become the suitor?”

King Leontes held her hand and said, “Oh, she’s warm! If this is magic, let it be an art as lawful as eating.”

King Polixenes said, “Hermione is embracing him.”

Camillo said, “She is hanging on his neck. If she is alive, let her speak, too.”

“Yes,” King Polixenes said, “and tell us where she has been living — or how you stole her from the Land of the Dead.”

“That she is alive,” Paulina said, “you would scoff at if it were merely told to you as in an old tale, but you can see that she is alive, although she has not yet spoken. Wait a little while longer.”

She said to Perdita, “It is your time to intervene, please, fair madam. Kneel and ask for your mother’s blessing.”

She said to Hermione, “Turn, good lady; our Perdita is found.”

Hermione said, “You gods, look down and from your sacred vials pour your blessings upon my daughter’s head! Tell me, my own daughter, where have you been preserved? Where have you lived? How did you come to your father’s court? You shall hear that I, learning from Paulina that the oracle gave hope that you were still alive, have preserved myself so I could see you again.”

“There’s time enough for telling our stories,” Paulina said. “Others may at this time interrupt your joy as they tell their own parts of the story. Go together, all you precious winners, and share your exultation with everyone. I, an old turtledove, will fly to some withered bough and there until I am dead I will lament my mate, who is dead and will never again be found.”

“Be at peace, Paulina!” King Leontes said. “You should take a husband on my recommendation, as I have taken a wife on your recommendation. This is an agreement that was made between us by vows. You have found my wife, but how you found her is a question to be answered because I saw her, as I thought, dead, and I have in vain said many prayers upon her grave.

“I’ll not seek far — as for him, I partly know his mind — to find you an honorable husband.”

He then said, “Come, Camillo, and take Paulina by the hand. Her worth and honesty are very well known and here vouched for by Polixenes and me, a pair of Kings.

“Let’s go from this place.”

He then said to Hermione, who was uncertain how to act with King Polixenes, “What! Look upon my brother King. I beg both your pardons that ever I put between your holy and chaste looks my ill suspicion.

“This is Prince Florizel, your future son-in-law, and son of King Polixenes. Prince Florizel, as directed by the Heavens, is engaged to your daughter.”

He then said, “Good Paulina, lead us away from here to some place where we may leisurely learn from each one which part he or she performed in this wide gap of time since first my wife and I were separated. Lead us hastily away.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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