The Winter's Tale (Dover Thrift Editions)

The Winter's Tale (Dover Thrift Editions)

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by William Shakespeare

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Running an emotional gamut from betrayal and broken hearts to romance and reconciliation, this 1611 tragicomedy begins with the tyrannical actions of a jealous king, whose baseless suspicions destroy his own family. The play's second half takes place 16 years later, when the lively plot takes a lighthearted turn, abounding in song and dance.  See more details below


Running an emotional gamut from betrayal and broken hearts to romance and reconciliation, this 1611 tragicomedy begins with the tyrannical actions of a jealous king, whose baseless suspicions destroy his own family. The play's second half takes place 16 years later, when the lively plot takes a lighthearted turn, abounding in song and dance.

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Thrift Editions Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.20(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1

Enter Camillo and Archidamus

ARCHIDAMUS If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia,

on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.

CAMILLO I think this coming summer the King of Sicilia means to pay Bohemia the visitation which he justly owes him.

ARCHIDAMUS Wherein our entertainment shall shame us, we will be justified in our loves, for indeed-

CAMILLO Beseech you-

ARCHIDAMUS Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge: we cannot with such magnificence - in so rare - I know not what to say. We will give you sleepy drinks, that your senses, unintelligent of our insufficience, may, though they cannot praise us, as little accuse us.

CAMILLO You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.

ARCHIDAMUS Believe me, I speak as my understanding instructs me and as mine honesty puts it to utterance.

CAMILLO Sicilia cannot show himself over-kind to Bohemia. They were trained together in their childhoods and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection which cannot choose but branch now. Since their more mature dignities

and royal necessities made separation of their society,

their encounters, though not personal, have been royally attorneyed with interchange of gifts, letters, loving embassies, that they have seemed to be together, though absent, shook hands, as over a vast, and embraced, as it were, from the

ends of opposed winds. The heavens continue their loves.

ARCHIDAMUS I think there is not in the world either malice or matter to alter it. You have an unspeakable comfort of your young prince Mamillius: it is a gentleman of the greatest promise that ever came into my note.

CAMILLO I very well agree with you in the hopes of him: it is a gallant child; one that indeed physics the subject, makes old hearts fresh. They that went on crutches ere he was born desire yet their life to see him a man.

ARCHIDAMUS Would they else be content to die?

CAMILLO Yes; if there were no other excuse why they should desire to live.

ARCHIDAMUS If the king had no son, they would desire to live on crutches till he had one. Exeunt

Act 1 Scene 2 running scene 1 continues

Enter Leontes, Hermione, Mamillius, Polixenes, Camillo [and


POLIXENES Nine changes of the wat'ry star hath been

The shepherd's note since we have left our throne

Without a burden. Time as long again

Would be filled up, my brother, with our thanks.

And yet we should, for perpetuity,

Go hence in debt: and therefore, like a cipher,

Yet standing in rich place, I multiply

With one 'We thank you' many thousands moe

That go before it.

LEONTES Stay your thanks a while,

And pay them when you part.

POLIXENES Sir, that's tomorrow.

I am questioned by my fears of what may chance

Or breed upon our absence, that may blow

No sneaping winds at home, to make us say

'This is put forth too truly'. Besides, I have stayed

To tire your royalty.

LEONTES We are tougher, brother,

Than you can put us to't.

POLIXENES No longer stay.

LEONTES One sev'nnight longer.

POLIXENES Very sooth, tomorrow.

LEONTES We'll part the time between's then, and in that

I'll no gainsaying.

POLIXENES Press me not, beseech you, so.

There is no tongue that moves, none, none i'th'world

So soon as yours could win me. So it should now,

Were there necessity in your request, although

'Twere needful I denied it. My affairs

Do even drag me homeward, which to hinder

Were in your love a whip to me, my stay

To you a charge and trouble. To save both,

Farewell, our brother.

LEONTES Tongue-tied, our queen? Speak you.

HERMIONE I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until

You had drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,

Charge him too coldly. Tell him you are sure

All in Bohemia's well: this satisfaction

The bygone day proclaimed. Say this to him,

He's beat from his best ward.

LEONTES Well said, Hermione.

HERMIONE To tell, he longs to see his son, were strong.

But let him say so then, and let him go.

But let him swear so, and he shall not stay,

We'll thwack him hence with distaffs.-

Yet of your royal presence I'll adventure To Polixenes

The borrow of a week. When at Bohemia

You take my lord, I'll give him my commission

To let him there a month behind the gest

Prefixed for's parting.- Yet, good deed, Leontes,

I love thee not a jar o'th'clock behind

What lady she her lord.- You'll stay?

POLIXENES No, madam.

HERMIONE Nay, but you will?

POLIXENES I may not, verily.


You put me off with limber vows. But I,

Though you would seek t'unsphere the stars with oaths,

Should yet say 'Sir, no going.' Verily,

You shall not go; a lady's 'Verily' is

As potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?

Force me to keep you as a prisoner,

Not like a guest: so you shall pay your fees

When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?

My prisoner? Or my guest? By your dread 'Verily',

One of them you shall be.

POLIXENES Your guest, then, madam.

To be your prisoner should import offending,

Which is for me less easy to commit

Than you to punish.

HERMIONE Not your jailer, then,

But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question you

Of my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys.

You were pretty lordings then?

POLIXENES We were, fair queen,

Two lads that thought there was no more behind

But such a day tomorrow as today,

And to be boy eternal.

HERMIONE Was not my lord

The verier wag o'th'two?

POLIXENES We were as twinned lambs that did frisk i'th'sun,

And bleat the one at th'other. What we changed

Was innocence for innocence. We knew not

The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dreamed

That any did. Had we pursued that life,

And our weak spirits ne'er been higher reared

With stronger blood, we should have answered heaven

Boldly 'Not guilty', the imposition cleared

Hereditary ours.

HERMIONE By this we gather

You have tripped since.

POLIXENES O, my most sacred lady,

Temptations have since then been born to's. For

In those unfledged days was my wife a girl;

Your precious self had then not crossed the eyes

Of my young play-fellow.

HERMIONE Grace to boot!

Of this make no conclusion, lest you say

Your queen and I are devils. Yet go on.

Th'offences we have made you do we'll answer,

If you first sinned with us, and that with us

You did continue fault, and that you slipped not

With any but with us.

LEONTES Is he won yet?

HERMIONE He'll stay, my lord.

LEONTES At my request he would not.- Aside?

Hermione, my dearest, thou never spok'st

To better purpose.


LEONTES Never, but once.

HERMIONE What? Have I twice said well? When was't before?

I prithee tell me. Cram's with praise, and make's

As fat as tame things. One good deed dying tongueless

Slaughters a thousand waiting upon that.

Our praises are our wages. You may ride's

With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere

With spur we heat an acre. But to th'goal:

My last good deed was to entreat his stay:

What was my first? It has an elder sister,

Or I mistake you - O, would her name were Grace! -

But once before I spoke to th'purpose: when?

Nay, let me have't: I long.

LEONTES Why, that was when

Three crabbèd months had soured themselves to death,

Ere I could make thee open thy white hand

And clap thyself my love; then didst thou utter

'I am yours for ever.'

HERMIONE 'Tis grace indeed.-

Why, lo you now, I have spoke to th'purpose twice: To Polixenes?

The one forever earned a royal husband;

Th'other for some while a friend. Takes Polixenes' hand

LEONTES Too hot, too hot! Aside

To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.

I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances,

But not for joy, not joy. This entertainment

May a free face put on, derive a liberty

From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,

And well become the agent. 'T may, I grant.

But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,

As now they are, and making practised smiles,

As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere

The mort o'th'deer - O, that is entertainment

My bosom likes not, nor my brows.- Mamillius,

Art thou my boy?

MAMILLIUS Ay, my good lord.

LEONTES I' fecks!

Why, that's my bawcock. What? Hast smutched thy nose?-

They say it is a copy out of mine.- Come, captain, Aside?

We must be neat; not neat, but cleanly, captain.

And yet the steer, the heifer and the calf

Are all called neat.- Still virginalling Aside

Upon his palm?- How now, you wanton calf!

Art thou my calf?

MAMILLIUS Yes, if you will, my lord.

LEONTES Thou want'st a rough pash and the shoots that I have

To be full like me.- Yet they say we are Aside?

Almost as like as eggs; women say so,

That will say anything. But were they false

As o'er-dyed blacks, as wind, as waters, false

As dice are to be wished by one that fixes

No bourn 'twixt his and mine, yet were it true

To say this boy were like me.- Come, sir page, To Mamillius

Look on me with your welkin eye. Sweet villain!

Most dear'st, my collop! Can thy dam, may't be

Affection?- Thy intention stabs the centre. Aside?

Thou dost make possible things not so held,

Communicat'st with dreams - how can this be? -

With what's unreal thou coactive art,

And fellow'st nothing. Then 'tis very credent

Thou mayst co-join with something, and thou dost,

And that beyond commission, and I find it,

And that to the infection of my brains

And hard'ning of my brows.

POLIXENES What means Sicilia?

HERMIONE He something seems unsettled.

POLIXENES How, my lord?

LEONTES What cheer? How is't with you, best brother?

HERMIONE You look as if you held a brow of much distraction.

Are you moved, my lord?

LEONTES No, in good earnest.-

How sometimes nature will betray its folly, Aside?

Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime

To harder bosoms!- Looking on the lines

Of my boy's face, methoughts I did recoil

Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreeched,

In my green velvet coat; my dagger muzzled,

Lest it should bite its master, and so prove,

As ornaments oft do, too dangerous.

How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,

This squash, this gentleman.- Mine honest friend, To Mamillius

Will you take eggs for money?

MAMILLIUS No, my lord, I'll fight.

LEONTES You will? Why, happy man be's dole! My brother,

Are you so fond of your young prince as we

Do seem to be of ours?

POLIXENES If at home, sir,

He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter;

Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy;

My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all.

He makes a July's day short as December,

And with his varying childness cures in me

Thoughts that would thick my blood.

LEONTES So stands this squire

Officed with me. We two will walk, my lord,

And leave you to your graver steps.- Hermione,

How thou lovest us, show in our brother's welcome.

Let what is dear in Sicily be cheap.

Next to thyself and my young rover, he's

Apparent to my heart.

HERMIONE If you would seek us,

We are yours i'th'garden: shall's attend you there?

LEONTES To your own bents dispose you: you'll be found,

Be you beneath the sky.- I am angling now, Aside

Though you perceive me not how I give line.

Go to, go to!

How she holds up the neb, the bill to him!

And arms her with the boldness of a wife

To her allowing husband!

[Exeunt Polixenes, Hermione and Attendants]

Gone already?

Inch-thick, knee-deep, o'er head and ears a forked one!-

Go, play, boy, play. Thy mother plays, and I

Play too, but so disgraced a part, whose issue

Will hiss me to my grave. Contempt and clamour

Will be my knell. Go play, boy, play.- There have been,

Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now.

And many a man there is, even at this present,

Now while I speak this, holds his wife by th'arm,

That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence

And his pond fished by his next neighbour, by

Sir Smile, his neighbour. Nay, there's comfort in't

Whiles other men have gates and those gates opened,

As mine, against their will. Should all despair

That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind

Would hang themselves. Physic for't there's none:

It is a bawdy planet, that will strike

Where 'tis predominant; and 'tis powerful, think it,

From east, west, north and south. Be it concluded,

No barricado for a belly. Know't,

It will let in and out the enemy

With bag and baggage. Many thousand on's

Have the disease, and feel't not.- How now, boy?

MAMILLIUS I am like you, they say.

LEONTES Why that's some comfort. What, Camillo there?

CAMILLO Ay, my good lord. Comes forward

LEONTES Go play, Mamillius, thou'rt an honest man.-

[Exit Mamillius]

Camillo, this great sir will yet stay longer.

CAMILLO You had much ado to make his anchor hold:

When you cast out, it still came home.

LEONTES Didst note it?

CAMILLO He would not stay at your petitions, made

His business more material.

LEONTES Didst perceive it?-

They're here with me already, whisp'ring, rounding Aside

'Sicilia is a so-forth.' 'Tis far gone

When I shall gust it last.- How came't, Camillo, To Camillo

That he did stay?

CAMILLO At the good queen's entreaty.

LEONTES At the queen's be't. 'Good' should be pertinent,

But so it is, it is not. Was this taken

By any understanding pate but thine?

For thy conceit is soaking, will draw in

More than the common blocks. Not noted, is't,

But of the finer natures? By some severals

Of head-piece extraordinary? Lower messes

Perchance are to this business purblind? Say.

CAMILLO Business, my lord? I think most understand

Bohemia stays here longer.


CAMILLO Stays here longer.

LEONTES Ay, but why?

CAMILLO To satisfy your highness and the entreaties

Of our most gracious mistress.

LEONTES Satisfy?

Th'entreaties of your mistress? Satisfy?

Let that suffice. I have trusted thee, Camillo,

With all the nearest things to my heart, as well

My chamber-councils, wherein, priest-like, thou

Hast cleansed my bosom, I from thee departed

Thy penitent reformed. But we have been

Deceived in thy integrity, deceived

In that which seems so.

CAMILLO Be it forbid, my lord!

LEONTES To bide upon't, thou art not honest: or,

If thou inclin'st that way, thou art a coward,

Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining

From course required: or else thou must be counted

A servant grafted in my serious trust

And therein negligent: or else a fool

That see'st a game played home, the rich stake drawn,

And tak'st it all for jest.

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The Winter's Tale (Pelican Shakespeare Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It begins as the perfect ending to a fairy tale. Everyone is in love, and is living happily ever after. And then jealousy begins its evil spin. The king accuses his wife of being unfaithful and orders her to be put to death. Will the king realize the error of his ways before it is too late?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This play is absolutely brilliant! Despite its facade of being set in a fantasy land, the emotions behind the characters are very realistic. There is even humor embeded in all the drama and anguish, most especially played out in the 'begger' Autolycus. A must read for all who love drama.
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linnylou More than 1 year ago
Well, I wanted a version that would help me see how close the movie was to the actual story. I ordered the wrong version, as this was the actual stage written version, in the old English. very hard to understand, and confusing as after each set of conversations there were stage directions etc. not exactly what I wanted
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I've heard this work described as The Bard's most mature work and I've had the privilege of seeing it performed lived. I'm not sure I would describe it as "mature," however there is an element of something that makes "The Winter's Tale" stand out from his other works. It's not a straight comedy, nor is it exactly a tragedy. There are issues Shakespeare touches on, very real, very human, very relatable issues that bring this work to a different level. The wordcraft is just as masterful as anything Shakespeare has done, perhaps a little more, which makes it a little hard to follow completely; at times I found myself re-reading passages in order to understand all of it. I would recommend this play only if you have read a great deal of Shakespeare.
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Nancy Kerber More than 1 year ago
I actullaly haven't read it but I'm in the play so I know that it is an amazing story