Dear Mr. Shakespeare. . . Can I call you Bill?

Dear Mr. Shakespeare,

I'm working on a writing project. . . a collaboration of sorts with you. I'm filling in some of the story for "A Winter's Tale" that you neglected to include. Hope you don't mind. Just want to see what you think of this so far. . .feel free to "like" it if you think I'm on the right track. Yes, some of the lines are yours, but more and more of them will be mine, as we follow Hermione around for the 20 years or so that she was off stage. 

Anyway, I hope you like it. Suggestions are welcome. I'll keep working in the meantime. 

Yours Sincerely,

An American admirer who shares your birthday

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The Trials of Wandering Grace

Inspired by A Winter’s Tale, by William Shakespeare

 

Act 1. Scene 1. The action takes place in three distinct areas on the stage, all at once. In Leontes’ court. Courtiers gather around, shocked as Leontes condemns his wife Hermione for adultery. On another part of the stage, Polixenes is accosted by Camillo. And another area is the antechamber to the cell where Hermione has been held.

 

In the court:

Hermione

No! (she screams in agony, a long jagged, grasping scream. Collapses in hysterics, clawing and beating the ground with her fists. She is attended by Paulina, her gentlewoman.)No, no, no no.

Paulina

My lady, my poor lady! Merciful gods, send some comfort to my good queen.

Leontes

This queen, who you would call good? As I am king I’ll say she is none! Whore!

(There is shocked mumbling from the onlookers)

Paulina

My lord, I beseech you, stop your mouth in your baseless attacks on this, fairest lady!

Leontes

(to Paulina) Call you she fair? (To Hermione) Adultress! Traitor!

Hermione

No! (She screams again, breaking free of Paulina and throws herself on the ground)

Leontes

Take them away!

The two women retreat to Hermione’s chamber. On another part of the stage, Polixenes hurries through the castle to see what all the commotion is about.

Camillo

(Agitated and out of breath) Polixenes, a word!

Polixenes

Camillo, what is the matter?

Camillo

I know not how to speak what I am sworn to.

Polixenes

Do not stall the news that turns you pale and anxious with bearing it.

Camillo

I . . . .

Polixenes

Out with it! As a king and guest in this royal house, I command thee speak.

Camillo

I am appointed to murder you sir— to place poison in your drink this very night.

Polixenes

(shocked) What? By whom?

Camillo

King Leontes, my master.

Polixenes

(in disbelief) For what offense under heaven am I thus punished?

Camillo

He thinks, nay he swears sir, that you have touched the queen forbiddenly.

Polixenes

(enraged) He who fosters these lies ‘gainst myself and that sweet lady is both base and false

Camillo

The king doth rail against her majesty in the court, this very hour.

Leontes

Off to prison with that vile, slippery, bed swerver!

Polixenes

I will not hear such slander, not for Bohemia nor for thy mistress, a precious creature, and rare.

Camillo

There is no deciphering how the king has been so misled, but the vision of betrayal by his dearest friend and his dearest wife has possessed his brain and overtaken his reason.

Polixenes

I must counter these wicked charges

Camillo

There is no time! You are already murdered by him you did once love.

Polixenes

Then what’s to be done?

Paulina

(Leaving Hermione and picking up the baby Perdita. She presents the child to the king, in the court.) Look to your babe, my lord. By this clock she is yet just three hours old and already, mark you how she looks. Never doubt it, sire, she is yours.

Leontes

(He points) This brat is none of mine! It is the issue of Polixenes. Hence with it and together with the dam, commit them to the fire!

Paulina

It is a gross and foolish tyrant who could so blemish his gracious queen.

Leontes

Out with you, you miserable hag! You mankind witch!

Camillo

Accept me to your service as I disobey my liege, who is now ruled by wretched jealousy.

Polixenes

I will, and will heed thy counsel.

Camillo

I believe your ships are ready.

Polixenes

Yes. My people did expect my hence departure two days ago.

Camillo

Swiftly then, let us away.              

(They exit, bound for the docks, and then Bohemia)

Leontes

(pointing at Paulina) And away with this harpy!

Antigonus

My lord, you are abused by some by some putter-on that will be damned for it. Would I knew the villain!

Paulina

There’s surely some ill-planet reigns o’er this. My lady has done nothing to be deserved of such denigration.

Leontes

Is whispering nothing? Is leaning in cheek to check? Skulking in corners, kissing with inside lip? Are these things nothing?

Paulina

Lies most foul!

Antigonus

Good my lord, be cured of this diseased opinion. It does corrupt your sight and bend your reason to the breaking point. The all-knowing Oracle at Delphi did proclaim the Queen innocent of any false suit—

Leontes

Damn the oracle to the same hell where I now do dwell, being so wronged by those who professed to love me much.

Paulina

The gods’ edict will not be cast aside like a fortune teller’s song. You may rule this kingdom of Sicilia, but sure you’ve no sway in the heavens where Apollo reigns.

Hermione

(She screams in agony again, now holding the limp body of her 12 year old son Mamillius. She lays him down on the ground and cries over his body.) My son! My beautiful son, as innocent as his newly born sister!

Paulina

Lady, what is the matter?

Hermione

He is dead. (she cries hysterically) No, no no no no. It is too much to bare.

Paulina

(to Leontes) As was foretold to you. The verdict of the oracle will not be ignored. The gods will strike at your injustice!

Leontes

I said away with them, wretches all!

(Paulina begins to exit with the baby and is stopped by Leontes)

Leontes

Put down that mewing, squealing bundle. ‘Tis none of yours to nurse, nor no honorable person of this court.

Paulina

But sire!

Leontes

Hand that pile of beggars’ rags to your husband Antigonus, I command you. He is unwilling to muzzle you, to lead and ride you as a chattel beast of burden, but I have no such qualms.

Paulina

A most unworthy and unnatural lord! ‘Tis inhuman to keep the babe from her mother’s arms.

Leontes

Let this foundling make her own way. Like a nest of rats swept from the larder, she’ll none of my stores.

Antigonus

But my noble sire!

Leontes

As you are loyal to me, as you do love me, Antigonus, you must swear upon your sword that you will obey me now, or be hanged along with all other traitors to this throne.

Antigonus

These many years have I served thee. The King has never need question my fidelity.

aLeontes

Thy love of other days holds no weight on my scales today. Do as I command thee now, or do not return to this court or country.

Antigonus

(reluctantly) I am ever your servant.

Leontes

Carry this bastard hence. Take it to some remote and deserted place, and there thou leave it without protection, where chance may save or end it. I care not.

Antigonus

(despairing) I swear to do this, though a present death would be more merciful.

Paulina

Antigonus, no!

Leontes

Stay thy tongue, witch!

Antigonus

(To the baby Perdita) Come on poor babe. Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens to be thy protectors. Wolves and bears, they say, casting their savageness aside, have done like offices of pity.

Leontes and Antigonus exit, along with members of the court. Paulina returns to Hermione without the baby.

Hermione

(Hysterical) No!!! No no no no no. . .Oh, My child! My sweet, beautiful babe! Do not steal her from me, the last thing that I do love in this world. Oh Perdita. Like thy namesake, thou art truly lost. Oh gods deliver me. . .Teach me to breathe no more. Teach my limbs to wither and my hands, my heart, my soul to feel no more. It is too much anguish and woe for this feeble body to bear.

Paulina

Hush, my lady. Be calm and find comfort here. (She embraces Hermione)

Hermione

(breaking free from Paulina’s arms) The crown and comfort of my life, the favor of the King is lost, for I do feel it gone. My second joy and first fruits from my body, look, my son, now cold and still. He lies heavy on the ground. My third comfort, is from my bosom haled out for murder. While myself, on every post proclaimed a strumpet.

Paulina

I must believe this madness in the king, which will pass like a summer fever.

Hermione

While my babe cries, forsaken on some distant shore.

Paulina

The time will come, he shall he remember his sweet queen, and thy innocence, which is marked so plainly upon both you and the child.

Hermione

But neither queen nor princess shall live to see that day. Oh woe!

Paulina

I beg you my lady, put away thy fears for now and rest with me.

Hermione

(railing) The emperor of Russia was my father. Oh that he were alive, and here beholding his daughter’s trial; that he did but see my misery with eyes of pity. And revenge.

Paulina

The oracle has told all. Hermione is chaste. Polixenes blameless. Camillo a true subject, Leontes, a jealous tyrant, his innocent babe truly begotten. And your father’s curse from beyond the grave will not need serve, for Apollo has decreed that the King will live without an heir if that which is lost be not found.

Hermione

What world is this, where the purest, unblemished truth holds no sway? Folly and jealousy rule within this tormenter’s kingdom. Oh Paulina, I fear I shall run mad. (She starts tearing at her hair)

Paulina

Hark now, do not hurt that noble lady whom I do love.

Hermione

I fear I cannot recover from this assault, each scurrilous attack launched from my own husband’s hands. My brittle bones are broken like straws. Though sheltered behind my embankments ‘til now, more this castle under siege cannot endure.

Paulina

(She has the glimmer of an idea.)(softly, as she takes the queen in her arms)  But you will. You will. Shh. . .

Hermione

(sarcastic) Tell me what blessings I have here that I should stay and live.

Paulina

None, my lady. Not until the oracle’s prophecy be fulfilled.

Hermione

Tell me how I shall remain, stripped of all I love and left naked in the very court where I did reign. By all the gods, I shall run mad indeed!

Paulina

Yes, you must away. Let you fly far from this place.

Hermione

What’s this?

Paulina

I’ll to the King with reports that you are dead. That Apollo’s anger did strike you down as further punishment for him, in the face of such injustice.

Hermione

(She runs wildly away) Then my path is cleared. I am gone.

Paulina

But stay a moment! The world outside this castle is not safe for thee.

Hermione

Oh Paulina, consult your incantations now. Summon what strange magic you possess and transform me to stronger stuff, that I may try to outrun my virtue’s ruin and a mother’s tumbling grief.

(Paulina mumbles with eyes closed, casting a spell on Hermione. She feels herself being transformed)

Hermione

What have you wrought of this bruised and beaten body?

Paulina

Now fear nothing. You shall be fierce as thy Russian princess’s heart by day and calm as the floating spirit by night.

Hermione

Am I newly armed, wearing this new silhouette, casting this new shadow?

Paulina

Yes. I will send for thee when it is safe for your return. Until then, may the gods protect and keep you.

Hermione runs away from the castle, out into the night.

Safer away, than in Sicilia now to stay.

Paulina exits, heading back to the court.