As Polixenes suspected, his son was wooing the Old Shepherd's daughter Perdita. The young lovers were preparing for the sheep-shearing festival held at the shepherd's estate. Perdita had disguised Florizel in some country clothes and had given him the name of Doricles, just in case anyone recognised him but the disguise did not allay her fears that their romance would be discovered by his father.

"These unusual clothes make you look quite different," Florizel said to Perdita. "Not a shepherdess, but the goddess Flora ushering in spring. Your sheep-shearing celebration is a gathering of the rural deities, and you are their queen."

"Sir, my gracious lord, to rebuke your rather lavish compliments is unbecoming- but forgive me if I elaborate. Your Royal Highness is the focus of every eye in the country, but you are attired in rural rags. And as for me, I’m only a lowly country girl made up to be worshipped! At our feasts we have all kinds of jokers and the harvesters love every minute of it. I will be embarrassed to see you dressed like that, and I'll be forever reluctant to look in the mirror just in case I look that way too."

"I bless the day my good falcon made her flight across your father's land."

"Jove give you cause to say so! Our difference in class makes me nervous- your position means you’ve never had that feeling. Even now I tremble that your father, by some accident, should pass this way just as you did. Oh, the Fates! He would be pleased to see his son dressed like this! What would he say? And how should I, in fancy dress, behold the sternness of his presence?"

"Expect only joy! Doesn't Ovid tell us that the gods themselves resorted to disguise in the pursuit of love? Jupiter became a bull and spent his days bellowing. Neptune became a lamb and was happy to bleat. Apollo dressed himself as farm lad, just like me now! Their transformations were not for a beauty rarer than you, nor in a way so chaste- since neither my desires run before my honour, nor my lusts burn hotter than my vow to marry you."

"Oh, but, sir, your resolve cannot sustain opposition from your father the King, which is inevitable. One of two things must happen. You will submit to his will or I will be forced to change my life."

"Dear Perdita, don't darken the mood of the feast by thinking like that. I'll be yours, Perdita, not my father's. If I cannot be my own man, I won't be worth anything to anybody. To this I am most constant, regardless of destiny. Be merry, be gentle. Get rid of such thoughts as these with anything that will occupy your mind. Your guests will soon be here- cheer up! Pretend this is our wedding day!"

"Oh lady Fortune, look over us!"

"Look, the guests for the feast are starting to arrive. Let’s welcome them with smiling faces."

The Old Shepherd and Clown led a group of guests to the tables prepared in the courtyard. Two shepherdesses, Mopsa and Dorcas, were in high spirits. Quite a few other agricultural workers from the valley joined them. The jovial and unconcerned atmosphere allowed a disguised Polixenes and Camillo join the gathering unimpeded.

"Goodness, daughter! When my old wife was alive, on harvest feast she was pantry mistress, butler, cook, hostess and servant. Welcomed all, served all, sang her songs and danced her turn. One minute at the top of the table and then in the middle of the table, her face red with work, supping on some mead to quench her own thirst and that of her guests. And you act as though you're here as guest not hostess! Now, please, welcome these new friends and make them better friends. Do your duty as hostess of the feast. Welcome all to your sheep-shearing feast, and your good flock shall prosper."

And the first of the guest's to receive Perdita's personal welcome was Polixenes.

"Sir, welcome. It is my father's will I should be the hostess of the day."

Polixenes smiled broadly, obviously captivated by Perdita's beauty. She then welcomed Camillo.

"You're welcome, too, sir."

Camillo was also intrigued by the mysteriously familiar beauty of this young woman.

"Dorcas, give me those flowers," Perdita called. "Welcome guests, for you gentlemen there's rosemary and rue. These keep their appearance and aroma all winter long. May they remind you of us and allow to you to forget past misdemeanours, and a welcome to our shearing celebrations."

"Shepherdess, and a beautiful one at that, these flowers of winter are appropriate to our years," Polixenes said.

"Sir," Perdita replied, "the year is getting on, summer's but not over and the winter is not upon us. The fairest flowers of the seasons are the carnations and those gillyflowers with streaky pink tones, which some call nature's bastards. Our rustic garden's barren of those and I had no wish to seek out cuttings."

"Why, gentle maiden, do you neglect them?" Polixenes asked.

"For I have heard it said there are things which their streakiness shares with the great creating spirit of Nature."

"So it is said. Yet Nature is made better by none other those derived from Nature- ourselves. You see, sweet maid, we marry a gentler offshoot to the wildest stock, and create something base from something noble: this is an art that interferes with Nature and changes it, but is itself natural."

"True."

"Then make your garden rich in gillyflowers and don't call them crossbreed blossoms," Polixenes said.

"I'll not put the trowel in earth to plant one cutting, no more than if I was made up with the false face of cosmetics and this youth said that it was my cosmetic face that made him want to marry me. But here are flowers for you. Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram. The marigold that goes to bed with the sun and with him rises weeping. These are flowers of middle summer, and I think they are given to men of middle age. You're very welcome."

"If I was in your flock," Camillo said, "I would forget about grazing and live by gazing."

"Sir, you embarrass me! You’d be so thin the January winds would blow you away."

Perdita turned to Florizel: "Now, my friend, I wish I had some spring flowers, more suited to your time of life. And some for the shepherdesses, too. Flowers from Persephone, the beautiful kind she was collecting when the myth tells us she was taken to Hades. Daffodils that flower and dazzle with their beauty even before the swallows arrive on the winds of March. Violets are as sweet as Juno, Queen of the gods, and as the breath of Venus. Primroses, young and fragile, with no experience of love. Give me oxlips and lilies and irises, enough flowers for me to make garlands to cover my sweet friend!"

"What, like a corpse?" exclaimed Florizel.

"No, like a riverbank where love can bask and play. Not like a corpse, or if so, not a body to be buried, but alive and in my arms. Come, take your flowers. I think I am playing as they do in the Whitsun festivities. My dress changes my mood."

"What you do always exceeds what you have just done. When you speak, sweet, I’d have you repeat it. When you sing, I’d have you give us an encore, so run your household and give alms. Sing too- and when you do dance, I wish you were like an ocean wave, repeating the movement forever! That and no other function! Everything you do is so singularly wonderful it exceeds what you did only a moment ago."

"Oh, Doricles, your praise is too lavish! If it wasn't for your youth and breeding, which are apparent and show you are an inappropriate shepherd, I’d think you were trying to seduce me with flattery," Perdita said out of Polixenes' hearing.

"I think you have as little reason to fear as I have reason to frighten you. But listen, it's our dance. Your hand, my Perdita. We will be like turtle doves that pair never meaning to part."

"I'll do as they do," Perdita replied.

As the young couple danced, Polixenes and Camillo observed their every move.

"This is the prettiest low-born lass ever found on a farm! Everything she does hints at something greater than her situation. Far too noble for this place," Polixenes said.

"Look at them! He has told her something that makes her blush," Camillo said. "Look out, by God, she is the queen of curds and cream."

Meanwhile Clown yelled at the musicians, "Come on, strike up!"

"Mopsa must be your girlfriend," Dorcas the shepherdess said to Clown. "Give her garlic to sweeten her kisses!"

"Is that a fact!" Mopsa snorted.

"None of that!" Clown said. "We're on our best behaviour. Band, strike up!"

Now the musicians on their fiddles and hurdy-gurdies began to play music that the young farmers, shearers and shepherds could dance to.

"Tell me, good shepherd," Polixenes asked Perdita’s father, "who is the handsome young man dancing with your daughter?"

"They call him Doricles, and he boasts of having come from a good home. I have his word for it and I believe him. It certainly looks true. He says he loves my daughter. I think so too, for the moon never gazed upon the water as he stands and reads, as it were, my daughter's eyes. To be plain, I think there is not half a kiss to choose who loves the other best."

"She dances gracefully," Polixenes said.

"As she does everything- even if I say it when I should be modest. If young Doricles does marry her, she shall bring him a happiness he hasn't even dreamed of."

Polixenes was about to quiz the Old Shepherd thoroughly when one of the farm servants interrupted.

"Oh, master, if you heard the peddler at the gate, you would never dance again to a tabor and pipe, even the bagpipe wouldn’t move you. This fellow sings several tunes faster than you can count money. He sings as though he had eaten ballads and all men's ears were under his spell."

"He couldn't have come at a better time," Clown said. "Bring him in. I love a ballad whether it is a silly song with a merry tune or a happy song that sounds sad."

"He has songs for man and woman," the servant added, "songs of all kinds, no milliner can fit his customers as precisely. He has the prettiest love-songs for maids, all without smut, which is unusual. None of the predictable double meanings."

"He sounds as if he could hold an audience," Polixenes said.

"Believe me," Clown said, "you make him sound like an amazing fellow. Does this travelling man have any bargains with him?"

"He has ribbons of all the colours of the rainbow," the servant replied, "and lace with more points than all the lawyers in Bohemia can understand. He gets everything wholesale- linens, ribbons and fine materials. Why he sings about his wares as though a dress were an angel, and he chants about cuffs and breast stitching."

"Bring him in and let him get singing," Clown said.

"Warn him," Perdita said, "that he can't use any scurrilous words in his tunes."

The servant left to bring in the peddler.

"You have some peddlers who have more in them than you think, sister," Clown said.

"Yes, brother, or like to think they have!"

The peddler came into to the yard singing away. It was Autolycus with a false beard.

 "Lawn as white as driven snow,

Cypress black as the crow,

Gloves as sweet as damask rose,

Masks for faces and for noses,

Bugle bracelet, necklace amber,

Perfume for a lady's chamber,

Golden caps and corsets

For my lads to give their dears:

Pins and poking-sticks of steel;

What maids lack from head to heel:

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

Buy lads, or else your lasses will cry: Come buy."

Many of the guests at the tables turned and listened to Autolycus, who brought a basket of his wares for sale.

"If I were not in love with Mopsa, you wouldn’t get any money out of me," Clown said to Autolycus, "but being enthralled as I am, I suppose I’ll have to pay for gifts of ribbons and gloves."

"I was promised them for the feast," Mopsa said, "so they're here just in time."

"He has promised you more than that," Dorcas added, "or there be liars."

"He has certainly paid you all he promised you," Mopsa sniped to Dorcas, "possibly he has paid you more, which will shame you to give him again."

"Whatever happened to manners among the maids?” Clown asked. "Will they make what is private public? Is there not milking-time, or when you are going to bed, or the kitchen to gossip rather than tittle-tattling before all our guests? Just as well they're not listening. Clam up your tongues and not a word more."

"I have said all I’m going to say," Mopsa said. "Come, you promised me a lovely scarf and a pair of sweet gloves."

"Have I not told you how I was robbed on the road and lost all my money?"

"And indeed, sir," Autolycus said "there are robbers about. Therefore it pays men to be wary."

"Fear not, man, you shall lose nothing while you are here," Clown assured the peddler.

"I hope so, sir. For I have with me many items of value."

"What have you here? Ballads?" Clown asked.

"Pay now for one," Mopsa pleaded to Clown, "I love a song about life, then we know for sure it's true."

"Here's one to a very doleful tune," Autolycus said, "about how a money-lender’s wife who gave birth to twenty money-bags at the same time and how she longed to eat adders' heads followed by sliced and grilled toads."

"Is it true, do you think?" Mopsa asked.

"Very true, and was only written a month ago."

"Save me from marrying a money-lender!" Dorcas squealed.

"Here's the name of midwife who saw it, a certain Mistress Taleporter. There were also five or six honest wives present. Why should I go around telling lies?" Autolycus asked grandly.

"Please, Clown, pay for him to sing!" Mopsa begged.

"Come on then, keep it for later. First let’s hear more of your ballads. We'll pay you to sing now."

"Here's another ballad, about a fish that appeared on the coast on Wednesday the twenty-fourth of April, forty-thousand fanthoms above where it should have been, and sung this ballad against the hard hearts of maids. It was thought the fish was originally a woman and was turned into a cold fish because she wouldn't exchange flesh with the one who loved her. The ballad is very sad but true."

"Is it true too, you think?" Dorcas asked captivated.

"Five justices confirmed it, and there were more witnesses than my backpack will hold."

"Leave it to later, another," Clown said.

"This is a merry ballad, but a very pretty one."

"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 maid about who doesn't sing it. It's always requested, I can tell you."

"We can both sing it," Mopsa said, "If you take a part, then you shall hear it. It’s in three parts."

"We had the tune of it a month ago,” Dorcas added.

"I can sing my part, you must know it’s my occupation!" Autolycus said. "Let's have a go:

“Get you hence, for I must go

Where it fits not you to know."

"Where?" Dorcas sang.

"Oh, where?" Mopsa sang.

"Where?" from Dorcas.

"It becomes your oath full well,

You to me your secrets tell." Mopsa yelled.

"Me too, let me go there." Dorcas sang.

"Or you go to the grange or mill." from Mopsa.

"If to either, you do ill." from Dorcas.

"Neither." Autolycus sang.

"What, neither?" from Dorcas.

"Neither." From Autolycus.

"You have sworn my love to be." Dorcas sang.

"You have sworn it more to me.

Then where goes it? Say, where?” Mopsa sang.

"We can hear this song by ourselves," Clown said, "my father and the gentlemen are deep in sad talk, and we'll not trouble them. Come, peddler, bring away your pack. Wenches, I'll buy songs for both of you. Peddler, let's have the first choice. Follow me, girls."

Clown, Dorcas and Mopsa left the courtyard to hear their songs in private.

"And you shall pay well for 'em," Autolycus yelled and began singing:

"Will you buy any tape,

Or lace for your cape,

My dainty duck, my dear-ah?

Any silk, any thread,

Any toys for your head,

Of the newest and finest, finest wear-ah?

Come to the peddler;

Money's a meddler.

That does utter all men's ware-ah."

In the courtyard the servant appeared again to tell the Old Shepherd about more visitors:

"Master, we have three carters, three shepherds, three cowherds and three swineherds, who have disguised themselves as hairy men. They call themselves Saltiers, and they have a dance which the wenches say is a mad medley of silly songs just because they are not in it, but they themselves are of the mind, if it be not too rough for some that know little but are not too genteel, it will please many."

"Away! We'll have none on of it. There has been too much tom-foolery here already,” the Old Shepherd said and added to Polixenes “I know, sir, we weary you.”

"You only weary those who want to refresh us. Please, let's see these four trios of herdsmen."

"One of the three," the servant said, "has, or so he claims, danced before the King. And not the least talented of the three jumps twelve and a half foot by the square."

"Okay, curtail your prattling. Since these good men are keen to see this, let them come in, but quickly now," said Old Shepherd.

"Why, they're at the door, sir."

The servant escorted the dancing satyrs to their audience and they spent some time treating the guests to their routine. Polixenes and the shepherd continued their conversation throughout the entertainment.

"Oh, Old Shepherd," Polixenes said, "you'll know more of that hereafter."

Polixenes whispered to Camillo: "Is it not too far gone? It's time to part them. He's simple and tells much."

Now the disguised Polixenes turned his attention to his disguised son: "Well, fair shepherd! Your heart is full of something that takes your mind off the feast. Indeed, when I was young and in love as you are, I was in the habit of spoiling my girl with gifts. I would have ransacked the peddler’s silken treasury and lavished her with gifts- you have let him go and have bought your beloved nothing. If your lass takes a dim view of that and rebukes you for your lack of love or bounty, you'd be pushed for a reply, you should at least make an effort to keep her yours."

"Old sir," Florizel replied to his father, "I know she prizes not such material trifles as these. The gifts she looks for from me are packed and locked up in my heart, which I have given already, but not delivered. Oh, hear me swear my life before you sir, whom, it would seem, once loved! I take this hand, Perdita's hand, as soft and as white as dove's down, or as white as an Ethiopian's tooth, or twice as white as the blowing snow that's brought by the northern winds."

"What follows this? How prettily the young swain seems to wash the hand which was fair before! I have put you out. But to your protestation, let me hear what you do profess."

"Do, and be witness to it."

"And my companion too?" Polixenes said in reference to Camillo.

"And he, and more than he- all men, the earth, the heavens, and all. If I were crowned the most imperial monarch, the most worthy of men, if I were the fairest, the strongest, the most intelligent and powerful man ever seen, it would mean nothing without Perdita. To her I offer all my superior qualities and my failings I reject."

"Fairly offered," Polixenes observed.

"This shows a genuine affection," Camillo said.

"But, my daughter, do you say the same to him?" the shepherd asked?

"I cannot speak so well, nothing so well, nor can I mean better. The pattern of my own thoughts matches his."

"Take hands, a bargain!" the shepherd yelled. "New friends, you shall bear witness to it. I give my daughter to him, and will make her dowry equal his wealth."

"Oh, that must be in the virtue of your daughter," Florizel said. "When a certain individual is dead I will have more than you can ever dream of. Enough to keep you wondering. But, hurry, betroth us before these witnesses."

"Come, your hand young man. And, daughter, yours."

Polixenes fidgeted nervously, he knew he would soon have to reveal his identity.

"Soft, swain, a while, I ask you- do you have a father?"

"I have. But what of him?"

"Does he know about your wedding plans?"

"He neither does nor shall."

"I think a father is the most important guest at the nuptial of his son. Please, tell me, is your father too old to manage his affairs? Is he senile and doddering with age? Can he speak? Hear? Know one man from the other? Bedridden and incontinent? Childish?"

"No, good sir. He has his health and indeed ampler strength than have most of his years."

"By my white beard," Polixenes said, "you wrong him with this unfilial behaviour. It is fair that a son should choose himself a wife, but it is just as fair that the father, whose joy is nothing else but posterity, should have some say in such a business."

"I agree with all of this," Florizel said, "but for some other reasons, my grave sir, which it is inappropriate for you to know, I have not acquainted my father with my wedding plans."

"Let him know of them."

"He shall not."

"Please, let him."

"No, he must not."

"Let him, my son," Old Shepherd said, "he will have no need to grieve at your choice."

"Come, come, he must not. Mark our vows," Florizel defiantly said.

At this Polixenes threw off his disguise in a thunderous rage:

"Mark your divorce, young sir! I dare not call you son! You are too base to be acknowledged. You, an heir to the throne taking up with a shepherd's daughter! And as for uoy Old Shephered, You’re an old traitor, I am sorry that by hanging you I can only shorten your life by a mere week!  And as for you, you cunning little vixen, you will find out what kind of fire you are playing with!"

"Oh, my heart!" the shepherd squealed.

"I'll have your beauty scratched with brier brushes until you’re quite the plain Jane!” Polixenes bawled at Perdita. "As for you, fond boy, if I ever hear of you seeing this trickster again – and I intend you will not- Bohemia will be bar you from the succession, an outcast, not of my blood, not of my kin- a fellow I would not know from any of the masses begotten by Deucalion when he renewed the human race after the flood. Pay heed to my warning. Follow us to the court. Shepherd, you old peasant, despite my intense displeasure I will spare you my deadly rage. You, beautiful witch, worthy enough for a herdsman, and Florizel too if it were not for my royal blood running through him. He has compromised his royal stature. If you ever open your cottage doors or attempt to lure him again I will devise for you a death of cruelty as unearthly as your beauty.”

Polixenes snapped his fingers to indicate his departure should be organised. Camillo stayed close to Florizel- he was hatching a plan.

"Even here undone!" Perdita sobbed. "I wasn’t very frightened. Once or twice I was about to speak and tell him plainly that the self-same sun that shines upon his court hides not its face from our cottage but looks on alike. Florizel, will it please you to go? I told you what would come of this. Take care of your own position. This dream of mine is now over- I'll be queen for not a moment longer. I’ll milk my ewes and weep."

"Why, father!" Camillo said to Old Shepherd, overlooking Polixenes’ leniency, "Speak before facing the ultimate penalty!"

"I cannot speak, cannot think, or even dare to know that which I know. Oh, Doricles, you have undone a man of fourscore and three- I thought I would fill my grave without any ballyhoo! I thought I’d die upon the bed my father died upon. And lie close to his honest bones. But look at this! Some hangman must put on my shroud and lay me in a place without a priestly blessing. Oh, pernicious girl, you knew that this was the Prince but adventured to mingle vows with him! Undone! Undone! If I might die within this hour, I have lived to die when I desire."

The Old Shepherd went sobbing to his house.

"Why do you look at me so, man?" Florizel asked, still not yet recognising Camillo. "I am sorry, but not frightened. I may have been delayed but nothing has changed. What I was I still am. I am more determined than ever to complete what I started, no leash will drag me around unwillingly."

"Gracious, my lord," Camillo said. "You know your father's temper. At the moment he will allow no persuasion, though I guess that was not your intention, but he can hardly look at you let alone listen to you. Until he has calmed down keep out of his way."

"I will not... Camillo, is that you?"

"Indeed, my lord."

"How often have I told you it would be like this?" Perdita sobbed to Florizel. “How often did I say my dignity would be intact only until we were discovered?"

"It cannot fail- the violation of my vow to you will destroy us, let Nature crush the sides of the earth together and mar the seeds of life within! Lift up your face. Father, wipe me from my succession and I will still be heir to a great love."

"Be cautious, Florizel," said Camillo.

"I am, and by my emotions. If my reason will be obedient, I have reason. If not, my senses, preferring madness, will welcome it with open arms."

"This is desperate, sir."

"Call it what you will but I must fulfill my vow. I need to think it is honesty. Camillo, I will not break my oath for anything- not for the King of Bohemia, not for the pomp and glory of state, not for all that the sun sees, not for all the earth's secrets, not for all the sea's secrets will I break my vow. Therefore, I ask you, as you have ever been my father's honoured friend, when he shall miss me, since I intend never to see him again, put your wisdom at the disposal of his temper. I will squabble with Fortune to determine my fate. This you may know and tell him, I have put to sea with her whom I cannot freely embrace on land. And most opportune, I have a vessel nearby although not prepared for this eventuality. Where I intend to go will do you no good to know and do me no good to tell you."

"Oh, my lord! I wish you weren't so headstrong."

"Listen, Perdita. Camillo, I'll speak after I’ve had a few words with Perdita."

Camillo sighed to himself: “He's immovable,” he thought. “He's resolved to run away. Now wouldn't I be happy if I could have his going serve my purpose and save him from danger, do him love and honour, get to see my beloved homeland and that unhappy king, my master, whom I so dearly long to see.”

"Now, good Camillo, I am so preoccupied with this stressful business that I overlook farewells."

"Sir, I think you have heard of my modest services in the love that I have borne your father?"

"Very nobly you have served him. It is my father's music to sing your praises, he always aims to reward your advice as soon as it is delivered."

"Well, my lord if you may please to think I love the King and through him what is nearest to him, which is your gracious self, embrace my plan. If your more pressing business suffers alteration, on my word, I'll point you to a place where you shall be welcomed in a manner becoming Your Highness. A place where you may enjoy your mistress, from whom, I see, there's no separation except- heaven forbid- through ruin. Marry her, and in your absence all my endeavours will strive to get your disapproving father to relent in his opposition."

"Why, Camillo, could this, almost-a-miracle, be done? I must call you something more than a man and trust you with this task."

"Have you thought of a place where you'll go?"

"Not any yet- since it was the unexpected appearance of my father which has made us desperate. So we profess ourselves to be the slaves of chance and will be susceptible to every wind that blows."

"Then listen to me. This follows, if you will not change your purpose but are determined to flee, make for Sicily. On arrival present yourself and your fair princess, for so I see she must be, before King Leontes. She should be dressed in a manner becoming the partner of your bed. Methinks I see Leontes opening his free arms and weeping his welcomes forth. He will ask the son forgiveness, as if it was the father. He will kiss the hand of your princess over and over again. He will be reminded of his unkindness towards your father and will compensate with kindness towards you. He will chase the former to hell and nurture the latter to grow faster than thought or time."

"Worthy Camillo, what explanation for my visit shall I give?"

"Sent by King Polixenes, your father, to greet him and to give him comfort. Sir, the manner of your bearing towards him, with what you, as if from your father, shall deliver things known between us three. I'll write them down for you. I'll detail what you must say at every meeting, that way he'll think you are your father's ambassador, conveying the sentiments of Polixenes’ heart."

"I am bound to you! There is potential in this."

"It's a chance more promising than abandoning yourselves to uncharted waters, undreamed shores. That's certain to bring further miseries. Anyway, you know I’m not a fair weather friend."

"Affliction may take the colour from my cheek," Perdita said, "but it will not take root in my mind."

"It will be a long time," Camillo said, "before your father's house sees another as beautiful as you."

"My good Camillo," Florizel said, "she is as ahead of me in her upbringing as she is beneath me in birth."

"I cannot say it's a pity she lacks education, for she seems too grand for those who teach," Camillo added.

"Thank you, sir. You make me blush."

"My prettiest Perdita! Oh, but we’re still in a mess! Camillo, preserver of my father, now of me, the problem solver our house! What shall we do? I don't look like the heir to the Bohemian throne and I won't convince anyone in Sicily."

"My lord, don't worry about that. I think you know my estates and possessions are all there. I will be able to put all my goods at your disposal, have you attired like a prince. The scene you will play was penned me."

To avoid alarming Perdita, Camillo took Florizel aside to tell him what to do when they reached Sicily.

Meanwhile, Autolycus was wandering about the harbour area.

"Ha, ha! Honesty is a fool! And Trust, his twin brother, a very simple gentleman! I sold all my rubbish easily. Not a jewel, a ribbon, a glass, a perfume pouch, brooch, a notebook, a ballad, a knife, tape, a glove, a lace, a bracelet to weigh my pack down. The crowds rushed at me as if I was selling holy trinkets. Thus enabling me see who had the fattest and fullest purse and what I saw was in my memory, and then in my hand. Clown was so anxious to woo that wench that he had me singing constantly, that brought the rather tipsy revellers to my lair, and as they sat in wonder at my rather lame songs it let me relieve them of all their heavy, heavy coins. Indeed if it hadn't come to light that that old man had allowed his daughter to get involved with King Polixenes’ son I would still be at it!"

Camillo and Florizel returned to Perdita who was sitting on the harbour wall.

"No," Camillo said, "my letters being with you will vouch for you."

"And those that you'll procure from King Leontes-"

"Shall satisfy your father."

"You're amazing! Everything you say makes sense."

"Who have we here?" Camillo said on seeing Autolycus. "We'll make him a participant. Don’t ignore anything that can help us."

Autolycus saw Camillo staring at him and thought he had been found out, even with his disguise removed.

"If they've overheard me now, I’ll hang," he said to himself.

"Good fellow, why do you look so nervous? Fear not, man, there's no harm intended," Camillo said to Autolycus.

"I am a poor fellow, sir."

"Why, be calm. Nobody will steal from you. Yet for your impoverished look could come in handy," Camillo said spotting at Autolycus’ clothing, "we must make an exchange. Strip quickly, and change garments with this gentleman. Although you're getting the best bargain I’ll throw in a few coins just as token of thanks for your help."

"Oh, I am a poor fellow, sir," Autolycus said, thinking he recognised Camillo.

"Quickly, quickly, the gentleman is half stripped already."

"Are you serious, sir?" Autolycus asked innocently and muttered to himself, “I smell a rat.”

"Quickly, please!" Florizel added.

"Oh, sir, I cannot take your money with a clear conscience," Autolycus whimpered.

"Unbuckle, unbuckle!" Camillo barked as Autolycus and Florizel exchanged clothes. "Perdita, let's hope my hopes for you come through. You must disguise yourself. Take Florizel’s hat and pull it low over your face and change your clothes. Try to look and walk differently than you usually do, we want to get you onto the ship without alerting any prying eyes."

"I see the plan needs me to play a part," Autolycus said to himself.

"It’s unavoidable, Perdita. Are you ready, Florizel?"

"If I now met my father he wouldn't recognise me."

"You can’t have the hat," Camillo said as he took Autolycus’ hat from Florizel and gave it to Perdita.

"Come, lady, come. Farewell, dear man," Camillo waved Autolycus away.

"Adieu, sir."

"Oh, Perdita, speak to me- have we overlooked anything?"

As Perdita and Florizel were speaking quietly, Camillo was finalising his own plans. “Now, I must tell Polixenes of their escape,” he told himself. “With luck he will go speeding after them to Sicily, a place I so long to see again.”

"Fortune speed us!” Florizel yelled. "We're off, Camillo."

"The swifter speed the better," Camillo called as Florizel and Perdita boarded their ship.

Autolycus continued to loiter and eavesdrop after the completion of his arrangement, and he was delighted with the information he had.

"I understand the business, I hear it! To have an open ear, a quick eye, and a nimble hand, is necessary for a pickpocket. A good nose is a prerequisite also, to smell out work for the other senses. I see this is time for the unjust man to thrive. What an exchange this has been, even without the money! And what a reward came with this exchange! Surely the gods are in cahoots with me! The Prince himself is up to no good, stealing away from his father with a burden he hopes to marry! If I thought it was a piece of honesty to acquaint the King with the facts I would not do it. I have certain standards to maintain, a bit of mischief is needed to conceal it ,allowing me to remain true to my profession.”

Autolycus then caught sight of the Old Shepherd and Clown who were still mourning their lot.

"I must step aside," Autolycus thought to himself. "Yet more material for a hot brain! Oh, every lane's end, every shop, church, court, hanging, yields a careful man work."

Clown and his father were bickering over their predicament.

"See, see; what a man you are now!” Clown said. "There is no other way but to tell the King she's a changeling and not your flesh and blood."

"No, but hear me."

"No, but hear me."

"Speak up, then."

"She not being your flesh and blood means your flesh and blood has not offended the King. So your flesh and blood is not to be punished by him. Show King Polixenes those things you found with her, those secret things, everything that was with her. After that, let the law go whistle. You'll see."

"I will tell King Polixenes everything. Every word, yes, and his son's pranks too, I may say, that lad is no honest man, neither to his father nor to me. The cheek of it, going about trying to make me the King's brother-in-law!"

"Indeed, brother-in-law was the farthest off you could have been to him and still your blood would be the dearer by I know-not-how-much," Clown said.

"Very wise, puppies!" Autolycus muttered to himself.

"Well, let's go to the King," the shepherd said. "There is all that's in the fardel to make him scratch his beard."

"I know not what impediment this complaint may be to the flight of my master," Autolycus said, deciding to intervene.

"Pray heartily he is at palace," Clown added.

"Though I am not naturally honest," Autolycus said to himself, "I am so sometimes by chance. Let me get rid of my peddler's disguise."

Autolycus took off his beard and accosted the shepherd and his son.

"How now, rustics! Where are you bound?"

"To the palace, if it pleases your worship."

"You have business there? What? With whom? The condition of that fardel? The place of your dwelling? Your names? Your ages, your wealth, your lineage, and anything that is fitting to be known, tell."

"We are but plain fellows, sir."

"A lie! You are rough and hairy. Let me have no lying, it becomes none but tradesmen, and they often deceive us soldiers with their shoddy workmanship. Alas, we give them money when they should get the sword. Therefore they don’t lie."

"Your worship almost lied by saying we were lying," Clown said.

"Are you a courtier, can I ask, sir?" the Old Shepherd said.

"You can ask. Yes I am a courtier. Do you see the court in these garments? Is my walk not aristocratic? Do you not smelly courtly fragrances from me? Do I not look upon you with a courtly sneer? Do you think because I coax your intentions from you prior to permitting you to see King Polixenes, I am not a courtier? I am courtier from head to toe. It is I who will decide whether your business progresses to the King's attention. Therefore, tell me everything."

"My business, sir, is for the King alone."

"What advocate have you employed?"

"I don't know, if you please."

"Advocate's the court-word for a pheasant," Clown whispered to his father. "Say you have none."

"None, sir. I have no pheasant, neither cock nor hen."

"How blessed are we who are not simple! Yet nature might have made me as these are, therefore I will be disdainful."

"He can only be but a great courtier."

"His garments are rich, but he wears them not handsomely."

"He seems to be all the more noble in being an eccentric. A great man, I'll warrant. I know by the way he picks his teeth."

"The fardel there? What's in the fardel? Why have you brought that box?"

"Sir, there are such secrets in this fardel and box, which none must know but the King, and he shall know them within the hour, if I may come to speak to him."

"Old man, have you lost your faculties?"

"Why, sir?"

"The King is not at the palace. He has gone aboard a new ship to rid himself of melancholy and get some fresh air. For if you are here on a serious errand you must know the King is full of grief."

"So it is said, sir," the shepherd said, "something about his son planning to marry a shepherd's daughter."

"If that shepherd is not under arrest, let him run. The curses he shall have, the tortures he shall feel will break the back of the man, the heart of any monster."

"You think so, sir?" Clown asked.

"Not only shall he suffer what invention can make heavy and vengeance bitter, but even those related to him, regardless of being fifty times removed, shall all come under the hangman. Though it is a great pity, it is necessary. An old sheep-whistling rogue, a ram-tender, to offer to have his daughter marry into the royal family! Some say he will be stoned, but that death is too soft for him, say I. Drag our throne into a sheep pen! All deaths are too few, the most brutal torture too easy."

"Has the old man a son, sir, did you hear. If I can ask, sir?" Clown stuttered.

"He has a son, who will be flayed alive and then anointed with honey and placed on the head of a wasp's nest. Then left to stand until he is almost dead but then resuscitated with a liquor or some other hot infusion and then, raw as he is, on the hottest day of the year he shall be set against a brick-wall, the sun looking down upon him with its searing southerly rays, where it will toast him until the flies finish him off. But why do we talk about these traitorly rascals, whose miseries are to be smiled at, their offences being so capital? Tell me, for you seem to be honest plain men, what you have for the King. For a small gratuity I'll take you where he is aboard, introduce you to him and whisper in his ear on your behalf. If any other than the King can help you it is I."

"He seems to be a man of great authority," Clown said to his father. "Deal with him, give him gold, and though authority is a stubborn bear, it's often led by the nose with gold. Show the inside of your purse to the outside of his hand, and no more time wasting. Remember stoned and flayed alive."

"If you please, sir, to undertake the business for us, here is the gold I have. I'll make it as much again and until I bring it to you, I’ll leave my young son in pawn."

"After I have done what I promised?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, give me what you have. Young man," Autolycus asked Clown, "are you a party to this business?"

"In some sort, sir, but though my case be a pitiful one, I hope I shall not be flayed out of it."  

"Oh, you mean the case of the Old Shepherd's son- hang him, he'll be made an example."

"We must get to the King," Clown whispered to his father," and show our strange sights. He must know Perdita's neither your daughter nor my sister, otherwise we are goners. Sir, I will give you as much as this old man does when the business is complete, and remain, as he says, your pawn till it be brought to you."

"I will trust you. Walk on ahead toward the seashore, go on the right hand. I will but relieve myself at this hedge and then follow you."

"Father, we are blessed in this man, as I may say, blessed."

"Let's go as he told us. He is willing to do us good."

Clown and his father followed Autolycus’ instructions, as he prepared to abscond with their money.

"If I had a mind to be honest, I see Fortune would not suffer me- she drops rewards in my lap. I am courted now with a double occasion, gold and the means to do the Prince, my master, some good. Who knows how that may turn back to my advancement? I will bring these two moles, these blind ones, aboard the Prince's ship. If he think it fit to put them ashore and that the matter they have with the King doesn't concern him, let him call me rogue for being so far officious; for I am proof against that title and what shame else belongs to it. To him will I take them, something may come of it."