A prison.

Enter PAULINA, a Gentleman, and Attendants

PAULINA

The keeper of the prison, call to him;
let him have knowledge who I am.

Exit Gentleman

Good lady,
No court in Europe is too good for thee;
What dost thou then in prison?

Re-enter Gentleman, with the Gaoler

Now, good sir,
You know me, do you not?

Gaoler

For a worthy lady
And one whom much I honour.

PAULINA

Pray you then,
Conduct me to the queen.

Gaoler

I may not, madam:
To the contrary I have express commandment.

PAULINA

Here's ado,
To lock up honesty and honour from
The access of gentle visitors!
Is't lawful, pray you,
To see her women? any of them? Emilia?

Gaoler

So please you, madam,
To put apart these your attendants, I
Shall bring Emilia forth.

PAULINA

I pray now, call her.
Withdraw yourselves.

Exeunt Gentleman and Attendants

Gaoler

And, madam,
I must be present at your conference.

PAULINA

Well, be't so, prithee.

Exit Gaoler

Here's such ado to make no stain a stain
As passes colouring.

Re-enter Gaoler, with EMILIA

Dear gentlewoman,
How fares our gracious lady?

EMILIA

As well as one so great and so forlorn
May hold together: on her frights and griefs,
Which never tender lady hath born greater,
She is something before her time deliver'd.

PAULINA

A boy?

EMILIA

A daughter, and a goodly babe,
Lusty and like to live: the queen receives
Much comfort in't; says 'My poor prisoner,
I am innocent as you.'

PAULINA

I dare be sworn
These dangerous unsafe lunes i' the king,
beshrew them!
He must be told on't, and he shall: the office
Becomes a woman best; I'll take't upon me:
If I prove honey-mouth'd let my tongue blister
And never to my red-look'd anger be
The trumpet any more. Pray you, Emilia,
Commend my best obedience to the queen:
If she dares trust me with her little babe,
I'll show't the king and undertake to be
Her advocate to the loud'st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight o' the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades when speaking fails.

EMILIA

Most worthy madam,
Your honour and your goodness is so evident
That your free undertaking cannot miss
A thriving issue: there is no lady living
So meet for this great errand. Please your ladyship
To visit the next room, I'll presently
Acquaint the queen of your most noble offer;
Who but to-day hammer'd of this design,
But durst not tempt a minister of honour,
Lest she should be denied.

PAULINA

Tell her, Emilia.
I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from't
As boldness from my bosom, let 't not be doubted
I shall do good.

EMILIA

Now be you blest for it!
I'll to the queen: please you,
come something nearer.

Gaoler

Madam, if't please the queen to send the babe,
I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
Having no warrant.

PAULINA

You need not fear it, sir:
This child was prisoner to the womb and is
By law and process of great nature thence
Freed and enfranchised, not a party to
The anger of the king nor guilty of,
If any be, the trespass of the queen.

Gaoler

I do believe it.

PAULINA

Do not you fear: upon mine honour,
I will stand betwixt you and danger.

Exeunt

 

 

Some days passed before Paulina, the headstrong and outspoken wife of Antigonus, could visit Hermione in prison. She had difficulty getting permission because the King's fury and the terror and paranoia that had settled over the court. When she and her attendants finally arrived at the stale-smelling dungeon, Paulina found it quiet but oppressive. A guard stopped her, but on recognising her was deferential.
"The keeper of the prison, call to him. Let him know who I am."
As Paulina waited for the gaoler she pondered Hermione's situation: "Good lady, no court in Europe is too good for you- what are you doing in this prison?"
The guard returned with jailer.
"Now, good sir, you know me, do you not?"
"A worthy lady and one whom I greatly respect."
"Please then take me to Queen Hermione."
"I can’t, madam. I have express orders to the contrary."
"What a carry on! To lock up the honest and honourable from the access of gentle visitors! Isn't it lawful, I ask, to see the Queen’s ladies? Any of them? Emilia?"
"So please you, madam, please dismiss your attendants. I shall bring Emilia out."
"Please, call her. Withdraw yourselves," Paulina said to her ladies.
Paulina’s ladies climbed the stairway to the prison entrance with some reluctance.
"And, madam, I must be present as you speak," the jailer said.
"Well, so be it."
Once the jailer had Paulina's agreement on that matter he left to fetch Emilia.
“Such a fuss,” Paulina thought, “looking for crimes where there are none.”
 After a short time the jailer returned with Emilia, who looked tired, drawn and thin.
"Dear gentlewoman, how fares our gracious lady?" Paulina asked.
"As well as one so great and so forlorn may hold together. With her shock and grief, which no tender lady ever coped better, she delivered prematurely."
"A boy?"
"A daughter, a healthy babe. Lusty and likely to live. The Queen receives much comfort from the child and says, My poor prisoner, I am as innocent as you."
"I swear these dangerous and lunatic fits in the King, curses to them! He must be told of the birth, and he shall. This is a duty most becoming to a woman. I'll do it. If I prove honey-mouthed let my tongue blister, but let me curtail my fury. Please, Emilia, convey my loyalty to the Queen. If she dares trust me with her little babe, I'll show it to the King and undertake to be her advocate to the loudest. We do not know if he may soften at the sight of the child. The silence of pure innocence often persuades when speaking fails."
"Most worthy madam, your honour and your goodness is so evident that your voluntary assistance cannot fail a thriving infant. There is no lady living so suitable for this great errand. Please, Your Ladyship, wait and I'll immediately tell the Queen of your noble offer. Why only today she herself considered something along these lines. She didn't try asking a minister lest she should be denied."
"Tell her, Emilia. I'll use the tongue I have. If wit flows from my tongue as easily as boldness from my bosom, let it not be doubted I shall do good."
"Now be you blessed for it! I'll go to the Queen. Please gaoler, I wish to speak to you."
"Madam, if it pleases the Queen to send the babe, I know not what punishments I shall incur for allowing it to pass. I have no warrant."
"You need not fear, sir,” Paulina said. “This child was prisoner to the womb and is by law and the process of nature now free, neither a party to the anger of the King nor guilty of, if any exist, the trespass of the Queen."
"I do believe it."
"Don’t fear- upon my honour, I will stand between you and the King's wrath.”
The gaoler went with Emilia to take the infant from the Queen and returned with the lovingly-wrapped child to be given to Paulina.