Bohemia. The palace of POLIXENES.
Enter POLIXENES and CAMILLO
I pray thee, good Camillo, be no more importunate:
'tis a sickness denying thee any thing; a death to
It is fifteen years since I saw my country: though
I have for the most part been aired abroad, I
desire to lay my bones there. Besides, the penitent
king, my master, hath sent for me; to whose feeling
sorrows I might be some allay, or I o'erween to
think so, which is another spur to my departure.
As thou lovest me, Camillo, wipe not out the rest of
thy services by leaving me now: the need I have of
thee thine own goodness hath made; better not to
have had thee than thus to want thee: thou, having
made me businesses which none without thee can
sufficiently manage, must either stay to execute
them thyself or take away with thee the very
services thou hast done; which if I have not enough
considered, as too much I cannot, to be more
thankful to thee shall be my study, and my profit
therein the heaping friendships. Of that fatal
country, Sicilia, prithee speak no more; whose very
naming punishes me with the remembrance of that
penitent, as thou callest him, and reconciled king,
my brother; whose loss of his most precious queen
and children are even now to be afresh lamented.
Say to me, when sawest thou the Prince Florizel, my
son? Kings are no less unhappy, their issue not
being gracious, than they are in losing them when
they have approved their virtues.
Sir, it is three days since I saw the prince. What
his happier affairs may be, are to me unknown: but I
have missingly noted, he is of late much retired
from court and is less frequent to his princely
exercises than formerly he hath appeared.
I have considered so much, Camillo, and with some
care; so far that I have eyes under my service which
look upon his removedness; from whom I have this
intelligence, that he is seldom from the house of a
most homely shepherd; a man, they say, that from
very nothing, and beyond the imagination of his
neighbours, is grown into an unspeakable estate.
I have heard, sir, of such a man, who hath a
daughter of most rare note: the report of her is
extended more than can be thought to begin from such a cottage.
That's likewise part of my intelligence; but, I
fear, the angle that plucks our son thither. Thou
shalt accompany us to the place; where we will, not
appearing what we are, have some question with the
shepherd; from whose simplicity I think it not
uneasy to get the cause of my son's resort thither.
Prithee, be my present partner in this business, and
lay aside the thoughts of Sicilia.
I willingly obey your command.
My best Camillo! We must disguise ourselves.
Since he fled Sicily Camillo had been an indispensable and faithful aide to King Polixenes, but as the years passed he grew increasingly homesick and fretful. He decided to ask Polixenes to grant him a favour.
"Please, good Camillo," King Polixenes said, "don't be so demanding. It would make me ill to deny you anything but it would kill me to grant you this."
"It is sixteen years since I saw my country. Though I have spent most of my time travelling, I wish to be buried in Sicily. Anyway, the penitent Leontes has sent for me. It's possible I could allay his sorrow- maybe I’m foolish to think so but it's another reason to return home."
"If you love me, Camillo, don't belittle that love by leaving me now. The need I have of you is something that comes from your own goodness. It would have been better never to have had your loyalty than yearn for it now. You have begun things with me that I can't entrust to others, you must stay to complete our projects or take away the benefits you have brought to Bohemia. If I have not been sufficiently grateful to you I will try again to be so, enriching our friendship in the process. Of that fatal country, Sicily, please speak no more. The very name punishes me with memories of that penitent, as you call him. Even after all this time I still wish to mourn anew the death of his wife and children. Let's change the subject... Tell me, when did you last see Prince Florizel? Kings are no less unhappy when their heirs are misbehaving than they are when they have proved their suitability for their birthright."
"Sir, it is three days since I saw the Prince. What he is up to, I do not know. I have noticed that lately he doesn't spend much time at the palace and he is less judicious about his princely duties."
"I'll say! I have thought about this with some care, Camillo. I have a few people keeping tabs on his movements and seeing what he has been getting up to. And they tell me he is often at the house of a shepherd. A man, they say, who has expanded without visible resources from a farm to a large estate, mystifying his neighbours."
"I have heard of such a man, sir, he has a daughter of rare beauty. From what I gather she is not from a peasant background."
"That is likewise part of my information. I'm wary of the bait that reels my son in! You shall accompany me to this estate. We will go disguised and talk with the shepherd. I suspect the fellow will be simple enough to spill the beans on why Florizel goes there. Please assist me in this and abandon your notions of returning to Sicily."
"I willingly obey your command."
"My ever-reliable Camillo! We must disguise ourselves."