For English every year, a dramatic monologue or seminar is part of the curriculum, and this was mine! It’s lush with exclamations, borrowed quotes and inversed sentences; I hope you enjoy a look into Paulina’s mind (she’s a character from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale).
Paulina after the announcement of Mamillius’ death in Act 3, scene 2. A freeze-frame monologue that fits in between the aforementioned moment, and her announcement of the Queen’s death, which concludes the speech and links back to The Winter’s Tale.
What befalls us now? A fallen heir, my lady swooned; nothing left but a court confused and a wrathful king to rule them.
Leontes’ mind is riddled with disease; a jealousy so strong that it has eaten through reason. To sink so quick into the quagmire of twisted logic; incarnadine Hermione’s rosy lips with the colour of deceit, and so too the actions of Polixenes … had it not been an hour, merely threescore minutes since the three were merrily exchanging affable witticisms in the court? Dissension snuck too bold, for it reared up in Leontes’ mind as guise to friendship, as duty to lust, and ‘ere the king has thrown the queen into an iron trap.
“Speak you”, he charged her, but whilst she may speak her innocence, he doth accept them lies. Thus she speaks not at all, further putting proof into his troubled mind, further giving corroboration of her tongue-tied guilt. Certain of the cuckold’s horns exhibited from whence his hair doth stop, Leontes will not be prevailed upon to halt in his bitter polemics against the chastity of his queen. For in his mind, if women say so, that will say anything but were they false, why then naught Hermione says will cast aside his jealous fervour. Falsely determined betrayal enshrouds his thoughts with violent anger, and vile allegations has he made against the best. He will not be swayed; his reason sundered from his mind.
Claiming nothing to be something! Nothing is what swayed my lord from his preconceived conclusion – not the earnest protestations of Camillo, who wished Leontes be cur’d of his diseas’d opinion, nor those of my dearest husband, he who would hold every dram of women’s flesh as false if ‘tis true Hermione be. Not the eloquent defence of the Lords at my behest! Even the babe, that wholesome evidence for the good queen’s fruitful and unswerving loyalty, did not convince. The print was little, but held truth within it; eye, nose, lip; the whole matter and copy of the father! Nature, which hast made it so like him that got it … well! Even nature was ignored for sightless tyranny. My lord, from ‘pon his throne, casts accusations of paddling palms and pinching fingers, and making practised smiles, though none are seen by us. He believes his perception true, yet if it be so, were it not also true to say that ours would all be clouded? And that be false – ‘tis clear as day!
Yet, knowing this, did I not send forth Antigonus to do Leontes’ crazed bidding? Did I not!?! For though I raged against the deed, I did nothing to derail it. I stood, accepting, by his side as he took the infant from Hermione’s arms and set her on his shoulder; I helped pack food and drink for the long journey to abandonment; and I kissed him goodbye on the day he left. In such a way have I betrayed my queen and my reason, and thus I am struck by wretched evils that rightfully befall me for my sin. For my complicity as bystander I am punished, and ye gods punish well, for am I not now standing by my daughters’ grief and joyless tears? Am I not standing by to see their futures perish? For dear Antigonus is dead. Their future shall be as the good queen’s daughter, and only when she is regained shall our fortunes change.
An ill wind blows through this kingdom’s fields, turning fresh wheat into rotted hay and murmurings into much-bent gossip. Mamillius is listless; cumbered with the tribulations of the imprisoned queen – no smiles light his face whilst his mother languishes in grace. Ne’er the less, he is innocent! He ought not have been so struck, so quick to fasten and fix the shame on’t upon his blameless self. I weep for that dear child’s fate, for too soon did the heavens claim him; too soon did Mamillius fall for sorrow of his mother’s conjured ills. That he should die and leave the throne without successor unseats us all! ‘Tis for sure an omen of disastrous strife, as the Oracle proclaimed: “Leontes is a jealous tyrant”, and the king shall live without an heir till that which is lost be not found. This kingdom needs no more calamity – Leontes, he in madness, he has wrought enough. He must needs a catalyst, for if his path is not revised, nary a thing we’ll do may stop him. Hasten I, and make such one that will remould his course.
My lord Leontes – the news is mortal to the queen: look down, and see what death is doing!