Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: Cymbeline (Modern)
  • Editor: Jennifer Forsyth
  • ISBN: 1-55058-300-X

    Copyright Jennifer Forsyth. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Jennifer Forsyth
    Peer Reviewed

    Cymbeline (Modern)


    Enter Belarius [as Morgan], Guiderius [as Polydore], and Arviragus [as Cadwal]
    1555Belarius A goodly day not to keep house with such
    Whose roof's as low as ours. Stoop, boys; this gate
    Instructs you how t'adore the heavens and bows you
    To a morning's holy office. The gates of monarchs
    Are arched so high that giants may jet through
    1560And keep their impious turbans on without
    Good morrow to the sun. Hail thou, fair Heaven:
    We house i'th' rock yet use thee not so hardly
    As prouder livers do.
    Hail, Heaven.
    Hail, Heaven.
    Belarius Now for our mountain sport: up to yond hill;
    Your legs are young; I'll tread these flats. Consider,
    When you above perceive me like a crow,
    That it is place which lessens and sets off,
    1570And you may then revolve what tales I have told you
    Of courts, of princes, of the tricks in war.
    This service is not service so being done,
    But being so allowed. To apprehend thus
    Draws us a profit from all things we see,
    1575And often to our comfort shall we find
    The sharded beetle in a safer hold
    Than is the full-winged eagle. Oh, this life
    Is nobler than attending for a check,
    Richer than doing nothing for a babe,
    1580Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk:
    Such gain the cap of him that makes him fine
    Yet keeps his book uncrossed. No life to ours!
    Guiderius Out of your proof you speak; we poor unfledged
    Have never winged from view o'th' nest, nor knows not
    1585What air's from home. Haply this life is best
    (If quiet life be best), sweeter to you
    That have a sharper known, well corresponding
    With your stiff age; but unto us it is
    A cell of ignorance, travailing abed,
    1590A prison for a debtor that not dares
    To stride a limit.
    What should we speak of
    When we are old as you, when we shall hear
    The rain and wind beat dark December? How
    1595In this our pinching cave shall we discourse
    The freezing hours away? We have seen nothing;
    We are beastly: subtle as the fox for prey,
    Like warlike as the wolf for what we eat.
    Our valor is to chase what flies; our cage
    1600We make a choir as doth the prisoned bird,
    And sing our bondage freely.
    How you speak!
    Did you but know the city's usuries
    And felt them knowingly: the art o'th' court,
    1605As hard to leave as keep, whose top to climb
    Is certain falling, or so slippery that
    The fear's as bad as falling; the toil o'th' war,
    A pain that only seems to seek out danger
    I'th' name of fame and honor which dies i'th' search,
    1610And hath as oft a sland'rous epitaph
    As record of fair act -- nay, many times
    Doth ill deserve by doing well; what's worse,
    Must curtsey at the censure. O boys, this story
    The world may read in me: my body's marked
    1615With Roman swords, and my report was once
    First, with the best of note. Cymbeline loved me,
    And when a soldier was the theme, my name
    Was not far off: then was I as a tree
    Whose boughs did bend with fruit. But in one night,
    1620A storm or robbery, call it what you will,
    Shook down my mellow hangings -- nay, my leaves --
    And left me bare to weather.
    Uncertain favor.
    Belarius My fault being nothing, as I have told you oft,
    1625But that two villains, whose false oaths prevailed
    Before my perfect honor, swore to Cymbeline
    I was confederate with the Romans. So
    Followed my banishment, and this twenty years
    This rock and these demesnes have been my world,
    1630Where I have lived at honest freedom, paid
    More pious debts to Heaven than in all
    The fore-end of my time. But up to th' mountains!
    This is not hunters' language. He that strikes
    The venison first shall be the Lord o'th' Feast;
    1635To him the other two shall minister,
    And we will fear no poison, which attends
    In place of greater state.
    I'll meet you in the valleys.
    Exeunt [Guiderius and Arviragus]
    How hard it is to hide the sparks of Nature!
    1640These boys know little they are sons to th' King,
    Nor Cymbeline dreams that they are alive.
    They think they are mine, and though trained up thus meanly
    I'th' cave, wherein the bow their thoughts do hit
    1645The roofs of palaces, and Nature prompts them
    In simple and low things to prince it much
    Beyond the trick of others. This Polydore,
    The heir of Cymbeline and Britain, who
    The King his father called Guiderius. Jove!
    1650When on my three-foot stool I sit and tell
    The warlike feats I have done, his spirits fly out
    Into my story: say, "Thus mine enemy fell,
    And thus I set my foot on's neck," even then
    The princely blood flows in his cheek, he sweats,
    1655Strains his young nerves, and puts himself in posture
    That acts my words. The younger brother, Cadwal,
    Once Arviragus, in as like a figure
    Strikes life into my speech and shows much more
    His own conceiving. Hark, the game is roused!
    1660O Cymbeline, Heaven and my conscience knows
    Thou didst unjustly banish me, whereon
    At three and two years old I stole these babes,
    Thinking to bar thee of succession as
    Thou reftst me of my lands. Euriphile,
    1665Thou wast their nurse; they took thee for their mother,
    And every day do honor to her grave.
    Myself Belarius, that am Morgan called,
    They take for natural father. The game is up.