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 Pisanio and Imogen
    Imogen Thou toldst me when we came from horse the place
    Was near at hand. Ne'er longed my mother so
    To see me first as I have now. Pisanio, man,
    Where is Posthumus? What is in thy mind
    1675That makes thee stare thus? Wherefore breaks that sigh
    From th'inward of thee? One but painted thus
    Would be interpreted a thing perplexed
    Beyond self-explication. Put thyself
    Into a havior of less fear ere wildness
    1680Vanquish my staider senses. What's the matter?
    [Pisanio offers letter to Imogen]
    Why tenderst thou that paper to me with
    A look untender? If't be summer news,
    Smile to't before; if winterly, thou needst
    But keep that countenance still.
    [Takes letter]
    My husband's hand?
    1685That drug-damned Italy hath out-craftied him,
    And he's at some hard point. Speak, man: thy tongue
    May take off some extremity which to read
    Would be even mortal to me.
    Please you read,
    1690And you shall find me, wretched man, a thing
    The most disdained of Fortune.
    Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the strumpet in my bed, the testimonies whereof lies bleeding in me. I speak 1695not out of weak surmises but from proof as strong as my grief and as certain as I expect my revenge. That part, thou, Pisanio, must act for me if thy faith be not tainted with the breach of hers: let thine own hands take away her life. I shall give thee opportunity at Milford Haven. She hath my letter 1700for the purpose; where, if thou fear to strike and to make me certain it is done, thou art the pander to her dishonor and equally to me disloyal.
    Pisanio What shall I need to draw my sword? The paper
    Hath cut her throat already. No, 'tis slander,
    1705Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
    Out-venoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
    Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
    All corners of the world. Kings, queens, and states,
    Maids, matrons -- nay, the secrets of the grave
    1710This viperous slander enters. -- What cheer, madam?
    Imogen False to his bed? What is it to be false?
    To lie in watch there and to think on him?
    To weep 'twixt clock and clock if Sleep charge Nature
    To break it with a fearful dream of him
    1715And cry myself awake? That's false to's bed, is it?
    Pisanio Alas, good lady.
    Imogen I, false? Thy conscience witness. Iachimo,
    Thou didst accuse him of incontinency.
    Thou then look'dst like a villain; now, methinks
    1720Thy favor's good enough. Some jay of Italy
    Whose mother was her painting hath betrayed him.
    Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion,
    And for I am richer than to hang by th' walls,
    I must be ripped: to pieces with me. Oh!
    1725Men's vows are women's traitors. All good seeming
    By thy revolt, o husband, shall be thought
    Put on for villainy; not born where't grows,
    But worn a bait for ladies.
    Good madam, hear me.
    1730Imogen True honest men being heard, like false Aeneas,
    Were in his time thought false; and Sinon's weeping
    Did scandal many a holy tear, took pity
    From most true wretchedness. So thou, Posthumus,
    Wilt lay the leaven on all proper men:
    1735Goodly and gallant shall be false and perjured
    From thy great fail. Come, fellow; be thou honest.
    Do thou thy master's bidding. When thou seest him,
    A little witness my obedience. Look,
    I draw the sword myself; take it and hit
    1740The innocent mansion of my love, my heart.
    Fear not; 'tis empty of all things but grief.
    Thy master is not there, who was indeed
    The riches of it. Do his bidding; strike.
    Thou mayst be valiant in a better cause,
    1745But now thou seemst a coward.
    Hence, vile instrument;
    Thou shalt not damn my hand.
    Why, I must die,
    And if I do not by thy hand, thou art
    1750No servant of thy master's. Against self-slaughter
    There is a prohibition so divine
    That cravens my weak hand. Come, here's my heart.
    Something's afoot! Soft, soft; we'll no defense,
    Obedient as the scabbard. What is here?
    1755The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus,
    All turned to heresy? Away, away,
    Corrupters of my faith. You shall no more
    Be stomachers to my heart. Thus may poor fools
    Believe false teachers. Though those that are betrayed
    1760Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
    Stands in worse case of woe. And thou, Posthumus,
    That didst set up my disobedience 'gainst the King
    My father and makes me put into contempt the suits
    Of princely fellows, shalt hereafter find
    1765It is no act of common passage but
    A strain of rareness; and I grieve myself
    To think when thou shalt be disedged by her
    That now thou tirest on how thy memory
    Will then be panged by me. Prithee, dispatch,
    1770The lamb entreats the butcher. Where's thy knife?
    Thou art too slow to do thy master's bidding
    When I desire it too.
    Oh, gracious lady,
    Since I received command to do this business,
    1775I have not slept one wink.
    Do't, and to bed then.
    I'll wake mine eyeballs first.
    Wherefore then
    Didst undertake it? Why hast thou abused
    1780So many miles with a pretense? This place?
    Mine action and thine own? Our horses' labor?
    The time inviting thee? The perturbed court
    For my being absent, whereunto I never
    Purpose return? Why hast thou gone so far
    1785To be unbent when thou hast ta'en thy stand,
    Th'elected deer before thee?
    But to win time
    To lose so bad employment, in the which
    I have considered of a course. Good lady,
    1790Hear me with patience.
    Talk thy tongue weary; speak.
    I have heard I am a strumpet, and mine ear
    Therein false struck can take no greater wound
    Nor tent to bottom that. But speak.
    Then, madam,
    I thought you would not back again.
    Most like,
    Bringing me here to kill me.
    Not so, neither.
    1800But if I were as wise as honest, then
    My purpose would prove well. It cannot be
    But that my master is abused. Some villain --
    Aye, and singular in his art -- hath done you both
    This cursed injury.
    Some Roman courtesan?
    No, on my life.
    I'll give but notice you are dead and send him
    Some bloody sign of it, for 'tis commanded
    I should do so; you shall be missed at court,
    1810And that will well confirm it.
    Why, good fellow,
    What shall I do the while? Where bide? How live?
    Or in my life, what comfort, when I am
    Dead to my husband?
    If you'll back to th' court . . .
    Imogen No court, no father, nor no more ado
    With that harsh, noble, simple nothing,
    That Clotten, whose lovesuit hath been to me
    As fearful as a siege.
    If not at court,
    Then not in Britain must you bide.
    Where then?
    Hath Britain all the sun that shines? Day, night,
    Are they not but in Britain? I'th' world's volume
    1825Our Britain seems as of it but not in't:
    In a great pool, a swan's nest. Prithee think
    There's livers out of Britain.
    I am most glad
    You think of other place. Th'ambassador,
    1830Lucius the Roman, comes to Milford Haven
    Tomorrow. Now, if you could wear a mind
    Dark as your fortune is and but disguise
    That which t'appear itself must not yet be
    But by self-danger, you should tread a course
    1835Pretty and full of view; yea, happily, near
    The residence of Posthumus; so nigh, at least,
    That though his actions were not visible, yet
    Report should render him hourly to your ear
    As truly as he moves.
    Oh, for such means,
    Though peril to my modesty, not death on't
    I would adventure.
    Well, then, here's the point:
    You must forget to be a woman; change
    1845Command into obedience; fear and niceness,
    The handmaids of all women, or more truly
    Woman it pretty self, into a waggish courage,
    Ready in gibes, quick-answered, saucy, and
    As quarrellous as the weasel. Nay, you must
    1850Forget that rarest treasure of your cheek,
    Exposing it (but, oh, the harder heart!
    Alack, no remedy) to the greedy touch
    Of common-kissing Titan, and forget
    Your laborsome and dainty trims, wherein
    1855You made great Juno angry.
    Nay, be brief.
    I see into thy end and am almost
    A man already.
    First, make yourself but like one.
    1860Forethinking this, I have already fit
    ('Tis in my cloak-bag) doublet, hat, hose, all
    That answer to them; would you in their serving,
    And with what imitation you can borrow
    From youth of such a season, 'fore noble Lucius
    1865Present yourself, desire his service, tell him
    Wherein you're happy, which will make him know,
    If that his head have ear in music, doubtless
    With joy he will embrace you, for he's honorable
    And, doubling that, most holy. Your means abroad:
    1870You have me rich, and I will never fail
    Beginning nor supplyment.
    Thou art all the comfort
    The gods will diet me with. Prithee, away:
    There's more to be considered, but we'll even
    1875All that good time will give us. This attempt
    I am soldier to and will abide it with
    A prince's courage. Away, I prithee.
    Pisanio Well, madam, we must take a short farewell,
    Lest being missed I be suspected of
    1880Your carriage from the court. My noble mistress,
    Here is a box.
    [Gives box to Imogen]
    I had it from the Queen.
    What's in't is precious: if you are sick at sea
    Or stomach-qualmed at land, a dram of this
    Will drive away distemper. To some shade,
    1885And fit you to your manhood. May the gods
    Direct you to the best.
    Amen; I thank thee.