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 Posthumus and a Briton Lord
    Cam'st thou from where they made the stand?
    I did,
    Though you it seems come from the fliers?
    I did.
    2930Posthumus No blame be to you, sir, for all was lost
    But that the heavens fought. The King himself
    Of his wings destitute, the army broken
    And but the backs of Britons seen, all flying
    Through a strait lane; the enemy, full-hearted,
    2935Lolling the tongue with slaughtering, having work
    More plentiful than tools to do't, struck down
    Some mortally, some slightly touched, some falling
    Merely through fear, that the strait pass was dammed
    With dead men, hurt behind, and cowards living
    2940To die with lengthened shame.
    Where was this lane?
    Posthumus Close by the battle, ditched and walled with turf,
    Which gave advantage to an ancient soldier,
    An honest one, I warrant, who deserved
    2945So long a breeding as his white beard came to
    In doing this for's country. Athwart the lane,
    He, with two striplings, lads more like to run
    The country base than to commit such slaughter,
    With faces fit for masks, or rather fairer
    2950Than those for preservation cased or shame,
    Made good the passage, cried to those that fled,
    "Our Britain's harts die flying, not our men;
    To darkness fleet souls that fly backwards. Stand,
    Or we are Romans and will give you that
    2955Like beasts which you shun, beastly, and may save
    But to look back in frown. Stand, stand!" These three,
    Three thousand confident; in act as many,
    For three performers are the file when all
    The rest do nothing. With this word, "Stand, stand,"
    2960Accommodated by the place, more charming
    With their own nobleness, which could have turned
    A distaff to a lance, gilded pale looks,
    Part shame, part spirit renewed, that some turned coward
    But by example (oh, a sin in war,
    2965Damned in the first beginners) gan to look
    The way that they did and to grin like lions
    Upon the pikes o'th' hunters. Then began
    A stop i'th' chaser, a retire; anon
    A rout, confusion thick; forthwith they fly,
    2970Chickens, the way which they stooped eagles; slaves,
    The strides they victors made. And now our cowards,
    Like fragments in hard voyages, became
    The life o'th' need: having found the back door open
    Of the unguarded hearts, heavens, how they wound!
    2975Some slain before; some dying; some their friends --
    O'erborne i'th' former wave, ten chased by one --
    Are now each one the slaughterman of twenty:
    Those that would die or ere resist are grown
    The mortal bugs o'th' field.
    This was strange chance:
    A narrow lane, an old man, and two boys.
    Posthumus Nay, do not wonder at it; you are made
    Rather to wonder at the things you hear
    Than to work any. Will you rhyme upon't
    2985And vend it for a mockery? Here is one:
    "Two boys, an old man (twice a boy), a lane,
    Preserved the Britons, was the Romans' bane."
    Nay, be not angry, sir.
    'Lack, to what end?
    2990Who dares not stand his foe, I'll be his friend,
    For if he'll do as he is made to do,
    I know he'll quickly fly my friendship, too.
    You have put me into rhyme.
    Farewell; you're angry.
    2995Posthumus Still going? This is a lord. Oh, noble misery,
    To be i'th' field and ask "What news?" of me!
    Today, how many would have given their honors
    To have saved their carcasses; took heel to do't,
    And yet died too? I, in mine own woe charmed,
    3000Could not find death where I did hear him groan,
    Nor feel him where he struck. Being an ugly monster,
    'Tis strange he hides him in fresh cups, soft beds,
    Sweet words; or hath more ministers than we
    That draw his knives i'th' war. Well, I will find him,
    3005For, being now a favorer to the Briton,
    No more a Briton, I have resumed again
    The part I came in. Fight I will no more,
    But yield me to the veriest hind that shall
    Once touch my shoulder. Great the slaughter is
    3010Here made by th' Roman; great the answer be
    Britons must take. For me, my ransom's death;
    On either side I come to spend my breath,
    Which neither here I'll keep nor bear again,
    But end it by some means for Imogen.
    Enter two [British] Captains and Soldiers
    1 Captain Great Jupiter be praised, Lucius is taken.
    'Tis thought the old man and his sons were angels.
    2 Captain There was a fourth man, in a silly habit,
    That gave th'affront with them.
    30201 Captain
    So 'tis reported,
    But none of 'em can be found. Stand, who's there?
    A Roman,
    Who had not now been drooping here if seconds
    Had answered him.
    30252 Captain
    Lay hands on him. A dog,
    A leg of Rome shall not return to tell
    What crows have pecked them here. He brags his service
    As if he were of note: bring him to th' King.
    Enter Cymbeline, Belarius [as Morgan], Guiderius [as Polydore], Arviragus [as Cadwal], Pisanio, [two Jailers,] and 3030Roman captives, including Posthumus.
    The Captains present Posthumus to Cymbeline, who delivers him over to a Jailer.
    [Exeunt all but Posthumus and Jailers.]
    1 Jailer You shall not now be stolen; 3035you have locks upon you.
    So graze as you find pasture.
    2 Jailer
    Aye, or a stomach.
    [Exeunt Jailers]
    Posthumus Most welcome bondage, for thou art a way,
    I think, to liberty; yet am I better
    3040Than one that's sick o'th' gout, since he had rather
    Groan so in perpetuity than be cured
    By th' sure physician, Death, who is the key
    T'unbar these locks. My conscience, thou art fettered
    More than my shanks and wrists; you good gods, give me,
    3045The penitent, instrument to pick that bolt,
    Then free for ever. Is't enough I am sorry?
    So children temporal fathers do appease;
    Gods are more full of mercy. Must I repent,
    I cannot do it better than in gyves,
    3050Desired more than constrained. To satisfy
    If of my freedom 'tis the main part, take
    No stricter render of me than my all.
    I know you are more clement than vile men
    Who of their broken debtors take a third,
    3055A sixth, a tenth, letting them thrive again
    On their abatement; that's not my desire.
    For Imogen's dear life, take mine, and though
    'Tis not so dear, yet 'tis a life; you coined it.
    'Tween man and man, they weigh not every stamp;
    3060Though light, take pieces for the figure's sake:
    You rather mine, being yours. And so, great powers,
    If you will take this audit, take this life,
    And cancel these cold bonds. O Imogen,
    I'll speak to thee in silence.
    Solemn music
    Enter as in an apparition, Sicilius Leonatus, father to Posthumus, an old man, attired like a warrior; leading in his hand an ancient matron, his wife, and mother to Posthumus, with music before them. Then after other music follows the two young Leonati, 3070brothers to Posthumus, with wounds as they died in the wars.
    They circle Posthumus round as he lies sleeping.
    Sicilius Leonatus No more, thou Thunder-Master,show thy spite on mortal flies:
    With Mars fall out; with Juno chide that thy adulteries
    3075Rates and revenges.
    Hath my poor boy done ought but well, whose face I never saw?
    I died whilst in the womb he stayed, attending Nature's law,
    3080Whose father then, as men report thou orphans' father art,
    Thou shouldst have been and shielded him from this earth-vexing smart.
    Mother Lucina lent not me her aid 3085but took me in my throes,
    That from me was Posthumus ripped, came crying 'mongst his foes,
    A thing of pity.
    Sicilius Leonatus Great Nature, like his ancestry, 3090molded the stuff so fair
    That he deserved the praise o'th' world as great Sicilius' heir.
    1 Brother When once he was mature for man, in Britain where was he
    3095That could stand up his parallel, or fruitful object be
    In eye of Imogen, that best could deem his dignity?
    Mother With marriage wherefore was he mocked, 3100to be exiled and thrown
    From Leonati seat and cast from her, his dearest one,
    Sweet Imogen?
    Sicilius Leonatus Why did you suffer Iachimo, slight thing of Italy,
    3105To taint his nobler heart and brain with needless jealousy,
    And to become the geck and scorn o'th' other's villainy?
    2 Brother For this from stiller seats we came, our parents and us twain,
    That, striking in our country's cause, 3110fell bravely and were slain,
    Our fealty and Tenantius' right with honor to maintain.
    1 Brother Like hardiment Posthumus hath to Cymbeline performed;
    Then, Jupiter, thou king of gods, why hast thou thus adjourned
    3115The graces for his merits due, being all to dolors turned?
    Sicilius Leonatus Thy crystal window ope; look out; no longer exercise
    Upon a valiant race thy harsh and potent injuries.
    Mother Since, Jupiter, our son is good, 3120take off his miseries.
    Sicilius Leonatus Peep through thy marble mansion; help, or we poor ghosts will cry
    To th' shining synod of the rest against thy deity.
    Brothers Help, Jupiter, or we appeal, 3125and from thy justice fly.
    Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle.
    He throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees.
    Jupiter No more, you petty spirits of region low,
    3130Offend our hearing. Hush! How dare you ghosts
    Accuse the Thunderer, whose bolt, you know,
    Sky-planted, batters all rebelling coasts?
    Poor shadows of Elysium, hence, and rest
    Upon your never-withering banks of flowers.
    3135Be not with mortal accidents oppressed;
    No care of yours it is; you know 'tis ours.
    Whom best I love, I cross, to make my gift
    The more delayed, delighted. Be content:
    Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift;
    3140His comforts thrive; his trials well are spent.
    Our Jovial star reigned at his birth, and in
    Our temple was he married. Rise and fade;
    He shall be lord of Lady Imogen,
    And happier much by his affliction made.
    3145This tablet lay upon his breast, wherein
    Our pleasure, his full fortune, doth confine,
    And so away; no farther with your din
    Express impatience, lest you stir up mine.
    Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline.
    3150Sicilius Leonatus He came in thunder; his celestial breath
    Was sulfurous to smell. The holy eagle
    Stooped, as to foot us. His ascension is
    More sweet than our blessed fields; his royal bird
    Preens the immortal wing and cloys his beak,
    3155As when his god is pleased.
    Thanks, Jupiter.
    Sicilius Leonatus The marble pavement closes; he is entered
    His radiant roof. Away, and to be blessed,
    Let us with care perform his great behest.
    [They place the tablet on Posthumus' chest.]
    [Posthumus wakes]
    3160Posthumus Sleep, thou hast been a grandsire and begot
    A father to me, and thou hast created
    A mother and two brothers. But, oh, scorn,
    Gone; they went hence so soon as they were born.
    And so I am awake. Poor wretches that depend
    3165On greatness' favor dream as I have done,
    Wake, and find nothing. But, alas, I swerve:
    Many dream not to find, neither deserve,
    And yet are steeped in favors; so am I
    That have this golden chance and know not why.
    [Sees the tablet]
    3170What fairies haunt this ground? A book? Oh, rare one,
    Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment
    Nobler than that it covers. Let thy effects
    So follow to be, most unlike our courtiers,
    As good as promise.
    Whenas a lion's whelp shall, to himself unknown, without seeking, find and be embraced by a piece of tender air; and when from a stately cedar shall be lopped branches, which, being dead many years, shall after revive, be jointed to 3180the old stock, and freshly grow; then shall Posthumus end his miseries, Britain be fortunate, and flourish in peace and plenty.
    'Tis still a dream, or else such stuff as madmen
    Tongue, and brain not; either both or nothing:
    3185Or senseless speaking, or a speaking such
    As sense cannot untie. Be what it is,
    The action of my life is like it, which I'll keep
    If but for sympathy.
    Enter 1 Jailer
    31901 Jailer Come, sir, are you ready for death?
    Posthumus Over-roasted, rather: ready long ago.
    1 Jailer Hanging is the word, sir; if you be ready for that, you are well cooked.
    Posthumus So if I prove a good repast to the spectators, the 3195dish pays the shot.
    1 Jailer A heavy reckoning for you, sir, but the comfort is, you shall be called to no more payments, fear no more tavern bills, which are often the sadness of parting, as the procuring of mirth. You come in faint for want of 3200meat, depart reeling with too much drink; sorry that you have paid too much, and sorry that you are paid too much; purse and brain both empty, the brain the heavier for being too light; the purse too light, being drawn of heaviness. Oh, of this contradiction you shall 3205now be quit. Oh, the charity of a penny cord: it sums up thousands in a trice. You have no true debitor and creditor but it. Of what's past, is, and to come, the discharge; your neck, sir, is pen, book, and counters; so the acquittance follows.
    3210Posthumus I am merrier to die than thou art to live.
    1 Jailer Indeed, sir, he that sleeps feels not the toothache, but a man that were to sleep your sleep, and a hangman to help him to bed, I think he would change places with his officer, for, look you, sir, you know not 3215which way you shall go.
    Posthumus Yes, indeed, do I, fellow.
    1 Jailer Your death has eyes in's head, then; I have not seen him so pictured. You must either be directed by some that take upon them to know, or to take upon 3220yourself that which I am sure you do not know, or jump the after-enquiry on your own peril. And how you shall speed in your journey's end, I think you'll never returnto tell one.
    Posthumus I tell thee, fellow, there are none want eyes to 3225direct them the way I am going but such as wink and will not use them.
    1 Jailer What an infinite mock is this that a man should have the best use of eyes to see the way of blindness. I am sure hanging's the way of winking.
    Enter a Messenger
    Messenger Knock off his manacles; bring your prisoner to the King.
    Posthumus Thou bringst good news: I am called to be made free.
    32351 Jailer I'll be hanged then.
    Posthumus Thou shalt be then freer then a jailer: no bolts for the dead.
    1 Jailer [Aside] Unless a man would marry a gallows and beget young gibbets, I never saw one so prone; yet, on my 3240conscience, there are verier knaves desire to live, for all he be a Roman; and there be some of them, too, that die against their wills; so should I, if I were one. I would we were all of one mind, and one mind good. Oh, there were desolation of jailers and gallowses! I speak 3245against my present profit, but my wish hath a preferment in't.