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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 Cymbeline, Belarius [as Morgan], Guiderius [as Polydore], Arviragus [as Cadwal], Pisanio, and Lords
    3250Cymbeline Stand by my side, you whom the gods have made
    Preservers of my throne. Woe is my heart
    That the poor soldier that so richly fought,
    Whose rags shamed gilded arms, whose naked breast
    Stepped before targes of proof, cannot be found.
    3255He shall be happy that can find him if
    Our grace can make him so.
    I never saw
    Such noble fury in so poor a thing,
    Such precious deeds in one that promised nought
    3260But beggary and poor looks.
    No tidings of him?
    Pisanio He hath been searched among the dead and living,
    But no trace of him.
    [To Guiderius, Arviragus, and Belarius] To my grief, I am
    3265The heir of his reward, which I will add
    To you, the liver, heart, and brain of Britain,
    By whom, I grant, she lives. 'Tis now the time
    To ask of whence you are. Report it.
    3270In Cambria are we born, and gentlemen;
    Further to boast were neither true nor modest,
    Unless I add we are honest.
    Bow your knees.
    Arise, my knights o'th' battle; I create you
    3275Companions to our person and will fit you
    With dignities becoming your estates.
    Enter Cornelius and Ladies
    There's business in these faces. Why so sadly
    Greet you our victory? You look like Romans
    3280And not o'th' court of Britain.
    Hail, great King.
    To sour your happiness, I must report
    The Queen is dead.
    Who worse than a physician
    3285Would this report become? But I consider:
    By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death
    Will seize the doctor too. How ended she?
    Cornelius With horror, madly dying, like her life,
    Which, being cruel to the world, concluded
    3290Most cruel to herself. What she confessed
    I will report, so please you. These her women
    Can trip me, if I err, who with wet cheeks
    Were present when she finished.
    Prithee, say.
    3295Cornelius First, she confessed she never loved you; only
    Affected greatness got by you, not you;
    Married your royalty, was wife to your place,
    Abhorred your person.
    She alone knew this,
    3300And but she spoke it dying, I would not
    Believe her lips in opening it. Proceed.
    Cornelius Your daughter, whom she bore in hand to love
    With such integrity, she did confess
    Was as a scorpion to her sight, whose life,
    3305But that her flight prevented it, she had
    Ta'en off by poison.
    O most delicate fiend!
    Who is't can read a woman? Is there more?
    Cornelius More, sir, and worse. She did confess she had
    3310For you a mortal mineral, which being took
    Should by the minute feed on life and, lingering,
    By inches waste you, in which time she purposed
    By watching, weeping, tendance, kissing, to
    O'ercome you with her show, and in time,
    3315When she had fitted you with her craft, to work
    Her son into th'adoption of the crown;
    But failing of her end by his strange absence,
    Grew shameless desperate; opened, in despite
    Of Heaven and men, her purposes; repented
    3320The evils she hatched were not effected; so
    Despairing, died.
    Heard you all this, her women?
    We did, so please Your Highness.
    Mine eyes
    3325Were not in fault, for she was beautiful;
    Mine ears that heard her flattery, nor my heart
    That thought her like her seeming. It had been vicious
    To have mistrusted her; yet, o my daughter,
    That it was folly in me, thou mayst say,
    3330And prove it in thy feeling. Heaven mend all.
    Enter Lucius, Iachimo, and other Roman prisoners, Posthumus behind, and Imogen [as Fidele]
    Thou com'st not, Caius, now for tribute; that
    The Britains have rased out, though with the loss
    3335Of many a bold one, whose kinsmen have made suit
    That their good souls may be appeased with slaughter
    Of you their captives, which ourself have granted,
    So think of your estate.
    Lucius Consider, sir, the chance of war: the day
    3340Was yours by accident. Had it gone with us,
    We should not, when the blood was cool, have threatened
    Our prisoners with the sword. But since the gods
    Will have it thus, that nothing but our lives
    May be called ransom, let it come; sufficeth,
    3345A Roman with a Roman's heart can suffer.
    Augustus lives to think on't, and so much
    For my peculiar care. This one thing only
    I will entreat: my boy, a Briton born,
    Let him be ransomed. Never master had
    3350A page so kind, so duteous, diligent,
    So tender over his occasions, true,
    So feat, so nurse-like; let his virtue join
    With my request, which I'll make bold Your Highness
    Cannot deny. He hath done no Briton harm,
    3355Though he have served a Roman. Save him, sir,
    And spare no blood beside.
    I have surely seen him;
    His favor is familiar to me. Boy,
    Thou hast looked thyself into my grace
    3360And art mine own. I know not why, wherefore,
    To say live, boy. Ne'er thank thy master; live,
    And ask of Cymbeline what boon thou wilt,
    Fitting my bounty and thy state, I'll give it --
    Yea, though thou do demand a prisoner
    3365The noblest ta'en.
    I humbly thank Your Highness.
    Lucius I do not bid thee beg my life, good lad,
    And yet I know thou wilt.
    No, no, alack,
    [Imogen sees Iachimo wearing Posthumus' ring.]
    3370There's other work in hand. I see a thing
    Bitter to me as death; your life, good master,
    Must shuffle for itself.
    [Aside] The boy disdains me;
    He leaves me, scorns me. Briefly die their joys
    3375That place them on the truth of girls and boys.
    Why stands he so perplexed?
    What wouldst thou, boy?
    I love thee more and more; think more and more
    What's best to ask. Knowst him thou lookst on? Speak:
    3380Wilt have him live? Is he thy kin? Thy friend?
    Imogen He is a Roman, no more kin to me
    Than I to Your Highness, who, being born your vassal,
    Am something nearer.
    Wherefore ey'st him so?
    3385Imogen I'll tell you, sir, in private, if you please
    To give me hearing.
    Aye, with all my heart,
    And lend my best attention. What's thy name?
    Fidele, sir.
    Thou'rt my good youth, my page;
    I'll be thy master. Walk with me; speak freely.
    [Cymbeline and Imogen speak apart]
    [Belarius, Arviragus, and Guiderius speak together]
    Is not this boy revived from death?
    One sand another
    Not more resembles that sweet rosy lad
    3395Who died and was Fidele. What think you?
    Guiderius The same dead thing alive.
    Belarius Peace, peace; see further. He eyes us not; forbear.
    Creatures may be alike; were't he, I am sure
    He would have spoke to us.
    But we see him dead.
    Be silent; let's see further.
    [Aside] It is my mistress:
    Since she is living, let the time run on
    To good or bad.
    [To Imogen] Come, stand thou by our side;
    [Cymbeline and Imogen come forward]
    Make thy demand aloud. -- [To Iachimo] Sir, step you forth.
    Give answer to this boy and do it freely,
    Or by our greatness and the grace of it
    Which is our honor, bitter torture shall
    3410Winnow the truth from falsehood. -- On, speak to him.
    Imogen My boon is that this gentleman may render
    Of whom he had this ring.
    [Aside] What's that to him?
    Cymbeline That diamond upon your finger, say
    3415How came it yours.
    Iachimo Thou'lt torture me to leave unspoken that
    Which to be spoke would torture thee.
    How? Me?
    Iachimo I am glad to be constrained to utter that
    3420Which torments me to conceal. By villainy
    I got this ring. 'Twas Leonatus' jewel,
    Whom thou didst banish; and, which more may grieve thee,
    As it doth me, a nobler sir ne'er lived
    'Twixt sky and ground. Wilt thou hear more, my Lord?
    All that belongs to this.
    That paragon, thy daughter,
    For whom my heart drops blood and my false spirits
    Quail to remember -- give me leave; I faint.
    Cymbeline My daughter? What of her? Renew thy strength:
    3430I had rather thou shouldst live while Nature will
    Than die ere I hear more. Strive, man, and speak.
    Iachimo Upon a time -- unhappy was the clock
    That struck the hour! It was in Rome -- accursed
    The mansion where! 'Twas at a feast -- oh, would
    3435Our viands had been poisoned, or at least
    Those which I heaved to head -- the good Posthumus
    (What should I say? He was too good to be
    Where ill men were, and was the best of all
    Amongst the rar'st of good ones) sitting sadly,
    3440Hearing us praise our loves of Italy
    For beauty, that made barren the swelled boast
    Of him that best could speak; for feature, laming
    The shrine of Venus; or straight-pitched Minerva,
    Postures beyond brief Nature; for condition,
    3445A shop of all the qualities that man
    Loves woman for; besides, that hook of wiving,
    Fairness, which strikes the eye.
    I stand on fire.
    Come to the matter.
    All too soon I shall
    3450Unless thou wouldst grieve quickly. This Posthumus,
    Most like a noble lord in love, and one
    That had a royal lover, took his hint
    And, not dispraising whom we praised -- therein
    He was as calm as virtue -- he began
    3455His mistress' picture, which by his tongue being made
    And then a mind put in't, either our brags
    Were cracked of kitchen trulls or his description
    Proved us unspeaking sots.
    Nay, nay; to th' purpose.
    3460Iachimo Your daughter's chastity -- there it begins:
    He spake of her as Dian had hot dreams
    And she alone were cold, whereat I, wretch,
    Made scruple of his praise and wagered with him
    Pieces of gold 'gainst this, which then he wore
    3465Upon his honored finger, to attain
    In suit the place of's bed and win this ring
    By hers and mine adultery. He, true knight,
    No lesser of her honor confident
    Than I did truly find her, stakes this ring,
    3470And would so, had it been a carbuncle
    Of Phoebus' wheel; and might so safely, had it
    Been all the worth of's car. Away to Britain
    Post I in this design. Well may you, sir,
    Remember me at court, where I was taught
    3475Of your chaste daughter the wide difference
    'Twixt amorous and villainous. Being thus quenched
    Of hope, not longing, mine Italian brain
    Gan in your duller Britain operate
    Most vilely; for my vantage, excellent;
    3480And, to be brief, my practice so prevailed
    That I returned with simular proof enough
    To make the noble Leonatus mad
    By wounding his belief in her renown,
    With tokens thus and thus: averring notes
    3485Of chamber-hanging, pictures; this her bracelet
    (Oh, cunning how I got it!); nay, some marks
    Of secret on her person, that he could not
    But think her bond of chastity quite cracked,
    I having ta'en the forfeit, whereupon --
    3490Methinks I see him now.
    Aye, so thou dost,
    Italian fiend! Ay me, most credulous fool,
    Egregious murderer, thief, anything
    That's due to all the villains past, in being,
    3495To come. Oh, give me cord or knife or poison,
    Some upright justicer. Thou, King, send out
    For torturers ingenious: it is I,
    That all th'abhorrèd things o'th' earth amend
    By being worse than they. I am Posthumus,
    3500That killed thy daughter -- villain-like, I lie --
    That caused a lesser villain than myself,
    A sacrilegious thief to do't. The temple
    Of virtue was she; yea, and she herself.
    Spit and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set
    3505The dogs o'th' street to bay me; every villain
    Be called Posthumus Leonatus, and
    Be villainy less than 'twas. O Imogen!
    My queen, my life, my wife; o Imogen,
    Imogen, Imogen.
    Peace, my lord; hear, hear.
    Shall's have a play of this?
    Thou scornful page, there lie thy part.
    O gentlemen, help,
    [Strikes or throws Imogen; she lies still]
    Mine and your mistress! Oh, my lord Posthumus,
    3515You ne'er killed Imogen till now. Help, help,
    Mine honored lady.
    Does the world go round?
    How comes these staggers on me?
    Wake, my mistress.
    3520Cymbeline If this be so, the gods do mean to strike me
    To death with mortal joy.
    How fares my mistress?
    Imogen Oh, get thee from my sight.
    Thou gav'st me poison. Dangerous fellow, hence;
    3525Breathe not where princes are.
    The tune of Imogen.
    Pisanio Lady,
    The gods throw stones of sulfur on me if
    That box I gave you was not thought by me
    A precious thing. I had it from the Queen.
    New matter still.
    It poisoned me.
    Oh, gods!
    I left out one thing which the Queen confessed,
    Which must approve thee honest. "If Pisanio
    3535Have," said she, "given his mistress that confection
    Which I gave him for cordial, she is served
    As I would serve a rat."
    What's this, Cornelius?
    Cornelius The Queen, sir, very oft importuned me
    3540To temper poisons for her, still pretending
    The satisfaction of her knowledge only
    In killing creatures vile, as cats and dogs
    Of no esteem. I, dreading that her purpose
    Was of more danger, did compound for her
    3545A certain stuff which, being ta'en, would cease
    The present power of life, but in short time,
    All offices of nature should again
    Do their due functions. -- Have you ta'en of it?
    Most like I did, for I was dead.
    [To Guiderius and Arviragus] My boys,
    There was our error.
    [To Belarius and Arviragus] This is sure Fidele.
    Imogen Why did you throw your wedded lady from you?
    Think that you are upon a rock, and now
    Throw me again.
    Hang there like fruit, my soul,
    Till the tree die.
    How now, my flesh, my child?
    What, mak'st thou me a dullard in this act?
    Wilt thou not speak to me?
    Your blessing, sir.
    [Imogen (and possibly Posthumus) kneels]
    Belarius [To Guiderius and Arviragus] Though you did love this youth, I blame ye not;
    You had a motive for't.
    My tears that fall
    Prove holy water on thee. Imogen,
    3565Thy mother's dead.
    I am sorry for't, my Lord.
    Cymbeline Oh, she was naught; and long of her it was
    That we meet here so strangely. But her son
    Is gone, we know not how nor where.
    My lord,
    Now fear is from me, I'll speak troth. Lord Clotten,
    Upon my lady's missing, came to me
    With his sword drawn, foamed at the mouth, and swore
    If I discovered not which way she was gone,
    3575It was my instant death. By accident,
    I had a feignèd letter of my master's
    Then in my pocket, which directed him
    To seek her on the mountains near to Milford,
    Where in a frenzy, in my master's garments
    3580Which he inforced from me, away he posts
    With unchaste purpose and with oath to violate
    My lady's honor. What became of him,
    I further know not.
    Let me end the story:
    I slew him there.
    Marry, the gods forfend.
    I would not thy good deeds should from my lips
    Pluck a hard sentence. Prithee, valiant youth,
    Deny't again.
    I have spoke it, and I did it.
    3590Cymbeline He was a prince.
    Guiderius A most incivil one. The wrongs he did me
    Were nothing princelike, for he did provoke me
    With language that would make me spurn the sea
    If it could so roar to me. I cut off's head
    3595And am right glad he is not standing here
    To tell this tale of mine.
    I am sorrow for thee:
    By thine own tongue thou art condemned and must
    Endure our law: thou'rt dead.
    That headless man
    I thought had been my lord.
    [To Guards] Bind the offender
    And take him from our presence.
    Stay, sir King.
    This man is better than the man he slew,
    3605As well descended as thyself, and hath
    More of thee merited than a band of Clottens
    Had ever scar for. --
    [To Guards]
    Let his arms alone;
    They were not born for bondage.
    Why, old soldier,
    3610Wilt thou undo the worth thou art unpaid for
    By tasting of our wrath? How of descent
    As good as we?
    In that he spake too far.
    And thou shalt die for't.
    We will die all three,
    But I will prove that two on's are as good
    As I have given out him. -- My sons, I must
    For mine own part unfold a dangerous speech,
    Though haply well for you.
    [To Cymbeline] Your danger's ours.
    And our good his.
    Have at it, then, by leave.
    Thou hadst, great King, a subject who
    Was called Belarius.
    What of him? He is
    A banished traitor.
    He it is that hath
    Assumed this age; indeed a banished man,
    I know not how a traitor.
    [To Guards] Take him hence.
    3630The whole world shall not save him.
    Not too hot;
    First pay me for the nursing of thy sons,
    And let it be confiscate all, so soon
    As I have received it.
    Nursing of my sons?
    Belarius I am too blunt and saucy; here's my knee.
    Ere I arise, I will prefer my sons,
    Then spare not the old father. Mighty sir,
    These two young gentlemen that call me Father
    3640And think they are my sons are none of mine;
    They are the issue of your loins, my liege,
    And blood of your begetting.
    How, my issue?
    Belarius So sure as you your father's. I, old Morgan,
    3645Am that Belarius whom you sometime banished.
    Your pleasure was my near offense, my punishment
    Itself; and all my treason that I suffered
    Was all the harm I did. These gentle princes,
    For such and so they are, these twenty years
    3650Have I trained up; those arts they have as I
    Could put into them. My breeding was, sir,
    As Your Highness knows; their nurse Euriphile,
    Whom for the theft I wedded, stole these children
    Upon my banishment. I moved her to't,
    3655Having received the punishment before
    For that which I did then: beaten for loyalty
    Excited me to treason. Their dear loss,
    The more of you 'twas felt, the more it shaped
    Unto my end of stealing them. But gracious sir,
    3660Here are your sons again, and I must lose
    Two of the sweet'st companions in the world.
    The benediction of these covering heavens
    Fall on their heads like dew, for they are worthy
    To inlay heaven with stars.
    Thou weepst and speakst.
    The service that you three have done is more
    Unlike than this thou tellst. I lost my children;
    If these be they, I know not how to wish
    A pair of worthier sons.
    Be pleased awhile:
    This gentleman whom I call Polydore,
    Most worthy prince, as yours is true Guiderius;
    This gentleman, my Cadwal, Arviragus.
    Your younger princely son, he, sir, was lapped
    3675In a most curious mantle, wrought by th' hand
    Of his queen mother, which for more probation
    I can with ease produce.
    Guiderius had
    Upon his neck a mole, a sanguine star;
    3680It was a mark of wonder.
    This is he
    Who hath upon him still that natural stamp;
    It was wise Nature's end in the donation
    To be his evidence now.
    Oh, what am I,
    A mother to the birth of three? Ne'er mother
    Rejoiced deliverance more. -- Blessed, pray you be,
    That after this strange starting from your orbs
    You may reign in them now. -- Oh, Imogen,
    3690Thou hast lost by this a kingdom.
    No, my Lord;
    I have got two worlds by't. -- O my gentle brothers,
    Have we thus met? Oh, never say hereafter
    But I am truest speaker. You called me brother
    3695When I was but your sister; I you, brothers,
    When we were so indeed.
    Did you ere meet?
    Aye, my good Lord.
    And at first meeting loved;
    3700Continued so, until we thought he died.
    By the Queen's dram she swallowed.
    Oh, rare instinct!
    When shall I hear all through? This fierce abridgment
    Hath to it circumstantial branches which
    3705Distinction should be rich in. -- Where, how lived you?
    And when came you to serve our Roman captive?
    How parted with your brothers? How first met them?
    Why fled you from the court? And whither? -- These,
    And your three motives to the battle -- with
    3710I know not how much more should be demanded,
    And all the other by-dependances
    From chance to chance. But nor the time nor place
    Will serve our long interrogatories. See,
    Posthumus anchors upon Imogen,
    3715And she, like harmless lightning, throws her eye
    On him, her brothers, me, her master, hitting
    Each object with a joy; the counterchange
    Is severally in all. Let's quit this ground
    And smoke the temple with our sacrifices. --
    3720[To Belarius] Thou art my brother; so we'll hold thee ever.
    Imogen [To Belarius] You are my father, too, and did relieve me
    To see this gracious season.
    All o'erjoyed
    Save these in bonds; let them be joyful too,
    3725For they shall taste our comfort.
    My good master,
    I will yet do you service.
    Happy be you!
    Cymbeline The forlorn soldier that so nobly fought,
    He would have well becomed this place and graced
    3730The thankings of a king.
    I am, sir,
    The soldier that did company these three
    In poor beseeming; 'twas a fitment for
    The purpose I then followed. -- That I was he,
    3735Speak, Iachimo; I had you down and might
    Have made you finish.
    I am down again,
    [Iachimo kneels]
    But now my heavy conscience sinks my knee
    As then your force did. Take that life, beseech you,
    3740Which I so often owe, but your ring first,
    And here the bracelet of the truest princess
    That ever swore her faith.
    Kneel not to me:
    The power that I have on you is to spare you;
    3745The malice towards you, to forgive you. Live,
    And deal with others better.
    Nobly doomed.
    We'll learn our freeness of a son-in-law:
    Pardon's the word to all.
    You holp us, sir,
    As you did mean indeed to be our brother;
    Joyed are we that you are.
    Posthumus Your servant, princes. -- Good my Lord of Rome,
    Call forth your soothsayer. As I slept, methought
    3755Great Jupiter upon his eagle backed
    Appeared to me with other sprightly shows
    Of mine own kindred. When I waked, I found
    This label on my bosom, whose containing
    Is so from sense in hardness that I can
    3760Make no collection of it. Let him show
    His skill in the construction.
    Here, my good Lord.
    Read, and declare the meaning.
    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 3770the old stock, and freshly grow, then shall Posthumus end his miseries, Britain be fortunate, and flourish in peace and plenty.
    Thou, Leonatus, art the lion's whelp;
    The fit and apt construction of thy name
    3775Being "Leo-natus" doth import so much --
    The piece of tender air, thy virtuous daughter,
    Which we call "mollis aer," and "mollis aer"
    We term it "mulier" -- which "mulier" I divine
    Is this most constant wife, who even now,
    3780Answering the letter of the oracle,
    Unknown to you, unsought, were clipped about
    With this most tender air.
    This hath some seeming.
    Soothsayer The lofty cedar, royal Cymbeline,
    3785Personates thee; and thy lopped branches point
    Thy two sons forth, who, by Belarius stolen,
    For many years thought dead, are now revived,
    To the majestic cedar joined; whose issue
    Promises Britain peace and plenty.
    My peace we will begin, and, Caius Lucius,
    Although the victor, we submit to Caesar
    And to the Roman empire, promising
    To pay our wonted tribute, from the which
    3795We were dissuaded by our wicked Queen,
    Whom heavens in justice both on her and hers
    Have laid most heavy hand.
    Soothsayer The fingers of the powers above do tune
    The harmony of this peace. The vision
    3800Which I made known to Lucius ere the stroke
    Of this yet scarce-cold battle at this instant
    Is full accomplished, for the Roman eagle,
    From south to west on wing soaring aloft,
    Lessened herself, and in the beams o'th' sun
    3805So vanished; which foreshowed our princely eagle,
    Th'imperial Caesar, should again unite
    His favor with the radiant Cymbeline,
    Which shines here in the west.
    Laud we the gods,
    3810And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils
    From our blessed altars. Publish we this peace
    To all our subjects. Set we forward; let
    A Roman and a British ensign wave
    Friendly together, so through Luds-Town march;
    3815And in the temple of great Jupiter
    Our peace we'll ratify, seal it with feasts. --
    Set on there. -- Never was a war did cease
    Ere bloody hands were washed with such a peace.