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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act I, Scene 1

Britain. The garden of Cymbeline’s palace.


[Enter two Gentlemen]

  • First Gentleman. You do not meet a man but frowns: our bloods
    No more obey the heavens than our courtiers
    Still seem as does the king.
  • First Gentleman. His daughter, and the heir of's kingdom, whom
    He purposed to his wife's sole son—a widow
    That late he married—hath referr'd herself
    Unto a poor but worthy gentleman: she's wedded;
    Her husband banish'd; she imprison'd: all 10
    Is outward sorrow; though I think the king
    Be touch'd at very heart.
  • First Gentleman. He that hath lost her too; so is the queen,
    That most desired the match; but not a courtier, 15
    Although they wear their faces to the bent
    Of the king's look's, hath a heart that is not
    Glad at the thing they scowl at.
  • First Gentleman. He that hath miss'd the princess is a thing 20
    Too bad for bad report: and he that hath her—
    I mean, that married her, alack, good man!
    And therefore banish'd—is a creature such
    As, to seek through the regions of the earth
    For one his like, there would be something failing 25
    In him that should compare. I do not think
    So fair an outward and such stuff within
    Endows a man but he.
  • First Gentleman. I do extend him, sir, within himself, 30
    Crush him together rather than unfold
    His measure duly.
  • First Gentleman. I cannot delve him to the root: his father
    Was call'd Sicilius, who did join his honour 35
    Against the Romans with Cassibelan,
    But had his titles by Tenantius whom
    He served with glory and admired success,
    So gain'd the sur-addition Leonatus;
    And had, besides this gentleman in question, 40
    Two other sons, who in the wars o' the time
    Died with their swords in hand; for which
    their father,
    Then old and fond of issue, took such sorrow
    That he quit being, and his gentle lady, 45
    Big of this gentleman our theme, deceased
    As he was born. The king he takes the babe
    To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus,
    Breeds him and makes him of his bed-chamber,
    Puts to him all the learnings that his time 50
    Could make him the receiver of; which he took,
    As we do air, fast as 'twas minister'd,
    And in's spring became a harvest, lived in court—
    Which rare it is to do—most praised, most loved,
    A sample to the youngest, to the more mature 55
    A glass that feated them, and to the graver
    A child that guided dotards; to his mistress,
    For whom he now is banish'd, her own price
    Proclaims how she esteem'd him and his virtue;
    By her election may be truly read 60
    What kind of man he is.
  • Second Gentleman. I honour him
    Even out of your report. But, pray you, tell me,
    Is she sole child to the king?
  • First Gentleman. His only child. 65
    He had two sons: if this be worth your hearing,
    Mark it: the eldest of them at three years old,
    I' the swathing-clothes the other, from their nursery
    Were stol'n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge
    Which way they went. 70
  • Second Gentleman. That a king's children should be so convey'd,
    So slackly guarded, and the search so slow,
    That could not trace them! 75
  • First Gentleman. Howsoe'er 'tis strange,
    Or that the negligence may well be laugh'd at,
    Yet is it true, sir.
  • First Gentleman. We must forbear: here comes the gentleman, 80
    The queen, and princess.



  • Queen. No, be assured you shall not find me, daughter,
    After the slander of most stepmothers, 85
    Evil-eyed unto you: you're my prisoner, but
    Your gaoler shall deliver you the keys
    That lock up your restraint. For you, Posthumus,
    So soon as I can win the offended king,
    I will be known your advocate: marry, yet 90
    The fire of rage is in him, and 'twere good
    You lean'd unto his sentence with what patience
    Your wisdom may inform you.
  • Queen. You know the peril.
    I'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying
    The pangs of barr'd affections, though the king
    Hath charged you should not speak together.


  • Imogen. O
    Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant
    Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest husband,
    I something fear my father's wrath; but nothing—
    Always reserved my holy duty—what 105
    His rage can do on me: you must be gone;
    And I shall here abide the hourly shot
    Of angry eyes, not comforted to live,
    But that there is this jewel in the world
    That I may see again. 110
  • Posthumus Leonatus. My queen! my mistress!
    O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
    To be suspected of more tenderness
    Than doth become a man. I will remain
    The loyal'st husband that did e'er plight troth: 115
    My residence in Rome at one Philario's,
    Who to my father was a friend, to me
    Known but by letter: thither write, my queen,
    And with mine eyes I'll drink the words you send,
    Though ink be made of gall. 120

[Re-enter QUEEN]

  • Queen. Be brief, I pray you:
    If the king come, I shall incur I know not
    How much of his displeasure.
    [Aside] 125
    Yet I'll move him
    To walk this way: I never do him wrong,
    But he does buy my injuries, to be friends;
    Pays dear for my offences.


  • Posthumus Leonatus. Should we be taking leave
    As long a term as yet we have to live,
    The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu!
  • Imogen. Nay, stay a little:
    Were you but riding forth to air yourself, 135
    Such parting were too petty. Look here, love;
    This diamond was my mother's: take it, heart;
    But keep it till you woo another wife,
    When Imogen is dead.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. How, how! another? 140
    You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
    And sear up my embracements from a next
    With bonds of death!
    [Putting on the ring]
    Remain, remain thou here 145
    While sense can keep it on. And, sweetest, fairest,
    As I my poor self did exchange for you,
    To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
    I still win of you: for my sake wear this;
    It is a manacle of love; I'll place it 150
    Upon this fairest prisoner.

[Putting a bracelet upon her arm]

  • Imogen. O the gods!
    When shall we see again?

[Enter CYMBELINE and Lords]

  • Cymbeline. Thou basest thing, avoid! hence, from my sight!
    If after this command thou fraught the court
    With thy unworthiness, thou diest: away!
    Thou'rt poison to my blood. 160
  • Posthumus Leonatus. The gods protect you!
    And bless the good remainders of the court! I am gone.


  • Imogen. There cannot be a pinch in death
    More sharp than this is. 165
  • Cymbeline. O disloyal thing,
    That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap'st
    A year's age on me.
  • Imogen. I beseech you, sir,
    Harm not yourself with your vexation 170
    I am senseless of your wrath; a touch more rare
    Subdues all pangs, all fears.
  • Imogen. Past hope, and in despair; that way, past grace.
  • Cymbeline. That mightst have had the sole son of my queen! 175
  • Imogen. O blest, that I might not! I chose an eagle,
    And did avoid a puttock.
  • Cymbeline. Thou took'st a beggar; wouldst have made my throne
    A seat for baseness.
  • Imogen. No; I rather added 180
    A lustre to it.
  • Imogen. Sir,
    It is your fault that I have loved Posthumus:
    You bred him as my playfellow, and he is 185
    A man worth any woman, overbuys me
    Almost the sum he pays.
  • Imogen. Almost, sir: heaven restore me! Would I were
    A neat-herd's daughter, and my Leonatus 190
    Our neighbour shepherd's son!
  • Cymbeline. Thou foolish thing!
    [Re-enter QUEEN]
    They were again together: you have done
    Not after our command. Away with her, 195
    And pen her up.
  • Queen. Beseech your patience. Peace,
    Dear lady daughter, peace! Sweet sovereign,
    Leave us to ourselves; and make yourself some comfort
    Out of your best advice. 200
  • Cymbeline. Nay, let her languish
    A drop of blood a day; and, being aged,
    Die of this folly!

[Exeunt CYMBELINE and Lords]

  • Queen. Fie! you must give way. 205
    [Enter PISANIO]
    Here is your servant. How now, sir! What news?
  • Pisanio. My lord your son drew on my master.
  • Queen. Ha!
    No harm, I trust, is done? 210
  • Pisanio. There might have been,
    But that my master rather play'd than fought
    And had no help of anger: they were parted
    By gentlemen at hand.
  • Queen. I am very glad on't. 215
  • Imogen. Your son's my father's friend; he takes his part.
    To draw upon an exile! O brave sir!
    I would they were in Afric both together;
    Myself by with a needle, that I might prick
    The goer-back. Why came you from your master? 220
  • Pisanio. On his command: he would not suffer me
    To bring him to the haven; left these notes
    Of what commands I should be subject to,
    When 't pleased you to employ me.
  • Queen. This hath been 225
    Your faithful servant: I dare lay mine honour
    He will remain so.
  • Pisanio. I humbly thank your highness.
  • Queen. Pray, walk awhile.
  • Imogen. About some half-hour hence, 230
    I pray you, speak with me: you shall at least
    Go see my lord aboard: for this time leave me.