Open Source Shakespeare

Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act I, Scene 4

Rome. Philario’s house.


[Enter PHILARIO, IACHIMO, a Frenchman, a] [p]Dutchman, and a Spaniard]

  • Iachimo. Believe it, sir, I have seen him in Britain: he was
    then of a crescent note, expected to prove so worthy
    as since he hath been allowed the name of; but I 325
    could then have looked on him without the help of
    admiration, though the catalogue of his endowments
    had been tabled by his side and I to peruse him by items.
  • Philario. You speak of him when he was less furnished than now
    he is with that which makes him both without and within. 330
  • Frenchman. I have seen him in France: we had very many there
    could behold the sun with as firm eyes as he.
  • Iachimo. This matter of marrying his king's daughter, wherein
    he must be weighed rather by her value than his own,
    words him, I doubt not, a great deal from the matter. 335
  • Frenchman. And then his banishment.
  • Iachimo. Ay, and the approbation of those that weep this
    lamentable divorce under her colours are wonderfully
    to extend him; be it but to fortify her judgment,
    which else an easy battery might lay flat, for 340
    taking a beggar without less quality. But how comes
    it he is to sojourn with you? How creeps
  • Philario. His father and I were soldiers together; to whom I
    have been often bound for no less than my life. 345
    Here comes the Briton: let him be so entertained
    amongst you as suits, with gentlemen of your
    knowing, to a stranger of his quality.
    I beseech you all, be better known to this 350
    gentleman; whom I commend to you as a noble friend
    of mine: how worthy he is I will leave to appear
    hereafter, rather than story him in his own hearing.
  • Frenchman. Sir, we have known together in Orleans.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Since when I have been debtor to you for courtesies, 355
    which I will be ever to pay and yet pay still.
  • Frenchman. Sir, you o'er-rate my poor kindness: I was glad I
    did atone my countryman and you; it had been pity
    you should have been put together with so mortal a
    purpose as then each bore, upon importance of so 360
    slight and trivial a nature.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. By your pardon, sir, I was then a young traveller;
    rather shunned to go even with what I heard than in
    my every action to be guided by others' experiences:
    but upon my mended judgment—if I offend not to say 365
    it is mended—my quarrel was not altogether slight.
  • Frenchman. 'Faith, yes, to be put to the arbitrement of swords,
    and by such two that would by all likelihood have
    confounded one the other, or have fallen both.
  • Iachimo. Can we, with manners, ask what was the difference? 370
  • Frenchman. Safely, I think: 'twas a contention in public,
    which may, without contradiction, suffer the report.
    It was much like an argument that fell out last
    night, where each of us fell in praise of our
    country mistresses; this gentleman at that time 375
    vouching—and upon warrant of bloody
    affirmation—his to be more fair, virtuous, wise,
    chaste, constant-qualified and less attemptable
    than any the rarest of our ladies in France.
  • Iachimo. That lady is not now living, or this gentleman's 380
    opinion by this worn out.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. She holds her virtue still and I my mind.
  • Iachimo. You must not so far prefer her 'fore ours of Italy.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Being so far provoked as I was in France, I would
    abate her nothing, though I profess myself her 385
    adorer, not her friend.
  • Iachimo. As fair and as good—a kind of hand-in-hand
    comparison—had been something too fair and too good
    for any lady in Britain. If she went before others
    I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlustres 390
    many I have beheld. I could not but believe she
    excelled many: but I have not seen the most
    precious diamond that is, nor you the lady.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. I praised her as I rated her: so do I my stone.
  • Iachimo. What do you esteem it at? 395
  • Posthumus Leonatus. More than the world enjoys.
  • Iachimo. Either your unparagoned mistress is dead, or she's
    outprized by a trifle.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. You are mistaken: the one may be sold, or given, if
    there were wealth enough for the purchase, or merit 400
    for the gift: the other is not a thing for sale,
    and only the gift of the gods.
  • Iachimo. Which the gods have given you?
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Which, by their graces, I will keep.
  • Iachimo. You may wear her in title yours: but, you know, 405
    strange fowl light upon neighbouring ponds. Your
    ring may be stolen too: so your brace of unprizable
    estimations; the one is but frail and the other
    casual; a cunning thief, or a that way accomplished
    courtier, would hazard the winning both of first and last. 410
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Your Italy contains none so accomplished a courtier
    to convince the honour of my mistress, if, in the
    holding or loss of that, you term her frail. I do
    nothing doubt you have store of thieves;
    notwithstanding, I fear not my ring. 415
  • Philario. Let us leave here, gentlemen.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Sir, with all my heart. This worthy signior, I
    thank him, makes no stranger of me; we are familiar at first.
  • Iachimo. With five times so much conversation, I should get
    ground of your fair mistress, make her go back, even 420
    to the yielding, had I admittance and opportunity to friend.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. No, no.
  • Iachimo. I dare thereupon pawn the moiety of my estate to
    your ring; which, in my opinion, o'ervalues it
    something: but I make my wager rather against your 425
    confidence than her reputation: and, to bar your
    offence herein too, I durst attempt it against any
    lady in the world.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. You are a great deal abused in too bold a
    persuasion; and I doubt not you sustain what you're 430
    worthy of by your attempt.
  • Iachimo. What's that?
  • Posthumus Leonatus. A repulse: though your attempt, as you call it,
    deserve more; a punishment too.
  • Philario. Gentlemen, enough of this: it came in too suddenly; 435
    let it die as it was born, and, I pray you, be
    better acquainted.
  • Iachimo. Would I had put my estate and my neighbour's on the
    approbation of what I have spoke!
  • Posthumus Leonatus. What lady would you choose to assail? 440
  • Iachimo. Yours; whom in constancy you think stands so safe.
    I will lay you ten thousand ducats to your ring,
    that, commend me to the court where your lady is,
    with no more advantage than the opportunity of a
    second conference, and I will bring from thence 445
    that honour of hers which you imagine so reserved.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. I will wage against your gold, gold to it: my ring
    I hold dear as my finger; 'tis part of it.
  • Iachimo. You are afraid, and therein the wiser. If you buy
    ladies' flesh at a million a dram, you cannot 450
    preserve it from tainting: but I see you have some
    religion in you, that you fear.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. This is but a custom in your tongue; you bear a
    graver purpose, I hope.
  • Iachimo. I am the master of my speeches, and would undergo 455
    what's spoken, I swear.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Will you? I shall but lend my diamond till your
    return: let there be covenants drawn between's: my
    mistress exceeds in goodness the hugeness of your
    unworthy thinking: I dare you to this match: here's my ring. 460
  • Philario. I will have it no lay.
  • Iachimo. By the gods, it is one. If I bring you no
    sufficient testimony that I have enjoyed the dearest
    bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand ducats
    are yours; so is your diamond too: if I come off, 465
    and leave her in such honour as you have trust in,
    she your jewel, this your jewel, and my gold are
    yours: provided I have your commendation for my more
    free entertainment.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. I embrace these conditions; let us have articles 470
    betwixt us. Only, thus far you shall answer: if
    you make your voyage upon her and give me directly
    to understand you have prevailed, I am no further
    your enemy; she is not worth our debate: if she
    remain unseduced, you not making it appear 475
    otherwise, for your ill opinion and the assault you
    have made to her chastity you shall answer me with
    your sword.
  • Iachimo. Your hand; a covenant: we will have these things set
    down by lawful counsel, and straight away for 480
    Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and
    starve: I will fetch my gold and have our two
    wagers recorded.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Agreed.


  • Frenchman. Will this hold, think you?
  • Philario. Signior Iachimo will not from it.
    Pray, let us follow 'em.