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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act I, Scene 5

Britain. A room in Cymbeline’s palace.


[Enter QUEEN, Ladies, and CORNELIUS]

  • Queen. Whiles yet the dew's on ground, gather those flowers;
    Make haste: who has the note of them?
  • Queen. Dispatch.
    [Exeunt Ladies] 495
    Now, master doctor, have you brought those drugs?
  • Cornelius. Pleaseth your highness, ay: here they are, madam:
    [Presenting a small box]
    But I beseech your grace, without offence,—
    My conscience bids me ask—wherefore you have 500
    Commanded of me those most poisonous compounds,
    Which are the movers of a languishing death;
    But though slow, deadly?
  • Queen. I wonder, doctor,
    Thou ask'st me such a question. Have I not been 505
    Thy pupil long? Hast thou not learn'd me how
    To make perfumes? distil? preserve? yea, so
    That our great king himself doth woo me oft
    For my confections? Having thus far proceeded,—
    Unless thou think'st me devilish—is't not meet 510
    That I did amplify my judgment in
    Other conclusions? I will try the forces
    Of these thy compounds on such creatures as
    We count not worth the hanging, but none human,
    To try the vigour of them and apply 515
    Allayments to their act, and by them gather
    Their several virtues and effects.
  • Cornelius. Your highness
    Shall from this practise but make hard your heart:
    Besides, the seeing these effects will be 520
    Both noisome and infectious.
  • Queen. O, content thee.
    [Enter PISANIO]
    Here comes a flattering rascal; upon him 525
    Will I first work: he's for his master,
    An enemy to my son. How now, Pisanio!
    Doctor, your service for this time is ended;
    Take your own way.
  • Cornelius. [Aside] I do suspect you, madam; 530
    But you shall do no harm.
  • Queen. [To PISANIO] Hark thee, a word.
  • Cornelius. [Aside] I do not like her. She doth think she has
    Strange lingering poisons: I do know her spirit,
    And will not trust one of her malice with 535
    A drug of such damn'd nature. Those she has
    Will stupefy and dull the sense awhile;
    Which first, perchance, she'll prove on
    cats and dogs,
    Then afterward up higher: but there is 540
    No danger in what show of death it makes,
    More than the locking-up the spirits a time,
    To be more fresh, reviving. She is fool'd
    With a most false effect; and I the truer,
    So to be false with her. 545
  • Queen. No further service, doctor,
    Until I send for thee.


  • Queen. Weeps she still, say'st thou? Dost thou think in time 550
    She will not quench and let instructions enter
    Where folly now possesses? Do thou work:
    When thou shalt bring me word she loves my son,
    I'll tell thee on the instant thou art then
    As great as is thy master, greater, for 555
    His fortunes all lie speechless and his name
    Is at last gasp: return he cannot, nor
    Continue where he is: to shift his being
    Is to exchange one misery with another,
    And every day that comes comes to decay 560
    A day's work in him. What shalt thou expect,
    To be depender on a thing that leans,
    Who cannot be new built, nor has no friends,
    So much as but to prop him?
    [The QUEEN drops the box: PISANIO takes it up] 565
    Thou takest up
    Thou know'st not what; but take it for thy labour:
    It is a thing I made, which hath the king
    Five times redeem'd from death: I do not know
    What is more cordial. Nay, I prethee, take it; 570
    It is an earnest of a further good
    That I mean to thee. Tell thy mistress how
    The case stands with her; do't as from thyself.
    Think what a chance thou changest on, but think
    Thou hast thy mistress still, to boot, my son, 575
    Who shall take notice of thee: I'll move the king
    To any shape of thy preferment such
    As thou'lt desire; and then myself, I chiefly,
    That set thee on to this desert, am bound
    To load thy merit richly. Call my women: 580
    Think on my words.
    [Exit PISANIO]
    A sly and constant knave,
    Not to be shaked; the agent for his master
    And the remembrancer of her to hold 585
    The hand-fast to her lord. I have given him that
    Which, if he take, shall quite unpeople her
    Of liegers for her sweet, and which she after,
    Except she bend her humour, shall be assured
    To taste of too. 590
    [Re-enter PISANIO and Ladies]
    So, so: well done, well done:
    The violets, cowslips, and the primroses,
    Bear to my closet. Fare thee well, Pisanio;
    Think on my words. 595

[Exeunt QUEEN and Ladies]

  • Pisanio. And shall do:
    But when to my good lord I prove untrue,
    I'll choke myself: there's all I'll do for you.