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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act III, Scene 4

Country near Milford-Haven.



  • Imogen. Thou told'st me, when we came from horse, the place 1720
    Was near at hand: ne'er long'd my mother so
    To see me first, as I have now. Pisanio! man!
    Where is Posthumus? What is in thy mind,
    That makes thee stare thus? Wherefore breaks that sigh
    From the inward of thee? One, but painted thus, 1725
    Would be interpreted a thing perplex'd
    Beyond self-explication: put thyself
    Into a havior of less fear, ere wildness
    Vanquish my staider senses. What's the matter?
    Why tender'st thou that paper to me, with 1730
    A look untender? If't be summer news,
    Smile to't before; if winterly, thou need'st
    But keep that countenance still. My husband's hand!
    That drug-damn'd Italy hath out-craftied him,
    And he's at some hard point. Speak, man: thy tongue 1735
    May take off some extremity, which to read
    Would be even mortal to me.
  • Pisanio. Please you, read;
    And you shall find me, wretched man, a thing
    The most disdain'd of fortune. 1740
  • Imogen. [Reads] 'Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the
    strumpet in my bed; the testimonies whereof lie
    bleeding in me. I speak not out of weak surmises,
    but from proof as strong as my grief and as certain
    as I expect my revenge. That part thou, Pisanio, 1745
    must act for me, if thy faith be not tainted with
    the breach of hers. Let thine own hands take away
    her life: I shall give thee opportunity at
    Milford-Haven. She hath my letter for the purpose
    where, if thou fear to strike and to make me certain 1750
    it is done, thou art the pandar to her dishonour and
    equally to me disloyal.'
  • Pisanio. What shall I need to draw my sword? the paper
    Hath cut her throat already. No, 'tis slander,
    Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue 1755
    Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
    Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
    All corners of the world: kings, queens and states,
    Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
    This viperous slander enters. What cheer, madam? 1760
  • Imogen. False to his bed! What is it to be false?
    To lie in watch there and to think on him?
    To weep 'twixt clock and clock? if sleep
    charge nature,
    To break it with a fearful dream of him 1765
    And cry myself awake? that's false to's bed, is it?
  • Imogen. I false! Thy conscience witness: Iachimo,
    Thou didst accuse him of incontinency;
    Thou then look'dst like a villain; now methinks 1770
    Thy favour's good enough. Some jay of Italy
    Whose mother was her painting, hath betray'd him:
    Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion;
    And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls,
    I must be ripp'd:—to pieces with me!—O, 1775
    Men's vows are women's traitors! All good seeming,
    By thy revolt, O husband, shall be thought
    Put on for villany; not born where't grows,
    But worn a bait for ladies.
  • Imogen. True honest men being heard, like false Aeneas,
    Were in his time thought false, and Sinon's weeping
    Did scandal many a holy tear, took pity
    From most true wretchedness: so thou, Posthumus,
    Wilt lay the leaven on all proper men; 1785
    Goodly and gallant shall be false and perjured
    From thy great fall. Come, fellow, be thou honest:
    Do thou thy master's bidding: when thou see'st him,
    A little witness my obedience: look!
    I draw the sword myself: take it, and hit 1790
    The innocent mansion of my love, my heart;
    Fear not; 'tis empty of all things but grief;
    Thy master is not there, who was indeed
    The riches of it: do his bidding; strike
    Thou mayst be valiant in a better cause; 1795
    But now thou seem'st a coward.
  • Pisanio. Hence, vile instrument!
    Thou shalt not damn my hand.
  • Imogen. Why, I must die;
    And if I do not by thy hand, thou art 1800
    No servant of thy master's. Against self-slaughter
    There is a prohibition so divine
    That cravens my weak hand. Come, here's my heart.
    Something's afore't. Soft, soft! we'll no defence;
    Obedient as the scabbard. What is here? 1805
    The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus,
    All turn'd to heresy? Away, away,
    Corrupters of my faith! you shall no more
    Be stomachers to my heart. Thus may poor fools
    Believe false teachers: though those that 1810
    are betray'd
    Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
    Stands in worse case of woe.
    And thou, Posthumus, thou that didst set up
    My disobedience 'gainst the king my father 1815
    And make me put into contempt the suits
    Of princely fellows, shalt hereafter find
    It is no act of common passage, but
    A strain of rareness: and I grieve myself
    To think, when thou shalt be disedged by her 1820
    That now thou tirest on, how thy memory
    Will then be pang'd by me. Prithee, dispatch:
    The lamb entreats the butcher: where's thy knife?
    Thou art too slow to do thy master's bidding,
    When I desire it too. 1825
  • Pisanio. O gracious lady,
    Since I received command to do this business
    I have not slept one wink.
  • Imogen. Do't, and to bed then.
  • Pisanio. I'll wake mine eye-balls blind first. 1830
  • Imogen. Wherefore then
    Didst undertake it? Why hast thou abused
    So many miles with a pretence? this place?
    Mine action and thine own? our horses' labour?
    The time inviting thee? the perturb'd court, 1835
    For my being absent? whereunto I never
    Purpose return. Why hast thou gone so far,
    To be unbent when thou hast ta'en thy stand,
    The elected deer before thee?
  • Pisanio. But to win time 1840
    To lose so bad employment; in the which
    I have consider'd of a course. Good lady,
    Hear me with patience.
  • Imogen. Talk thy tongue weary; speak
    I have heard I am a strumpet; and mine ear 1845
    Therein false struck, can take no greater wound,
    Nor tent to bottom that. But speak.
  • Pisanio. Then, madam,
    I thought you would not back again.
  • Imogen. Most like; 1850
    Bringing me here to kill me.
  • Pisanio. Not so, neither:
    But if I were as wise as honest, then
    My purpose would prove well. It cannot be
    But that my master is abused: 1855
    Some villain, ay, and singular in his art.
    Hath done you both this cursed injury.
  • Imogen. Some Roman courtezan.
  • Pisanio. No, on my life.
    I'll give but notice you are dead and send him 1860
    Some bloody sign of it; for 'tis commanded
    I should do so: you shall be miss'd at court,
    And that will well confirm it.
  • Imogen. Why good fellow,
    What shall I do the where? where bide? how live? 1865
    Or in my life what comfort, when I am
    Dead to my husband?
  • Pisanio. If you'll back to the court—
  • Imogen. No court, no father; nor no more ado
    With that harsh, noble, simple nothing, 1870
    That Cloten, whose love-suit hath been to me
    As fearful as a siege.
  • Pisanio. If not at court,
    Then not in Britain must you bide.
  • Imogen. Where then 1875
    Hath Britain all the sun that shines? Day, night,
    Are they not but in Britain? I' the world's volume
    Our Britain seems as of it, but not in 't;
    In a great pool a swan's nest: prithee, think
    There's livers out of Britain. 1880
  • Pisanio. I am most glad
    You think of other place. The ambassador,
    Lucius the Roman, comes to Milford-Haven
    To-morrow: now, if you could wear a mind
    Dark as your fortune is, and but disguise 1885
    That which, to appear itself, must not yet be
    But by self-danger, you should tread a course
    Pretty and full of view; yea, haply, near
    The residence of Posthumus; so nigh at least
    That though his actions were not visible, yet 1890
    Report should render him hourly to your ear
    As truly as he moves.
  • Imogen. O, for such means!
    Though peril to my modesty, not death on't,
    I would adventure. 1895
  • Pisanio. Well, then, here's the point:
    You must forget to be a woman; change
    Command into obedience: fear and niceness—
    The handmaids of all women, or, more truly,
    Woman its pretty self—into a waggish courage: 1900
    Ready in gibes, quick-answer'd, saucy and
    As quarrelous as the weasel; nay, you must
    Forget that rarest treasure of your cheek,
    Exposing it—but, O, the harder heart!
    Alack, no remedy!—to the greedy touch 1905
    Of common-kissing Titan, and forget
    Your laboursome and dainty trims, wherein
    You made great Juno angry.
  • Imogen. Nay, be brief
    I see into thy end, and am almost 1910
    A man already.
  • Pisanio. First, make yourself but like one.
    Fore-thinking this, I have already fit—
    'Tis in my cloak-bag—doublet, hat, hose, all
    That answer to them: would you in their serving, 1915
    And with what imitation you can borrow
    From youth of such a season, 'fore noble Lucius
    Present yourself, desire his service, tell him
    wherein you're happy,—which you'll make him know,
    If that his head have ear in music,—doubtless 1920
    With joy he will embrace you, for he's honourable
    And doubling that, most holy. Your means abroad,
    You have me, rich; and I will never fail
    Beginning nor supplyment.
  • Imogen. Thou art all the comfort 1925
    The gods will diet me with. Prithee, away:
    There's more to be consider'd; but we'll even
    All that good time will give us: this attempt
    I am soldier to, and will abide it with
    A prince's courage. Away, I prithee. 1930
  • Pisanio. Well, madam, we must take a short farewell,
    Lest, being miss'd, I be suspected of
    Your carriage from the court. My noble mistress,
    Here is a box; I had it from the queen:
    What's in't is precious; if you are sick at sea, 1935
    Or stomach-qualm'd at land, a dram of this
    Will drive away distemper. To some shade,
    And fit you to your manhood. May the gods
    Direct you to the best!
  • Imogen. Amen: I thank thee. 1940

[Exeunt, severally]