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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act III, Scene 5

A room in Cymbeline’s palace.


[Enter CYMBELINE, QUEEN, CLOTEN, LUCIUS,] [p]Lords, and Attendants]

  • Caius Lucius. Thanks, royal sir. 1945
    My emperor hath wrote, I must from hence;
    And am right sorry that I must report ye
    My master's enemy.
  • Cymbeline. Our subjects, sir,
    Will not endure his yoke; and for ourself 1950
    To show less sovereignty than they, must needs
    Appear unkinglike.
  • Caius Lucius. So, sir: I desire of you
    A conduct over-land to Milford-Haven.
    Madam, all joy befal your grace! 1955
  • Cymbeline. My lords, you are appointed for that office;
    The due of honour in no point omit.
    So farewell, noble Lucius.
  • Cloten. Receive it friendly; but from this time forth
    I wear it as your enemy.
  • Caius Lucius. Sir, the event
    Is yet to name the winner: fare you well.
  • Cymbeline. Leave not the worthy Lucius, good my lords, 1965
    Till he have cross'd the Severn. Happiness!

[Exeunt LUCIUS and Lords]

  • Queen. He goes hence frowning: but it honours us
    That we have given him cause.
  • Cloten. 'Tis all the better; 1970
    Your valiant Britons have their wishes in it.
  • Cymbeline. Lucius hath wrote already to the emperor
    How it goes here. It fits us therefore ripely
    Our chariots and our horsemen be in readiness:
    The powers that he already hath in Gallia 1975
    Will soon be drawn to head, from whence he moves
    His war for Britain.
  • Queen. 'Tis not sleepy business;
    But must be look'd to speedily and strongly.
  • Cymbeline. Our expectation that it would be thus 1980
    Hath made us forward. But, my gentle queen,
    Where is our daughter? She hath not appear'd
    Before the Roman, nor to us hath tender'd
    The duty of the day: she looks us like
    A thing more made of malice than of duty: 1985
    We have noted it. Call her before us; for
    We have been too slight in sufferance.

[Exit an Attendant]

  • Queen. Royal sir,
    Since the exile of Posthumus, most retired 1990
    Hath her life been; the cure whereof, my lord,
    'Tis time must do. Beseech your majesty,
    Forbear sharp speeches to her: she's a lady
    So tender of rebukes that words are strokes
    And strokes death to her. 1995

[Re-enter Attendant]

  • Cymbeline. Where is she, sir? How
    Can her contempt be answer'd?
  • Attendant. Please you, sir,
    Her chambers are all lock'd; and there's no answer 2000
    That will be given to the loudest noise we make.
  • Queen. My lord, when last I went to visit her,
    She pray'd me to excuse her keeping close,
    Whereto constrain'd by her infirmity,
    She should that duty leave unpaid to you, 2005
    Which daily she was bound to proffer: this
    She wish'd me to make known; but our great court
    Made me to blame in memory.
  • Cymbeline. Her doors lock'd?
    Not seen of late? Grant, heavens, that which I fear 2010
    Prove false!


  • Queen. Son, I say, follow the king.
  • Cloten. That man of hers, Pisanio, her old servant,
    have not seen these two days. 2015
  • Queen. Go, look after.
    [Exit CLOTEN]
    Pisanio, thou that stand'st so for Posthumus!
    He hath a drug of mine; I pray his absence
    Proceed by swallowing that, for he believes 2020
    It is a thing most precious. But for her,
    Where is she gone? Haply, despair hath seized her,
    Or, wing'd with fervor of her love, she's flown
    To her desired Posthumus: gone she is
    To death or to dishonour; and my end 2025
    Can make good use of either: she being down,
    I have the placing of the British crown.
    [Re-enter CLOTEN]
    How now, my son!
  • Cloten. 'Tis certain she is fled. 2030
    Go in and cheer the king: he rages; none
    Dare come about him.
  • Queen. [Aside] All the better: may
    This night forestall him of the coming day!


  • Cloten. I love and hate her: for she's fair and royal,
    And that she hath all courtly parts more exquisite
    Than lady, ladies, woman; from every one
    The best she hath, and she, of all compounded,
    Outsells them all; I love her therefore: but 2040
    Disdaining me and throwing favours on
    The low Posthumus slanders so her judgment
    That what's else rare is choked; and in that point
    I will conclude to hate her, nay, indeed,
    To be revenged upon her. For when fools Shall— 2045
    [Enter PISANIO]
    Who is here? What, are you packing, sirrah?
    Come hither: ah, you precious pander! Villain,
    Where is thy lady? In a word; or else
    Thou art straightway with the fiends. 2050
  • Cloten. Where is thy lady? Or, by Jupiter,—
    I will not ask again. Close villain,
    I'll have this secret from thy heart, or rip
    Thy heart to find it. Is she with Posthumus? 2055
    From whose so many weights of baseness cannot
    A dram of worth be drawn.
  • Pisanio. Alas, my lord,
    How can she be with him? When was she missed?
    He is in Rome. 2060
  • Cloten. Where is she, sir? Come nearer;
    No further halting: satisfy me home
    What is become of her.
  • Cloten. All-worthy villain! 2065
    Discover where thy mistress is at once,
    At the next word: no more of 'worthy lord!'
    Speak, or thy silence on the instant is
    Thy condemnation and thy death.
  • Pisanio. Then, sir, 2070
    This paper is the history of my knowledge
    Touching her flight.

[Presenting a letter]

  • Cloten. Let's see't. I will pursue her
    Even to Augustus' throne. 2075
  • Pisanio. [Aside] Or this, or perish.
    She's far enough; and what he learns by this
    May prove his travel, not her danger.
  • Pisanio. [Aside] I'll write to my lord she's dead. O Imogen, 2080
    Safe mayst thou wander, safe return again!
  • Cloten. Sirrah, is this letter true?
  • Cloten. It is Posthumus' hand; I know't. Sirrah, if thou
    wouldst not be a villain, but do me true service, 2085
    undergo those employments wherein I should have
    cause to use thee with a serious industry, that is,
    what villany soe'er I bid thee do, to perform it
    directly and truly, I would think thee an honest
    man: thou shouldst neither want my means for thy 2090
    relief nor my voice for thy preferment.
  • Cloten. Wilt thou serve me? for since patiently and
    constantly thou hast stuck to the bare fortune of
    that beggar Posthumus, thou canst not, in the 2095
    course of gratitude, but be a diligent follower of
    mine: wilt thou serve me?
  • Cloten. Give me thy hand; here's my purse. Hast any of thy
    late master's garments in thy possession? 2100
  • Pisanio. I have, my lord, at my lodging, the same suit he
    wore when he took leave of my lady and mistress.
  • Cloten. The first service thou dost me, fetch that suit
    hither: let it be thy lint service; go.


  • Cloten. Meet thee at Milford-Haven!—I forgot to ask him one
    thing; I'll remember't anon:—even there, thou
    villain Posthumus, will I kill thee. I would these
    garments were come. She said upon a time—the 2110
    bitterness of it I now belch from my heart—that she
    held the very garment of Posthumus in more respect
    than my noble and natural person together with the
    adornment of my qualities. With that suit upon my
    back, will I ravish her: first kill him, and in her 2115
    eyes; there shall she see my valour, which will then
    be a torment to her contempt. He on the ground, my
    speech of insultment ended on his dead body, and
    when my lust hath dined,—which, as I say, to vex
    her I will execute in the clothes that she so 2120
    praised,—to the court I'll knock her back, foot
    her home again. She hath despised me rejoicingly,
    and I'll be merry in my revenge.
    [Re-enter PISANIO, with the clothes]
    Be those the garments? 2125
  • Cloten. How long is't since she went to Milford-Haven?
  • Pisanio. She can scarce be there yet.
  • Cloten. Bring this apparel to my chamber; that is the second
    thing that I have commanded thee: the third is, 2130
    that thou wilt be a voluntary mute to my design. Be
    but duteous, and true preferment shall tender itself
    to thee. My revenge is now at Milford: would I had
    wings to follow it! Come, and be true.


  • Pisanio. Thou bid'st me to my loss: for true to thee
    Were to prove false, which I will never be,
    To him that is most true. To Milford go,
    And find not her whom thou pursuest. Flow, flow,
    You heavenly blessings, on her! This fool's speed 2140
    Be cross'd with slowness; labour be his meed!