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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act V, Scene 4

A British prison.


[Enter POSTHUMUS LEONATUS and two Gaolers]

  • First Gaoler. You shall not now be stol'n, you have locks upon you;
    So graze as you find pasture.

[Exeunt Gaolers]

  • Posthumus Leonatus. Most welcome, bondage! for thou art away, 3140
    think, to liberty: yet am I better
    Than one that's sick o' the gout; since he had rather
    Groan so in perpetuity than be cured
    By the sure physician, death, who is the key
    To unbar these locks. My conscience, thou art fetter'd 3145
    More than my shanks and wrists: you good gods, give me
    The penitent instrument to pick that bolt,
    Then, free for ever! Is't enough I am sorry?
    So children temporal fathers do appease;
    Gods are more full of mercy. Must I repent? 3150
    I cannot do it better than in gyves,
    Desired more than constrain'd: to satisfy,
    If of my freedom 'tis the main part, take
    No stricter render of me than my all.
    I know you are more clement than vile men, 3155
    Who of their broken debtors take a third,
    A sixth, a tenth, letting them thrive again
    On their abatement: that's not my desire:
    For Imogen's dear life take mine; and though
    'Tis not so dear, yet 'tis a life; you coin'd it: 3160
    'Tween man and man they weigh not every stamp;
    Though light, take pieces for the figure's sake:
    You rather mine, being yours: and so, great powers,
    If you will take this audit, take this life,
    And cancel these cold bonds. O Imogen! 3165
    I'll speak to thee in silence.
    [Solemn music. Enter, as in an apparition,]
    SICILIUS LEONATUS, father to Posthumus Leonatus,
    an old man, attired like a warrior; leading in 3170
    his hand an ancient matron, his wife, and mother
    to Posthumus Leonatus, with music before them:
    then, after other music, follow the two young
    Leonati, brothers to Posthumus Leonatus, with
    wounds as they died in the wars. They circle 3175
    Posthumus Leonatus round, as he lies sleeping]
  • Sicilius Leonatus. No more, thou thunder-master, show
    Thy spite on mortal flies:
    With Mars fall out, with Juno chide,
    That thy adulteries 3180
    Rates and revenges.
    Hath my poor boy done aught but well,
    Whose face I never saw?
    I died whilst in the womb he stay'd
    Attending nature's law: 3185
    Whose father then, as men report
    Thou orphans' father art,
    Thou shouldst have been, and shielded him
    From this earth-vexing smart.
  • Mother. Lucina lent not me her aid, 3190
    But took me in my throes;
    That from me was Posthumus ript,
    Came crying 'mongst his foes,
    A thing of pity!
  • Sicilius Leonatus. Great nature, like his ancestry, 3195
    Moulded the stuff so fair,
    That he deserved the praise o' the world,
    As great Sicilius' heir.
  • First Brother. When once he was mature for man,
    In Britain where was he 3200
    That could stand up his parallel;
    Or fruitful object be
    In eye of Imogen, that best
    Could deem his dignity?
  • Mother. With marriage wherefore was he mock'd, 3205
    To be exiled, and thrown
    From Leonati seat, and cast
    From her his dearest one,
    Sweet Imogen?
  • Sicilius Leonatus. Why did you suffer Iachimo, 3210
    Slight thing of Italy,
    To taint his nobler heart and brain
    With needless jealosy;
    And to become the geck and scorn
    O' th' other's villany? 3215
  • Second Brother. For this from stiller seats we came,
    Our parents and us twain,
    That striking in our country's cause
    Fell bravely and were slain,
    Our fealty and Tenantius' right 3220
    With honour to maintain.
  • First Brother. Like hardiment Posthumus hath
    To Cymbeline perform'd:
    Then, Jupiter, thou king of gods,
    Why hast thou thus adjourn'd 3225
    The graces for his merits due,
    Being all to dolours turn'd?
  • Sicilius Leonatus. Thy crystal window ope; look out;
    No longer exercise
    Upon a valiant race thy harsh 3230
    And potent injuries.
  • Mother. Since, Jupiter, our son is good,
    Take off his miseries.
  • Sicilius Leonatus. Peep through thy marble mansion; help;
    Or we poor ghosts will cry 3235
    To the shining synod of the rest
    Against thy deity.
  • Second Brother. [with First Brother] Help, Jupiter; or we appeal,
    And from thy justice fly.
    [Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting] 3240
    upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The
    Apparitions fall on their knees]
  • Jupiter. No more, you petty spirits of region low,
    Offend our hearing; hush! How dare you ghosts
    Accuse the thunderer, whose bolt, you know, 3245
    Sky-planted batters all rebelling coasts?
    Poor shadows of Elysium, hence, and rest
    Upon your never-withering banks of flowers:
    Be not with mortal accidents opprest;
    No care of yours it is; you know 'tis ours. 3250
    Whom best I love I cross; to make my gift,
    The more delay'd, delighted. Be content;
    Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift:
    His comforts thrive, his trials well are spent.
    Our Jovial star reign'd at his birth, and in 3255
    Our temple was he married. Rise, and fade.
    He shall be lord of lady Imogen,
    And happier much by his affliction made.
    This tablet lay upon his breast, wherein
    Our pleasure his full fortune doth confine: 3260
    and so, away: no further with your din
    Express impatience, lest you stir up mine.
    Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline.


  • Sicilius Leonatus. He came in thunder; his celestial breath 3265
    Was sulphurous to smell: the holy eagle
    Stoop'd as to foot us: his ascension is
    More sweet than our blest fields: his royal bird
    Prunes the immortal wing and cloys his beak,
    As when his god is pleased. 3270
  • All. Thanks, Jupiter!
  • Sicilius Leonatus. The marble pavement closes, he is enter'd
    His radiant root. Away! and, to be blest,
    Let us with care perform his great behest.

[The Apparitions vanish]

  • Posthumus Leonatus. [Waking] Sleep, thou hast been a grandsire, and begot
    A father to me; and thou hast created
    A mother and two brothers: but, O scorn!
    Gone! they went hence so soon as they were born:
    And so I am awake. Poor wretches that depend 3280
    On greatness' favour dream as I have done,
    Wake and find nothing. But, alas, I swerve:
    Many dream not to find, neither deserve,
    And yet are steep'd in favours: so am I,
    That have this golden chance and know not why. 3285
    What fairies haunt this ground? A book? O rare one!
    Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment
    Nobler than that it covers: let thy effects
    So follow, to be most unlike our courtiers,
    As good as promise. 3290
    'When as a lion's whelp shall, to himself unknown,
    without seeking find, and be embraced by a piece of
    tender air; and when from a stately cedar shall be
    lopped branches, which, being dead many years, 3295
    shall after revive, be jointed to the old stock and
    freshly grow; then shall Posthumus end his miseries,
    Britain be fortunate and flourish in peace and plenty.'
    'Tis still a dream, or else such stuff as madmen
    Tongue and brain not; either both or nothing; 3300
    Or senseless speaking or a speaking such
    As sense cannot untie. Be what it is,
    The action of my life is like it, which
    I'll keep, if but for sympathy.

[Re-enter First Gaoler]

  • First Gaoler. Hanging is the word, sir: if
    you be ready for that, you are well cooked.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. So, if I prove a good repast to the 3310
    spectators, the dish pays the shot.
  • First Gaoler. A heavy reckoning for you, sir. But the comfort is,
    you shall be called to no more payments, fear no
    more tavern-bills; which are often the sadness of
    parting, as the procuring of mirth: you come in 3315
    flint for want of meat, depart reeling with too
    much drink; sorry that you have paid too much, and
    sorry that you are paid too much; purse and brain
    both empty; the brain the heavier for being too
    light, the purse too light, being drawn of 3320
    heaviness: of this contradiction you shall now be
    quit. O, the charity of a penny cord! It sums up
    thousands in a trice: you have no true debitor and
    creditor but it; of what's past, is, and to come,
    the discharge: your neck, sir, is pen, book and 3325
    counters; so the acquittance follows.
  • First Gaoler. Indeed, sir, he that sleeps feels not the
    tooth-ache: but a man that were to sleep your
    sleep, and a hangman to help him to bed, I think he 3330
    would change places with his officer; for, look you,
    sir, you know not which way you shall go.
  • First Gaoler. Your death has eyes in 's head then; I have not seen
    him so pictured: you must either be directed by 3335
    some that take upon them to know, or do take upon
    yourself that which I am sure you do not know, or
    jump the after inquiry on your own peril: and how
    you shall speed in your journey's end, I think you'll
    never return to tell one. 3340
  • Posthumus Leonatus. I tell thee, fellow, there are none want eyes to
    direct them the way I am going, but such as wink and
    will not use them.
  • First Gaoler. What an infinite mock is this, that a man should
    have the best use of eyes to see the way of 3345
    blindness! I am sure hanging's the way of winking.

[Enter a Messenger]

  • Messenger. Knock off his manacles; bring your prisoner to the king.

[Exeunt POSTHUMUS LEONATUS and Messenger]

  • First Gaoler. Unless a man would marry a gallows and beget young
    gibbets, I never saw one so prone. Yet, on my
    conscience, there are verier knaves desire to live, 3355
    for all he be a Roman: and there be some of them
    too that die against their wills; so should I, if I
    were one. I would we were all of one mind, and one
    mind good; O, there were desolation of gaolers and
    gallowses! I speak against my present profit, but 3360
    my wish hath a preferment in 't.