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Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT I SCENE I Britain. The garden of Cymbeline's palace. 
 Enter two Gentlemen. 
First Gentleman You do not meet a man but frowns: our bloods 
 No more obey the heavens than our courtiers 
 Still seem as does the king. 
Second Gentleman But what's the matter?
First Gentleman His daughter, and the heir of's kingdom, whom 
 He purposed to his wife's sole son--a widow 
 That late he married--hath referr'd herself 
 Unto a poor but worthy gentleman: she's wedded; 
 Her husband banish'd; she imprison'd: all
 Is outward sorrow; though I think the king 
 Be touch'd at very heart. 
Second Gentleman None but the king? 10
First Gentleman He that hath lost her too; so is the queen, 
 That most desired the match; but not a courtier,
 Although they wear their faces to the bent 
 Of the king's look's, hath a heart that is not 
 Glad at the thing they scowl at. 
Second Gentleman And why so? 
First Gentleman He that hath miss'd the princess is a thing
 Too bad for bad report: and he that hath her-- 
 I mean, that married her, alack, good man!

 And therefore banish'd--is a creature such 
 As, to seek through the regions of the earth 20
 For one his like, there would be something failing
 In him that should compare. I do not think 
 So fair an outward and such stuff within 
 Endows a man but he. 
Second Gentleman You speak him far. 
First Gentleman I do extend him, sir, within himself,
 Crush him together rather than unfold 
 His measure duly. 
Second Gentleman What's his name and birth? 
First Gentleman I cannot delve him to the root: his father 
 Was call'd Sicilius, who did join his honour
 Against the Romans with Cassibelan, 30
 But had his titles by Tenantius whom 
 He served with glory and admired success, 
 So gain'd the sur-addition Leonatus; 
 And had, besides this gentleman in question,
 Two other sons, who in the wars o' the time 
 Died with their swords in hand; for which 
 their father, 
 Then old and fond of issue, took such sorrow 
 That he quit being, and his gentle lady,
 Big of this gentleman our theme, deceased 
 As he was born. The king he takes the babe 40
 To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus, 
 Breeds him and makes him of his bed-chamber, 
 Puts to him all the learnings that his time
 Could make him the receiver of; which he took, 
 As we do air, fast as 'twas minister'd, 
 And in's spring became a harvest, lived in court-- 
 Which rare it is to do--most praised, most loved, 
 A sample to the youngest, to the more mature
 A glass that feated them, and to the graver 
 A child that guided dotards; to his mistress, 50
 For whom he now is banish'd, her own price 
 Proclaims how she esteem'd him and his virtue; 
 By her election may be truly read
 What kind of man he is. 
Second Gentleman I honour him 
 Even out of your report. But, pray you, tell me, 
 Is she sole child to the king? 
First Gentleman His only child.
 He had two sons: if this be worth your hearing, 
 Mark it: the eldest of them at three years old, 
 I' the swathing-clothes the other, from their nursery 
 Were stol'n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge 60
 Which way they went.
Second Gentleman How long is this ago? 
First Gentleman Some twenty years. 
Second Gentleman That a king's children should be so convey'd! 
 So slackly guarded! and the search so slow, 
 That could not trace them!
First Gentleman Howsoe'er 'tis strange, 
 Or that the negligence may well be laugh'd at, 
 Yet is it true, sir. 
Second Gentleman I do well believe you. 
First Gentleman We must forbear: here comes the gentleman,
 The queen, and princess. 
QUEEN No, be assured you shall not find me, daughter, 70
 After the slander of most stepmothers, 
 Evil-eyed unto you: you're my prisoner, but 
 Your gaoler shall deliver you the keys
 That lock up your restraint. For you, Posthumus, 
 So soon as I can win the offended king, 
 I will be known your advocate: marry, yet 
 The fire of rage is in him, and 'twere good 
 You lean'd unto his sentence with what patience
 Your wisdom may inform you. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Please your highness, 
 I will from hence to-day. 
QUEEN You know the peril. 80
 I'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying
 The pangs of barr'd affections, though the king 
 Hath charged you should not speak together. 
IMOGEN O dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant 
 Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest husband,
 I something fear my father's wrath; but nothing-- 
 Always reserved my holy duty--what 
 His rage can do on me: you must be gone; 
 And I shall here abide the hourly shot 
 Of angry eyes, not comforted to live, 90
 But that there is this jewel in the world 
 That I may see again. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS My queen! my mistress! 
 O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause 
 To be suspected of more tenderness
 Than doth become a man. I will remain 
 The loyal'st husband that did e'er plight troth: 
 My residence in Rome at one Philario's, 
 Who to my father was a friend, to me 
 Known but by letter: thither write, my queen,
 And with mine eyes I'll drink the words you send, 100
 Though ink be made of gall. 
 Re-enter QUEEN. 
QUEEN Be brief, I pray you: 
 If the king come, I shall incur I know not 
 How much of his displeasure.
 Yet I'll move him 
 To walk this way: I never do him wrong, 
 But he does buy my injuries, to be friends; 
 Pays dear for my offences. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Should we be taking leave
 As long a term as yet we have to live, 
 The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu! 
IMOGEN Nay, stay a little: 
 Were you but riding forth to air yourself, 110
 Such parting were too petty. Look here, love;
 This diamond was my mother's: take it, heart; 
 But keep it till you woo another wife, 
 When Imogen is dead. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS How, how! another? 
 You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
 And sear up my embracements from a next 
 With bonds of death! 
 [ Putting on the ring. ] 
 Remain, remain thou here 
 While sense can keep it on. And, sweetest, fairest, 
 As I my poor self did exchange for you,
 To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles 120
 I still win of you: for my sake wear this; 
 It is a manacle of love; I'll place it 
 Upon this fairest prisoner. 
 [ Putting a bracelet upon her arm. ] 
IMOGEN O the gods!
 When shall we see again? 
 Enter CYMBELINE and Lords. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Alack, the king! 
CYMBELINE Thou basest thing, avoid! hence, from my sight! 
 If after this command thou fraught the court 
 With thy unworthiness, thou diest: away!
 Thou'rt poison to my blood. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS The gods protect you! 
 And bless the good remainders of the court! I am gone. 
IMOGEN There cannot be a pinch in death 130
 More sharp than this is.
CYMBELINE O disloyal thing, 
 That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap'st 
 A year's age on me. 
IMOGEN I beseech you, sir, 
 Harm not yourself with your vexation
 I am senseless of your wrath; a touch more rare 
 Subdues all pangs, all fears. 
CYMBELINE Past grace? obedience? 
IMOGEN Past hope, and in despair; that way, past grace. 
CYMBELINE That mightst have had the sole son of my queen!
IMOGEN O blest, that I might not! I chose an eagle, 
 And did avoid a puttock. 140
CYMBELINE Thou took'st a beggar; wouldst have made my throne 
 A seat for baseness. 
IMOGEN No; I rather added
 A lustre to it. 
CYMBELINE O thou vile one! 
 It is your fault that I have loved Posthumus: 
 You bred him as my playfellow, and he is
 A man worth any woman, overbuys me 
 Almost the sum he pays. 
CYMBELINE What, art thou mad? 
IMOGEN Almost, sir: heaven restore me! Would I were 
 A neat-herd's daughter, and my Leonatus
 Our neighbour shepherd's son! 
CYMBELINE Thou foolish thing! 150
 Re-enter QUEEN. 
 They were again together: you have done 
 Not after our command. Away with her, 
 And pen her up.
QUEEN Beseech your patience. Peace, 
 Dear lady daughter, peace! Sweet sovereign, 
 Leave us to ourselves; and make yourself some comfort 
 Out of your best advice. 
CYMBELINE Nay, let her languish
 A drop of blood a day; and, being aged, 
 Die of this folly! 
 Exeunt CYMBELINE and Lords. 
QUEEN Fie! you must give way. 
 Enter PISANIO. 
 Here is your servant. How now, sir! What news? 
PISANIO My lord your son drew on my master.
QUEEN Ha! 160
 No harm, I trust, is done? 
PISANIO There might have been, 
 But that my master rather play'd than fought 
 And had no help of anger: they were parted
 By gentlemen at hand. 
QUEEN I am very glad on't. 
IMOGEN Your son's my father's friend; he takes his part. 
 To draw upon an exile! O brave sir! 
 I would they were in Afric both together;
 Myself by with a needle, that I might prick 
 The goer-back. Why came you from your master? 
PISANIO On his command: he would not suffer me 170
 To bring him to the haven; left these notes 
 Of what commands I should be subject to,
 When 't pleased you to employ me. 
QUEEN This hath been 
 Your faithful servant: I dare lay mine honour 
 He will remain so. 
PISANIO I humbly thank your highness.
QUEEN Pray, walk awhile. 
IMOGEN About some half-hour hence, 
 I pray you, speak with me: you shall at least 
 Go see my lord aboard: for this time leave me. 

Cymbeline, Act 1, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.


Scene I.

This introductory scene gives much information about the dramatis personae and the general position. It also strikes one of the key-notes of the play -- the evil of court-life. This is a link with the earlier comedy, As You Like It, and the "romance" closely associated with Cymbeline, namely The Winter's Tale. Brandes says: "As in Cymbeline, the court is here [Winter's T.] placed in contrast with idyllic life, and shown as the abode of cruelty, stupidity, and vice."

1-3. 'Our temperaments (or moods) are not more dependent on the heavens than the looks of our courtiers depend on the king,' i.e. if he smiles they smile etc.; cf. lines 12-15.
the heavens; perhaps with the special astrological idea of the "influence" of the heavenly bodies; but I think that it may mean more simply the effect which the varying aspects of the sky (e.g. sunshine) exercise on men's spirits.
king; a generally accepted correction of the Folio's reading kings', where the s may easily have come from the termination of the two previous lines.

24. endows; singular in agreement with the sense -- 'the combination of such external and internal merits.'
but he; for the neglect of the inflexion cf. a passage like Coriolanus, v. 3. 103, 104:
"And to poor we
Thine enmity's most capital";
or (less certainly) Macbeth, III. 4. 14 "'Tis better thee without than he within." So who for whom, III. 3. 87.

25-27. extend; carrying on the idea of "far" in 24: 'if I speak him far (i.e. praise him highly), I still keep well within the limits of his excellence.' Cf. I. 4. 18.

29. his honour, his honourable services; his feats as a warrior.

31. Tenantius, father of Cymbeline.

33. sur-addition; extra title; see addition in Glossary. It is one of Shakespeare's Plutarch touches. Plutarch gives a full account and many illustrations of the custom among the Greeks and Romans of giving such "additions" or "surnames."
"Even so did the Grecians in old time give additions to princes, by reason of some notable act worthy memory. As when they have called some Soter and Callinicos, as much to say as saviour and conqueror. Or else of some notable apparent mark on one's face, or on his body, they have called him...Grypos; as ye would say, hook-nosed [see III. I. 36, 37, note]; or else for some virtue, as Euergetes and Philadelphes, to wit, a benefactor, and lover of his brethren.... And some kings have had surnames of jest and mockery."'
The obvious Shakespearian instance of such an "addition" is "Coriolanus," whom we know simply as Caius Marcius till the taking of Corioli:
"and from this time,
For what he did before Corioli, call him.
With all the applause and clamour of the host,
Cains Marcius Coriolanus! Bear
The addition nobly ever!" (i. 9. 63-66).
37. fond of, desirous of; very anxious to have.

39. A Midsummer-Night's Dream, II. 1. 131.

41. Posthumus; as having been born after his father's death; a posthumous child.

49. A glass: cf. Hamlet, III. 1. 161, "The glass of fashion and the mould of form" (Ophelia's description of Hamlet). So in 2 Hen. IV. II. 3. 21, 22:
"he was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves."
feated, made them feat (see Glossary), i.e. shaped, fashioned them into trimness; they took him as their model in manners, etc.

86, 87. "I say I do not fear my father, so far as I may say it without breach of duty -- Johnson.

91. this jewel; her husband; a gesture makes plain her meaning. Perhaps the metaphor is suggested unconsciously by what follows (112 et seq.).

101. ink. ..gall. "Ox-gall was actually one of the constituent Elizabethan ink, as is shown by contemporary receipts for making it" -- Herford. Cf. the quibble in Twelfth Night III. 2. 52, 53, "Let there be enough in thy ink" (i.e. bitterness).

105, 106. i.e. Cymbeline is so enslaved to his wife that every time she offends him he does her some fresh favour to win back her affection.

116. sear, wither, blight; but what follows ("bonds of death") suggests a quibbling reference to the cere-cloths (i.e. waxed linen shrouds) in which the dead were wrapped -- Steevens.

117, 118. thou... it; speaking first to and then of the ring; the transition occurs easily in the interval during which she puts the ring on his linger and looks up at him. sense, feeling, sensation.

121. win of, have the advantage of.

125, 126. avoid... fraught; see each in Glossary.

128. Thou'rt poison to my blood. So Claudius says of Hamlet, "For like the hectic in my blood he rages" (iv. 3. 68).

129. the good remainders; those who remain behind and are so superior to me (ironical).

131-150. King Lear and Cordelia in the first scene of the tragedy? The dialogue-form, resembling the stichomythia of the early plays, e.g. Richard III, is noticeable.

135. a touch more rare, viz. love of her husband and grief at his absence. Touch, like sense is a comprehensive word in Shakespeare; it sometimes means 'feeling, sensation,' the context defining the particular feeling.

137. Past grace? "Although most of the scenes are laid in Britain before the Christian era, there is no pretence of historical vraisemblance. With an almost ludicrous inappropriateness the British king's courtiers make merry with technical terms peculiar to Calvinistic theology, like 'grace' and 'election'" -- Lee. See I. 2. 24, 25. grace; in its religious sense, 'favour of God' and so 'pardon.'

140. puttock, kite; contemptuous.

146, 147. i.e. she is worth only half the price he pays for her.

149. Like Perdita in the neighbouring play, The Winter's Tale.

155, 156. make yourself some comfort, find solace in reflection over the whole matter.

160. Pisanio; the Shakespearean type of faithful servant.

167. Macbeth, III. 4. 104.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Cymbeline. Ed. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press, 1899. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < >.

How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Cymbeline. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < >.

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