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Cymbeline

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT V SCENE I Britain. The Roman camp. 
 Enter POSTHUMUS, with a bloody handkerchief. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Yea, bloody cloth, I'll keep thee, for I wish'd 
 Thou shouldst be colour'd thus. You married ones, 
 If each of you should take this course, how many 
 Must murder wives much better than themselves
 For wrying but a little! O Pisanio! 
 Every good servant does not all commands: 
 No bond but to do just ones. Gods! if you 
 Should have ta'en vengeance on my faults, I never 
 Had lived to put on this: so had you saved
 The noble Imogen to repent, and struck 10
 Me, wretch more worth your vengeance. But, alack, 
 You snatch some hence for little faults; that's love, 
 To have them fall no more: you some permit 
 To second ills with ills, each elder worse,
 And make them dread it, to the doers' thrift. 
 But Imogen is your own: do your best wills, 
 And make me bless'd to obey! I am brought hither 
 Among the Italian gentry, and to fight 
 Against my lady's kingdom: 'tis enough
 That, Britain, I have kill'd thy mistress; peace! 20
 I'll give no wound to thee. Therefore, good heavens, 
 Hear patiently my purpose: I'll disrobe me 
 Of these Italian weeds and suit myself 
 As does a Briton peasant: so I'll fight
 Against the part I come with; so I'll die 
 For thee, O Imogen, even for whom my life 
 Is every breath a death; and thus, unknown, 
 Pitied nor hated, to the face of peril 
 Myself I'll dedicate. Let me make men know
 More valour in me than my habits show. 30
 Gods, put the strength o' the Leonati in me! 
 To shame the guise o' the world, I will begin 
 The fashion, less without and more within. 
 [ Exit.  


Cymbeline, Act 5, Scene 2



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Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.

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1-33. "This is a soliloquy of nature, uttered when the effervescence of a mind agitated and perturbed spontaneously and inadvertently discharges itself in words. The speech, if the last conceit be excepted, seems to issue warm from the heart" -- Johnson. Contrast a speech like III. 3. 79-107, where soliloquy is used simply as a piece of dramatic machinery.
with a bloody handkerchief; sent by Pisanio as a sign that he has killed Imogen.

5. wrying, going astray.

6, 7. So Bolingbroke, having instigated Exton to rid him of King Richard, afterwards affects displeasure (Richard II. v. 6. 30-52).

9. to put on this, to instigate the deed.

14. elder, later. "The last deed is certainly not the oldest, but Shakespeare calls the deed of an elder man an elder deed" -- Johnson. Another editor explains: "where corruptions are, they grow with years, and the oldest sinner is the greatest. You, Gods, permit some to proceed in iniquity, and the older such are, the more their crime."

15. thrift, gain, advantage. "It is not the commission of the crimes that is supposed to be for the doer's thrift, but his dreading them afterwards, and of course repenting, which ensures his salvation" -- Mason. The whole speech, as he notes, is in a religious strain. dread it, i.e. their life of accumulated crime. For dread it, Theobald proposed dreaded: a picture of successful crime which inspires awe, gains profit, and apparently escapes punishment.

21-33. Cf. the later descriptions of the disguised Posthumus -- viz. "forlorn," i.e. forlorn-looking, ragged (v. 5. 4), "in poor beseeming" (v. 5. 405-409).

23. weeds, clothes.



How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Cymbeline. Ed. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press, 1899. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_5_1.html >.

How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_5_1.html >.
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Thoughts on Posthumus

microsoft images "One cannot choose but wish that the Poet had made [Posthumus] hold out a little more firmly against the forged or stolen evidences of his wife's infidelity, and keep his faith at least till the last and strongest item was produced. It is observable, that the Poet represents his very fullness of confidence at first as rendering him all the more liable to the reverse in the contingency that is to arrive: because he is perfectly sure that no proofs of success can be shown by Iachimo, therefore, when some such proofs are shown, he falls the more readily into the opposite state." (Henry Norman Hudson) Read on...




More to Explore

 Cymbeline: The Play with Commentary
 Cymbeline Plot Summary
 Famous Quotations from Cymbeline
 How to pronounce the names in Cymbeline
 Sources for Cymbeline

 Introduction to Imogen
 Introduction to Guiderius and Arviragus
 Introduction to Cloten
 Introduction to Cymbeline
 Introduction to Posthumus
 Introduction to Iachimo
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Notes on Shakespeare...

Richard Shakespeare, Shakespeare's paternal grandfather, was a farmer in the small village of Snitterfield, located four miles from Stratford. Records show that Richard worked on several different farms which he leased from various landowners. Coincidentally, Richard leased land from Robert Arden, Shakespeare's maternal grandfather. Read on...
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Shakespeare acquired substantial wealth thanks to his acting and writing abilities, and his shares in London theatres. The going rate was £10 per play at the turn of the sixteenth century. So how much money did Shakespeare make? Read on...




Henry Bolingbroke, the eldest son of John of Gaunt and the grandson of King Edward III, was born on April 3, 1367. Henry usurped the throne from the ineffectual King Richard II in 1399, and thus became King Henry IV, the first of the three kings of the House of Lancaster. Read on...
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Known to the Elizabethans as ague, Malaria was a common malady spread by the mosquitoes in the marshy Thames. The swampy theatre district of Southwark was always at risk. King James I had it; so too did Shakespeare’s friend, Michael Drayton. Read on...
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Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most captivating and complex figures in history. In 1152, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet (later to become Henry II). Their son, John, was born in 1167 and is the title character of Shakespeare's history play.


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