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Cymbeline

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT V SCENE V Cymbeline's tent. 
 Enter CYMBELINE, BELARIUS, GUIDERIUS, ARVIRAGUS, PISANIO, Lords, Officers, and Attendants. 
CYMBELINE Stand by my side, you whom the gods have made 
 Preservers of my throne. Woe is my heart 
 That the poor soldier that so richly fought, 
 Whose rags shamed gilded arms, whose naked breast
 Stepp'd before larges of proof, cannot be found: 
 He shall be happy that can find him, if 
 Our grace can make him so. 
BELARIUS I never saw 
 Such noble fury in so poor a thing; 10
 Such precious deeds in one that promises nought 
 But beggary and poor looks. 
CYMBELINE No tidings of him? 10
PISANIO He hath been search'd among the dead and living, 
 But no trace of him.
CYMBELINE To my grief, I am 
 The heir of his reward; 
 [ To Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus.  
 which I will add 
 To you, the liver, heart and brain of Britain,



 
 By whom I grant she lives. 'Tis now the time
 To ask of whence you are. Report it. 
BELARIUS Sir, 
 In Cambria are we born, and gentlemen: 
 Further to boast were neither true nor modest, 
 Unless I add, we are honest.
CYMBELINE Bow your knees. 
 Arise my knights o' the battle: I create you 20
 Companions to our person and will fit you 
 With dignities becoming your estates. 
 Enter CORNELIUS and Ladies. 
 There's business in these faces. Why so sadly
 Greet you our victory? you look like Romans, 
 And not o' the court of Britain. 
CORNELIUS Hail, great king! 
 To sour your happiness, I must report 
 The queen is dead.
CYMBELINE Who worse than a physician 
 Would this report become? But I consider, 
 By medicine life may be prolong'd, yet death 
 Will seize the doctor too. How ended she? 30
CORNELIUS With horror, madly dying, like her life,
 Which, being cruel to the world, concluded 
 Most cruel to herself. What she confess'd 
 I will report, so please you: these her women 
 Can trip me, if I err; who with wet cheeks 
 Were present when she finish'd.
CYMBELINE Prithee, say. 
CORNELIUS First, she confess'd she never loved you, only 
 Affected greatness got by you, not you: 
 Married your royalty, was wife to your place; 
 Abhorr'd your person.
CYMBELINE She alone knew this; 40
 And, but she spoke it dying, I would not 
 Believe her lips in opening it. Proceed. 
CORNELIUS Your daughter, whom she bore in hand to love 
 With such integrity, she did confess
 Was as a scorpion to her sight; whose life, 
 But that her flight prevented it, she had 
 Ta'en off by poison. 
CYMBELINE O most delicate fiend! 
 Who is 't can read a woman? Is there more?
CORNELIUS More, sir, and worse. She did confess she had 
 For you a mortal mineral; which, being took, 50
 Should by the minute feed on life and lingering 
 By inches waste you: in which time she purposed, 
 By watching, weeping, tendance, kissing, to
 O'ercome you with her show, and in time, 
 When she had fitted you with her craft, to work 
 Her son into the adoption of the crown: 
 But, failing of her end by his strange absence, 
 Grew shameless-desperate; open'd, in despite
 Of heaven and men, her purposes; repented 
 The evils she hatch'd were not effected; so 60
 Despairing died. 
CYMBELINE Heard you all this, her women? 
First Lady We did, so please your highness.
CYMBELINE Mine eyes 
 Were not in fault, for she was beautiful; 
 Mine ears, that heard her flattery; nor my heart, 
 That thought her like her seeming; it had 
 been vicious
 To have mistrusted her: yet, O my daughter! 
 That it was folly in me, thou mayst say, 
 And prove it in thy feeling. Heaven mend all! 
 Enter LUCIUS, IACHIMO, the Soothsayer, and other Roman Prisoners, guarded; POSTHUMUS behind, and IMOGEN. 
 Thou comest not, Caius, now for tribute that 
 The Britons have razed out, though with the loss 70
 Of many a bold one; whose kinsmen have made suit 
 That their good souls may be appeased with slaughter 
 Of you their captives, which ourself have granted: 
 So think of your estate. 
CAIUS LUCIUS Consider, sir, the chance of war: the day
 Was yours by accident; had it gone with us, 
 We should not, when the blood was cool, 
 have threaten'd 
 Our prisoners with the sword. But since the gods 
 Will have it thus, that nothing but our lives
 May be call'd ransom, let it come: sufficeth 80
 A Roman with a Roman's heart can suffer: 
 Augustus lives to think on't: and so much 
 For my peculiar care. This one thing only 
 I will entreat; my boy, a Briton born,
 Let him be ransom'd: never master had 
 A page so kind, so duteous, diligent, 
 So tender over his occasions, true, 
 So feat, so nurse-like: let his virtue join 
 With my request, which I make bold your highness
 Cannot deny; he hath done no Briton harm, 90
 Though he have served a Roman: save him, sir, 
 And spare no blood beside. 
CYMBELINE I have surely seen him: 
 His favour is familiar to me. Boy,
 Thou hast look'd thyself into my grace, 
 And art mine own. I know not why, wherefore, 
 To say 'live, boy:' ne'er thank thy master; live: 
 And ask of Cymbeline what boon thou wilt, 
 Fitting my bounty and thy state, I'll give it;
 Yea, though thou do demand a prisoner, 
 The noblest ta'en. 
IMOGEN I humbly thank your highness. 100
CAIUS LUCIUS I do not bid thee beg my life, good lad; 
 And yet I know thou wilt.
IMOGEN No, no: alack, 
 There's other work in hand: I see a thing 
 Bitter to me as death: your life, good master, 
 Must shuffle for itself. 
CAIUS LUCIUS The boy disdains me,
 He leaves me, scorns me: briefly die their joys 
 That place them on the truth of girls and boys. 
 Why stands he so perplex'd? 
CYMBELINE What wouldst thou, boy? 
 I love thee more and more: think more and more
 What's best to ask. Know'st him thou look'st on? speak, 
 Wilt have him live? Is he thy kin? thy friend? 111
IMOGEN He is a Roman; no more kin to me 
 Than I to your highness; who, being born your vassal, 
 Am something nearer.
CYMBELINE Wherefore eyest him so? 
IMOGEN I'll tell you, sir, in private, if you please 
 To give me hearing. 
CYMBELINE Ay, with all my heart, 
 And lend my best attention. What's thy name?
IMOGEN Fidele, sir. 
CYMBELINE Thou'rt my good youth, my page; 
 I'll be thy master: walk with me; speak freely. 
 [ Cymbeline and Imogen converse apart.  
BELARIUS Is not this boy revived from death? 
ARVIRAGUS One sand another
 Not more resembles that sweet rosy lad 
 Who died, and was Fidele. What think you? 
GUIDERIUS The same dead thing alive. 
BELARIUS Peace, peace! see further; he eyes us not; forbear; 
 Creatures may be alike: were 't he, I am sure
 He would have spoke to us. 
GUIDERIUS But we saw him dead. 
BELARIUS Be silent; let's see further. 
PISANIO [ Aside ] 'Tis my mistress: 
 Since she is living, let the time run on 
 To good or bad.
 [ Cymbeline and Imogen come forward. 
CYMBELINE Come, stand thou by our side; 
 Make thy demand aloud. 
 [ To IACHIMO ] 
 Sir, step you forth; 130
 Give answer to this boy, and do it freely; 
 Or, by our greatness and the grace of it,
 Which is our honour, bitter torture shall 
 Winnow the truth from falsehood. On, speak to him. 
IMOGEN My boon is, that this gentleman may render 
 Of whom he had this ring. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS [ Aside ] What's that to him? 
CYMBELINE That diamond upon your finger, say
 How came it yours? 
IACHIMO Thou'lt torture me to leave unspoken that 
 Which, to be spoke, would torture thee. 
CYMBELINE How! me? 140
IACHIMO I am glad to be constrain'd to utter that
 Which torments me to conceal. By villany 
 I got this ring: 'twas Leonatus' jewel; 
 Whom thou didst banish; and--which more may 
 grieve thee, 
 As it doth me--a nobler sir ne'er lived
 'Twixt sky and ground. Wilt thou hear more, my lord? 
CYMBELINE All that belongs to this. 
IACHIMO That paragon, thy daughter,-- 
 For whom my heart drops blood, and my false spirits 
 Quail to remember--Give me leave; I faint.
CYMBELINE My daughter! what of her? Renew thy strength: 150
 I had rather thou shouldst live while nature will 
 Than die ere I hear more: strive, man, and speak. 
IACHIMO Upon a time,--unhappy was the clock 
 That struck the hour!--it was in Rome,--accursed
 The mansion where!--'twas at a feast,--O, would 
 Our viands had been poison'd, or at least 
 Those which I heaved to head!--the good Posthumus-- 
 What should I say? he was too good to be 
 Where ill men were; and was the best of all
 Amongst the rarest of good ones,--sitting sadly, 160
 Hearing us praise our loves of Italy 
 For beauty that made barren the swell'd boast 
 Of him that best could speak, for feature, laming 
 The shrine of Venus, or straight-pight Minerva.
 Postures beyond brief nature, for condition, 
 A shop of all the qualities that man 
 Loves woman for, besides that hook of wiving, 
 Fairness which strikes the eye-- 
CYMBELINE I stand on fire:
 Come to the matter. 
IACHIMO All too soon I shall, 
 Unless thou wouldst grieve quickly. This Posthumus, 170
 Most like a noble lord in love and one 
 That had a royal lover, took his hint;
 And, not dispraising whom we praised,--therein 
 He was as calm as virtue--he began 
 His mistress' picture; which by his tongue 
 being made, 
 And then a mind put in't, either our brags
 Were crack'd of kitchen-trolls, or his description 
 Proved us unspeaking sots. 
CYMBELINE Nay, nay, to the purpose. 
IACHIMO Your daughter's chastity--there it begins. 
 He spake of her, as Dian had hot dreams, 180
 And she alone were cold: whereat I, wretch, 
 Made scruple of his praise; and wager'd with him 
 Pieces of gold 'gainst this which then he wore 
 Upon his honour'd finger, to attain 
 In suit the place of's bed and win this ring
 By hers and mine adultery. He, true knight, 
 No lesser of her honour confident 
 Than I did truly find her, stakes this ring; 
 And would so, had it been a carbuncle 
 Of Phoebus' wheel, and might so safely, had it 190
 Been all the worth of's car. Away to Britain 
 Post I in this design: well may you, sir, 
 Remember me at court; where I was taught 
 Of your chaste daughter the wide difference 
 'Twixt amorous and villanous. Being thus quench'd
 Of hope, not longing, mine Italian brain 
 'Gan in your duller Britain operate 
 Most vilely; for my vantage, excellent: 
 And, to be brief, my practise so prevail'd, 
 That I return'd with simular proof enough 200
 To make the noble Leonatus mad, 
 By wounding his belief in her renown 
 With tokens thus, and thus; averting notes 
 Of chamber-hanging, pictures, this her bracelet,-- 
 O cunning, how I got it!--nay, some marks
 Of secret on her person, that he could not 
 But think her bond of chastity quite crack'd, 
 I having ta'en the forfeit. Whereupon-- 
 Methinks, I see him now-- 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS [ Coming forward ] Ay, so thou dost 
 Italian fiend! Ay me, most credulous fool, 210
 Egregious murderer, thief, any thing 
 That's due to all the villains past, in being, 
 To come! O, give me cord, or knife, or poison, 
 Some upright justicer! Thou, king, send out 
 For torturers ingenious: it is I
 That all the abhorred things o' the earth amend 
 By being worse than they. I am Posthumus, 
 That kill'd thy daughter:--villain-like, I lie-- 
 That caused a lesser villain than myself, 
 A sacrilegious thief, to do't: the temple 220
 Of virtue was she; yea, and she herself. 
 Spit, and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set 
 The dogs o' the street to bay me: every villain 
 Be call'd Posthumus Leonitus; and 
 Be villany less than 'twas! O Imogen!
 My queen, my life, my wife! O Imogen, 
 Imogen, Imogen! 
IMOGEN Peace, my lord; hear, hear-- 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Shall's have a play of this? Thou scornful page, 
 There lie thy part.
 [ Striking her: she falls.  
PISANIO O, gentlemen, help! 
 Mine and your mistress! O, my lord Posthumus! 
 You ne'er kill'd Imogen til now. Help, help! 
 Mine honour'd lady! 
CYMBELINE Does the world go round?
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS How come these staggers on me? 
PISANIO Wake, my mistress! 
CYMBELINE If this be so, the gods do mean to strike me 
 To death with mortal joy. 
PISANIO How fares thy mistress?
IMOGEN O, get thee from my sight; 
 Thou gavest me poison: dangerous fellow, hence! 
 Breathe not where princes are. 
CYMBELINE The tune of Imogen! 
PISANIO Lady,
 The gods throw stones of sulphur on me, if 240
 That box I gave you was not thought by me 
 A precious thing: I had it from the queen. 
CYMBELINE New matter still? 
IMOGEN It poison'd me.
CORNELIUS O gods! 
 I left out one thing which the queen confess'd. 
 Which must approve thee honest: 'If Pisanio 
 Have,' said she, 'given his mistress that confection 
 Which I gave him for cordial, she is served
 As I would serve a rat.' 
CYMBELINE What's this, Comelius? 
CORNELIUS The queen, sir, very oft importuned me 250
 To temper poisons for her, still pretending 
 The satisfaction of her knowledge only
 In killing creatures vile, as cats and dogs, 
 Of no esteem: I, dreading that her purpose 
 Was of more danger, did compound for her 
 A certain stuff, which, being ta'en, would cease 
 The present power of life, but in short time
 All offices of nature should again 
 Do their due functions. Have you ta'en of it? 
IMOGEN Most like I did, for I was dead. 
BELARIUS My boys, 
 There was our error.
GUIDERIUS This is, sure, Fidele. 
IMOGEN Why did you throw your wedded lady from you? 
 Think that you are upon a rock; and now 
 Throw me again. 
 [ Embracing him . 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Hang there like a fruit, my soul,
 Till the tree die! 
CYMBELINE How now, my flesh, my child! 
 What, makest thou me a dullard in this act? 
 Wilt thou not speak to me? 
IMOGEN [ Kneeling. 
BELARIUS [ To Guiderius and Arviragus. 
 this youth, I blame ye not:
 You had a motive for't. 
CYMBELINE My tears that fall 
 Prove holy water on thee! Imogen, 
 Thy mother's dead. 
IMOGEN I am sorry for't, my lord. 270
CYMBELINE O, she was nought; and long of her it was 
 That we meet here so strangely: but her son 
 Is gone, we know not how nor where. 
PISANIO My lord, 
 Now fear is from me, I'll speak troth. Lord Cloten,
 Upon my lady's missing, came to me 
 With his sword drawn; foam'd at the mouth, and swore, 
 If I discover'd not which way she was gone, 
 It was my instant death. By accident, 
 had a feigned letter of my master's
 Then in my pocket; which directed him 280
 To seek her on the mountains near to Milford; 
 Where, in a frenzy, in my master's garments, 
 Which he enforced from me, away he posts 
 With unchaste purpose and with oath to violate
 My lady's honour: what became of him 
 I further know not. 
GUIDERIUS Let me end the story: 
 I slew him there. 
CYMBELINE Marry, the gods forfend!
 I would not thy good deeds should from my lips 
 Pluck a bard sentence: prithee, valiant youth, 
 Deny't again. 
GUIDERIUS I've spoke it, and I did it. 290
CYMBELINE He was a prince.
GUIDERIUS A most incivil one: the wrongs he did me 
 Were nothing prince-like; for he did provoke me 
 With language that would make me spurn the sea, 
 If it could so roar to me: I cut off's head; 
 And am right glad he is not standing here
 To tell this tale of mine. 
CYMBELINE I am sorry for thee: 
 By thine own tongue thou art condemn'd, and must 
 Endure our law: thou'rt dead. 
IMOGEN That headless man
 I thought had been my lord. 
CYMBELINE Bind the offender, 300
 And take him from our presence. 
BELARIUS Stay, sir king: 
 This man is better than the man he slew,
 As well descended as thyself; and hath 
 More of thee merited than a band of Clotens 
 Had ever scar for. 
 [ To the Guard ] 
 Let his arms alone; 
 They were not born for bondage.
CYMBELINE Why, old soldier, 
 Wilt thou undo the worth thou art unpaid for, 
 By tasting of our wrath? How of descent 
 As good as we? 
ARVIRAGUS In that he spake too far. 310
CYMBELINE And thou shalt die for't. 
BELARIUS We will die all three: 
 But I will prove that two on's are as good 
 As I have given out him. My sons, I must, 
 For mine own part, unfold a dangerous speech,
 Though, haply, well for you. 
ARVIRAGUS Your danger's ours. 
GUIDERIUS And our good his. 
BELARIUS Have at it then, by leave. 
 Thou hadst, great king, a subject who
 Was call'd Belarius. 
CYMBELINE What of him? he is 
 A banish'd traitor. 
BELARIUS He it is that hath 
 Assumed this age; indeed a banish'd man;
 I know not how a traitor. 
CYMBELINE Take him hence: 
 The whole world shall not save him. 320
BELARIUS Not too hot: 
 First pay me for the nursing of thy sons;
 And let it be confiscate all, so soon 
 As I have received it. 
CYMBELINE Nursing of my sons! 
BELARIUS I am too blunt and saucy: here's my knee: 
 Ere I arise, I will prefer my sons;
 Then spare not the old father. Mighty sir, 
 These two young gentlemen, that call me father 
 And think they are my sons, are none of mine; 
 They are the issue of your loins, my liege, 330
 And blood of your begetting.
CYMBELINE How! my issue! 
BELARIUS So sure as you your father's. I, old Morgan, 
 Am that Belarius whom you sometime banish'd: 
 Your pleasure was my mere offence, my punishment 
 Itself, and all my treason; that I suffer'd
 Was all the harm I did. These gentle princes-- 
 For such and so they are--these twenty years 
 Have I train'd up: those arts they have as I 
 Could put into them; my breeding was, sir, as 
 Your highness knows. Their nurse, Euriphile, 340
 Whom for the theft I wedded, stole these children 
 Upon my banishment: I moved her to't, 
 Having received the punishment before, 
 For that which I did then: beaten for loyalty 
 Excited me to treason: their dear loss,
 The more of you 'twas felt, the more it shaped 
 Unto my end of stealing them. But, gracious sir, 
 Here are your sons again; and I must lose 
 Two of the sweet'st companions in the world. 
 The benediction of these covering heavens 350
 Fall on their heads like dew! for they are worthy 
 To inlay heaven with stars. 
CYMBELINE Thou weep'st, and speak'st. 
 The service that you three have done is more 
 Unlike than this thou tell'st. I lost my children:
 If these be they, I know not how to wish 
 A pair of worthier sons. 
BELARIUS Be pleased awhile. 
 This gentleman, whom I call Polydore, 
 Most worthy prince, as yours, is true Guiderius:
 This gentleman, my Cadwal, Arviragus, 
 Your younger princely son; he, sir, was lapp'd 360
 In a most curious mantle, wrought by the hand 
 Of his queen mother, which for more probation 
 I can with ease produce.
CYMBELINE Guiderius had 
 Upon his neck a mole, a sanguine star; 
 It was a mark of wonder. 
BELARIUS This is he; 
 Who hath upon him still that natural stamp:
 It was wise nature's end in the donation, 
 To be his evidence now. 
CYMBELINE O, what, am I 
 A mother to the birth of three? Ne'er mother 
 Rejoiced deliverance more. Bless'd pray you be, 370
 That, after this strange starting from your orbs, 
 may reign in them now! O Imogen, 
 Thou hast lost by this a kingdom. 
IMOGEN No, my lord; 
 I have got two worlds by 't. O my gentle brothers,
 Have we thus met? O, never say hereafter 
 But I am truest speaker you call'd me brother, 
 When I was but your sister; I you brothers, 
 When ye were so indeed. 
CYMBELINE Did you e'er meet?
ARVIRAGUS Ay, my good lord. 
GUIDERIUS And at first meeting loved; 
 Continued so, until we thought he died. 380
CORNELIUS By the queen's dram she swallow'd. 
CYMBELINE O rare instinct!
 When shall I hear all through? This fierce 
 abridgement 
 Hath to it circumstantial branches, which 
 Distinction should be rich in. Where? how lived You? 
 And when came you to serve our Roman captive?
 How parted with your brothers? how first met them? 
 Why fled you from the court? and whither? These, 
 And your three motives to the battle, with 
 I know not how much more, should be demanded; 
 And all the other by-dependencies, 390
 From chance to chance: but nor the time nor place 
 Will serve our long inter'gatories. See, 
 Posthumus anchors upon Imogen, 
 And she, like harmless lightning, throws her eye 
 On him, her brother, me, her master, hitting
 Each object with a joy: the counterchange 
 Is severally in all. Let's quit this ground, 
 And smoke the temple with our sacrifices. 
 [ To Belarius ] 
 Thou art my brother; so we'll hold thee ever. 
IMOGEN You are my father too, and did relieve me,
 To see this gracious season. 400
CYMBELINE All o'erjoy'd, 
 Save these in bonds: let them be joyful too, 
 For they shall taste our comfort. 
IMOGEN My good master,
 I will yet do you service. 
CAIUS LUCIUS Happy be you! 
CYMBELINE The forlorn soldier, that so nobly fought, 
 He would have well becomed this place, and graced 
 The thankings of a king.
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS I am, sir, 
 The soldier that did company these three 
 In poor beseeming; 'twas a fitment for 
 The purpose I then follow'd. That I was he, 410
 Speak, Iachimo: I had you down and might
 Have made you finish. 
IACHIMO [ Kneeling.  
 But now my heavy conscience sinks my knee, 
 As then your force did. Take that life, beseech you, 
 Which I so often owe: but your ring first; 
 And here the bracelet of the truest princess
 That ever swore her faith. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Kneel not to me: 
 The power that I have on you is, to spare you; 
 The malice towards you to forgive you: live, 
 And deal with others better.
CYMBELINE Nobly doom'd! 420
 We'll learn our freeness of a son-in-law; 
 Pardon's the word to all. 
ARVIRAGUS You holp us, sir, 
 As you did mean indeed to be our brother;
 Joy'd are we that you are. 
POSTHUMUS LEONATUS Your servant, princes. Good my lord of Rome, 
 Call forth your soothsayer: as I slept, methought 
 Great Jupiter, upon his eagle back'd, 
 Appear'd to me, with other spritely shows
 Of mine own kindred: when I waked, I found 
 This label on my bosom; whose containing 430
 Is so from sense in hardness, that I can 
 Make no collection of it: let him show 
 His skill in the construction.
CAIUS LUCIUS Philarmonus! 
Soothsayer Here, my good lord. 
CAIUS LUCIUS Read, and declare the meaning. 
Soothsayer [ Reads ] "Whenas 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, 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."
 Thou, Leonatus, art the lion's whelp; 440
 The fit and apt construction of thy name, 
 Being Leonatus, doth import so much. 
 [ To Cymbeline ] 
 The piece of tender air, thy virtuous daughter, 
 Which we call 'mollis aer;' and 'mollis aer'
 We term it 'mulier:' which 'mulier' I divine 
 Is this most constant wife; who, even now, 
 Answering the letter of the oracle, 
 Unknown to you, unsought, were clipp'd about 450
 With this most tender air.
CYMBELINE This hath some seeming. 
Soothsayer The lofty cedar, royal Cymbeline, 
 Personates thee: and thy lopp'd branches point 
 Thy two sons forth; who, by Belarius stol'n, 
 For many years thought dead, are now revived,
 To the majestic cedar join'd, whose issue 
 Promises Britain peace and plenty. 
CYMBELINE Well 
 My peace we will begin. And, Caius Lucius, 
 Although the victor, we submit to Caesar,
 And to the Roman empire; promising 460
 To pay our wonted tribute, from the which 
 We were dissuaded by our wicked queen; 
 Whom heavens, in justice, both on her and hers, 
 Have laid most heavy hand.
Soothsayer The fingers of the powers above do tune 
 The harmony of this peace. The vision 
 Which I made known to Lucius, ere the stroke 
 Of this yet scarce-cold battle, at this instant 
 Is full accomplish'd; for the Roman eagle,
 From south to west on wing soaring aloft, 470
 Lessen'd herself, and in the beams o' the sun 
 So vanish'd: which foreshow'd our princely eagle, 
 The imperial Caesar, should again unite 
 His favour with the radiant Cymbeline,
 Which shines here in the west. 
CYMBELINE Laud we the gods; 
 And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils 
 From our blest altars. Publish we this peace 
 To all our subjects. Set we forward: let
 A Roman and a British ensign wave 
 Friendly together: so through Lud's town march: 480
 And in the temple of great Jupiter 
 Our peace we'll ratify; seal it with feasts. 
 Set on there! Never was a war did cease,
 Ere bloody hands were wash'd, with such a peace. 
 [ Exeunt . 


Cymbeline, Scenes

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

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A scene, beyond any other in Shakespeare, of recognitions and explanations and general unravelment. The skill with which the threads of the complex plot are gathered up is one of the commonplaces of Shakespearean eulogy.

It is, too, peculiarly a scene of reminiscences: the poet's mind working back to the "old unhappy [and happy] far-off things" of his greatest days.

3. the poor soldier: of course, Posthumus.

5. targes of proof, shields of tested metal.

25-61. Lady Macbeth's end?

38. Affected, aimed at; a common Miltonic use ( = Lat. affectare). Cf. Par. Lost, v. 763, "Affecting all equality with God" (said of Lucifer = Satan).

43. bore in hand, pretended. To bear in hand meant originally 'to maintain a statement, or charge against someone' (being a literal rendering of the legal word manutenere, 'to maintain a charge against'); then 'to maintain a false statement' etc.; then 'to pretend, to delude with false hopes, to deceive.' In the last senses it is a common Elizabethan phrase. Cf. Macbeth, III. 1. 81.

47, 48. Cf. Edgar's reflection when he finds on Oswald the letters which reveal Goneril's guilty connection with Edmund and instigation to him to murder Albany:
"O undistinguish'd space of woman's will!
A plot upon her virtuous husband's life!"
(Lear, IV. 6. 278, 279), where undistinguish'd = 'indefinable,' meaning that it is impossible to calculate what direction a woman's desires will take.

55. fitted you with her craft: a euphemism, like those we get in Macbeth.

55, 56. to work her son, etc.; the converse of the position in Hamlet, where the real heir is ousted by his step-father, supported by the Queen.

88. feat, dexterous in waiting.

92, 93. The Duke in As You Like It, V. 4. 26, 27, when Rosalind's disguise has served its dramatic purpose and the end is not far off.

105, 106. The poor sea-captain in Twelfth Night (III. 4) when he thinks that Sebastian has ungratefully discarded him (mistaking of course Cesario = Viola for her twin brother).

107. boys. "He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health, a boy's love" -- King Lear, III. 6. 18, 19.

120-123. Cf. the delightful puzzle of the onlookers when Viola (still dressed as a boy) and Sebastian meet at last ( Twelfth Night, V. 223-252). Strictly, the passage here will not bear analysis, but one sees the sense; I do not think that any words have dropped out.

153. The style of his speeches is meant to suggest agitation.

153-191. Not a precise reproduction of what occurred in I. 4. Perhaps Shakespeare wished "to denote Iachimo's innate untruthfulness and unscrupulousness, which lead him to falsify in minor matters as in those of greater moment." (F.)

163. feature, shape in general, exterior; F. facture, 'make,' Lat. factura. "And how, Audrey? am I [Touchstone] the man yet? doth my simple feature content you?" (As You Like It, III. 3. 2, 3).

164, 165. Shakespeare has in mind statues of the classical goddesses; a Renaissance touch. For his interest in sculpture cf. the description of the supposed statue (really Hermione) in The Winter's Tale, v. 3, with the interesting allusion earlier in the play to its author, "that rare Italian master, Julio Romano" (V. 1. 105, 106). But he was more famous as a painter; see Shakespeare's England, II. 9, 10. shrine, image. brief; since Nature's creations are brief lived in their beauty whereas Art confers immortality of grace.

189. Editors aptly quote Antony and Cleopatra, IV. 8. 28, 29:
"He has deserved it, were it carbuncled
Like holy Phoebus' car."
The chariot of the Messiah in Paradise Lost, VI. 755, has "wheels of beryl." Shakespeare may have remembered the description of the chariot of Phoebus in the story of Phrethon, Ovid, Metamorphoses, II. 107. (F.) See II. 2. 45, note.

199. practice, plot; see Glossary.

200. simular, false, counterfeit.

209. Othello, when he knows the truth and turns on Iago (the counterpart of Iachimo).

214. justicer. "The most ancient law books have justicers of the peace as frequently as justices of the peace" -- Reed. Justicer is an old, abbreviated form of justiciar, 'a judge.' It occurs several times in King Lear, e.g. IV. 2. 79.

221. yea, and she herself; "she was not only the temple of virtue, but virtue itself" -- Johnson.

225. Be villany less than 'twas! since his villany throws all other villany into the shade.

253-258. The potion in Romeo and Juliet.

262. upon a rock; "as a shipwreck'd sailor" -- Herford. But may it not be much the same metaphor as in 393? Let Posthumus feel that he has found salvation by attaching himself to the rock of her devotion. And then, with a touch of playfulness, she bids him cast himself adrift again -- if he can! I cannot see the smallest need for any change of the text such as "upon a lock," a wrestling term which would suit "throw" but does not occur elsewhere in Shakespeare, and is not, surely, very appropriate to a woman.

262-264. Like the reconciliation scene in Pericles, V. 3. 41-44; the rhythm is curiously similar.

291. He was a prince. Cf. IV. 2. 244.

305. Had ever scar for, i.e. had ever "merited" by fighting.

319. Assumed this age; explained, I think, by IV. 4. 33.

326. prefer, recommend to your consideration.

334. mere, whole; see G.; neere in the Folio. His crime and punishment, all amounted to this -- that his master was capricious.

353. To inlay heaven with stars.
"Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold" --
The Merchant of Venice, V. 58, 59.

352-354: "'Thy tears give testimony to the sincerity of thy relation [report]: and I have the less reason to be incredulous, because the actions which you have done within my knowledge are more incredible than the story which you relate.' The King reasons very justly" -- Johnson.

364. a mole. Two moles in one play! And Shakespeare had used the same device of identification in Twelfth Night, V. 249.

378. ye; the Folio we, and it is not indefensible.

382-384. i.e. 'this vehement epitome has details that demand separate explanation': hence his questions.

396. counter change, exchange of looks and feelings.

405. forlorn; explained, obviously, by 409, "in poor beseeming"; forlorn-looking; cf. 2-5 and V. 1. 22-24. That the word is used in its literal sense 'lost, not to be found' (V. 5. 5), seems to me very improbable.

407-414. A little like the final scene between Edgar and Edmund? Similarly Belarius somehow takes one's thoughts back to Kent. We have noticed other King Lear echoes. I am down again. "The wheel is come full circle; I am here" (Edmund, at the feet of Edgar, King Lear, V. 3. 174).

411, 412. I had you down. Posthumus did not then (V. 1) know of Iachimo's treachery. But why should he assume that Iachimo could identify him with his disguised vanquisher?

421. freeness, generosity. "I loved the man and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest and of an open and free nature" (Ben Jonson's immortal testimony to Shakespeare).

422. Pardon's the word to all. Shakespeare's final message: all his last plays come to this.

425-433. The passage which (with what follows) seems to make the Vision (V. 4) unnecessary.

428. spritely, of spirits -- "the Ghosts" of V. 4.

430-432. The contents of the label were so obscure that he could not infer (deduce) the sense.
"Her speech is nothing ( = 'nonsense'),
Yet the unshaped use of it cloth move
The hearers to collection: they aim at it"
(i.e. Ophelia's in her madness -- Hamlet, IV. 5. 7-9).

446, 447. mollis aer...mulier. Various examples of this partially incorrect derivation are cited by editors from works antecedent to Shakespeare, e.g. Caxton's Game of the Chesse, printed about 1474-75. Mulier is connected with mollis. (F.)

450. were; strictly singular (wast), as the antecedent is who ( = Posthumus); but the verb is attracted to you. The speaker makes who quite plain by turning or pointing to Posthumus. There are many passages in dramas where the sense depends on some gesture too obvious to need mention.

464. Obviously 'have laid hand on'; but the omission is quite Shakespearean.

481. the temple of great Jupiter. Lud built in London "a faire temple neere... to his palace, which temple (as some take it) was afterward turned to a chuich, and at this daie called Paules" (Holinshed).

The following verdict has the Johnsonian flavour and limitations: "This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expence of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation."

But let us end on a happier note of sympathy: "Though. ..no one can think of [Cymbeline] as a finished play, it has dramatic scenes, one faultless lyric, and many marks of beauty. It deals with the Shakespearean subject of craft working upon a want of faith for personal ends, and being defeated, when almost successful, by something simple and instinctive in human nature. It is thus not unlike Othello; but in Othello the subject is simple, and the treatment purely tragic. In Cymbeline the subject is only partly extricated, and the treatment is coloured with romance, with that strange, touching, very Shakespearean romance, of the thing lost beautifully recovered before the end...." -- Masefield.





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_5.html >.

How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_5_5.html >.
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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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