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CYMBELINE first appeared in print in the Folio of 1623, and there is no evidence of any previous attempt at publication. The text, which presents many difficulties, has been edited on the basis of this original, with the assistance, as usual, of the results of later editors.
For the date of production the later limit is the death in 1611 of Simon Forman, who records in his “ Booke of Plaies " a performance of Cymbeline witnessed by him. The entry is undated, but the records of performances of Winter's Tale and Macbeth, between which it occurs, belong respectively to May 15, 1611, and April 20, 1610. The metrical tests point to the years 1609– 1611, and we may with some assurance regard 1610 as coming within a year of the date of composition.
Of authentic history in Cymbeline there is very little beyond the fact of the existence, about the beginning of the Christian era, of a British king, Cunobelinus. The pseudo-historical element Shakespeare derived from Holinshed, whose narrative is here chiefly legendary. The Chronicle represents Cymbeline as having been brought up in Rome and knighted by Augustus Cæsar, and as the father of two sons, Guiderius and Arviragus. Conflicting stories are reported about the payment of tribute to Rome, but Holinshed puts stress on the friendship existing between Cymbeline and the Emperor, and makes the refusal of tribute come from Guiderius after his father's death. The references to previous conflicts between Rome and Britain are derived from the Chronicle. The account of the battle in the fifth act, and of the saving of the day by Belarius and the two princes, is based on Holinshed's story of a fight between the Danes and the Scots, in which the fleeing Scots were rallied in a lane by a husbandman and his two sons.
The romantic element in the plot belongs to a very widely diffused type of story. It is found repeatedly in French romance and drama, and occurs also in Italian, German, Scandinavian, Gaelic, and other literatures. In most versions there persist the characteristic features of the wager, the repulse of the villain, the deceptive tokens, the attempt of the husband or lover to punish the supposed infidelity by death, the wanderings of the heroine in disguise, the final reconciliation, and the confession of the villain. Shakespeare's version approaches most closely that of Boccaccio in the ninth novel of the second day of the Decameron, which he may have known in a lost English translation or in one of the current French editions. The English version which appears in Westward for Smelts cannot be proved to have been printed before 1620 ; and its author may himself have been indebted to Shakespeare, or both may have borrowed from an English source now lost.
A number of subsidiary sources have been suggested. The early anonymous play of The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune (printed 1589) has resemblances to our play, especially in the rôles of Imogen, Posthumus, Cloten, and Belarius, and the heroine is named Fidelia. The relation of the Queen to her son and Imogen recalls the familiar stepmother motive of Germanic folk-lore, and, with the episode in the cave, more specifically the fairy-tale of Little Snow-white. But from whatever sources Shakespeare drew these various details, the interweaving and the atmosphere are his own, and all the wealth of poetry and characterization which gives the drama its charm.
If Pericles be set aside as primarily a dramatized tale of adventure, Cymbeline is the first of that group of so-called dramatic romances " with which Shakespeare closed his career. The difficulty of fixing a certain chronology prevents us from stating with assurance the relation of these plays to the somewhat similar group produced about the same time by Beaumont and Fletcher; but a close relation between the present play and the Philaster of these authors is beFond question, the balance of evidence favoring the younger authors as inventors of the type.
Doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of several passages in the play, especially the vision of Posthumus in v. iv. The device itself is paralleled by the spectacular elements in The Tempest and Winter's Tale ; but the inferior quality of such verses as 30–92 lends color to the belief that the scene was at least expanded by another hand than Shakespeare's.
(DRAMATIS PERSONÆ CYMBELINE, king of Britain.
CORNELIUS, a physician.
A Roman Captain.
Two Lords of Cymbeline's court.
sons to Cymbeline, disguised under the Two Gentlemen of the same.
name of Polydore and Cadwal, supposed Two Gaolers. ARVIRAGUS,
sons to Morgan. PHILARIO, friend to Posthumus,
QUEEN, wife to Cymbeline. IACHIMO, friend to Philario,
IMOGEN, daughter to Cymbeline by a former Queen. CAIUS LUCIUS, general of the Roman forces.
HELEN, a lady attending on Imogen. PISANIO, servant to Posthumus. Lords, Ladies, Roman Senators, Tribunes, a Soothsayer, a Dutchman, a Spaniard, Musicians, Officers, Captains,
Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
ACT I SCENE I. (Britain. The garden of Cymbeline's
Enter two GENTLEMEN. 1. Gent. You do not meet a man but frowns.
Our bloods No more obey the heavens than our courtiers Still seem as does the King. 2. Gent.
But what's the matter? 1. Gent. His daughter, and the heir of 's
kingdom, whom He purpos'd to his wife's sole son - a widow o 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. 2. Gent.
None but the King ? 1. Gent. He that hath lost her too; so is the
Queen, That most desir'd the match: but not a cour
tier, Although they wear their faces to the bent Of the King's looks, hath a heart that is not Glad at the thing they scowl at. 2. Gent.
And why so ? 1. Gent. 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
You speak him far. 1. Gent. I do extend him, sir, within him
self, Crush him together rather than unfold His measure duly. 2. Gent.
What's his name and birth ? 1. Gent. I cannot delve him to the root. His
father Was call'd Sicilius, who did gain his honour Against the Romans with Cassibelan, But had his titles by Tenantius whom He serv'd with glory and admir'd 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, deceas'd As he was born. The King he takes the
babe To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leona
tus, 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 't was minist'red, And in 's spring became a harvest; liv'd in
court -Which rare it is to do – most prais'd, most
lov'd, 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 mis
For whom he now is banishid, - her own price o lady, weep no more, lest I give cause Proclaims how she esteem'd him and his To be suspected of more tenderness virtue;
Than doth become a man. I will remain By her election may be truly read
The loyalist husband that did e’er plight troth. What kind of man he is.
My residence in Rome at one Philario's, 2. Gent. I honour him
Who to my father was a friend, to me Even out of your report. But, pray you, tell Known but by letter; thither write, my queen, me,
And with mine eyes I 'll drink the words you Is she ole child to the King ?
send, 1. Gent.
His only child. Though ink be made of gall. He had two sons, if this be worth your hear
Re-enter QUEEN. Mark it the eldest of them at three years old, Queen.
Be brief, I pray you. I' the swathing-clothes the other, from their If the King come, I shall incur I know not nursery
How much of his displeasure. [Aside.] Yet Were stolen, and to this hour no guess in
I'll move him knowledge
To walk this way. I never do him wrong Which way they went.
But he does buy my injuries, to be friends ; 105 2. Gent. How long is this ago ? Pays dear for my offences.
[Erit.] 1. Gent. Some twenty years,
Should we be taking leave 2. Gent. That a king's children should be so As long a term as yet we have to live, convey'd,
The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu ! So slackly guarded, and the search so slow, Imo. Nay, stay a little ; That could not trace them!
Were you but riding forth to air yourself, 1. Gent.
Howsoe'er 't is strange, Such parting were too petty. Look here, love ; Or that the negligence may well be laugh'd at, This diamond was my mother's. Take it, heart; Yet is it true, sir.
But keep it till you woo another wife, 2. Gent.
I do well believe you. When Imogen is dead. 1. Gent. We must forbear; here comes the Post.
How, how ! another ? gentleman,
You gentle gods, give me but this I have, The Queen, and Princess.
(Exeunt. And cere up my embracements from a next
With bonds of death! [Putting on the ring.] Enter the QUEEN, POSTHUMUS, and IMOGEN.
Remain, remain thou here Queen. No, be assur'd you shall not find me, While sense can keep it on. And, sweetest, daughter,
fairest, After the slander of most stepmothers,
As I my poor self did exchange for you, Evil-ey'd unto you. You 're my prisoner, but To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles Your gaoler shall deliver you the keys
I still win of you; for my sake wear this. That lock up your restraint. For you, Posthu- It is a manacle of love; I'll place it mus,
Upon this fairest prisoner. So soon as I can win the offended King,
(Putting a bracelet upon her arm.] I will be known your advocate. Marry, yet
O the gods !
Enter CYMBELINE and Lords.
Alack, the King ! Post.
Please your Highness, Cym. Thou basest thing, avoid! Hence, I will from hence to-day.
from my sight! Queen.
You know the peril. If after this command thou fraught the court I'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying With thy unworthiness, thou diest. Away! The pangs of barr'd affections, though the Thou 'rt poison to my blood. King
The gods protect you! Hath charg'd you should not speak together. And bless the good remainders of the court !
0 Imo. There cannot be a pinch in death 130 Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant More sharp than this is. Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest hus- Cym.
O disloyal thing, band,
That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap'st I something fear my father's wrath ; but no- A year's age on me. thing
I beseech you, sir, Always reserv'd my holy duty - what
Harm not yourself with your vexation. His rage can do on me. You must be gone; I am senseless of your wrath; a touch more And I shall here abide the hourly shot Of angry eyes, not comforted to live,
Subdues all pangs, all fears. But that there is this jewel in the world
Past grace? obedience ? That I may see again.
Imo. Past hope, and in despair; that way, Post. My queen! my mistress!
Cym. That mightst have had the sole son of
my queen! Imo. O blest, that I might not ! I chose an
eagle, And did avoid a puttock. Cym. Thou took'st a beggar; wouldst have
made my throne A seat for baseness. Imo.
No; I rather added
Cym. O thou vile one!
What, art thou mad ? Imo. Almost, sir; heaven restore me! Would
Thou foolish thing! - They were again together ; you have done 151 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. Cym.
Nay, let her languish A drop of blood a day; and, being aged, Die of this folly!
[Exeunt (Cymbeline and Lords).
Enter PISANIO. Queen. Fie! you must give way. Here is your servant. "How now, sir! What
news? Pis. My lord your son drew on my master. Queen.
Ha! No harm, I trust, is done ? Pis,
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. Imo. 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 ? Pis. On his command. He would not suffer To bring him to the haven ; left these notes Of what commands I should be subject to, When 't pleas'd you to employ me. Queen.
This hath been Your faithful servant. I dare lay mine honour He will remain so.
Pis. I humbly thank your Highness, 175
About some half-hour hence,
SCENE (II. The same. A public place.)
Enter CLOTEN and two LORDS. 1. Lord. Sir, I would advise you to shift a shirt; the violence of action hath made you reek as a sacrifice. Where air comes out, air comes in ; there 's none abroad so wholesome as that you vent. Clo. If
my shirt were bloody, then to shift it. Have I hurt him ?
2. Lord. (Aside.] No, faith ; not so much as his patience.
1. Lord. Hurt him! His body's a passable carcass, if he be not hurt; it is a throughfare for steel, if it be not hurt.
2. Lord. (Aside.] His steel was in debt ; it went o' the backside the town.
Clo. The villain would not stand me. 2. Lord. (Aside.) No; but he fled forward still, toward your face.
1. 'Lord. Stand you! You have land enough of your own; but he added to your having, gave you some ground.
2. Lord. (Aside.] As many inches as you have oceans. Puppies !
Clo. I would they had not come between us.
2. Lord. (Aside.) So would I, till you had measur'd how long a fool you were upon the ground.
Clo. And that she should love this fellow and refuse me!
2. Lord. (Aside.] If it be a sin to make a true election, she is damn'd.
1. Lord. Sir, as I told you always, her beauty and her brain go not together. She's a good sign, but I have seen small reflection of her wit.
2. 'Lord. [Aside.] She shines not upon fools, lest the reflection should hurt her.
Clo. Come, I 'll to my chamber. Would there had been some hurt done!
2. Lord. (dside.] I wish not so ; unless it had been the
fall of an ass, which is no great hurt. Clo. You 'll go with us ? 1. Lord. I 'll attend your lordship. Clo. Nay, come, let 's go together. 2. Lord. Well, my lord.
(Ereunt. SCENE (III. A room in Cymbeline's palace.]
Enter IMOGEN and PISANIO. Imo. I would thou grew'st unto the shores
o the haven, And question’dst every sail. If he should write And I not have it, 't were a paper lost, As offer'd mercy is. What was the last That he spake to thee? Pis.
It was his queen, his queen! Imo. Then way'd his handkerchief ? Pis.
And kiss'd it, madam Imo. Senseless linen ! happier therein than I: And that was all ? Pis.
No, madam ; for so long As he could make me with this eye or ear
Distinguish him from others, he did keep by her value than his own, words him, I doubt
French. And then bis banishment.
weep this lamentable divorce under her colours Imo.
'Thou shouldst have made him are wonderfully to extend him; be it but to As little as a crow, or less, ere left
fortify her judgement, which else an easy batTo after-eye him.
tery might lay flat, for taking a beggar withPis. Madam, so I did.
out less quality. But how comes it he is to Imo. I would have broke mine eye-strings ; sojourn with you? How creeps acquaintance ? crack'd them, but
Phi. His father and I were soldiers to- (26 To look upon him, till the diminution
gether; to whom I have been often bound for Of space had pointed him sharp as my needle ; no less than
my life. Nay, follow'd him, till he had melted from The smallness of a gnat to air, and then
Enter POSTHUMUS. Have turn'd mine eye and wept. But, good Here comes the Briton. Let him be so enterPisanio,
tained amongst you as suits with gentlemen When shall we hear from him ?
of your knowing to a stranger of his quality. [.. Pis.
Be assured, madam, - I beseech you all, be better known to this With his next vantage.
gentleman, whom I commend to you as a noble Imo. I did not take my leave of him, but had friend of mine. How worthy he is I will leave Most pretty things to say. Ere I could tell him to appear hereafter, rather than story him in How I would think on him at certain hours his own hearing. Such thoughts and such, or I could make him French. Sir, we have known together in Orswear
leans. The shes of Italy should not betray
Post. Since when I have been debtor to you Mine interest and his honour, or have charg'd for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay and him,
pay still. At the sixth hour of morn, at noon, at mid- French. Sir, you o'er-rate my poor kindness. night,
I was glad I did atone my countryman and To encounter me with orisons, for then
you. It had been pity you should have been I am in heaven for him; or ere I could
put together with so mortal a purpose as then Give him that parting kiss which I had set each bore, upon importance of so slight and Betwixt two charming words, comes in my trivial a nature. father
Post. By your pardon, sir, I was then a young And like the tyrannous breathing of the north traveller ; rather shunn'd to go even with what Shakes all our buds from growing.
I heard than in my every action to be guided Enter a LADY.
by others' experiences : but upon my mended
judgement - if I offend (not) to say it is mended Lady.
The Queen, madam, my quarrel was not altogether slight. Desires your Highness' company.
French. Faith, yes, to be put to the arbitreImo. Those things I bid you do, get them ment of swords, and by such two that would dispatch'd.
by all likelihood have confounded one the I will attend the Queen.
other, or have fallen both. Pis. Madam, I shall.
Iach. Can we, with manners, ask what was [Exeunt. the difference ?
French. Safely, I think; 't was a contention SCENE (IV. Rome. Philario's house.] in public, which may, without contradiction,
suffer the report. It was much like an arguEnter PHILARIO, LACHIMO, a FRENCHMAN, a
ment that fell out last night, where each of us (60 Dutchman, and a Spaniard.
fell in praise of our country-mistresses ; this lach. Believe it, sir, I have seen him in Brit- gentleman at that time vouching -- and upon ain. He was then of a crescent note, expected warrant of bloody affirmation his to be more to prove so worthy as since he hath been al- fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, constant, qualified, lowed the name of ; but I could then have and less attemptable than any the rarest of our look'd on him without the help of admiration, ladies in France. though the catalogue of his endowments had lach. That lady is not now living, or this been tabled by his side and I to peruse him by gentleman's opinion by this worn out. items.
Post. She holds her virtue still, and I my Phi. You speak of him when he was less mind. furnish'd than now he is with that which makes Iach. You must not so far prefer her 'fore him both without and within.
ours of Italy. French. I have seen him in France. We had Post. Being so far provok'd as I was in very many there could behold the sun with as France, I would abate her nothing, though I firm eyes as he.
profess myself her adorer, not her friend. Iach. This matter of marrying his king's Iach. As fair and as good - a kind of handdaughter, wherein he must be weighed rather in-hand comparison - had been something too