List iconCymbeline:
Act 1, scene 1
List icon

Act 1, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Cymbeline, which takes place in ancient Britain, is filled with hidden identities, extraordinary schemes, and violent acts. Long ago, the…

Act 1, scene 1

At the court of King Cymbeline, the princess, Imogen, has secretly married a gentleman named Posthumus Leonatus. Imogen is the…

Act 1, scene 2

An encounter between Cloten and Posthumus, reported in 1.1, is here discussed by Cloten and two lords.

Act 1, scene 3

Posthumus’s servant, Pisanio, describes to the grieving Imogen the departure of Posthumus toward Rome.

Act 1, scene 4

Posthumus arrives in Rome, where an Italian gentleman, Iachimo, maneuvers him into placing a bet on Imogen’s chastity. Posthumus bets…

Act 1, scene 5

The queen obtains a box that she is told contains poison. (The audience is told that the box actually contains…

Act 1, scene 6

Iachimo arrives in Britain and begins his attempt to seduce Imogen by telling her that Posthumus is betraying her with…

Act 2, scene 1

Cloten and two lords discuss the arrival of Iachimo. The Second Lord, in soliloquy, expresses the hope that Imogen will…

Act 2, scene 2

As Imogen sleeps, the trunk that she is keeping for Iachimo opens, and Iachimo emerges. Before climbing back into it,…

Act 2, scene 3

Cloten serenades Imogen in an attempt to win her love. Imogen enrages Cloten by saying that he is not as…

Act 2, scene 4

Iachimo returns to Rome with his proofs of Imogen’s unfaithfulness: descriptions of her bedroom and of private marks on her…

Act 2, scene 5

Posthumus, in soliloquy, attacks women as the embodiment of all that is vicious.

Act 3, scene 1

Caius Lucius arrives as ambassador from Augustus Caesar, demanding that Cymbeline pay the tribute Britain owes to Rome. With the…

Act 3, scene 2

Pisanio receives two letters from Posthumus—one in which Pisanio is instructed to kill Imogen, and another written to Imogen, telling…

Act 3, scene 3

Three men enter as if from a cave, the two younger men protesting the limitations of their mountain lives. When…

Act 3, scene 4

On the journey to Milford Haven, Pisanio reveals to Imogen that he is supposed to kill her. She is so…

Act 3, scene 5

When Imogen’s absence from court is discovered, Cloten forces Pisanio to tell him where she is. Pisanio shows him the…

Act 3, scene 6

Imogen, disguised as a boy named Fidele, stumbles, exhausted and famished, into the cave of Belarius and the two young…

Act 3, scene 7

A Roman senator announces that the Roman army attacking Britain will be under the control of Caius Lucius and that…

Act 4, scene 1

Cloten, dressed in Posthumus’s garments, arrives at the spot where he plans to cut off Posthumus’s head and rape Imogen.

Act 4, scene 2

Imogen, not feeling well, takes the potion given her by Pisanio, thinking it is a restorative; the potion puts her…

Act 4, scene 3

Cymbeline finds himself alone in the face of the Roman attack, with Imogen and Cloten both missing and the queen…

Act 4, scene 4

The young princes persuade Belarius that the three of them should join with the Britons against Rome.

Act 5, scene 1

Posthumus, in Britain as part of the Roman army, repents Imogen’s (reported) murder and decides to seek death by joining…

Act 5, scene 2

In a series of battles, Posthumus (disguised as a peasant) defeats and disarms Iachimo; the Britons flee and Cymbeline is…

Act 5, scene 3

Posthumus, still seeking death and failing to find it as a poor British soldier, reverts to his earlier role as…

Act 5, scene 4

Posthumus, in chains, falls asleep and is visited by the ghosts of his dead family and by the god Jupiter,…

Act 5, scene 5

Cymbeline knights Belarius and the two young men in gratitude for their valor, and sends in search of the poor…

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Scene 1
Enter two Gentlemen.

 You do not meet a man but frowns. Our bloods
 No more obey the heavens than our courtiers’
 Still seem as does the King’s.
SECOND GENTLEMAN  But what’s the matter?
5 His daughter, and the heir of ’s kingdom, whom
 He purposed to his wife’s sole son—a widow
 That late he married—hath referred herself
 Unto a poor but worthy gentleman. She’s wedded,
 Her husband banished, she imprisoned. All
10 Is outward sorrow, though I think the King
 Be touched at very heart.
SECOND GENTLEMAN  None but the King?
 He that hath lost her, too. So is the Queen,
 That most desired the match. But not a courtier,
15 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.
 He that hath missed the Princess is a thing
20 Too bad for bad report, and he that hath her—

ACT 1. SC. 1

 I mean, that married her, alack, good man!
 And therefore banished—is a creature such
 As, to seek through the regions of the Earth
 For one his like, there would be something failing
25 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.
 I do extend him, sir, within himself,
30 Crush him together rather than unfold
 His measure duly.
SECOND GENTLEMAN  What’s his name and birth?
 I cannot delve him to the root. His father
 Was called Sicilius, who did join his honor
35 Against the Romans with Cassibelan,
 But had his titles by Tenantius, whom
 He served with glory and admired success,
 So gained the sur-addition Leonatus;
 And had, besides this gentleman in question,
40 Two other sons, who in the wars o’ th’ time
 Died with their swords in hand. For which their
 Then old and fond of issue, took such sorrow
 That he quit being; and his gentle lady,
45 Big of this gentleman our theme, deceased
 As he was born. The King he takes the babe
 To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus,
 Breeds him and makes him of his bedchamber,
 Puts to him all the learnings that his time
50 Could make him the receiver of, which he took
 As we do air, fast as ’twas ministered,
 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 th’ more mature

ACT 1. SC. 1

55 A glass that feated them, and to the graver
 A child that guided dotards. To his mistress,
 For whom he now is banished, her own price
 Proclaims how she esteemed him; and his virtue
 By her election may be truly read
60 What kind of man he is.
 Even out of your report. But pray you tell me,
 Is she sole child to th’ King?
FIRST GENTLEMAN  His only child.
65 He had two sons—if this be worth your hearing,
 Mark it—the eldest of them at three years old,
 I’ th’ swathing clothes the other, from their nursery
 Were stol’n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge
 Which way they went.
SECOND GENTLEMAN 70How long is this ago?
FIRST GENTLEMAN Some twenty years.
 That a king’s children should be so conveyed,
 So slackly guarded, and the search so slow
 That could not trace them!
FIRST GENTLEMAN 75 Howsoe’er ’tis strange,
 Or that the negligence may well be laughed at,
 Yet is it true, sir.
SECOND GENTLEMAN  I do well believe you.
 We must forbear. Here comes the gentleman,
80 The Queen and Princess.
They exit.

Enter the Queen, Posthumus, and Imogen.

 No, be assured you shall not find me, daughter,
 After the slander of most stepmothers,
 Evil-eyed unto you. You’re my prisoner, but
 Your jailer shall deliver you the keys

ACT 1. SC. 1

85 That lock up your restraint.—For you, Posthumus,
 So soon as I can win th’ offended king,
 I will be known your advocate. Marry, yet
 The fire of rage is in him, and ’twere good
 You leaned unto his sentence with what patience
90 Your wisdom may inform you.
POSTHUMUS  Please your Highness,
 I will from hence today.
QUEEN  You know the peril.
 I’ll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying
95 The pangs of barred affections, though the King
 Hath charged you should not speak together.She exits.
 Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant
 Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest husband,
100 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
105 But that there is this jewel in the world
 That I may see again.She weeps.
POSTHUMUS  My queen, my mistress!
 O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
 To be suspected of more tenderness
110 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,
115 And with mine eyes I’ll drink the words you send,
 Though ink be made of gall.

Enter Queen.

QUEEN  Be brief, I pray you.
 If the King come, I shall incur I know not

ACT 1. SC. 1

 How much of his displeasure. (Aside.) Yet I’ll move
120 him
 To walk this way. I never do him wrong
 But he does buy my injuries, to be friends,
 Pays dear for my offenses.She exits.
POSTHUMUS  Should we be taking leave
125 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,
 Such parting were too petty. Look here, love:
130 This diamond was my mother’s. (She offers a
Take it, heart,
 But keep it till you woo another wife
 When Imogen is dead.
POSTHUMUS  How, how? Another?
135 You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
 And cere up my embracements from a next
 With bonds of death.(He puts the ring on his finger.)
 Remain, remain thou here,
 While sense can keep it on.—And sweetest, fairest,
140 As I my poor self did exchange for you
 To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
 I still win of you. For my sake, wear this.
He offers a bracelet.
 It is a manacle of love. I’ll place it
 Upon this fairest prisoner.He puts it on her wrist.
IMOGEN 145 O the gods!
 When shall we see again?

Enter Cymbeline and Lords.

POSTHUMUS  Alack, the King.
 Thou basest thing, avoid hence, from my sight!
 If after this command thou fraught the court
150 With thy unworthiness, thou diest. Away!
 Thou ’rt poison to my blood.

ACT 1. SC. 1

POSTHUMUS  The gods protect you,
 And bless the good remainders of the court.
 I am gone.He exits.
IMOGEN 155 There cannot be a pinch in death
 More sharp than this is.
CYMBELINE  O disloyal thing
 That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap’st
 A year’s age on me.
IMOGEN 160 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?
165 Past hope and in despair; that way past grace.
 That mightst have had the sole son of my queen!
 O, blessèd that I might not! I chose an eagle
 And did avoid a puttock.
 Thou took’st a beggar, wouldst have made my throne
170 A seat for baseness.
IMOGEN  No, I rather added
 A luster to it.
CYMBELINE  O thou vile one!
175 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?
180 Almost, sir. Heaven restore me! Would I were
 A neatherd’s daughter, and my Leonatus
 Our neighbor shepherd’s son.She weeps.

ACT 1. SC. 1

CYMBELINE  Thou foolish thing!

Enter Queen.

 They were again together. You have done
185 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
190 comfort
 Out of your best advice.
CYMBELINE  Nay, let her languish
 A drop of blood a day, and being aged
 Die of this folly.He exits, with Lords.
QUEEN 195 Fie, you must give way.

Enter Pisanio.

 Here is your servant.—How now, sir? What news?
 My lord your son drew on my master.
 No harm, I trust, is done?
PISANIO 200 There might have been,
 But that my master rather played than fought
 And had no help of anger. They were parted
 By gentlemen at hand.
QUEEN  I am very glad on ’t.
205 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?
210 On his command. He would not suffer me
 To bring him to the haven, left these notes

ACT 1. SC. 2

 Of what commands I should be subject to
 When ’t pleased you to employ me.
QUEEN, to Imogen  This hath been
215 Your faithful servant. I dare lay mine honor
 He will remain so.
PISANIO  I humbly thank your Highness.
QUEEN, to Imogen 
 Pray, walk awhile.
IMOGEN, to Pisanio  About some half hour hence,
220 Pray you, speak with me. You shall at least
 Go see my lord aboard. For this time leave me.
They exit.