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Cymbeline
Act 1, scene 4

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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 4
Enter Philario, Iachimo, a Frenchman, a Dutchman,
and a Spaniard.


IACHIMO Believe it, sir, I have seen him in Britain. He
 was then of a crescent note, expected to prove so
 worthy as since he hath been allowed the name of.
 But I could then have looked on him without the
5 help of admiration, though the catalogue of his
 endowments had been tabled by his side and I to
 peruse him by items.
PHILARIO You speak of him when he was less furnished
 than now he is with that which makes him
10 both without and within.
FRENCHMAN I have seen him in France. We had very
 many there could behold the sun with as firm eyes
 as he.
IACHIMO This matter of marrying his king’s daughter,
15 wherein he must be weighed rather by her value

29
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ACT 1. SC. 4

 than his own, words him, I doubt not, a great deal
 from the matter.
FRENCHMAN And then his banishment.
IACHIMO Ay, and the approbation of those that weep
20 this lamentable divorce under her colors are wonderfully
 to extend him, be it but to fortify her judgment,
 which else an easy battery might lay flat for
 taking a beggar without less quality.—But how
 comes it he is to sojourn with you? How creeps
25 acquaintance?
PHILARIO His father and I were soldiers together, to
 whom I have been often bound for no less than my
 life.

Enter Posthumus.

 Here comes the Briton. Let him be so entertained
30 amongst you as suits, with gentlemen of your knowing,
 to a stranger of his quality.—I beseech you all,
 be better known to this gentleman, whom I commend
 to you as a noble friend of mine. How worthy
 he is I will leave to appear hereafter rather
35 than story him in his own hearing.
FRENCHMAN, to Posthumus Sir, we have known together
 in Orleans.
POSTHUMUS Since when I have been debtor to you for
 courtesies which I will be ever to pay and yet pay
40 still.
FRENCHMAN Sir, you o’errate my poor kindness. I was
 glad I did atone my countryman and you. It had
 been pity you should have been put together with
 so mortal a purpose as then each bore, upon importance
45 of so slight and trivial a nature.
POSTHUMUS By your pardon, sir, I was then a young
 traveler, rather shunned to go even with what I
 heard than in my every action to be guided by others’
 experiences. But upon my mended judgment—

31
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ACT 1. SC. 4

50 if I offend not to say it is mended—my
 quarrel was not altogether slight.
FRENCHMAN Faith, yes, to be put to the arbitrament of
 swords, and by such two that would by all likelihood
 have confounded one the other or have fall’n
55 both.
IACHIMO Can we with manners ask what was the
 difference?
FRENCHMAN Safely, I think. ’Twas a contention in public,
 which may without contradiction suffer the report.
60 It was much like an argument that fell out
 last night, where each of us fell in praise of our
 country mistresses, this gentleman at that time
 vouching—and upon warrant of bloody affirmation—
 his to be more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste,
65 constant, qualified, and less attemptable than any
 the rarest of our ladies in France.
IACHIMO That lady is not now living, or this gentleman’s
 opinion by this worn out.
POSTHUMUS She holds her virtue still, and I my mind.
IACHIMO 70You must not so far prefer her ’fore ours of
 Italy.
POSTHUMUS Being so far provoked as I was in France,
 I would abate her nothing, though I profess myself
 her adorer, not her friend.
IACHIMO 75As fair and as good—a kind of hand-in-hand
 comparison—had been something too fair and too
 good for any lady in Britain. If she went before
 others I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlusters
 many I have beheld, I could not but
80 believe she excelled many. But I have not seen the
 most precious diamond that is, nor you the lady.
POSTHUMUS I praised her as I rated her. So do I my
 stone.
IACHIMO What do you esteem it at?
POSTHUMUS 85More than the world enjoys.

33
Cymbeline
ACT 1. SC. 4

IACHIMO Either your unparagoned mistress is dead, or
 she’s outprized by a trifle.
POSTHUMUS You are mistaken. The one may be sold or
 given, or if there were wealth enough for the purchase
90 or merit for the gift. The other is not a thing
 for sale, and only the gift of the gods.
IACHIMO Which the gods have given you?
POSTHUMUS Which, by their graces, I will keep.
IACHIMO You may wear her in title yours, but you
95 know strange fowl light upon neighboring ponds.
 Your ring may be stolen too. So your brace of unprizable
 estimations, the one is but frail and the
 other casual. A cunning thief or a that-way-accomplished
 courtier would hazard the winning both of
100 first and last.
POSTHUMUS Your Italy contains none so accomplished
 a courtier to convince the honor of my mistress, if
 in the holding or loss of that, you term her frail. I
 do nothing doubt you have store of thieves;
105 notwithstanding, I fear not my ring.
PHILARIO Let us leave here, gentlemen.
POSTHUMUS Sir, with all my heart. This worthy signior,
 I thank him, makes no stranger of me. We are
 familiar at first.
IACHIMO 110With five times so much conversation I
 should get ground of your fair mistress, make her
 go back even to the yielding, had I admittance and
 opportunity to friend.
POSTHUMUS No, no.
IACHIMO 115I dare thereupon pawn the moiety of my
 estate to your ring, which in my opinion o’ervalues
 it something. But I make my wager rather against
 your confidence than her reputation, and, to bar
 your offense herein too, I durst attempt it against
120 any lady in the world.
POSTHUMUS You are a great deal abused in too bold a

35
Cymbeline
ACT 1. SC. 4

 persuasion, and I doubt not you sustain what
 you’re worthy of by your attempt.
IACHIMO What’s that?
POSTHUMUS 125A repulse—though your attempt, as you
 call it, deserve more: a punishment, too.
PHILARIO Gentlemen, enough of this. It came in too
 suddenly. Let it die as it was born, and, I pray you,
 be better acquainted.
IACHIMO 130Would I had put my estate and my neighbor’s
 on th’ approbation of what I have spoke.
POSTHUMUS What lady would you choose to assail?
IACHIMO Yours, whom in constancy you think stands
 so safe. I will lay you ten thousand ducats to your
135 ring that, commend me to the court where your
 lady is, with no more advantage than the opportunity
 of a second conference, and I will bring from
 thence that honor of hers which you imagine so
 reserved.
POSTHUMUS 140I will wage against your gold, gold to it.
 My ring I hold dear as my finger; ’tis part of it.
IACHIMO You are a friend, and therein the wiser. If you
 buy ladies’ flesh at a million a dram, you cannot
 preserve it from tainting. But I see you have some
145 religion in you, that you fear.
POSTHUMUS This is but a custom in your tongue. You
 bear a graver purpose, I hope.
IACHIMO I am the master of my speeches and would
 undergo what’s spoken, I swear.
POSTHUMUS 150Will you? I shall but lend my diamond till
 your return. Let there be covenants drawn between
 ’s. My mistress exceeds in goodness the hugeness
 of your unworthy thinking. I dare you to this
 match. Here’s my ring.
PHILARIO 155I will have it no lay.
IACHIMO By the gods, it is one!—If I bring you no sufficient
 testimony that I have enjoyed the dearest

37
Cymbeline
ACT 1. SC. 5

 bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand
 ducats are yours; so is your diamond too. If I come
160 off and leave her in such honor as you have trust
 in, she your jewel, this your jewel, and my gold are
 yours, provided I have your commendation for my
 more free entertainment.
POSTHUMUS I embrace these conditions. Let us have
165 articles betwixt us. Only thus far you shall answer:
 if you make your voyage upon her and give me directly
 to understand you have prevailed, I am no
 further your enemy; she is not worth our debate. If
 she remain unseduced, you not making it appear
170 otherwise, for your ill opinion and th’ assault you
 have made to her chastity, you shall answer me
 with your sword.
IACHIMO Your hand; a covenant.(They shake hands.)
 We will have these things set down by lawful counsel,
175 and straight away for Britain, lest the bargain
 should catch cold and starve. I will fetch my gold
 and have our two wagers recorded.
POSTHUMUS Agreed.Iachimo and Posthumus exit.
FRENCHMAN Will this hold, think you?
PHILARIO 180Signior Iachimo will not from it. Pray, let us
 follow ’em.
They exit.