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Cymbeline
Act 3, 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 Pisanio and Imogen.

IMOGEN 
 Thou told’st me, when we came from horse, the place
 Was near at hand. Ne’er longed my mother so
 To see me first as I have now. Pisanio, man,
 Where is Posthumus? What is in thy mind
5 That makes thee stare thus? Wherefore breaks that
 sigh
 From th’ inward of thee? One but painted thus
 Would be interpreted a thing perplexed
 Beyond self-explication. Put thyself
10 Into a havior of less fear, ere wildness
 Vanquish my staider senses. What’s the matter?
Pisanio hands her a paper.
 Why tender’st thou that paper to me with
 A look untender? If ’t be summer news,
 Smile to ’t before; if winterly, thou need’st
15 But keep that count’nance still. My husband’s hand!

121
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 4

 That drug-damned Italy hath out-craftied him,
 And he’s at some hard point. Speak, man! Thy tongue
 May take off some extremity, which to read
 Would be even mortal to me.
PISANIO 20 Please you read,
 And you shall find me, wretched man, a thing
 The most disdained of fortune.
IMOGEN reads: Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the
 strumpet in my bed, the testimonies whereof lies
25 bleeding in me. I speak not out of weak surmises but
 from proof as strong as my grief and as certain as I
 expect my revenge. That part thou, Pisanio, must act
 for me, if thy faith be not tainted with the breach of
 hers. Let thine own hands take away her life. I shall
30 give thee opportunity at Milford Haven—she hath
 my letter for the purpose—where, if thou fear to
 strike and to make me certain it is done, thou art the
 pander to her dishonor and equally to me disloyal.

PISANIO, aside 
 What shall I need to draw my sword? The paper
35 Hath cut her throat already. No, ’tis slander,
 Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
 Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
 Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
 All corners of the world. Kings, queens, and states,
40 Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
 This viperous slander enters.—What cheer, madam?
IMOGEN 
 False to his bed? What is it to be false?
 To lie in watch there and to think on him?
 To weep ’twixt clock and clock? If sleep charge nature,
45 To break it with a fearful dream of him
 And cry myself awake? That’s false to ’s bed, is it?
PISANIO Alas, good lady!
IMOGEN 
 I false? Thy conscience witness! Iachimo,

123
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 4

 Thou didst accuse him of incontinency.
50 Thou then looked’st like a villain. Now methinks
 Thy favor’s good enough. Some jay of Italy,
 Whose mother was her painting, hath betrayed him.
 Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion,
 And, for I am richer than to hang by th’ walls,
55 I must be ripped. To pieces with me! O,
 Men’s vows are women’s traitors! All good seeming,
 By thy revolt, O husband, shall be thought
 Put on for villainy, not born where ’t grows,
 But worn a bait for ladies.
PISANIO 60 Good madam, hear me.
IMOGEN 
 True honest men, being heard like false Aeneas,
 Were in his time thought false, and Sinon’s weeping
 Did scandal many a holy tear, took pity
 From most true wretchedness. So thou, Posthumus,
65 Wilt lay the leaven on all proper men;
 Goodly and gallant shall be false and perjured
 From thy great fail.—Come, fellow, be thou honest;
 Do thou thy master’s bidding. When thou seest him,
 A little witness my obedience. Look,
70 I draw the sword myself.
She draws Pisanio’s sword from its
scabbard and hands it to him.

 Take it, and hit
 The innocent mansion of my love, my heart.
 Fear not; ’tis empty of all things but grief.
 Thy master is not there, who was indeed
75 The riches of it. Do his bidding; strike.
 Thou mayst be valiant in a better cause,
 But now thou seem’st a coward.
PISANIO, throwing down the sword  Hence, vile
 instrument!
80 Thou shalt not damn my hand.
IMOGEN  Why, I must die,

125
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 4

 And if I do not by thy hand, thou art
 No servant of thy master’s. Against self-slaughter
 There is a prohibition so divine
85 That cravens my weak hand. Come, here’s my heart—
 Something’s afore ’t. Soft, soft! We’ll no defense—
 Obedient as the scabbard. What is here?
She takes papers from her bodice.
 The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus,
 All turned to heresy? Away, away!
She throws away the letters.
90 Corrupters of my faith, you shall no more
 Be stomachers to my heart. Thus may poor fools
 Believe false teachers. Though those that are betrayed
 Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
 Stands in worse case of woe. And thou, Posthumus,
95 That didst set up
 My disobedience ’gainst the King my father
 And make me put into contempt the suits
 Of princely fellows, shalt hereafter find
 It is no act of common passage, but
100 A strain of rareness: and I grieve myself
 To think, when thou shalt be disedged by her
 That now thou tirest on, how thy memory
 Will then be panged by me.—Prithee, dispatch.
 The lamb entreats the butcher. Where’s thy knife?
105 Thou art too slow to do thy master’s bidding
 When I desire it too.
PISANIO  O gracious lady,
 Since I received command to do this business
 I have not slept one wink.
IMOGEN 110 Do ’t, and to bed, then.
PISANIO 
 I’ll wake mine eyeballs out first.
IMOGEN  Wherefore then
 Didst undertake it? Why hast thou abused
 So many miles with a pretense? This place?

127
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 4

115 Mine action and thine own? Our horses’ labor?
 The time inviting thee? The perturbed court
 For my being absent, whereunto I never
 Purpose return? Why hast thou gone so far
 To be unbent when thou hast ta’en thy stand,
120 Th’ elected deer before thee?
PISANIO  But to win time
 To lose so bad employment, in the which
 I have considered of a course. Good lady,
 Hear me with patience.
IMOGEN 125 Talk thy tongue weary.
 Speak.
 I have heard I am a strumpet, and mine ear,
 Therein false struck, can take no greater wound,
 Nor tent to bottom that. But speak.
PISANIO 130 Then, madam,
 I thought you would not back again.
IMOGEN  Most like,
 Bringing me here to kill me.
PISANIO  Not so, neither.
135 But if I were as wise as honest, then
 My purpose would prove well. It cannot be
 But that my master is abused. Some villain,
 Ay, and singular in his art, hath done
 You both this cursèd injury.
IMOGEN 
140 Some Roman courtesan?
PISANIO  No, on my life.
 I’ll give but notice you are dead, and send him
 Some bloody sign of it, for ’tis commanded
 I should do so. You shall be missed at court,
145 And that will well confirm it.
IMOGEN  Why, good fellow,
 What shall I do the while? Where bide? How live?
 Or in my life what comfort when I am
 Dead to my husband?

129
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 4

PISANIO 150 If you’ll back to th’ court—
IMOGEN 
 No court, no father, nor no more ado
 With that harsh, noble, simple nothing,
 That Cloten, whose love suit hath been to me
 As fearful as a siege.
PISANIO 155 If not at court,
 Then not in Britain must you bide.
IMOGEN  Where, then?
 Hath Britain all the sun that shines? Day, night,
 Are they not but in Britain? I’ th’ world’s volume
160 Our Britain seems as of it, but not in ’t,
 In a great pool a swan’s nest. Prithee think
 There’s livers out of Britain.
PISANIO  I am most glad
 You think of other place. Th’ ambassador,
165 Lucius the Roman, comes to Milford Haven
 Tomorrow. Now, if you could wear a mind
 Dark as your fortune is, and but disguise
 That which t’ appear itself must not yet be
 But by self-danger, you should tread a course
170 Pretty and full of view: yea, haply near
 The residence of Posthumus; so nigh, at least,
 That though his actions were not visible, yet
 Report should render him hourly to your ear
 As truly as he moves.
IMOGEN 175 O, for such means,
 Though peril to my modesty, not death on ’t,
 I would adventure.
PISANIO  Well then, here’s the point:
 You must forget to be a woman; change
180 Command into obedience, fear and niceness—
 The handmaids of all women, or, more truly,
 Woman it pretty self—into a waggish courage,
 Ready in gibes, quick-answered, saucy, and

131
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 4

 As quarrelous as the weasel. Nay, you must
185 Forget that rarest treasure of your cheek,
 Exposing it—but O, the harder heart!
 Alack, no remedy—to the greedy touch
 Of common-kissing Titan, and forget
 Your laborsome and dainty trims, wherein
190 You made great Juno angry.
IMOGEN  Nay, be brief.
 I see into thy end and am almost
 A man already.
PISANIO  First, make yourself but like one.
195 Forethinking this, I have already fit—
 ’Tis in my cloakbag—doublet, hat, hose, all
 That answer to them. Would you, in their serving,
 And with what imitation you can borrow
 From youth of such a season, ’fore noble Lucius
200 Present yourself, desire his service, tell him
 Wherein you’re happy—which will make him know,
 If that his head have ear in music—doubtless
 With joy he will embrace you, for he’s honorable
 And, doubling that, most holy. Your means abroad:
205 You have me, rich, and I will never fail
 Beginning nor supplyment.
IMOGEN, taking the cloakbag Thou art all the comfort
 The gods will diet me with. Prithee, away.
 There’s more to be considered, but we’ll even
210 All that good time will give us. This attempt
 I am soldier to, and will abide it with
 A prince’s courage. Away, I prithee.
PISANIO 
 Well, madam, we must take a short farewell,
 Lest, being missed, I be suspected of
215 Your carriage from the court. My noble mistress,
 Here is a box. I had it from the Queen.
He hands her the box.

133
Cymbeline
ACT 3. SC. 5

 What’s in ’t is precious. If you are sick at sea
 Or stomach-qualmed at land, a dram of this
 Will drive away distemper. To some shade,
220 And fit you to your manhood. May the gods
 Direct you to the best.
IMOGEN  Amen. I thank thee.
They exit.