List iconCymbeline:
Act 5, scene 4
List icon

Act 5, scene 4



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 Posthumus in chains, and two Jailers.

 You shall not now be stol’n; you have locks upon you.
 So graze as you find pasture.
SECOND JAILER  Ay, or a stomach.
Jailers exit.
 Most welcome, bondage, for thou art a way,
5 I think, to liberty. Yet am I better
 Than one that’s sick o’ th’ gout, since he had rather
 Groan so in perpetuity than be cured
 By th’ sure physician, Death, who is the key
 T’ unbar these locks. My conscience, thou art fettered
10 More than my shanks and wrists. You good gods,
 give me
 The penitent instrument to pick that bolt,
 Then free forever. Is ’t enough I am sorry?
 So children temporal fathers do appease;
15 Gods are more full of mercy. Must I repent,
 I cannot do it better than in gyves,
 Desired more than constrained. To satisfy,
 If of my freedom ’tis the main part, take
 No stricter render of me than my all.
20 I know you are more clement than vile men,
 Who of their broken debtors take a third,
 A sixth, a tenth, letting them thrive again

ACT 5. SC. 4

 On their abatement. That’s not my desire.
 For Imogen’s dear life take mine; and though
25 ’Tis not so dear, yet ’tis a life; you coined it.
 ’Tween man and man they weigh not every stamp;
 Though light, take pieces for the figure’s sake;
 You rather mine, being yours. And so, great powers,
 If you will take this audit, take this life
30 And cancel these cold bonds. O Imogen,
 I’ll speak to thee in silence.He lies down and sleeps.

Solemn music. Enter, as in an apparition, Sicilius
Leonatus, father to Posthumus, an old man attired like
a warrior; leading in his hand an ancient matron, his
wife and mother to Posthumus, with music before
them. Then, after other music, follows the two young
Leonati, brothers to Posthumus, with wounds as they
died in the wars. They circle Posthumus round as he
lies sleeping.

 No more, thou Thunder-master, show
  Thy spite on mortal flies.
 With Mars fall out, with Juno chide,
35  That thy adulteries
  Rates and revenges.
 Hath my poor boy done aught but well,
  Whose face I never saw?
 I died whilst in the womb he stayed,
40  Attending nature’s law;
 Whose father then—as men report
  Thou orphans’ father art—
 Thou shouldst have been, and shielded him
  From this earth-vexing smart.
45 Lucina lent not me her aid,
  But took me in my throes,

ACT 5. SC. 4

 That from me was Posthumus ripped,
  Came crying ’mongst his foes,
  A thing of pity.
50 Great Nature, like his ancestry,
  Molded the stuff so fair
 That he deserved the praise o’ th’ world
  As great Sicilius’ heir.
 When once he was mature for man,
55  In Britain where was he
 That could stand up his parallel
  Or fruitful object be
 In eye of Imogen, that best
  Could deem his dignity?
60 With marriage wherefore was he mocked,
  To be exiled and thrown
 From Leonati seat, and cast
  From her, his dearest one,
  Sweet Imogen?
65 Why did you suffer Iachimo,
  Slight thing of Italy,
 To taint his nobler heart and brain
  With needless jealousy,
 And to become the geck and scorn
70  O’ th’ other’s villainy?
 For this, from stiller seats we came,
  Our parents and us twain,
 That striking in our country’s cause
  Fell bravely and were slain,
75 Our fealty and Tenantius’ right
  With honor to maintain.

ACT 5. SC. 4

 Like hardiment Posthumus hath
  To Cymbeline performed.
 Then, Jupiter, thou king of gods,
80  Why hast thou thus adjourned
 The graces for his merits due,
  Being all to dolors turned?
 Thy crystal window ope; look out.
  No longer exercise
85 Upon a valiant race thy harsh
  And potent injuries.
 Since, Jupiter, our son is good,
  Take off his miseries.
 Peep through thy marble mansion. Help,
90  Or we poor ghosts will cry
 To th’ shining synod of the rest
  Against thy deity.
 Help, Jupiter, or we appeal
  And from thy justice fly.

Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon
an eagle.
 He throws a thunderbolt. The Ghosts fall on
their knees.

95 No more, you petty spirits of region low,
  Offend our hearing! Hush. How dare you ghosts
 Accuse the Thunderer, whose bolt, you know,
  Sky-planted, batters all rebelling coasts.
 Poor shadows of Elysium, hence, and rest
100  Upon your never-withering banks of flowers.
 Be not with mortal accidents oppressed.
  No care of yours it is; you know ’tis ours.

ACT 5. SC. 4

 Whom best I love I cross, to make my gift,
  The more delayed, delighted. Be content.
105 Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift.
  His comforts thrive, his trials well are spent.
 Our Jovial star reigned at his birth, and in
  Our temple was he married. Rise, and fade.
 He shall be lord of Lady Imogen,
110  And happier much by his affliction made.
He hands Sicilius a tablet.
 This tablet lay upon his breast, wherein
  Our pleasure his full fortune doth confine.
 And so away. No farther with your din
  Express impatience, lest you stir up mine.—
115  Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline.Ascends.
 He came in thunder. His celestial breath
 Was sulphurous to smell. The holy eagle
 Stooped as to foot us. His ascension is
 More sweet than our blest fields; his royal bird
120 Preens the immortal wing and cloys his beak,
 As when his god is pleased.
ALL  Thanks, Jupiter.
 The marble pavement closes; he is entered
 His radiant roof. Away, and, to be blest,
125 Let us with care perform his great behest.
He places the tablet on Posthumus’ breast. They vanish.
POSTHUMUS, waking 
 Sleep, thou hast been a grandsire and begot
 A father to me, and thou hast created
 A mother and two brothers. But, O scorn,
 Gone! They went hence so soon as they were born.
130 And so I am awake. Poor wretches that depend
 On greatness’ favor dream as I have done,
 Wake, and find nothing. But, alas, I swerve.
 Many dream not to find, neither deserve,

ACT 5. SC. 4

 And yet are steeped in favors; so am I
135 That have this golden chance and know not why.
Finding the tablet.
 What fairies haunt this ground? A book? O rare one,
 Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment
 Nobler than that it covers. Let thy effects
 So follow, to be, most unlike our courtiers,
140 As good as promise.
 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
145 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.

 ’Tis still a dream, or else such stuff as madmen
 Tongue and brain not; either both or nothing,
150 Or senseless speaking, or a speaking such
 As sense cannot untie. Be what it is,
 The action of my life is like it, which
 I’ll keep, if but for sympathy.

Enter Jailer.

JAILER Come, sir, are you ready for death?
POSTHUMUS 155Over-roasted rather; ready long ago.
JAILER Hanging is the word, sir. If you be ready for
 that, you are well cooked.
POSTHUMUS So, if I prove a good repast to the spectators,
 the dish pays the shot.
JAILER 160A heavy reckoning for you, sir. But the comfort
 is, you shall be called to no more payments, fear
 no more tavern bills, which are often the sadness
 of parting as the procuring of mirth. You come in
 faint for want of meat, depart reeling with too
165 much drink; sorry that you have paid too much,

ACT 5. SC. 4

 and sorry that you are paid too much; purse and
 brain both empty; the brain the heavier for being
 too light; the purse too light, being drawn of heaviness.
 O, of this contradiction you shall now be
170 quit. O, the charity of a penny cord! It sums up
 thousands in a trice. You have no true debitor and
 creditor but it; of what’s past, is, and to come, the
 discharge. Your neck, sir, is pen, book, and counters;
 so the acquittance follows.
POSTHUMUS 175I am merrier to die than thou art to live.
JAILER Indeed, sir, he that sleeps feels not the
 toothache. But a man that were to sleep your
 sleep, and a hangman to help him to bed, I think
 he would change places with his officer; for, look
180 you, sir, you know not which way you shall go.
POSTHUMUS Yes, indeed do I, fellow.
JAILER Your Death has eyes in ’s head, then. I have not
 seen him so pictured. You must either be directed
 by some that take upon them to know, or to take
185 upon yourself that which I am sure you do not
 know, or jump the after-inquiry on your own peril.
 And how you shall speed in your journey’s end, I
 think you’ll never return to tell one.
POSTHUMUS I tell thee, fellow, there are none want
190 eyes to direct them the way I am going but such as
 wink and will not use them.
JAILER What an infinite mock is this, that a man
 should have the best use of eyes to see the way of
 blindness! I am sure hanging’s the way of winking.

Enter a Messenger.

MESSENGER 195Knock off his manacles; bring your prisoner
 to the King.
POSTHUMUS Thou bring’st good news. I am called to be
 made free.

ACT 5. SC. 5

JAILER I’ll be hanged then.
He removes Posthumus’s chains.
POSTHUMUS 200Thou shalt be then freer than a jailer. No
 bolts for the dead.All but the Jailer exit.
JAILER Unless a man would marry a gallows and beget
 young gibbets, I never saw one so prone. Yet, on my
 conscience, there are verier knaves desire to live,
205 for all he be a Roman; and there be some of them
 too that die against their wills. So should I, if I
 were one. I would we were all of one mind, and
 one mind good. O, there were desolation of jailers
 and gallowses! I speak against my present profit,
210 but my wish hath a preferment in ’t.
He exits.