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About the Author
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Jonathan Bate is a professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at the University of Warwick. Widely known as a critic, award-winning biographer, and broadcaster, Bate is the author of several books on Shakespeare. He is also the principal editor of the Modern Library’s and Royal Shakespeare Company’s highly acclaimed William Shakespeare: Complete Works.
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare.
Date of Death:2018
Place of Birth:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Place of Death:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Read an Excerpt
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Scene I. Britain. The Garden of Cymbeline's Palace.
Enter two Gentlemen
First Gentleman. You do not meet a man but frowns: our bloods No more obey the heavens than our courtiers Still seem as does the king.
Sec. Gent. But what's the matter?
First Gent. His daughter, and the heir of 's kingdom, whom He purposed to his wife's sole son — a widow 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 10 Be touch'd at very heart.
Sec. Gent. None but the king?
First Gent. He that hath lost her too: so is the queen, That most desired the match: but not a courtier, 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.
Sec. Gent. And why so?
First 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 20 As, to seek through the regions of the earth 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 Endows a man but he.
Sec Gent. You speak him far.
First Gent. I do extend him, sir, within himself, Crush him together rather than unfold His measure duly.
Sec Gent. What 's his name and birth?
First Gent. I cannot delve him to the root: his father Was call'd Sicilius, who did join his honour 30 Against the Romans with Cassibelan, But had his titles by Tenantius, whom He served with glory and admired 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, deceased 40 As he was born. The king he takes the babe To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus, 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 minister'd, 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 the more mature A glass that feated them, and to the graver A child that guided dotards; to his mistress, For whom he now is banish'd, her own price Proclaims how she esteem'd him and his virtue; By her election may be truly read What kind of man he is.
Sec. Gent. I honour him Even out of your report. But, pray you, tell me, Is she sole child to the king?
First Gent. His only child. He had two sons, — if this be worth your hearing, Mark it, — the eldest of them at three years old, I' the swathing clothes the other, from their nursery 60 Were stolen, and to this hour no guess in knowledge Which way they went.
Sec Gent. How long is this ago?
First Gent. Some twenty years.
Sec. Gent. That a king's children should be so convey'd! So slackly guarded! and the search so slow, That could not trace them!
First Gent. Howsoe'er 't is strange, Or that the negligence may well be laugh'd at, Yet is it true, sir.
Sec. Gent. I do well believe you.
First Gent. We must forbear: here comes the gentleman, The queen and princess. [Exeunt. 70
Enter the Queen, Posthumus and Imogen
Queen. 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 gaoler shall deliver you the keys That lock up your restraint. For you, Posthumus, So soon as I can win the offended king, I will be known your advocate: marry, yet The fire of rage is in him, and 't were good You lean'd unto his sentence with what patience Your wisdom may inform you.
Post. Please your highness, 80 I will from hence to-day.
Queen. You know the peril. I 'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying The pangs of barr'd affections, though the king Hath charged you should not speak together. [Exit.
Imo. O Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest husband, 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 90 Of angry eyes, not comforted to live, But that there is this jewel in the world That I may see again.
Post. My queen! my mistress! O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause To be suspected of more tenderness 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, 100 And with mine eyes I 'll drink the words you send, Though ink be made of gall.
Queen. Be brief, I pray you: If the king come, I shall incur I know not How much of his displeasure. [Aside] Yet I 'll move him To walk this way: I never do him wrong But he does buy my injuries, to be friends; Pays dear for my offences. [Exit.
Post. Should we be taking leave As long a term as yet we have to live, The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu!
Imo. Nay, stay a little: 110 Were you but riding forth to air yourself, Such parting were too petty. Look here, love; This diamond was my mother's: take it, heart; But keep it till you woo another wife, When Imogen is dead.
Post. How, how! another ? You gentle gods, give me but this I have, And sear up my embracements from a next With bonds of death! [Putting on the ring.] Remain, remain thou here While sense can keep it on! And, sweetest, fairest, As I my poor self did exchange for you 120 To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles I still win of you: for my sake wear this; It is a manacle of love; I'll place it Upon this fairest prisoner. [Putting a bracelet on her arm.
Imo. O the gods!
When shall we see again?
Enter Cymbeline and Lords
Post. Alack, the king!
Cym. Thou basest thing, avoid! hence, from my sight! If after this command thou fraught the court With thy unworthiness, thou diest: away! Thou 'rt poison to my blood.
Post. The gods protect you, And bless the good remainders of the court! I am gone. [Exit.
Imo. There cannot be a pinch in death More sharp than this is.
Cym. O disloyal thing, That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap'st A year's age on me!
Imo. 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.
Cym. Past grace? obedience?
Imo. Past hope, and in despair; that way, past grace.
Cym. That mightst have had the sole son of my queen!
Imo. O blessed, that I might not! I chose an eagle, 140 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 A lustre to it.
Cym. O thou vile one!
Imo. Sir, 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.
Cym. What, art thou mad!
Imo. Almost, sir: heaven restore me! Would I were A neat-herd's daughter, and my Leonatus 150 Our neighbour-shepherd's son!
Cym. Thou foolish thing!
They were again together: you have done 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.
Queen. Fie! you must give way.
Here is your servant. How now, sir! What news? 160
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? 170
Pis. On his command: he would not suffer me To bring him to the haven: left these notes Of what commands I should be subject to When 't pleased 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.
Queen. Pray, walk awhile.
Imo. About some half-hour hence, I pray you, speak with me: you shall at least Go see my lord aboard: for this time leave me. [Exeunt.
Scene II. The Same. A Public Place.
Enter Cloten and two Lords
First 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?
Sec. Lord. [Aside] No, faith; not so much as his patience.
First 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.
Sec. Lord. [Aside] His steel was in debt; it went o' the backside the town.
Clo. The villain would not stand me. 10
Sec. Lord. [Aside] No; but he fled forward still, toward your face.
First Lord. Stand you! You have land enough of your own: but he added to your having; gave you some ground.
Sec. Lord. [Aside] As many inches as you have oceans. Puppies!
Clo. I would they had not come between us.
Sec. Lord. [Aside] So would I, till you had measured how long a fool you were upon the ground.
Clo. And that she should love this fellow, and refuse me!
Sec. Lord. [Aside] If it be a sin to make a true election, she is damned.
First 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 23 reflection of her wit.
Sec. 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!
Sec. Lord. [Aside] I wish not so; unless it had been the fall of an ass, which is no great hurt. 30
Clo. You 'll go with us?
First Lord. I 'll attend your lordship.
Clo. Nay, come, let 's go together.
Sec. Lord. Well, my lord. [Exeunt.
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 4 That he spake to thee?
Pis. It was, his queen, his queen!
Imo. Then waved 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 10 The deck, with glove, or hat, or handkerchief, Still waving, as the fits and stirs of 's mind Could best express how slow his soul sail'd on, How swift his ship.
Imo. Thou shouldst have made him As little as a crow, or less, ere left To after-eye him.
Pis. Madam, so I did.
Imo. I would have broke mine eye-strings, crack'd them, but To look upon him, till the diminution Of space had pointed him sharp as my needle; Nay, follow'd him, till he had melted from 20 The smallness of a gnat to air; and then Have turn'd mine eye, and wept. But, good Pisanio, When shall we hear from him?
Pis. Be assured, madam, With his next vantage.
Imo. I did not take my leave of him, but had Most pretty things to say: ere I could tell him How I would think on him at certain hours, Such thoughts and such; or I could make him swear The shes of Italy should not betray Mine interest and his honour; or have charged him, 30 At the sixth hour of morn, at noon, at midnight, To encounter me with orisons, for then I am in heaven for him; or ere I could Give him that parting kiss which I had set Betwixt two charming words, comes in my father, And, like the tyrannous breathing of the north, Shakes all our buds from growing.
Enter a Lady
Lady. The queen, madam, Desires your highness' company.
Imo. Those things I bid you do, get them dispatch'd. I will attend the queen.
Pis. Madam, I shall. [Exeunt. 40
Scene IV. Rome. Philario's House.
Enter Philario, iachimo, a Frenchman, a Dutchman, and a Spaniard
Iach. 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 help of admiration, though the catalogue of his endowments had been tabled by his side and I to peruse him by items.
Phi. You speak of him when he was less furnished than now he is with that which makes him both without and within.
French. I have seen him in France: we had very many there could behold the sun with as firm eyes as he.
Iach. This matter of marrying his king's daughter, wherein he must be weighed rather by her value than his own, words him, I doubt not, a great deal from the matter.
French. And then his banishment.
Iach. Ay, and the approbation of those that weep this lamentable divorce under her colours are wonderfully to extend him; be it but to fortify her judgement, 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 acquaintance?
Phi. His father and I were soldiers together; to whom I have 20 been often bound for no less than my life. Here comes the Briton: let him be so entertained 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 than story him in his own hearing.
French. Sir, we have known together in Orleans.
Post. Since when I have been debtor to you for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay and yet pay still. 30
French. Sir, you o'er-rate 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 of so slight and trivial a nature.
Post. By your pardon, sir, I was then a young traveller; rather shunned to go even with what I heard than in my every action to be guided by others' experiences: but upon my mended judgement — if I offend not to say it is mended — my quarrel was not altogether slight.
French. Faith, yes, to be put to the arbitrement of swords, 40 and by such two that would, by all likelihood, have confounded one the other, or have fallen both.
Iach. Can we with manners ask what was the difference?
French. Safely, I think: 't was a contention in public, which may without contradiction suffer the report. 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, constant-qualified and less attemptable than any the rarest of our ladies in France.
Iach. That lady is not now living, or this gentleman's opinion, by this, worn out.
Post. She holds her virtue still and I my mind.
Iach. You must not so far prefer her 'fore ours of Italy.
Post. Being so far provoked as I was in France, I would abate her nothing, though I profess myself her adorer, not her friend.
Excerpted from Cymbeline by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio. Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of ContentsIntroduction (Date, Romance and folktale, Tragedy and tragicomedy, The woman's part, Romans and Britons, Cymbeline on stage); The play; 'Hark, hark, the lark'; Textual analysis; Reading list.
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Cymbeline defies the standard genre divisions in the Shakespeare corpus. It sets itself up as a tragedy, with a scheming villain defiling the reputation of a young princess (e.g., Othello), murder plots and poison. Yet, the resolution is famously happy, with the main love interests reconciled and peace between Britain and the Romans obtained. It makes for an interesting read, but it is this happy ending which is the most common point of dispute over this work. Not only is the play a happy ending, but the circumstances seem to simply come from one speech after another laying all of the scheming bare. First, Iachimo tearfully confesses his crime, followed by the posthumous confessions of the Queen, ending in Belarius' revealing that his sons were in fact the sons of Cymbeline, and so Princes of Britain. These events happen quickly, and the plots of the book are simply pointed out in convenient speeches. I have been told that it performs far better than it reads, but the problem is not with Shakespeare challenging the genre, but rather with the rapidity and tidiness of the conclusion.On the other hand, there is another layer present in the ending. Cymbeline takes place in the time of Caesar Augustus, and also the time of the birth of Christ. Though not referenced directly, the plays fortuitous conclusion and honorable peace indicate an era of peace dawning on a conflicted land. One might read the ending of the book as revealing the power of the Christian's savior to bring peace to the Earth.It also lacks a powerful villain. The Queen's plots come in early, but are pushed to the side as the play progresses. Iachimo, whose betrayal of Imogen sets the main conflicts in motion, is merely a charlatan attempting to win a bet. Like the Queen, once his damage is done, he plays little role in the events. Cloten is consistently obnoxious, and when he attempts to engage in some dastardly deeds, he is promptly killed in the attempt. They play more like the villains of the comedies, whose schemes move the plot along, but who do not take center stage.Despite these complaints, it is still a work of literary beauty, filled within Shakespearean genius. In particular, the scene where Pisanio reveals his letter from Posthumous to Imogen is gripping. It is poetic and passionate, as Imogen reveals the strength of her character, dominating the scene and Pisanio. It also contains some moving poetry, most notably the first song (II.3, 19-27):Hark, hark, the lark at heaven's gate singsAnd Phoebus gins arise,His steeds to water at those springsOn chaliced flowers that lies;And winking Mary-Buds beginTo ope their golden eyes.With every thing that pretty is,My lady sweet, arise,Arise, arise!