William Shakespeare: Cymbeline, Act I, Scene V

Scene V

Britain. A room in Cymbeline's palace

Enter Queen, Ladies, and Cornelius

Queen

Whiles yet the dew's on ground, gather those flowers; Make haste: who has the note of them?

First Lady

I, madam.

Queen

Dispatch.

Exeunt Ladies

Now, master doctor, have you brought those drugs?

Cornelius

Pleaseth your highness, ay: here they are, madam:

Presenting a small box

But I beseech your grace, without offence,— My conscience bids me ask—wherefore you have Commanded of me those most poisonous compounds, Which are the movers of a languishing death; But though slow, deadly?

Queen

I wonder, doctor, Thou ask'st me such a question. Have I not been Thy pupil long? Hast thou not learn'd me how To make perfumes? distil? preserve? yea, so That our great king himself doth woo me oft For my confections? Having thus far proceeded,— Unless thou think'st me devilish—is't not meet That I did amplify my judgment in Other conclusions? I will try the forces Of these thy compounds on such creatures as We count not worth the hanging, but none human, To try the vigour of them and apply Allayments to their act, and by them gather Their several virtues and effects.

Cornelius

Your highness Shall from this practise but make hard your heart: Besides, the seeing these effects will be Both noisome and infectious.

Queen

O, content thee.

Enter Pisanio

  [Aside]  Here comes a flattering rascal; upon him Will I first work: he's for his master, An enemy to my son. How now, Pisanio! Doctor, your service for this time is ended; Take your own way.

Cornelius

Aside

I do suspect you, madam; But you shall do no harm.

Queen

To Pisanio

Hark thee, a word.

Cornelius

Aside

I do not like her. She doth think she has Strange lingering poisons: I do know her spirit, And will not trust one of her malice with A drug of such damn'd nature. Those she has Will stupefy and dull the sense awhile; Which first, perchance, she'll prove on cats and dogs, Then afterward up higher: but there is No danger in what show of death it makes, More than the locking-up the spirits a time, To be more fresh, reviving. She is fool'd With a most false effect; and I the truer, So to be false with her.

Queen

No further service, doctor, Until I send for thee.

Cornelius

I humbly take my leave.

Exit

Queen

Weeps she still, say'st thou? Dost thou think in time She will not quench and let instructions enter Where folly now possesses? Do thou work: When thou shalt bring me word she loves my son, I'll tell thee on the instant thou art then As great as is thy master, greater, for His fortunes all lie speechless and his name Is at last gasp: return he cannot, nor Continue where he is: to shift his being Is to exchange one misery with another, And every day that comes comes to decay A day's work in him. What shalt thou expect, To be depender on a thing that leans, Who cannot be new built, nor has no friends, So much as but to prop him?

The Queen drops the box: Pisanio takes it up

Thou takest up Thou know'st not what; but take it for thy labour: It is a thing I made, which hath the king Five times redeem'd from death: I do not know What is more cordial. Nay, I prethee, take it; It is an earnest of a further good That I mean to thee. Tell thy mistress how The case stands with her; do't as from thyself. Think what a chance thou changest on, but think Thou hast thy mistress still, to boot, my son, Who shall take notice of thee: I'll move the king To any shape of thy preferment such As thou'lt desire; and then myself, I chiefly, That set thee on to this desert, am bound To load thy merit richly. Call my women: Think on my words.

Exit Pisanio

A sly and constant knave, Not to be shaked; the agent for his master And the remembrancer of her to hold The hand-fast to her lord. I have given him that Which, if he take, shall quite unpeople her Of liegers for her sweet, and which she after, Except she bend her humour, shall be assured To taste of too.

Re-enter Pisanio and Ladies

So, so: well done, well done: The violets, cowslips, and the primroses, Bear to my closet. Fare thee well, Pisanio; Think on my words.

Exeunt Queen and Ladies

Pisanio

And shall do: But when to my good lord I prove untrue, I'll choke myself: there's all I'll do for you.

Exit