William Shakespeare: Cymbeline, Act III, Scene IV

Scene IV

Country near Milford-Haven

Enter Pisanio and Imogen

Imogen

Thou told'st me, when we came from horse, the place Was near at hand: ne'er long'd my mother so To see me first, as I have now. Pisanio! man! Where is Posthumus? What is in thy mind, That makes thee stare thus? Wherefore breaks that sigh From the inward of thee? One, but painted thus, Would be interpreted a thing perplex'd Beyond self-explication: put thyself Into a havior of less fear, ere wildness Vanquish my staider senses. What's the matter? 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 But keep that countenance still. My husband's hand! That drug-damn'd 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

Please you, read; And you shall find me, wretched man, a thing The most disdain'd of fortune.

Imogen

Reads

Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the strumpet in my bed; the testimonies whereof lie 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 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 pandar to her dishonour and equally to me disloyal.

Pisanio

What shall I need to draw my sword? the paper 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, 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, 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, Thou didst accuse him of incontinency; Thou then look'dst like a villain; now methinks Thy favour's good enough. Some jay of Italy Whose mother was her painting, hath betray'd him: Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion; And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls, I must be ripp'd:—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 villany; not born where't grows, But worn a bait for ladies.

Pisanio

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, Wilt lay the leaven on all proper men; Goodly and gallant shall be false and perjured From thy great fall. Come, fellow, be thou honest: Do thou thy master's bidding: when thou see'st him, A little witness my obedience: look! I draw the sword myself: 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 The riches of it: do his bidding; strike Thou mayst be valiant in a better cause; But now thou seem'st a coward.

Pisanio

Hence, vile instrument! Thou shalt not damn my hand.

Imogen

Why, I must die; 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 That cravens my weak hand. Come, here's my heart. Something's afore't. Soft, soft! we'll no defence; Obedient as the scabbard. What is here? The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus, All turn'd to heresy? Away, away, Corrupters of my faith! you shall no more Be stomachers to my heart. Thus may poor fools Believe false teachers: though those that are betray'd Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor Stands in worse case of woe. And thou, Posthumus, thou 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 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 pang'd by me. Prithee, dispatch: The lamb entreats the butcher: where's thy knife? 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

Do't, and to bed then.

Pisanio

I'll wake mine eye-balls blind first.

Imogen

Wherefore then Didst undertake it? Why hast thou abused So many miles with a pretence? this place? Mine action and thine own? our horses' labour? The time inviting thee? the perturb'd 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, The elected deer before thee?

Pisanio

But to win time To lose so bad employment; in the which I have consider'd of a course. Good lady, Hear me with patience.

Imogen

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

Then, madam, I thought you would not back again.

Imogen

Most like; Bringing me here to kill me.

Pisanio

Not so, neither: 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 cursed injury.

Imogen

Some Roman courtezan.

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 miss'd at court, And that will well confirm it.

Imogen

Why good fellow, What shall I do the where? where bide? how live? Or in my life what comfort, when I am Dead to my husband?

Pisanio

If you'll back to the 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

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' the world's volume 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. The ambassador, Lucius the Roman, comes to Milford-Haven To-morrow: now, if you could wear a mind Dark as your fortune is, and but disguise That which, to appear itself, must not yet be But by self-danger, you should tread a course 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

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 Command into obedience: fear and niceness— The handmaids of all women, or, more truly, Woman its pretty self—into a waggish courage: Ready in gibes, quick-answer'd, saucy and As quarrelous as the weasel; nay, you must 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 laboursome and dainty trims, wherein 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. Fore-thinking this, I have already fit— 'Tis in my cloak-bag—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 Present yourself, desire his service, tell him wherein you're happy,—which you'll make him know, If that his head have ear in music,—doubtless With joy he will embrace you, for he's honourable And doubling that, most holy. Your means abroad, You have me, rich; and I will never fail Beginning nor supplyment.

Imogen

Thou art all the comfort The gods will diet me with. Prithee, away: There's more to be consider'd; but we'll even 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 miss'd, I be suspected of Your carriage from the court. My noble mistress, Here is a box; I had it from the queen: What's in't is precious; if you are sick at sea, Or stomach-qualm'd at land, a dram of this Will drive away distemper. To some shade, And fit you to your manhood. May the gods Direct you to the best!

Imogen

Amen: I thank thee.

Exeunt, severally