William Shakespeare: Cymbeline, Act V, Scene IV

Scene IV

A British prison

Enter Posthumus Leonatus and two Gaolers

First Gaoler

You shall not now be stol'n, you have locks upon you; So graze as you find pasture.

Second Gaoler

Ay, or a stomach.

Exeunt Gaolers

Posthumus Leonatus

Most welcome, bondage! for thou art a way, (I think) to liberty: yet am I better Than one that's sick o' the gout; since he had rather Groan so in perpetuity than be cured By the sure physician, death, who is the key To unbar these locks. My conscience, thou art fetter'd More than my shanks and wrists: you good gods, give me The penitent instrument to pick that bolt, Then, free for ever! Is't enough I am sorry? So children temporal fathers do appease; Gods are more full of mercy. Must I repent? I cannot do it better than in gyves, Desired more than constrain'd: to satisfy, If of my freedom 'tis the main part, take No stricter render of me than my all. 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 On their abatement: that's not my desire: For Imogen's dear life take mine; and though 'Tis not so dear, yet 'tis a life; you coin'd 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, And cancel these cold bonds. O Imogen! I'll speak to thee in silence.

Sleeps

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

Sicilius Leonatus

No more, thou thunder-master, show Thy spite on mortal flies: With Mars fall out, with Juno chide, 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 stay'd 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.

Mother

Lucina lent not me her aid, But took me in my throes; That from me was Posthumus ript, Came crying 'mongst his foes, A thing of pity!

Sicilius Leonatus

Great nature, like his ancestry, Moulded the stuff so fair, That he deserved the praise o' the world, As great Sicilius' heir.

First Brother

When once he was mature for man, 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?

Mother

With marriage wherefore was he mock'd, To be exiled, and thrown From Leonati seat, and cast From her his dearest one, Sweet Imogen?

Sicilius Leonatus

Why did you suffer Iachimo, Slight thing of Italy, To taint his nobler heart and brain With needless jealosy; And to become the geck and scorn O' th' other's villany?

Second Brother

For this from stiller seats we came, Our parents and us twain, That striking in our country's cause Fell bravely and were slain, Our fealty and Tenantius' right With honour to maintain.

First Brother

Like hardiment Posthumus hath To Cymbeline perform'd: Then, Jupiter, thou king of gods, Why hast thou thus adjourn'd The graces for his merits due, Being all to dolours turn'd?

Sicilius Leonatus

Thy crystal window ope; look out; No longer exercise Upon a valiant race thy harsh And potent injuries.

Mother

Since, Jupiter, our son is good, Take off his miseries.

Sicilius Leonatus

Peep through thy marble mansion; help; Or we poor ghosts will cry To the shining synod of the rest Against thy deity.

First Brother, Second Brother

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 Apparitions fall on their knees

Jupiter

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 Upon your never-withering banks of flowers: Be not with mortal accidents opprest; No care of yours it is; you know 'tis ours. Whom best I love I cross; to make my gift, The more delay'd, delighted. Be content; Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift: His comforts thrive, his trials well are spent. Our Jovial star reign'd at his birth, and in Our temple was he married. Rise, and fade. He shall be lord of lady Imogen, And happier much by his affliction made. This tablet lay upon his breast, wherein Our pleasure his full fortune doth confine: And so, away: no further with your din Express impatience, lest you stir up mine. Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline.

Ascends

Sicilius Leonatus

He came in thunder; his celestial breath Was sulphurous to smell: the holy eagle Stoop'd as to foot us: his ascension is More sweet than our blest fields: his royal bird Prunes the immortal wing and cloys his beak, As when his god is pleased.

All

Thanks, Jupiter!

Sicilius Leonatus

The marble pavement closes, he is enter'd His radiant root. Away! and, to be blest, Let us with care perform his great behest.

The Apparitions vanish

Posthumus Leonatus

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: And so I am awake. Poor wretches that depend On greatness' favour dream as I have done, Wake and find nothing. But, alas, I swerve: Many dream not to find, neither deserve, And yet are steep'd in favours: so am I, That have this golden chance and know not why. 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, As good as promise.

Reads

When as 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 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; 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.

Re-enter First Gaoler

First Gaoler

Come, sir, are you ready for death?

Posthumus Leonatus

Over-roasted rather; ready long ago.

First Gaoler

Hanging is the word, sir: if you be ready for that, you are well cooked.

Posthumus Leonatus

So, if I prove a good repast to the spectators, the dish pays the shot.

First Gaoler

A 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 flint for want of meat, depart reeling with too much drink; sorry that you have paid too much, 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: of this contradiction you shall now be 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 Leonatus

I am merrier to die than thou art to live.

First Gaoler

Indeed, sir, he that sleeps feels not the tooth-ache: 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 you, sir, you know not which way you shall go.

Posthumus Leonatus

Yes, indeed do I, fellow.

First Gaoler

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 do take 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 Leonatus

I tell thee, fellow, there are none want eyes to direct them the way I am going, but such as wink and will not use them.

First Gaoler

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

Knock off his manacles; bring your prisoner to the king.

Posthumus Leonatus

Thou bring'st good news; I am called to be made free.

First Gaoler

I'll be hang'd then.

Posthumus Leonatus

Thou shalt be then freer than a gaoler; no bolts for the dead.

Exeunt Posthumus Leonatus and Messenger

First Gaoler

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, 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 gaolers and gallowses! I speak against my present profit, but my wish hath a preferment in 't.

Exeunt