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Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT II SCENE IV Rome. Philario's house. 
POSTHUMUS Fear it not, sir: I would I were so sure 
 To win the king as I am bold her honour 
 Will remain hers. 
PHILARIO What means do you make to him?
POSTHUMUS Not any, but abide the change of time, 
 Quake in the present winter's state and wish 
 That warmer days would come: in these sear'd hopes, 
 I barely gratify your love; they failing, 
 I must die much your debtor.
PHILARIO Your very goodness and your company 
 O'erpays all I can do. By this, your king 10
 Hath heard of great Augustus: Caius Lucius 
 Will do's commission throughly: and I think 
 He'll grant the tribute, send the arrearages,

 Or look upon our Romans, whose remembrance 
 Is yet fresh in their grief. 
POSTHUMUS I do believe, 
 Statist though I am none, nor like to be, 
 That this will prove a war; and you shall hear
 The legions now in Gallia sooner landed 
 In our not-fearing Britain than have tidings 
 Of any penny tribute paid. Our countrymen 20
 Are men more order'd than when Julius Caesar 
 Smiled at their lack of skill, but found
 their courage 
 Worthy his frowning at: their discipline, 
 Now mingled with their courages, will make known 
 To their approvers they are people such 
 That mend upon the world.
 Enter IACHIMO. 
PHILARIO See! Iachimo! 
POSTHUMUS The swiftest harts have posted you by land; 
 And winds of all the comers kiss'd your sails, 
 To make your vessel nimble. 
PHILARIO Welcome, sir.
POSTHUMUS I hope the briefness of your answer made 30
 The speediness of your return. 
IACHIMO Your lady 
 Is one of the fairest that I have look'd upon. 
POSTHUMUS And therewithal the best; or let her beauty
 Look through a casement to allure false hearts 
 And be false with them. 
IACHIMO Here are letters for you. 
POSTHUMUS Their tenor good, I trust. 
IACHIMO 'Tis very like.
PHILARIO Was Caius Lucius in the Britain court 
 When you were there? 
IACHIMO He was expected then, 
 But not approach'd. 
POSTHUMUS All is well yet.
 Sparkles this stone as it was wont? or is't not 40
 Too dull for your good wearing? 
IACHIMO If I had lost it, 
 I should have lost the worth of it in gold. 
 I'll make a journey twice as far, to enjoy
 A second night of such sweet shortness which 
 Was mine in Britain, for the ring is won. 
POSTHUMUS The stone's too hard to come by. 
IACHIMO Not a whit, 
 Your lady being so easy.
POSTHUMUS Make not, sir, 
 Your loss your sport: I hope you know that we 
 Must not continue friends. 
IACHIMO Good sir, we must, 
 If you keep covenant. Had I not brought 50
 The knowledge of your mistress home, I grant 
 We were to question further: but I now 
 Profess myself the winner of her honour, 
 Together with your ring; and not the wronger 
 Of her or you, having proceeded but
 By both your wills. 
POSTHUMUS If you can make't apparent 
 That you have tasted her in bed, my hand 
 And ring is yours; if not, the foul opinion 
 You had of her pure honour gains or loses
 Your sword or mine, or masterless leaves both 60
 To who shall find them. 
IACHIMO Sir, my circumstances, 
 Being so near the truth as I will make them, 
 Must first induce you to believe: whose strength
 I will confirm with oath; which, I doubt not, 
 You'll give me leave to spare, when you shall find 
 You need it not. 
IACHIMO First, her bedchamber,--
 Where, I confess, I slept not, but profess 
 Had that was well worth watching--it was hang'd 
 With tapesty of silk and silver; the story 
 Proud Cleopatra, when she met her Roman, 70
 And Cydnus swell'd above the banks, or for
 The press of boats or pride: a piece of work 
 So bravely done, so rich, that it did strive 
 In workmanship and value; which I wonder'd 
 Could be so rarely and exactly wrought, 
 Since the true life on't was--
POSTHUMUS This is true; 
 And this you might have heard of here, by me, 
 Or by some other. 
IACHIMO More particulars 
 Must justify my knowledge. 100
POSTHUMUS So they must, 
 Or do your honour injury. 
IACHIMO The chimney 80
 Is south the chamber, and the chimney-piece 
 Chaste Dian bathing: never saw I figures
 So likely to report themselves: the cutter 
 Was as another nature, dumb; outwent her, 
 Motion and breath left out. 
POSTHUMUS This is a thing 
 Which you might from relation likewise reap,
 Being, as it is, much spoke of. 
IACHIMO The roof o' the chamber 
 With golden cherubins is fretted: her andirons-- 
 I had forgot them--were two winking Cupids 
 Of silver, each on one foot standing, nicely 90
 Depending on their brands. 
POSTHUMUS This is her honour! 
 Let it be granted you have seen all this--and praise 
 Be given to your remembrance--the description 
 Of what is in her chamber nothing saves
 The wager you have laid. 
IACHIMO Then, if you can, 
 [ Showing the bracelet.  
 Be pale: I beg but leave to air this jewel; see! 
 And now 'tis up again: it must be married 
 To that your diamond; I'll keep them.
 Once more let me behold it: is it that 
 Which I left with her? 
IACHIMO Sir--I thank her--that: 100
 She stripp'd it from her arm; I see her yet;
 Her pretty action did outsell her gift, 
 And yet enrich'd it too: she gave it me, and said 
 She prized it once. 
POSTHUMUS May be she pluck'd it off 
 To send it me.
IACHIMO She writes so to you, doth she? 
POSTHUMUS O, no, no, no! 'tis true. Here, take this too; 
 [ Gives the ring.  
 It is a basilisk unto mine eye, 
 Kills me to look on't. Let there be no honour 
 Where there is beauty; truth, where semblance; love,
 Where there's another man: the vows of women 110
 Of no more bondage be, to where they are made, 
 Than they are to their virtues; which is nothing. 
 O, above measure false! 
PHILARIO Have patience, sir,
 And take your ring again; 'tis not yet won: 
 It may be probable she lost it; or 
 Who knows if one of her women, being corrupted, 
 Hath stol'n it from her? 
POSTHUMUS Very true;
 And so, I hope, he came by't. Back my ring: 
 Render to me some corporal sign about her, 
 More evident than this; for this was stolen. 120
IACHIMO By Jupiter, I had it from her arm. 
POSTHUMUS Hark you, he swears; by Jupiter he swears.
 'Tis true:--nay, keep the ring--'tis true: I am sure 
 She would not lose it: her attendants are 
 All sworn and honourable:--they induced to steal it! 
 And by a stranger!--No, he hath enjoyed her: 
 The cognizance of her incontinency
 Is this: she hath bought the name of whore 
 thus dearly. 
 There, take thy hire; and all the fiends of hell 
 Divide themselves between you! 
PHILARIO Sir, be patient: 130
 This is not strong enough to be believed 
 Of one persuaded well of-- 
POSTHUMUS Never talk on't; 
 She hath been colted by him. 
IACHIMO If you seek
 For further satisfying, under her breast-- 
 Worthy the pressing--lies a mole, right proud 
 Of that most delicate lodging: by my life, 
 I kiss'd it; and it gave me present hunger 
 To feed again, though full. You do remember
 This stain upon her? 
POSTHUMUS Ay, and it doth confirm 
 Another stain, as big as hell can hold, 140
 Were there no more but it. 
IACHIMO Will you hear more?
POSTHUMUS Spare your arithmetic: never count the turns; 
 Once, and a million! 
IACHIMO I'll be sworn-- 
POSTHUMUS No swearing. 
 If you will swear you have not done't, you lie;
 And I will kill thee, if thou dost deny 
 Thou'st made me cuckold. 
IACHIMO I'll deny nothing. 
POSTHUMUS O, that I had her here, to tear her limb-meal! 
 I will go there and do't, i' the court, before
 Her father. I'll do something-- 
 [ Exit. 
PHILARIO Quite besides 
 The government of patience! You have won: 150
 Let's follow him, and pervert the present wrath 
 He hath against himself.
IACHIMO With an my heart. 

Cymbeline, Act 2, Scene 5


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 4
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.


6. If these doubtful hopes are realised Posthumus can still barely repay the kindness of Philario, and if they fail he must remain his debtor.

16. statist, statesman, politician; Hamlet, V. 2. 33. An obsolete sense, the word now being limited to the use 'one who deals in statistics, a statistician.'

22. their lack of skill. A Holinshed echo: "the British nation was then unskilfull, and not trained to feats of arms, for the Britons then being onelie used to the Picts and Irish enimies, people halfe naked, through lacke of skill easilie gaue place to the Romans force" -- Stone.

24. mingled; printed wing-led in the Folio; and the "wings" have been variously pictured as those of an army or of the Roman standards (eagles). Devotion to the Folio sometimes savours of fanaticism. (F.)

25, 26. their approvers, those who test them, mend upon the world, get the upper hand of others.

27-29. Perhaps Shakespeare's way of excusing his "offence against one of the unities [i.e. of place], in the precipitate return of Iachimo from the court of Cymbeline" -- Steevens. The wording is a little reminiscent of The Merchant of Venice, II. 7. 39, 40, and Macbeth, I. 3. 33.

30. your answer, i.e. from Imogen.

61. circumstances, circumstantial report; the details which he can give.

66. "Iachimo's language is such as a skilful villain would naturally use, a mixture of airy triumph and serious deposition" -- Johnson.

68. watching, lying awake for.

69-72. Antony and Cleopatra, II. 1. 191-218 (Cleopatra's first meeting with Antony).

Shakespeare, of course, took that description from the Life of Antony in North's Plutarch, the work which furnished him with the materials (and not a few passages) of his Roman plays, and which shares with Golding's translation of Ovid (see II. 2. 45, note) the honour of having supplied most of his knowledge of the classics.

83. So likely to report themselves, so lifelike that you might have expected them to speak. 'A speaking likeness,' as we say. Lively for likely is quite a needless change.

83-85. i.e. the sculptor had done his work as cleverly as Nature herself -- nay, surpassed her -- except that he could not endow the figures with power of speech, motion etc.

86. relation, report ; see G.

88. cherubins... fretted; see each in G. "The ceilings of Shakespeare's time were the most characteristic product of the period," i.e. in domestic architecture; being, in large houses, often of elaborate design and ornamentation. See the chapter on "Architecture" in Shakespeare's England, 1916.

89. winking, blind; the traditional representation of Cupid. The fire-irons supporting the wood-fire were two figures of Cupid bearing torches ("brands"), symbolical of love, and the figures were so moulded that they leaned upon the torches. The design is one which the student must picture for himself. Herford aptly compares Sonnets CLIII, 154.

91. This is her honour! and does her honour depend on this "description"! ironical.

95, 96. Be pale. "If you can, forbear to flush your cheek with rage" -- Johnson.

107. basilisk; a "fabulous reptile, also called cockatrice, supposed to be hatched from a cock's egy and said to kill by its breath and look."

110-112. i.e. let the vows women make be as frail as their virtues. Note the alternations in the feelings of Posthumus and the fine working up to the climax.

115. probable; "capable of being proved, demonstrable." (F.)

127. cognizance, badge.

132. one persuaded well of --. The Folio does not mark the break, but the sense seems to be 'one who is convinced of her truth.' (F.)

147. limb-meal, limb by limb; see G.

151. pervert, turn into a different channel.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Cymbeline. Ed. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press, 1899. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < >.

Notes on Posthumus

microsoft images "The fiendishly cruel and clever way in which Iachimo gradually enfolds Posthumus in the snare he has prepared for him requires the closest examination, step by step. The same eloquence, that spread its toils in vain for the seduction of Imogen, now serves the villain's purpose only too speedily and well. Observe as you read the successive moves in the game -- from Imogen's letters proving the visit to the court of Britain until Iachimo makes Posthumus see "her pretty action" of stripping the bracelet from her arm and reduces him to the last desperate suggestion, "May be she pluck'd it off to send it me" -- by which Posthumus' reason and judgment are taken prisoner, so that at last he passes sentence, not like a judge, but in the temper of a raving madman." (Alfred J. Wyatt. In his edition of Cymbeline.)

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