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Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT II SCENE II Imogen's bedchamber in Cymbeline's palace. 
 A trunk in one corner of the room. 
 IMOGEN in bed, reading; a Lady attending. 
IMOGEN Who's there? my woman Helen? 
Lady Please you, madam 
IMOGEN What hour is it?
Lady Almost midnight, madam. 
IMOGEN I have read three hours then: mine eyes are weak: 
 Fold down the leaf where I have left: to bed: 
 Take not away the taper, leave it burning; 
 And if thou canst awake by four o' the clock,
 I prithee, call me. Sleep hath seized me wholly 
 [ Exit Lady. 
 To your protection I commend me, gods.

 From fairies and the tempters of the night 
 Guard me, beseech ye. 10
 [ Sleeps. Iachimo comes from the trunk. 
IACHIMO The crickets sing, and man's o'er-labour'd sense
 Repairs itself by rest. Our Tarquin thus 
 Did softly press the rushes, ere he waken'd 
 The chastity he wounded. Cytherea, 
 How bravely thou becomest thy bed! fresh lily! 
 And whiter than the sheets! That I might touch!
 But kiss; one kiss! Rubies unparagon'd, 
 How dearly they do't! 'Tis her breathing that 
 Perfumes the chamber thus: the flame o' the taper 
 Bows toward her, and would under-peep her lids, 20
 To see the enclosed lights, now canopied
 Under these windows, white and azure laced 
 With blue of heaven's own tinct. But my design, 
 To note the chamber: I will write all down: 
 Such and such pictures; there the window; such 
 The adornment of her bed; the arras; figures,
 Why, such and such; and the contents o' the story. 
 Ah, but some natural notes about her body, 
 Above ten thousand meaner moveables 
 Would testify, to enrich mine inventory. 30
 O sleep, thou ape of death, lie dull upon her!
 And be her sense but as a monument, 
 Thus in a chapel lying! Come off, come off: 
 [ Taking off her bracelet. 
 As slippery as the Gordian knot was hard! 
 'Tis mine; and this will witness outwardly, 
 As strongly as the conscience does within,
 To the madding of her lord. On her left breast 
 A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops 
 I' the bottom of a cowslip: here's a voucher, 
 Stronger than ever law could make: this secret 40
 Will force him think I have pick'd the lock and ta'en
 The treasure of her honour. No more. To what end? 
 Why should I write this down, that's riveted, 
 Screw'd to my memory? She hath been reading late 
 The tale of Tereus; here the leaf's turn'd down 
 Where Philomel gave up. I have enough:
 To the trunk again, and shut the spring of it. 
 Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning 
 May bare the raven's eye! I lodge in fear; 
 Though this a heavenly angel, hell is here. 
 [ Clock strikes. 
 One, two, three: Time, time!
 [ Goes into the trunk. Scene closes. 

Cymbeline, Act 2, Scene 3


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


We have here a good illustration how a change of scene was indicated in the Elizabethan theatre by the simple expedient of pushing on the stage, or taking off, some movable piece of furniture, like a bed or a "bank" of flowers (Hamlet, III. 2. 146, stage-direction). The Folio, which does not mark changes of scene like modern texts, has the stage-direction, "Enter Imogen, in her Bed." "This abrupt method of changing the scene was often employed to indicate a bed-room" -- Shakespeare's England, 1916, II. 270. The study of stage-directions is a feature of modern Shakespearean scholarship. They throw much light on the actual production of plays in the Elizabethan theatre.

1. Brutus reading in his tent before the ghost of Caesar appears (Julius Caesar, IV. 3. 273, 274, 276).

5. Lady Macbeth (V. 1) in the sleep-walking scene.

11-14. Macbeth, II. 1. 55 ; II. 2. 16.
the rushes; with which, of course, Elizabethan floors were strewn. It is scarcely necessary to refer to Shakespeare's own poem Lucrece.

14. Likening her to Venus ("Cytherea," from Cythera, one of the Ionian Islands, sacred to Venus).

18. do't, i.e. kiss each other. They (emphatic), the lips, do that which he dare not attempt.

22, 23. Macbeth again (II. 3. 118), but with a pleasanter context; see also IV. 222.

26. arras, tapestry hangings on the walls.

27. the story, i.e. represented on the arras; we learn later what it was (II. 4. 69-76).

34. Gordian; see Glossary.

37, 38. From Boccaccio.

38, 39. crimson drops ... cowslip. The Fairy sings in A Midsummer Night's Dream, II. 1. 6-13:
"I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savors."
45. It is thought that Shakespeare himself read the story (see Titus Andronicus, IV. 1. 42-49) of Tereus and Procne in the translation (bk. vi.) of Ovid's Metamorphoses by Arthur Golding. This has been described as "one of Shakespeare's best-loved books in youth." To it he owed much of his classical lore in general; with certain special items, such as the "interlude" of "Pyramus and Thisbe" (Midsummer-N. D.), the ingredients of the Witches' cauldron in Macbeth IV. 1, and "Ye elves of hills" passage in The Tempest, V. 33.

48. you dragons of the night. So Puck warns Oberon (Midsummer-N. D.) III. 2. 378-380:
"My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For Night's swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger."
In classical writers only Demeter (or Ceres), goddess of the Earth, is represented as being drawn in her chariot by dragons (i.e. winged serpents, supposed not to sleep); cf. Ovid, Fasti, IV. 497, 561, 562. The chariot of Night (personified) is yoked with horses; cf. Statius, Thebais, II. 60, sopor obvius illi, Noctis agebat equos. So Milton speaks of "the Night-steeds," Nativity Ode, 236. Minute accuracy in such matters is not to be required of a poet. Milton often varies mythology to suit his purpose; for instance, he gives the Moon a dragon-team (Il Penseroso, 59, 60, Comus, 131). The word dragon comes from a root 'to see.'

49. bare, lay bare, open; one of Theobald's changes; the Folio has beare, only a difference of one letter. The raven was supposed to be a very early bird. Iachimo prays for daylight, so that he may be off.

50. hell is here; explained surely by "I lodge in fear." His sense of the danger of his situation is put in an exaggerated form simply to get the antithesis with the first part of the line. The idea that he is suddenly conscience-stricken and means his own breast by here seems to me fantastic.

Clock strikes; and its time, as the vigilant Malone observes, does not agree very well with line 2. But no one marks these discrepancies till they are pointed out.

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

How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < >.

More to Explore

 Cymbeline: The Play with Commentary
 Cymbeline Plot Summary
 Famous Quotations from Cymbeline
 How to pronounce the names in Cymbeline
 Sources for Cymbeline

 Introduction to Imogen
 Introduction to Guiderius and Arviragus
 Introduction to Cloten
 Introduction to Cymbeline
 Introduction to Posthumus
 Introduction to Iachimo

Notes on Shakespeare...

The famous Victorian era poet Algernon Charles Swinburne declared Cymbeline to be "the play of plays." "Here," he writes, "is depth enough with height enough of tragic beauty and passion, terror and love and pity, to approve the presence of the most tragic Master's hand... and subtlety enough of sweet and bitter truth to attest the passage of the mightiest and wisest scholar or teacher in the school of human spirit." (A Study of Shakespeare)

Director Michael Almereyda and Ethan Hawke are teaming up to bring us a modern-day film adaptation of Shakespeare's masterpiece, Cymbeline. Hawke will play the mischief-loving villain, Iachimo. Please click here to read more and view the trailer.

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Cymbeline was published in the First Folio (1623). It is the last play in the volume. A folio is a book in which each sheet is folded over only once through the middle, forming two leaves (or four pages). The First Folio has 454 leaves, approximately 8 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches in size. Read on...

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