Cymbeline

Abridged Cymbeline/#1/Background/Act 1, Scene 1.1

This play is written as if it had taken place about two
thousand years ago, based on fables and legends as we believe it is.  We quickly learn that the British king’s
daughter has secretly married a young man named Posthumus.  We also learn that the queen is not at all
happy with this turn of events, she having held out hope that the young and
beautiful princess, Imogen, would have married her son, Cloten, a lightweight
as painted by Shakespeare. It is a second marriage for both the king and queen.
Cymbeline, the king, appears to also be
upset to learn that his daughter has married Posthumus; his wife being very
strong-willed; he often accepting her opinions. So we don’t quite know how
upset King Cymbeline really is.  The
queen is known here simply as Cymbeline’s Queen.  Imogen is the king’s daughter by his former
queen.  Cloten is the queen’s son by a
former husband.  The king has banished
Posthumus to Italy.  Imogen is
imprisoned, under house arrest.  Two
gentlemen are talking to each other as the scene opens, the First Gentleman
giving us the background we need.  The
First Gentleman praises Posthumus and tells us of the young man’s father.  His father was Sicilius who fought “against
the Romans with Cassibelan, whom he served with glory and admired success, and
gained the sur-addition Leonatus.”  He
tells us Sicilius had two other sons “who in the wars ‘o th’ time died with
their swords in hand.”  We learn broken-hearted-over-the-loss-of-two-sons
Sicilius died when his third son was born.
The king “took the babe to his protection, calling him Posthumus
Leonatus.”  We learn the Cymbeline “put
to him all learnings; had him live in his court, where he was most praised,
most loved.”   We also, significantly,
learn that the king had two sons of his own and that “the eldest of them at
three years old, i’ th’ swathing clothes the other, from their nursery were
stol’n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge which way they went.”  The Second Gentleman questions the
story.  The First Gentleman says
“Howso’er ‘tis strange, yet is it true, sir.”

Abridged Cymbeline/#2/Parting/Act 1, Scene 1.2

The Queen, Posthumus and Imogen enter, the Queen saying
“Daughter, you’re my prisoner, but your jailer shall deliver you the keys. For
you Posthumus, the fire of rage is in the king, and ‘twere good you followed
his sentence.”  Posthumus says “I will
from hence today.”  The Queen exits.  Imogen says “My dearest husband, I something
fear my father’s wrath.  You must be
gone.”  She weeps.  Posthumus says “My queen, my mistress, weep
no more.  My residence in Rome at one
Philario’s, who to my father was a friend, to me known but by letter; thither
write, my queen.”  She gives him a ring
that was her mother’s.  He puts it on his
finger.  He places a bracelet on her
wrist.  Cymbeline enters, saying “Thou
basest thing, avoid hence, from my sight!”
Posthumus exits.  The King turns
to his daughter, saying “O disloyal thing, thou heap’st a year’s age on me. Thou
mightst have had the sole son of my queen!”
She says “O, blessed that I might not! I chose an eagle.”  Pisanio, Posthumus’ servant, enters and tells
Imogen and the Queen that Posthumus wants them to employ him.  The Queen agrees. Aside, Imogen says to
Pisanio “About some half hour hence, pray you, speak with me.  You shall at least go see my lord
aboard.”  They exit.

Abridged Cymbeline/#3/Background/Act 1, Scenes 2 & 3

We learn that Cloten and Posthumus have had an
“encounter.”  Cloten is talking to two
lords. His appearance leads them to believe he lost the fight.  One lord, commenting on his shirt, notes that
“where air comes out, air comes in.”
When asked if he hurt him, Cloten says “His body’s a passable carcass if
he be not hurt.”  Cloten then says “And that
she should love this fellow and refuse me!”
The First Lord, a little sarcastically, says “her beauty and her brain
go not together.”  They exit.  Separately, Imogen and Pisanio enter.  Imogen asks him “What was the last that he
spake to thee?”  He says “It was his
queen, his queen!  He waved his
handkerchief and kissed it, madam.”  She
says “Senseless linen, happier therein than I.”
She then asks “But, good Pisanio, when shall we hear from him?”  Loyal Pisanio says “Be assured, madam, with
his next vantage.”  She says “I did not
properly bid him farewell, but had most pretty things to say.  Before I could give him a parting kiss, comes
in my father, and like the tyrannous breathing of the north shakes all our buds
from growing.”  The Queen enters.  Aside, Imogen says to Pisanio “Those things I
bid you do; get them dispatched.”  Imogen
leaves with the Queen.

Abridged Cymbeline/#4/Challenge/Act 1, Scene 4

The scene is Rome.
Philario, Iachimo and a Frenchman, both friends of Philario, are on
stage.  Iachimo says to Philario “Believe
it, sir, I have seen him in Britain.”
The Frenchman says “I have seen him in France.”  Iachimo says “This matter of marrying the
king’s daughter, wherein he must be weighed rather by her value than his own,
represents him, I doubt not.”  Philario
adds “His father and I were soldiers together, to whom I have often bound for
no less than my life.”  Posthumus
enters.  The Frenchman says to Posthumus
“We met each other in Orleans.”  They had
had an ‘argument’ there.  The Frenchman
says “It was much like an argument that fell out last night, where each of us
fell in praise of our country mistresses, this gentleman vouching his to be
more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste and less open to temptation than any the
rarest of our ladies in France.”  Iachimo
bates Posthumus, saying “You must not so far prefer her ‘fore ours of
Italy.”  They test him.  Iachimo says “that diamond ring of yours
outshines many I have beheld, but I haven’t seen your lady.”  Posthumus says “I praised her as I rated her.  So do I my stone.”  The conversation gets heated.  Philario says “Gentlemen, enough of
this.”  Iachimo challenges Posthumus,
saying “I will lay ten thousand ducats to your ring that, if you provide
introduction for me to the court where the lady is, I will bring from thence
that honor of hers which you imagine so reserved.”  An angry Posthumus agrees to the challenge,
saying “I shall but lend my diamond till your return.  Let there be covenants written out between
us.  My mistress exceeds in goodness the
hugeness of your unworthy thinking.  I
dare you to this match.  Here’s my
ring.”  Philario says “I will hold the
bet.”  Iachimo says “By the gods, it is
one!  If I bring no sufficient testimony
that I have enjoyed the dearest bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand
ducats are yours; so is your diamond too.”
Posthumus replies “Let us have articles betwixt us.  If you give me directly to understand you
have prevailed, I am no further your enemy; she is not worth our debate.  If she remain unseduced, you shall answer me
with your sword.”  Iachimo responds “Your
hand; a covenant.”  They shake
hands.  Iachimo says “I will fetch my
gold and have our two wagers recorded.”
Posthumus says “Agreed.”

Abridged Cymbeline/#5/Deception/Act 1, Scene 5

The Queen’s doctor provides her with a box of drugs.  He hands her the small box, saying “Here they
are, madam.  But I beseech your Grace,
these poisonous compounds are the movers of a languishing death, but through
slow, deadly.”  Apologetically, she tells
the doctor “I will try the forces of these thy compounds on such creatures as
we count not worth the hanging.”  Pisanio
enters.  She says to herself “Upon him
will I first work.”  Aside, the doctor
says “I do not like her.  I will not
trust one of her malice with a drug of such damned nature.  There is no danger in what show of death it
makes.  She is fooled with a most false
effect, and I the truer so to be false with her.”  He exits.
The Queen says to Pisanio “Weeps she still, sayst thou?  Do thou work.
When thou shalt bring me word she loves my son, I’ll tell thee on the
instant thou art greater than thy master.”
She drops the box of drugs.
Pisanio picks it up.  She tells
him “to take it for thy labor.  I do not
know what is more reviving.”  He
exits.  She says “I have given him that
which, if he take, shall quite unpeople her of ambassadors for her
sweetheart.”  Pisanio and ladies enter
with flowers for the Queen.  As the Queen
leaves with the ladies, Pisanio says “When to my good lord I prove untrue, I’ll
choke myself.”

Abridged Cymbeline/#6/Audacity/Act 1, Scene 6

Iachimo has arrived in England.  Imogen is on stage as Pisanio and Iachimo
enter.  Iachimo promptly says “The worthy
Leonatus is in safety and greets your Highness dearly.”  He gives her a letter.  He says to himself “All of her that is
visible is most rich.  Boldness be my
friend.”  The letter reads “He is one of
the noblest reputation, to whose kindnesses I am most infinitely tied.  Regard him accordingly as you value your
trust.”  Pisanio exits.  She asks him about her husband’s health and
his mirth.  He tells her how “the
Briton,” her husband, and the Frenchman like to joke about women, indirectly
saying he pities her.  She asks “Why do
you pity me?”  He says “that others do
enjoy your  —.”  He says “it’s not mine to speak on ‘t.”  She says “You do seem to know something of me
or what should concern me.”  He then
talks about those “with hands made hard with hourly falsehood; who with
glancing eyes as base and dull as smoky light that’s fed with stinking tallow;
encountering infidelity.”   She says “My
lord, I fear, has forgot Britain.”  He
replies “And himself. ‘Tis your graces that from my mutest conscience to my
tongue charms this report out.”  She
cries “Let me hear no more.”  He says she
should “be revenged.”  She says
“Revenged?  How should I be
revenged?”  He says “Live like Diana’s
priest whiles he is with inconstant vulgar women.  I dedicate myself to your sweet
pleasure.”  She cries “What ho,
Pisanio!”  He says “Let me my service
tender on your lips.”  She says “Away.  I do condemn mine ears that have so long
attended thee.  The king my father shall
be made acquainted of thy assault.  What
ho, Pisanio!”  Quickly, quick-thinking
Iachimo says “O happy Leonatus!  I may
say the credit that thy lady hath of thee deserves thy trust.  Give me your pardon.  I have spoken this to know if your fidelity
were deeply rooted.”  She says “You make
amends.”  He goes on, saying “He sits
‘mongst men like a descended god.  He
hath a kind of honor sets him off more than a mortal seeming.  Pray, your pardon.”  She says “All’s well, sir.”  He says “My humble thanks.  I had almost forgot to entreat your Grace but
in a small request.”  She asks “Pray,
what is‘t?”  He says “Some dozen Romans
have mingled sums to buy a present for the Emperor, which I have done in
France.  ‘Tis silver and gold and jewels
of rich and exquisite form.  May it
please you to take them in protection?”
She says “Willingly; I will keep them in my bedchamber.”  He says “They are in a trunk attended by my
men.  I’ll send my men to you, only for
this night.  I must aboard tomorrow.  I beseech you, if you please to greet your
lord with writing, do ‘t tonight.”  She
says “I will write.  Send your trunk to
me.  It shall safe be kept.”  They exit.

Abridged Cymbeline/#7/Foretelling/Act 2, Scene 1

Two Lords and Cloten are together on stage.  The First Lord asks Cloten “Did you hear a
stranger that’s come to court tonight?
‘Tis thought he is one of Leonatus’ friends.”  Cloten says “Come, I’ll go see this
Italian.”  He and the First Lord
exit.  The Second Lord is alone on
stage.  He has little use for Cloten,
saying “That such a crafty devil as is his mother should yield the world this
ass!  Alas, poor princess, what thou endur’st
betwixt a father by thy stepdame governed and the foul expulsion of thy dear
husband.  The heavens hold firm the walls
of thy dear honor, keep unshaked that temple, thy fair mind, that thou mayst
stand t’ enjoy thy banished lord and this great land.”

Abridged Cymbeline/#8/Deception/Act 2, Scene 2

A trunk has been moved into Imogen’s bedroom.  She’s in bed reading.  She asks her lady “What hour is it?”  The lady answers “Almost midnight, madam.”  Imogen hands the lady her book, saying “I
have read three hours then.  Mine eyes
are weak.”  She falls asleep.  Iachimo emerges from the trunk. He says to
himself “How bravely thou becom’st thy bed, fresh lily, and whiter than the
sheets. ‘Tis her breathing that perfumes the chamber thus.  The flame of the taper bows toward her and
would underpeep her lids to see th’ enclosed lights, white and azure-laced with
blue of heaven’s own tinct.  But my
design: to note the chamber.”  He begins
to write.  He says “Some natural notes
about her body above ten thousand less important movables would testify t’
enrich mine inventory.”  He begins to
remove her bracelet.  He does, saying
“’tis mine.”  He says “On her left breast
a mole with five spots.  Here’s a voucher
stronger than ever law could make.  This
secret will force him think I have picked the lock and ta’en the treasure of
her honor.”  I have enough.  To th’ trunk again, and shut the spring of
it.  I lodge in fear. Though this a
heavenly angel, hell is here.”  The trunk
is removed.

Abridged Cymbeline/#9/Rejection/Act 2, Scene 3

We learn that Caius Lucius, an ambassador from Rome, has
arrived at Cymbeline’s court.  Cymbeline
tells us “He comes on angry purpose now. But that’s no fault of his.”  Cymbeline tells Cloten that when he’s free to
“attend the queen and us. We shall have need t’ employ you towards this
Roman.”  The king and queen exit.  Cloten makes another attempt to win
Imogen.  She barely puts up with
him.  He says “Still I swear I love
you.”  She says “I regard it not.  Faith, I shall unfold equal discourtesy to
your best kindness.  I care not for
you.”  He says “You sin obedience, which
you owe your father.”  She says “You are
too base to be Posthumus’ groom.  Thou
wert dignified enough if your virtues were compared with the under-hangman of
his kingdom.”  He says “The south fog rot
him!”  She gets angrier, saying “His most
worthless garment is dearer in my respect than thou art.” Pisanio enters.  Cloten says “His garment?”  She tells Pisanio “I am haunted by a
fool.  Go bid my woman search for a jewel
that too casually hath left mine arm.  It
was my master’s.  Confident I am last
night ‘twas on mine arm; I kissed it.”
Pisanio says “’twill not be lost.”
She exits.  An upset Cloten says
“I’ll be revenged!  His most worthless
garment?  Well.”  He exits.

Abridged Cymbeline/#10/Acceptance/Act 2, Scene 4

The scene has shifted back to Rome.  Philario and Posthumus are talking when
Philario tells him of the purpose of Caius Lucius’ visit to Cymbeline.  Rome is looking for reparations payments from
the time of Augustus Caesar.  Philario
says “Cymbeline will grant the tribute, send th’ arrearages, or look upon our Romans.”  Posthumus responds “I do believe that this
will prove a war.”  Iachimo enters.  Iachimo tells Posthumus that “Your lady is
one of the fairest that I have looked upon.
Here are letters for you.”  He
tells him “The ring is won.”  Posthumus
says “The stone’s too hard to come by.”
Iachimo comes back “Not a whit, your lady being so easy.  I now profess myself the winner of her honor,
together with your ring.”  Posthumus says
“If you can make ‘t apparent that you have tasted her in bed, my hand and ring
is yours.”  Iachimo says “The details I
will give.”  Posthumus says
“Proceed.”  He then in considerable
detail describes her bedroom.  Posthumus
asks “This is her honor?”  Iachimo shows
him the bracelet.  He says “It must be
married to that diamond.  I’ll keep
them.  She gave it me and said she prized
it once.”  Posthumus gives Iachimo the
ring.  Philario steps in, saying “have
patience, sir, and take your ring again.
It may be probable that she lost it, or that it was stolen from
her.”  Posthumus says “Very true,” and
takes back the ring.  Iachimo cries “I
had it from her arm.”  Once again
Posthumus gives the ring to Iachimo.
Philario again says “Sir, be patient.”
Iachimo then calmly says “If you seek for further satisfying, under her
breast, lies a mole.”  He asks “Do you
remember this stain upon her?”
Posthumus concedes defeat.
Iachimo says “I’ll deny nothing.”
Posthumus promises that he will seek revenge.  He exits. Philario says to Iachimo “You have
won.”  They exit.