Rome. A room in Pilario’s house.
(Philario; Jachimo; Frenchman; Dutchman; Spaniard; Posthumus)
Jachimo, a friend of Philario, and a Frenchman who knew Posthumus in France are discussing the new arrival. Jachimo and Posthumus discuss Imogen. Jachimo is unconvinced by Posthumus’s conviction of Imogen’s chastity, and bets that he can easily seduce Imogen. Posthumus accepts the challenge, wagering his ring to 10,000 ducats of Jachimo’s. (53 lines)
Enter Philario, Jachimo, a Frenchman, a Dutchman, and a Spaniard.
Believe it, sir, I have seen him in Britain. He was then of a crescent note, expected to prove so worthy as since he hath been allow’d the name of. But I could then have look’d on him without the help of admiration, though the catalogue of his endowments had been tabled by his side, and I to peruse him by items.
You speak of him when he was less furnish’d than now he is with that which makes him both without and within.
I have seen him in France. We had very many there could behold the sun with as firm eyes as he.
This matter of marrying his king’s daughter, wherein he must be weigh’d rather by her value than his own, words him, I doubt not, a great deal from the matter.
And then his banishment.
Ay, and the approbation of those that weep this lamentable divorce under her colors are wonderfully to extend him, be it but to fortify her judgment, which else an easy battery might lay flat, for taking a beggar without less quality. But how comes it he is to sojourn with you? How creeps acquaintance?
His father and I were soldiers together, to whom I have been often bound for no less than my life.
Here comes the Britain. Let him be so entertain’d amongst you as suits with gentlemen of your knowing to a stranger of his quality. I beseech you all be better known to this gentleman, whom I commend to you as a noble friend of mine. How worthy he is I will leave to appear hereafter, rather than story him in his own hearing.
Sir, we have known together in Orléans.
Since when I have been debtor to you for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay and yet pay still.
Sir, you o’errate my poor kindness, I was glad I did atone my countryman and you. It had been pity you should have been put together, with so mortal a purpose as then each bore, upon importance of so slight and trivial a nature.
By your pardon, sir, I was then a young traveler, rather shunn’d to go even with what I heard than in my every action to be guided by others’ experiences: but upon my mended judgment (if I offend not to say it is mended) my quarrel was not altogether slight.
Faith, yes, to be put to the arbiterment of swords, and by such two that would by all likelihood have confounded one the other, or have fall’n both.
Can we, with manners, ask what was the difference?
Safely, I think; ’twas a contention in public, which may, without contradiction, suffer the report. It was much like an argument that fell out last night, where each of us fell in praise of our country mistresses; this gentleman at that time vouching (and upon warrant of bloody affirmation) his to be more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, constant, qualified, and less attemptable than any the rarest of our ladies in France.
That lady is not now living; or this gentleman’s opinion by this worn out.
She holds her virtue still, and I my mind.
You must not so far prefer her ’fore ours of Italy.
Being so far provok’d as I was in France, I would abate her nothing, though I profess myself her adorer, not her friend.
As fair and as good—a kind of hand-in-hand comparison—had been something too fair and too good for any lady in Brittany. If she went before others I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlustres many I have beheld, I could not but believe she excell’d many. But I have not seen the most precious diamond that is, nor you the lady.
I prais’d her as I rated her: so do I my stone.
What do you esteem it at?
More than the world enjoys.
Either your unparagon’d mistress is dead, or she’s outpriz’d by a trifle.
You are mistaken: the one may be sold or given, or if there were wealth enough for the purchase, or merit for the gift; the other is not a thing for sale, and only the gift of the gods.
Which the gods have given you?
Which, by their graces, I will keep.
You may wear her in title yours; but you know strange fowl light upon neighboring ponds. Your ring may be stol’n too: so your brace of unprizable estimations, the one is but frail and the other casual. A cunning thief, or a (that way) accomplish’d courtier, would hazard the winning both of first and last.
Your Italy contains none so accomplish’d a courtier to convince the honor of my mistress, if in the holding or loss of that you term her frail. I do nothing doubt you have store of thieves; notwithstanding, I fear not my ring.
Let us leave here, gentlemen.
Sir, with all my heart. This worthy signior, I thank him, makes no stranger of me: we are familiar at first.
With five times so much conversation, I should get ground of your fair mistress; make her go back, even to the yielding, had I admittance, and opportunity to friend.
I dare thereupon pawn the moi’ty of my estate to your ring, which in my opinion o’ervalues it something. But I make my wager rather against your confidence than her reputation; and to bar your offense herein too, I durst attempt it against any lady in the world.
You are a great deal abus’d in too bold a persuasion, and I doubt not you sustain what y’ are worthy of by your attempt.
A repulse, though your attempt (as you call it) deserve more—a punishment too.
Gentlemen, enough of this. It came in too suddenly, let it die as it was born, and I pray you be better acquainted.
Would I had put my estate and my neighbor’s on th’ approbation of what I have spoke!
What lady would you choose to assail?
Yours, whom in constancy you think stands so safe. I will lay you ten thousand ducats to your ring, that, commend me to the court where your lady is, with no more advantage than the opportunity of a second conference, and I will bring from thence that honor of hers which you imagine so reserv’d.
I will wage against your gold, gold to it. My ring I hold dear as my finger, ’tis part of it.
You are a friend, and therein the wiser. If you buy ladies’ flesh at a million a dram, you cannot preserve it from tainting. But I see you have some religion in you, that you fear.
This is but a custom in your tongue; you bear a graver purpose, I hope.
I am the master of my speeches, and would undergo what’s spoken, I swear.
Will you? I shall but lend my diamond till your return. Let there be covenants drawn between ’s. My mistress exceeds in goodness the hugeness of your unworthy thinking. I dare you to this match: here’s my ring.
I will have it no lay.
By the gods, it is one. If I bring you no sufficient testimony that I have enjoy’d the dearest bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand ducats are yours, so is your diamond too. If I come off and leave her in such honor as you have trust in, she your jewel, this your jewel, and my gold are yours—provided I have your commendation for my more free entertainment.
I embrace these conditions, let us have articles betwixt us. Only, thus far you shall answer: if you make your voyage upon her and give me directly to understand you have prevail’d, I am no further your enemy; she is not worth our debate. If she remain unseduc’d, you not making it appear otherwise, for your ill opinion and th’ assault you have made to her chastity, you shall answer me with your sword.
Your hand—a covenant. We will have these things set down by lawful counsel, and straight away for Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and starve. I will fetch my gold and have our two wagers recorded.
Exeunt Posthumus and Jachimo.
Will this hold, think you?
Signior Jachimo will not from it. Pray let us follow ’em.