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Scene 5

Britain. A room in Cymbeline’s palace.

(Queen; Ladies; Cornelius; Pisanio)

The Queen received what she believes are slow-working but deadly drugs from Cornelius, a physician. Cornelius is suspicious of her intentions and so gives her only sedatives, which cause sleep but not death. She gives the box of drugs to Pisanio, recommending them as a health-restorer. (99 lines)

Enter Queen, Ladies, and Cornelius.


Whiles yet the dew’s on ground, gather those flowers;

Make haste. Who has the note of them?


I, madam.



Exeunt Ladies.

Now, master doctor, have you brought those drugs?


Pleaseth your Highness, ay. Here they are, madam.

Presenting a small box.

But I beseech your Grace, without offense

(My conscience bids me ask), wherefore you have

Commanded of me these most poisonous compounds,

Which are the movers of a languishing death,

But though slow, deadly.


I wonder, doctor,

Thou ask’st me such a question. Have I not been

Thy pupil long? Hast thou not learn’d me how

To make perfumes? Distill? Preserve? Yea so,

That our great King himself doth woo me oft

For my confections? Having thus far proceeded

(Unless thou think’st me devilish) is’t not meet

That I did amplify my judgment in

Other conclusions? I will try the forces

Of these thy compounds on such creatures as

We count not worth the hanging (but none human),

To try the vigor of them, and apply

Allayments to their act, and by them gather

Their several virtues and effects.


Your Highness

Shall from this practice but make hard your heart;

Besides, the seeing these effects will be

Both noisome and infectious.


O, content thee.

Enter Pisanio.


Here comes a flattering rascal, upon him

Will I first work. He’s for his master,

And enemy to my son.—How now, Pisanio?

Doctor, your service for this time is ended,

Take your own way.



I do suspect you, madam,

But you shall do no harm.


To Pisanio.

Hark thee, a word.



I do not like her. She doth think she has

Strange ling’ring poisons. I do know her spirit,

And will not trust one of her malice with

A drug of such damn’d nature. Those she has

Will stupefy and dull the sense awhile,

Which first (perchance) she’ll prove on cats and dogs,

Then afterward up higher; but there is

No danger in what show of death it makes,

More than the locking up the spirits a time,

To be more fresh, reviving. She is fool’d

With a most false effect; and I the truer,

So to be false with her.


No further service, doctor,

Until I send for thee.


I humbly take my leave.



Weeps she still, say’st thou? Dost thou think in time

She will not quench, and let instructions enter

Where folly now possesses? Do thou work.

When thou shalt bring me word she loves my son,

I’ll tell thee on the instant thou art then

As great as is thy master—greater, for

His fortunes all lie speechless, and his name

Is at last gasp. Return he cannot, nor

Continue where he is. To shift his being

Is to exchange one misery with another,

And every day that comes comes to decay

A day’s work in him. What shalt thou expect

To be depender on a thing that leans?

Who cannot be new built, nor has no friends

So much as but to prop him?

The Queen drops the box; Pisanio takes it up.

Thou tak’st up

Thou know’st not what; but take it for thy labor.

It is a thing I made, which hath the King

Five times redeem’d from death. I do not know

What is more cordial. Nay, I prithee take it,

It is an earnest of a farther good

That I mean to thee. Tell thy mistress how

The case stands with her; do’t as from thyself.

Think what a chance thou changest on, but think

Thou hast thy mistress still; to boot, my son,

Who shall take notice of thee. I’ll move the King

To any shape of thy preferment, such

As thou’lt desire; and then myself, I chiefly,

That set thee on to this desert, am bound

To load thy merit richly. Call my women.

Think on my words.

Exit Pisanio.

A sly and constant knave,

Not to be shak’d; the agent for his master,

And the remembrancer of her to hold

The hand-fast to her lord. I have given him that

Which, if he take, shall quite unpeople her

Of liegers for her sweet; and which she after,

Except she bend her humor, shall be assur’d

To taste of too.

Enter Pisanio and Ladies.

So, so. Well done, well done.

The violets, cowslips, and the primeroses,

Bear to my closet. Fare thee well, Pisanio;

Think on my words.

Exeunt Queen and Ladies.


And shall do.

But when to my good lord I prove untrue,

I’ll choke myself. There’s all I’ll do for you.



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