Britain. A hall in Cymbeline’s palace.
(Cymbeline; Queen; Cloten; First Lord; Second Lord; Caius Lucius; Attendants)
Caius Lucius, a Roman general comes as ambassador to demand British tribute. Cymbeline, his queen and Cloten indignantly refuse. Lucius declares war on Britain. (77 lines)
Enter in state Cymbeline, Queen, Cloten, and Lords at one door, and at another, Caius Lucius and Attendants.
Now say, what would Augustus Caesar with us?
When Julius Caesar (whose remembrance yet
Lives in men’s eyes, and will to ears and tongues
Be theme and hearing ever) was in this Britain,
And conquer’d it, Cassibelan, thine uncle
(Famous in Caesar’s praises, no whit less
Than in his feats deserving it), for him
And his succession granted Rome a tribute,
Yearly three thousand pounds, which, by thee, lately
Is left untender’d.
And to kill the marvel,
Shall be so ever.
There be many Caesars,
Ere such another Julius. Britain’s a world
By itself, and we will nothing pay
For wearing our own noses.
Which then they had to take from ’s, to resume
We have again. Remember, sir, my liege,
The kings your ancestors, together with
The natural bravery of your isle, which stands
As Neptune’s park, ribb’d and pal’d in
With oaks unscalable and roaring waters,
With sands that will not bear your enemies’ boats,
But suck them up to th’ topmast. A kind of conquest
Caesar made here, but made not here his brag
Of “Came, and saw, and overcame.” With shame
(The first that ever touch’d him) he was carried
From off our coast, twice beaten; and his shipping
(Poor ignorant baubles!) on our terrible seas,
Like egg-shells mov’d upon their surges, crack’d
As easily ’gainst our rocks. For joy whereof
The fam’d Cassibelan, who was once at point
(O giglet Fortune!) to master Caesar’s sword,
Made Lud’s-Town with rejoicing fires bright,
And Britains strut with courage.
Come, there’s no more tribute to be paid. Our kingdom is stronger than it was at that time; and (as I said) there is no more such Caesars. Other of them may have crook’d noses, but to owe such straight arms, none.
Son, let your mother end.
We have yet many among us can gripe as hard as Cassibelan. I do not say I am one; but I have a hand. Why tribute? Why should we pay tribute? If Caesar can hide the sun from us with a blanket, or put the moon in his pocket, we will pay him tribute for light; else, sir, no more tribute, pray you now.
You must know,
Till the injurious Romans did extort
This tribute from us, we were free. Caesar’s ambition,
Which swell’d so much that it did almost stretch
The sides o’ th’ world, against all color here
Did put the yoke upon ’s; which to shake off
Becomes a warlike people, whom we reckon
Ourselves to be. We do say then to Caesar,
Our ancestor was that Mulmutius which
Ordain’d our laws, whose use the sword of Caesar
Hath too much mangled, whose repair and franchise
Shall (by the power we hold) be our good deed,
Though Rome be therefore angry. Mulmutius made our laws,
Who was the first of Britain which did put
His brows within a golden crown and call’d
Himself a king.
I am sorry, Cymbeline,
That I am to pronounce Augustus Caesar
(Caesar, that hath more kings his servants than
Thyself domestic officers) thine enemy.
Receive it from me then: war and confusion
In Caesar’s name pronounce I ’gainst thee; look
For fury not to be resisted. Thus defied,
I thank thee for myself.
Thou art welcome, Caius.
Thy Caesar knighted me; my youth I spent
Much under him; of him I gather’d honor,
Which he to seek of me again, perforce,
Behooves me keep at utterance. I am perfect
That the Pannonians and Dalmatians for
Their liberties are now in arms, a president
Which not to read would show the Britains cold.
So Caesar shall not find them.
Let proof speak.
His Majesty bids you welcome. Make pastime with us a day or two, or longer. If you seek us afterwards in other terms, you shall find us in our salt-water girdle. If you beat us out of it, it is yours; if you fall in the adventure, our crows shall fare the better for you; and there’s an end.
I know your master’s pleasure and he mine:
All the remain is “Welcome!”