Britain. A room in Cymbeline’s palace.
Pisanio reads a letter from Posthumus Leonatus informing him of Imogen’s “adultery.” Knowing the falsity of the charge, he refuses to murder her as ordered. Pisanio gives Imogen another letter, addressed to her by Posthumus and falsely informing her that he is at Milford-Haven. She resolves to go there, never dreaming that this letter is in fact a lure designed to give Pisanio an opportunity to carry out his orders. (80 lines)
Enter Pisanio reading of a letter.
How? Of adultery? Wherefore write you not
What monsters her accuse? Leonatus!
O master, what a strange infection
Is fall’n into thy ear! What false Italian
(As poisonous tongu’d as handed) hath prevail’d
On thy too ready hearing? Disloyal? No.
She’s punish’d for her truth, and undergoes,
More goddess-like than wife-like, such assaults
As would take in some virtue. O my master,
Thy mind to her is now as low as were
Thy fortunes. How? That I should murder her,
Upon the love and truth and vows which I
Have made to thy command? I, her? Her blood?
If it be so to do good service, never
Let me be counted serviceable. How look I
That I should seem to lack humanity
So much as this fact comes to?
“Do’t; the letter
That I have sent her, by her own command
Shall give thee opportunity.”
O damn’d paper,
Black as the ink that’s on thee! Senseless bauble,
Art thou a feodary for this act, and look’st
So virgin-like without? Lo here she comes.
I am ignorant in what I am commanded.
How now, Pisanio?
Madam, here is a letter from my lord.
Who, thy lord? That is my lord Leonatus?
O, learn’d indeed were that astronomer
That knew the stars as I his characters;
He’ld lay the future open. You good gods,
Let what is here contain’d relish of love,
Of my lord’s health, of his content—yet not
That we two are asunder; let that grieve him:
Some griefs are med’cinable, that is one of them,
For it doth physic love—of his content,
All but in that! Good wax, thy leave. Blest be
You bees that make these locks of counsel! Lovers
And men in dangerous bonds pray not alike;
Though forfeiters you cast in prison, yet
You clasp young Cupid’s tables. Good news, gods!
“Justice, and your father’s wrath, should he take me in his dominion, could not be so cruel to me as you, O the dearest of creatures, would even renew me with your eyes. Take notice that I am in Cambria, at Milford-Haven; what your own love will out of this advise you, follow. So he wishes you all happiness, that remains loyal to his vow, and your increasing in love.
O for a horse with wings! Hear’st thou, Pisanio?
He is at Milford-Haven. Read, and tell me
How far ’tis thither. If one of mean affairs
May plod it in a week, why may not I
Glide thither in a day? Then, true Pisanio,
Who long’st like me to see thy lord; who long’st
(O let me bate!)—but not like me—yet long’st,
But in a fainter kind—O, not like me,
For mine’s beyond beyond—say, and speak thick
(Love’s counsellor should fill the bores of hearing,
To th’ smothering of the sense), how far it is
To this same blessed Milford. And by th’ way
Tell me how Wales was made so happy as
T’ inherit such a haven. But first of all,
How we may steal from hence; and for the gap
That we shall make in time, from our hence-going
And our return, to excuse. But first, how get hence.
Why should excuse be born or ere begot?
We’ll talk of that hereafter. Prithee speak,
How many score of miles may we well rid
’Twixt hour and hour?
One score ’twixt sun and sun,
Madam, ’s enough for you—and too much too.
Why, one that rode to ’s execution, man,
Could never go so slow. I have heard of riding wagers,
Where horses have been nimbler than the sands
That run i’ th’ clock’s behalf. But this is fool’ry.
Go, bid my woman feign a sickness, say
She’ll home to her father; and provide me presently
A riding-suit, no costlier than would fit
A franklin’s huswife.
Madam, you’re best consider.
I see before me, man; nor here, nor here,
Nor what ensues, but have a fog in them
That I cannot look through. Away, I prithee,
Do as I bid thee. There’s no more to say:
Accessible is none but Milford way.