The country near Milford-Haven.
Imogen cannot understand why they have not yet found Posthumus. Pisanio hands Imogen the letter accusing her of adultery and commanding Pisanio to kill her. Broken-hearted, Imogen begs Pisanio to kill her, but he refuses. Instead he proposes that she disguise herself as a boy and seek service with Caius Lucius, as a way of escaping Britain, while he will send Posthumus false news of her death. In the belief that they will help her if she is seasick, he gives Imogen the potions he received from the queen. (207 lines)
Enter Pisanio and Imogen.
Thou toldst me, when we came from horse, the place
Was near at hand. Ne’er long’d my mother so
To see me first, as I have now. Pisanio! Man!
Where is Posthumus? What is in thy mind
That makes thee stare thus? Wherefore breaks that sigh
From th’ inward of thee? One but painted thus
Would be interpreted a thing perplex’d
Beyond self-explication. Put thyself
Into a havior of less fear, ere wildness
Vanquish my staider senses. What’s the matter?
Why tender’st thou that paper to me with
A look untender? If’t be summer news,
Smile to’t before; if winterly, thou need’st
But keep that count’nance still. My husband’s hand!
That drug-damn’d Italy hath outcraftied him,
And he’s at some hard point. Speak, man, thy tongue
May take off some extremity, which to read
Would be even mortal to me.
Please you read,
And you shall find me, wretched man, a thing
The most disdain’d of fortune.
“Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath play’d the strumpet in my bed; the testimonies whereof lies bleeding in me. I speak not out of weak surmises, but from proof as strong as my grief and as certain as I expect my revenge. That part thou, Pisanio, must act for me, if thy faith be not tainted with the breach of hers. Let thine own hands take away her life. I shall give thee opportunity at Milford-Haven. She hath my letter for the purpose; where, if thou fear to strike and to make me certain it is done, thou art the pander to her dishonor and equally to me disloyal.”
What shall I need to draw my sword, the paper
Hath cut her throat already! No, ’tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
All corners of the world. Kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters. What cheer, madam?
False to his bed? What is it to be false?
To lie in watch there, and to think on him?
To weep ’twixt clock and clock? If sleep charge nature,
To break it with a fearful dream of him,
And cry myself awake? That’s false to ’s bed? Is it?
Alas, good lady!
I false? Thy conscience witness! Jachimo,
Thou didst accuse him of incontinency;
Thou then look’dst like a villain; now methinks
Thy favor’s good enough. Some jay of Italy
(Whose mother was her painting) hath betray’d him.
Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion,
And for I am richer than to hang by th’ walls,
I must be ripp’d. To pieces with me! O!
Men’s vows are women’s traitors. All good seeming,
By thy revolt, O husband, shall be thought
Put on for villainy; not born where’t grows,
But worn a bait for ladies.
Good madam, hear me.
True honest men being heard, like false Aeneas,
Were in his time thought false; and Sinon’s weeping
Did scandal many a holy tear, took pity
From most true wretchedness. So thou, Posthumus,
Wilt lay the leaven on all proper men;
Goodly and gallant shall be false and perjur’d
From thy great fail.—Come, fellow, be thou honest,
Do thou thy master’s bidding. When thou seest him,
A little witness my obedience. Look
I draw the sword myself, take it, and hit
The innocent mansion of my love, my heart.
Fear not, ’tis empty of all things but grief.
Thy master is not there, who was indeed
The riches of it. Do his bidding, strike.
Thou mayst be valiant in a better cause,
But now thou seem’st a coward.
Hence, vile instrument!
Thou shalt not damn my hand.
Why, I must die;
And if I do not by thy hand, thou art
No servant of thy master’s. Against self-slaughter
There is a prohibition so divine
That cravens my weak hand. Come, here’s my heart:
Something’s afore’t. Soft, soft, we’ll no defense,
Obedient as the scabbard. What is here?
The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus,
All turn’d to heresy? Away, away,
Corrupters of my faith! You shall no more
Be stomachers to my heart. Thus may poor fools
Believe false teachers. Though those that are betray’d
Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
Stands in worse case of woe. And thou, Posthumus,
That didst set up my disobedience ’gainst the King
My father, and make me put into contempt the suits
Of princely fellows, shalt hereafter find
It is no act of common passage, but
A strain of rareness; and I grieve myself
To think, when thou shalt be disedg’d by her
That now thou tirest on, how thy memory
Will then be pang’d by me. Prithee dispatch,
The lamb entreats the butcher. Where’s thy knife?
Thou art too slow to do thy master’s bidding
When I desire it too.
O gracious lady!
Since I receiv’d command to do this business
I have not slept one wink.
Do’t, and to bed then.
I’ll wake mine eyeballs out first.
Didst undertake it? Why hast thou abus’d
So many miles with a pretense? This place?
Mine action? And thine own? Our horses’ labor?
The time inviting thee? The perturb’d court
For my being absent? Whereunto I never
Purpose return. Why hast thou gone so far,
To be unbent when thou hast ta’en thy stand,
Th’ elected deer before thee?
But to win time
To lose so bad employment, in the which
I have consider’d of a course. Good lady,
Hear me with patience.
Talk thy tongue weary, speak.
I have heard I am a strumpet, and mine ear,
Therein false struck, can take no greater wound,
Nor tent to bottom that. But speak.
I thought you would not back again.
Bringing me here to kill me.
Not so, neither;
But if I were as wise as honest, then
My purpose would prove well. It cannot be
But that my master is abus’d. Some villain,
Ay, and singular in his art, hath done you both
This cursed injury.
Some Roman courtezan?
No, on my life.
I’ll give but notice you are dead, and send him
Some bloody sign of it; for ’tis commanded
I should do so. You shall be miss’d at court,
And that will well confirm it.
Why, good fellow,
What shall I do the while? Where bide? How live?
Or in my life what comfort, when I am
Dead to my husband?
If you’ll back to th’ court—
No court, no father, nor no more ado
With that harsh, noble, simple nothing,
That Cloten, whose love-suit hath been to me
As fearful as a siege.
If not at court,
Then not in Britain must you bide.
Hath Britain all the sun that shines? Day? Night?
Are they not but in Britain? I’ th’ world’s volume
Our Britain seems as of it, but not in’t;
In a great pool a swan’s nest. Prithee think
There’s livers out of Britain.
I am most glad
You think of other place. Th’ ambassador,
Lucius the Roman, comes to Milford-Haven
Tomorrow. Now, if you could wear a mind
Dark as your fortune is, and but disguise
That which, t’ appear itself, must not yet be
But by self-danger, you should tread a course
Pretty and full of view; yea, happily, near
The residence of Posthumus; so nigh, at least,
That though his actions were not visible, yet
Report should render him hourly to your ear
As truly as he moves.
O, for such means,
Though peril to my modesty, not death on’t,
I would adventure.
Well then, here’s the point:
You must forget to be a woman; change
Command into obedience; fear and niceness
(The handmaids of all women, or more truly
Woman it pretty self) into a waggish courage,
Ready in gibes, quick-answer’d, saucy, and
As quarrellous as the weasel; nay, you must
Forget that rarest treasure of your cheek,
Exposing it (but O, the harder heart!
Alack, no remedy!) to the greedy touch
Of common-kissing Titan, and forget
Your laborsome and dainty trims, wherein
You made great Juno angry.
Nay, be brief:
I see into thy end, and am almost
A man already.
First, make yourself but like one.
Forethinking this, I have already fit
(’Tis in my cloak-bag) doublet, hat, hose, all
That answer to them. Would you in their serving
(And with what imitation you can borrow
From youth of such a season) ’fore noble Lucius
Present yourself, desire his service, tell him
Wherein you’re happy, which will make him know,
If that his head have ear in music, doubtless
With joy he will embrace you; for he’s honorable,
And doubling that, most holy. Your means abroad—
You have me, rich, and I will never fail
Beginning nor supplyment.
Thou art all the comfort
The gods will diet me with. Prithee away,
There’s more to be consider’d; but we’ll even
All that good time will give us. This attempt
I am soldier to, and will abide it with
A prince’s courage. Away, I prithee.
Well, madam, we must take a short farewell,
Lest being miss’d, I be suspected of
Your carriage from the court. My noble mistress,
Here is a box, I had it from the Queen,
What’s in’t is precious. If you are sick at sea,
Or stomach-qualm’d at land, a dram of this
Will drive away distemper. To some shade,
And fit you to your manhood. May the gods
Direct you to the best!
Amen! I thank thee.