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Scene 4

Britain. A prison.

(Posthumus; First Jailer; Second Jailer; Sicilius Leonatus; Matron; Apparition of First Brother of Posthumus; Apparition of Second Brother of Posthumus; Jupiter; Messenger)

Posthumus, in chains, yearns only for death. He falls asleep, and in his dream sees all of his dead family, who call on Jupiter to cease prosecuting him. Jupiter appears and puts them in their place for daring to suggest he is unjust, though he also promises that Posthumus’s troubles are at an end. Waking, Posthumus finds a book with a cryptic prophecy in it, which he resolves to keep on him. He looks forward to his execution, but just as he is being led to it by his jailers he is ordered to the king’s presence instead. (162 lines)

Enter Posthumus and two Jailers.

1. JAIL.

You shall not now be stol’n, you have locks upon you;

So graze, as you find pasture.

2. JAIL.

Ay, or a stomach.

Exeunt Jailers.


Most welcome, bondage! For thou art a way,

I think, to liberty; yet am I better

Than one that’s sick o’ th’ gout, since he had rather

Groan so in perpetuity than be cur’d

By th’ sure physician, death, who is the key

T’ unbar these locks. My conscience, thou art fetter’d

More than my shanks and wrists. You good gods, give me

The penitent instrument to pick that bolt,

Then free forever! Is’t enough I am sorry?

So children temporal fathers do appease;

Gods are more full of mercy. Must I repent,

I cannot do it better than in gyves,

Desir’d more than constrain’d. To satisfy,

If of my freedom ’tis the main part, take

No stricter render of me than my all.

I know you are more clement than vild men,

Who of their broken debtors take a third,

A sixt, a tenth, letting them thrive again

On their abatement. That’s not my desire.

For Imogen’s dear life take mine, and though

’Tis not so dear, yet ’tis a life; you coin’d it.

’Tween man and man they weigh not every stamp;

Though light, take pieces for the figure’s sake;

You rather, mine being yours; and so, great pow’rs,

If you will take this audit, take this life,

And cancel these cold bonds. O Imogen,

I’ll speak to thee in silence.


Solemn music.

Enter (as in an apparition) Sicilius Leonatus, father to Posthumus, an old man, attired like a warrior; leading in his hand an ancient Matron, his wife and mother to Posthumus, with music before them.

Then, after other music, follows the two young Leonati, brothers to Posthumus, with wounds as they died in the wars. They circle Posthumus round as he lies sleeping.


No more, thou Thunder-master, show

Thy spite on mortal flies:

With Mars fall out, with Juno chide,

That thy adulteries

Rates and revenges.

Hath my poor boy done aught but well,

Whose face I never saw?

I died whilst in the womb he stay’d

Attending nature’s law;

Whose father then (as men report

Thou orphans’ father art)

Thou shouldst have been, and shielded him

From this earth-vexing smart.


Lucina lent not me her aid,

But took me in my throes,

That from me was Posthumus ripp’d,

Came crying ’mongst his foes,

A thing of pity!


Great nature, like his ancestry,

Moulded the stuff so fair,

That he deserv’d the praise o’ th’ world,

As great Sicilius’ heir.

APP. 1. BRO.

When once he was mature for man,

In Britain where was he

That could stand up his parallel,

Or fruitful object be

In eye of Imogen, that best

Could deem his dignity?


With marriage wherefore was he mock’d,

To be exil’d, and thrown

From Leonati seat, and cast

From her his dearest one,

Sweet Imogen?


Why did you suffer Jachimo,

Slight thing of Italy,

To taint his nobler heart and brain

With needless jealousy,

And to become the geck and scorn

O’ th’ other’s villainy?

APP. 2. BRO.

For this from stiller seats we came,

Our parents and us twain,

That striking in our country’s cause

Fell bravely and were slain,

Our fealty and Tenantius’ right

With honor to maintain.

APP. 1. BRO.

Like hardiment Posthumus hath

To Cymbeline perform’d.

Then, Jupiter, thou king of gods,

Why hast thou thus adjourn’d

The graces for his merits due,

Being all to dolors turn’d?


Thy crystal window ope; look out;

No longer exercise

Upon a valiant race thy harsh

And potent injuries.


Since, Jupiter, our son is good,

Take off his miseries.


Peep through thy marble mansion, help,

Or we poor ghosts will cry

To th’ shining synod of the rest

Against thy deity.


Help, Jupiter, or we appeal,

And from thy justice fly.

Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The Ghosts fall on their knees.


No more, you petty spirits of region low,

Offend our hearing; hush! How dare you ghosts

Accuse the Thunderer, whose bolt, you know,

Sky-planted, batters all rebelling coasts?

Poor shadows of Elysium, hence, and rest

Upon your never-withering banks of flow’rs.

Be not with mortal accidents oppress’d,

No care of yours it is, you know ’tis ours.

Whom best I love, I cross; to make my gift,

The more delay’d, delighted. Be content,

Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift.

His comforts thrive, his trials well are spent.

Our Jovial star reign’d at his birth, and in

Our temple was he married. Rise, and fade.

He shall be lord of Lady Imogen,

And happier much by his affliction made.

This tablet lay upon his breast, wherein

Our pleasure his full fortune doth confine,

Jupiter drops a tablet.

And so away! No farther with your din

Express impatience, lest you stir up mine.

Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline.



He came in thunder, his celestial breath

Was sulfurous to smell; the holy eagle

Stoop’d, as to foot us. His ascension is

More sweet than our blest fields. His royal bird

Prunes the immortal wing, and cloys his beak,

As when his god is pleas’d.


Thanks, Jupiter!


The marble pavement closes, he is enter’d

His radiant roof. Away, and, to be blest,

Let us with care perform his great behest.

The Ghosts vanish after placing the tablet on Posthumus’ breast.



Sleep, thou hast been a grandsire and begot

A father to me; and thou hast created

A mother and two brothers. But (O scorn!)

Gone! They went hence so soon as they were born.

And so I am awake. Poor wretches that depend

On greatness’ favor dream as I have done,

Wake, and find nothing. But, alas, I swerve.

Many dream not to find, neither deserve,

And yet are steep’d in favors; so am I,

That have this golden chance and know not why.

What fairies haunt this ground? A book? O rare one,

Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment

Nobler than that it covers! Let thy effects

So follow, to be most unlike our courtiers,

As good as promise!


“When as a lion’s whelp shall, to himself unknown, without seeking find, and be embrac’d by a piece of tender air; and when from a stately cedar shall be lopp’d branches, which, being dead many years, shall after revive, be jointed to the old stock, and freshly grow; then shall Posthumus end his miseries, Britain be fortunate and nourish in peace and plenty.”

’Tis still a dream, or else such stuff as madmen

Tongue and brain not; either both or nothing,

Or senseless speaking, or a speaking such

As sense cannot untie. Be what it is,

The action of my life is like it, which

I’ll keep, if but for sympathy.

Enter First Jailer.

1. JAIL.

Come, sir, are you ready for death?


Overroasted rather; ready long ago.

1. JAIL.

Hanging is the word, sir. If you be ready for that, you are well cook’d.


So if I prove a good repast to the spectators, the dish pays the shot.

1. JAIL.

A heavy reckoning for you, sir. But the comfort is, you shall be call’d to no more payments, fear no more tavern-bills, which are often the sadness of parting, as the procuring of mirth. You come in faint for want of meat, depart reeling with too much drink; sorry that you have paid too much, and sorry that you are paid too much; purse and brain both empty; the brain the heavier for being too light, the purse too light, being drawn of heaviness. O, of this contradiction you shall now be quit. O, the charity of a penny cord! It sums up thousands in a trice. You have no true debitor and creditor but it: of what’s past, is, and to come, the discharge. Your neck, sir, is pen, book, and counters; so the acquittance follows.


I am merrier to die than thou art to live.

1. JAIL.

Indeed, sir, he that sleeps feels not the toothache; but a man that were to sleep your sleep, and a hangman to help him to bed, I think he would change places with his officer; for, look you, sir, you know not which way you shall go.


Yes indeed do I, fellow.

1. JAIL.

Your death has eyes in’ s head then; I have not seen him so pictur’d. You must either be directed by some that take upon them to know, or to take upon yourself that which I am sure you do not know, or jump the after-inquiry on your own peril; and how you shall speed in your journey’s end, I think you’ll never return to tell one.


I tell thee, fellow, there are none want eyes to direct them the way I am going, but such as wink and will not use them.

1. JAIL.

What an infinite mock is this, that a man should have the best use of eyes to see the way of blindness! I am sure hanging’s the way of winking.

Enter a Messenger.


Knock off his manacles, bring your prisoner to the King.


Thou bring’st good news, I am call’d to be made free.

1. JAIL.

I’ll be hang’d then.


Thou shalt be then freer than a jailer; no bolts for the dead.

Exeunt Posthumus and Messenger.

1. JAIL.

Unless a man would marry a gallows and beget young gibbets, I never saw one so prone. Yet, on my conscience, there are verier knaves desire to live, for all he be a Roman; and there be some of them too that die against their wills. So should I, if I were one. I would we were all of one mind, and one mind good. O, there were desolation of jailers and gallowses! I speak against my present profit, but my wish hath a preferment in’t.



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