About the Book

“Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”
Eminent Shakespearean scholars Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen provide a fresh new edition of this classic tragedy in which nothing is as it seems.
• an original Introduction to Cymbeline
• incisive scene-by-scene synopsis and analysis with vital facts about the work
• commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers
• photographs of key RSC productions
• an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career and chronology of his plays
Ideal for students, theater professionals, and general readers, these modern and accessible editions from the Royal Shakespeare Company set a new standard in Shakespearean literature for the twenty-first century.
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Praise for Cymbeline

“A remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare’s extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever.”—James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599
“A feast of literary and historical information.”—The Wall Street Journal
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Chapter 1

Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1

Enter two Gentlemen

FIRST GENTLEMAN??You do not meet a man but frowns. Our bloods

No more obey the heavens than our courtiers

Still seem as does the king.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??But what's the matter?

FIRST GENTLEMAN??His daughter, and the heir of's kingdom, whom

He purposed to his wife's sole son - a widow

That late he married - hath referred herself

Unto a poor but worthy gentleman. She's wedded,

Her husband banished, she imprisoned, all

Is outward sorrow, though I think the king

Be touched at very heart.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??None but the king?

FIRST GENTLEMAN??He that hath lost her too: so is the queen,

That most desired the match. But not a courtier,

Although they wear their faces to the bent

Of the king's looks, hath a heart that is not

Glad at the thing they scowl at.


FIRST GENTLEMAN??He that hath missed the princess is a thing

Too bad for bad report: and he that hath her -

I mean, that married her, alack, good man,

And therefore banished - is a creature such

As, to seek through the regions of the earth

For one his like, there would be something failing

In him that should compare. I do not think

So fair an outward and such stuff within

Endows a man but he.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??You speak him far.

FIRST GENTLEMAN??I do extend, sir, within himself,

Crush him together rather than unfold

His measure duly.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??What's his name and birth?

FIRST GENTLEMAN??I cannot delve him to the root: his father

Was called Sicilius, who did join his honour

Against the Romans with Cassibelan,

But had his titles by Tenantius whom

He served with glory and admired success:

So gained the sur-addition Leonatus.

And had, besides this gentleman in question,

Two other sons, who in the wars o'th'time

Died with their swords in hand. For which their father,

Then old and fond of issue, took such sorrow

That he quit being, and his gentle lady,

Big of this gentleman, our theme, deceased

As he was born. The king he takes the babe

To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus,

Breeds him, and makes him of his bedchamber,

Puts to him all the learnings that his time

Could make him the receiver of, which he took

As we do air, fast as 'twas ministered,

And in's spring became a harvest: lived in court -

Which rare it is to do - most praised, most loved:

A sample to the youngest, to th'more mature

A glass that feated them, and to the graver,

A child that guided dotards. To his mistress,

For whom he now is banished, her own price

Proclaims how she esteemed him; and his virtue

By her election may be truly read,

What kind of man he is.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??I honour him even out of your report.

But pray you tell me, is she sole child to th'king?

FIRST GENTLEMAN??His only child.

He had two sons - if this be worth your hearing,

Mark it - the eldest of them at three years old,

I'th'swathing clothes the other, from their nursery

Were stol'n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge

Which way they went.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??How long is this ago?

FIRST GENTLEMAN??Some twenty years.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??That a king's children should be so conveyed,

So slackly guarded, and the search so slow

That could not trace them.

FIRST GENTLEMAN??Howsoe'er 'tis strange,

Or that the negligence may well be laughed at,

Yet is it true, sir.

SECOND GENTLEMAN??I do well believe you.

FIRST GENTLEMAN??We must forbear. Here comes the gentleman,

The queen and princess. Exeunt

Enter the Queen, Posthumus and Innogen

QUEEN No, be assured you shall not find me, daughter,

After the slander of most stepmothers,

Evil-eyed unto you. You're my prisoner, but

Your jailer shall deliver you the keys

That lock up your restraint. For you, Posthumus,

So soon as I can win th'offended king,

I will be known your advocate: marry, yet

The fire of rage is in him, and 'twere good

You leaned unto his sentence, with what patience

Your wisdom may inform you.

POSTHUMUS Please your highness,

I will from hence today.

QUEEN You know the peril.

I'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying

The pangs of barred affections, though the king

Hath charged you should not speak together. Exit

INNOGEN O dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant

Can tickle where she wounds! My dearest husband,

I something fear my father's wrath, but nothing -

Always reserved my holy duty - what

His rage can do on me. You must be gone,

And I shall here abide the hourly shot

Of angry eyes: not comforted to live,

But that there is this jewel in the world

That I may see again.

POSTHUMUS My queen, my mistress:

O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause

To be suspected of more tenderness

Than doth become a man. I will remain

The loyal'st husband that did e'er plight troth.

My residence in Rome, at one Philario's,

Who to my father was a friend, to me

Known but by letter: thither write, my queen,

And with mine eyes I'll drink the words you send,

Though ink be made of gall.

Enter Queen

QUEEN Be brief, I pray you:

If the king come, I shall incur I know not

How much of his displeasure.- Yet I'll move him Aside

To walk this way: I never do him wrong,

But he does buy my injuries to be friends:

Pays dear for my offences. [Exit]

POSTHUMUS Should we be taking leave

As long a term as yet we have to live,

The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu.

INNOGEN Nay, stay a little:

Were you but riding forth to air yourself,

Such parting were too petty. Look here, love,

This diamond was my mother's; take it, heart, Gives a ring

But keep it till you woo another wife,

When Innogen is dead.

POSTHUMUS How, how? Another?

You gentle gods, give me but this I have,

And cere up my embracements from a next

With bonds of death. Remain, remain thou here Puts on the ring

While sense can keep it on: and sweetest, fairest,

As I my poor self did exchange for you

To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles

I still win of you. For my sake wear this,

It is a manacle of love. I'll place it

Upon this fairest prisoner. Puts a bracelet on her arm

INNOGEN O, the gods!

When shall we see again?

Enter Cymbeline and Lords

POSTHUMUS Alack, the king!

CYMBELINE Thou basest thing, avoid hence, from my sight:

If after this command thou fraught the court

With thy unworthiness, thou diest. Away,

Thou'rt poison to my blood.

POSTHUMUS The gods protect you,

And bless the good remainders of the court:

I am gone. Exit

INNOGEN There cannot be a pinch in death

More sharp than this is.

CYMBELINE O disloyal thing,

That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap'st

A year's age on me.

INNOGEN I beseech you, sir,

Harm not yourself with your vexation,

I am senseless of your wrath; a touch more rare

Subdues all pangs, all fears.

CYMBELINE Past grace? Obedience?

INNOGEN Past hope and in despair: that way past grace.

CYMBELINE That mightst have had the sole son of my queen.

INNOGEN O, blest that I might not: I chose an eagle,

And did avoid a puttock.

CYMBELINE Thou took'st a beggar, wouldst have made my throne

A seat for baseness.

INNOGEN No, I rather added a lustre to it.

CYMBELINE O thou vile one!


It is your fault that I have loved Posthumus:

You bred him as my playfellow, and he is

A man worth any woman: overbuys me

Almost the sum he pays.

CYMBELINE What? Art thou mad?

INNOGEN Almost, sir: heaven restore me! Would I were

A neatherd's daughter, and my Leonatus

Our neighbour shepherd's son.

Enter Queen

CYMBELINE Thou foolish thing!-

They were again together: you have done To Queen

Not after our command.- Away with her,

And pen her up.

QUEEN Beseech your patience: peace,

Dear lady daughter, peace. Sweet sovereign,

Leave us to ourselves, and make yourself some comfort

Out of your best advice.

CYMBELINE Nay, let her languish

A drop of blood a day, and being aged,

Die of this folly. Exeunt [Cymbeline and Lords]

Enter Pisanio

QUEEN Fie, you must give way.

Here is your servant.- How now, sir? What news?

PISANIO My lord your son drew on my master.


No harm I trust is done?

PISANIO There might have been,

But that my master rather played than fought,

And had no help of anger: they were parted

By gentlemen at hand.

QUEEN I am very glad on't.

INNOGEN Your son's my father's friend, he takes his part

To draw upon an exile.- O brave sir!-

I would they were in Afric both together,

Myself by with a needle, that I might prick

The goer-back.-Why came you from your master?

PISANIO On his command: he would not suffer me

To bring him to the haven: left these notes

Of what commands I should be subject to,

When't pleased you to employ me.

QUEEN This hath been

Your faithful servant: I dare lay mine honour

He will remain so.

PISANIO I humbly thank your highness.

QUEEN Pray walk awhile. To Innogen

INNOGEN About some half hour hence, pray you speak with me. To Pisanio

You shall, at least, go see my lord aboard.

For this time leave me. Exeunt

Act 1 Scene 2 running scene 1 continues

Enter Cloten and two Lords

FIRST LORD Sir, I would advise you to shift a shirt; the violence of action hath made you reek as a sacrifice: where air comes out, air comes in: there's none abroad so wholesome as that you vent.

CLOTEN If my shirt were bloody, then to shift it. Have I hurt him?

SECOND LORD??No, faith: not so much as his patience. Aside

FIRST LORD Hurt him? His body's a passable carcass if he be not hurt. It is a thoroughfare for steel if it be not hurt.

SECOND LORD??His steel was in debt, it went o'th'backside the town. Aside

CLOTEN The villain would not stand me.

SECOND LORD??No, but he fled forward still, toward your face. Aside

FIRST LORD Stand you? You have land enough of your own: but he added to your having, gave you some ground.

SECOND LORD??As many inches as you have oceans. Puppies! Aside

CLOTEN I would they had not come between us.

SECOND LORD??So would I, till you had measured how long a fool you were upon the ground. Aside

CLOTEN And that she should love this fellow, and refuse me!

SECOND LORD??If it be a sin to make a true election, she is damned. Aside

FIRST LORD Sir, as I told you always: her beauty and her brain go not together. She's a good sign, but I have seen small reflection of her wit.

SECOND LORD??She shines not upon fools, lest the reflection should hurt her. Aside

CLOTEN Come, I'll to my chamber: would there had been some hurt done.

SECOND LORD??I wish not so, unless it had been the fall of an ass, which is no great hurt. Aside

CLOTEN You'll go with us?

FIRST LORD I'll attend your lordship.

CLOTEN Nay, come, let's go together.

SECOND LORD??Well, my lord. Exeunt

Act 1 Scene 3 running scene 1 continues

Enter Innogen and Pisanio

INNOGEN I would thou grew'st unto the shores o'th'haven,

And questioned'st every sail: if he should write,

And I not have it, 'twere a paper lost,

As offered mercy is. What was the last

That he spake to thee?

PISANIO It was his queen, his queen.

INNOGEN Then waved his handkerchief?

PISANIO And kissed it, madam.

INNOGEN Senseless linen, happier therein than I:

And that was all?

PISANIO No, madam: for so long

As he could make me with this eye, or ear,

Distinguish him from others, he did keep

The deck, with glove, or hat, or handkerchief,

Still waving, as the fits and stirs of's mind

Could best express how slow his soul sailed on,

How swift his ship.

INNOGEN Thou shouldst have made him

As little as a crow, or less, ere left

To after-eye him.

PISANIO Madam, so I did.

INNOGEN I would have broke mine eyestrings, cracked them, but

To look upon him, till the diminution

Of space had pointed him sharp as my needle:

Nay, followed him, till he had melted from

The smallness of a gnat to air: and then

Have turned mine eye, and wept. But, good Pisanio,

When shall we hear from him?

PISANIO Be assured, madam,

With his next vantage.

INNOGEN I did not take my leave of him, but had

Most pretty things to say: ere I could tell him

How I would think on him at certain hours,

Such thoughts and such: or I could make him swear

The shes of Italy should not betray

Mine interest and his honour: or have charged him,

At the sixth hour of morn, at noon, at midnight,

T'encounter me with orisons, for then

I am in heaven for him: or ere I could

Give him that parting kiss, which I had set

Betwixt two charming words, comes in my father,

And like the tyrannous breathing of the north,

Shakes all our buds from growing.

Enter a Lady

LADY The queen, madam,

Desires your highness' company.

INNOGEN Those things I bid you do, get them dispatched.

I will attend the queen.

PISANIO Madam, I shall. Exeunt

Act 1 Scene 4 running scene 2

Enter Philario, Iachimo, a Frenchman, a Dutchman and a Spaniard

IACHIMO Believe it, sir, I have seen him in Britain; he was then of a crescent note, expected to prove so worthy as since he hath been allowed the name of. But I could then have looked on him without the help of admiration, though the catalogue of his endowments had been tabled by his side and I to peruse him by items.

PHILARIO You speak of him when he was less furnished than now he is with that which makes him both without and within.

FRENCHMAN I have seen him in France: we had very many there could behold the sun with as firm eyes as he.

IACHIMO This matter of marrying his king's daughter, wherein he must be weighed rather by her value than his own, words him, I doubt not, a great deal from the matter.

FRENCHMAN And then his banishment.

IACHIMO Ay, and the approbation of those that weep this lamentable divorce under her colours are wonderfully to extend him, be it but to fortify her judgement, which else an easy battery might lay flat, for taking a beggar without less quality. But how comes it he is to sojourn with you? How creeps acquaintance?

PHILARIO His father and I were soldiers together, to whom I have been often bound for no less than my life.

Enter Posthumus

Here comes the Briton. Let him be so entertained amongst you as suits with gentlemen of your knowing to a stranger of his quality. I beseech you all be better known to this gentleman, whom I commend to you as a noble friend of mine. How worthy he is I will leave to appear hereafter, rather than story him in his own hearing.

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About the Author

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. More by William Shakespeare
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About the Author

Jonathan Bate
SIR JONATHAN BATE is an academic, broadcaster, critic, novelist, and prize-winning author of biographies of Wordsworth, Keats, and John Clare. He is the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education. More by Jonathan Bate
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Eric Rasmussen
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare. More by Eric Rasmussen
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