David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s CYMBELINE: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 5

— 5.5 —

In front of King Cymbeline’s tent stood Cymbeline, Belarius (Morgan), Guiderius (Polydore), and Arviragus (Cadwal). Although Cymbeline did not know it, Polydore was his older son, Guiderius, and Cadwal was his younger son, Arviragus. Morgan was Belarius, a general whom Cymbeline had exiled years ago. To get revenge, Belarius (Morgan) had kidnapped Cymbeline’s two sons. Also present were Pisanio and some lords, military officers, and attendants.

King Cymbeline said to Belarius (Morgan), Guiderius (Polydore), and Arviragus (Cadwal), “Stand by my side, you whom the gods have made preservers of my throne. My heart is sorrowful because the peasant soldier who so splendidly fought, whose rags shamed the gilded armor of other soldiers, who with his naked breast stepped before shields of proven strength, cannot be found. Whoever can find him shall be happy, if our recognition and respect can make him happy.”

“I never saw such noble fury in so poor a thing,” Belarius (Morgan) said. “I never saw such precious deeds done by one whose looks promised nothing except beggary and poverty.”

“Is there no news of him?” Cymbeline asked.

Pisanio replied, “He has been searched for among the dead and the living, but there is no trace of him.”

“To my grief, I am the heir of his reward,” Cymbeline said. “I still have what I would have given to him.”

He said to Belarius (Morgan), Guiderius (Polydore), and Arviragus (Cadwal), “But I will add what I would have given to him to you, who are metaphorically the liver, heart, and brain — the vital organs — of Britain, and I grant that she lives because of you three. It is now time for me to ask from where you come. Tell me.”

“Sir, we were born in Cambria,” Belarius (Morgan) said.

Cambria is the Latin name for Wales.

He continued, “We are gentlemen. For us to further boast would be neither virtuous nor modest, unless I add that we are honest and of good character.”

“Bow your knees,” King Cymbeline commanded.

They knelt, and King Cymbeline knighted them and said, “Arise, my knights of the battlefield. I now make you companions to our person and will give you dignities that are becoming to your new rank and status.”

Doctor Cornelius and some ladies arrived.

Seeing them, Cymbeline said, “From their faces, I can see that they have come about serious business.”

He said to them, “Why do you welcome our victory so sadly? You look like Romans, not like you are part of the court of Britain.”

Doctor Cornelius said, “Hail, great King! Although it will sour your happiness, I must report to you that the Queen is dead.”

“Who worse than a physician could this report come from?” Cymbeline replied. “But I realize that although life may be prolonged by medicine, yet death will seize the doctor, too. How did she die?”

“With horror, madly dying, like her life, which, being cruel to the world, ended most cruelly to herself,” Doctor Cornelius said. “I will report what she confessed, if you want me to. These women, her female attendants, can correct me, if I err; they have wet cheeks and were present when the Queen died.”

“Please, tell me how she died,” Cymbeline requested.

Doctor Cornelius replied, “First, she confessed that she never loved you, that she loved only the great status she got by being married to you. She did not marry you for yourself. She married your royalty; she was wife to your place in society; she hated you.”

“She alone knew this,” Cymbeline said. “I did not know it. And, except that she spoke it as she was dying, I would not believe her lips as she said these things. Proceed.”

“Your daughter, whom she pretended to love with such integrity, she confessed was actually like a scorpion to her sight. The Queen would have taken away your daughter’s life by poisoning her except that your daughter’s flight prevented it.”

“The Queen was a most delicate fiend!” Cymbeline said. “Who can read a woman and know what she is thinking? Is there more?”

“Yes, there is more, sir, and it is worse,” Doctor Cornelius said. “She confessed that she had ready for you a deadly poison, which, once you had taken it, would by each minute feed on your life and kill you little by little. During the lingering time during which you would die, she intended by watching over you, weeping over you, waiting on you, and kissing you, to overcome you with her pretense of loving you, and in time, after she had shaped you in such a way to accomplish her purpose, to work her son into the inheritance of the crown. However, she failed in her plan because of her son’s strange absence, and so she grew shameless and desperate. She made known, in despite of Heaven and men, her plots. She repented only that the evils she had planned were not effected, and so in despair she died.”

“Did you hear all this, my Queen’s female attendants?”

One of the Queen’s female attendants replied, “We did, so please your highness.”

“My eyes were not at fault, for she was beautiful,” Cymbeline said. “My ears, which heard her flattery, and my heart, which thought that she was like her appearance, were also not at fault because it would have been reprehensible to mistrust and misbelieve her. Yet my daughter may very well say, and have the experience to prove it, that I was foolish to have trusted my Queen. May Heaven mend all!”

Caius Lucius, Iachimo, the soothsayer, and other Roman prisoners arrived under guard. Posthumus Leonatus followed them, as did Imogen, who was still wearing male clothing and still using the name Fidele.

King Cymbeline said, “You do not now come, Caius Lucius, for the tribute that the Britons have erased with their victory, though we Britons have lost many bold soldiers who died on the battlefield. The kinsmen of those dead soldiers have requested of me to appease the good souls of these slaughtered soldiers with the slaughter of you Romans who are now our captives. We as King have granted their request. So think now of the state of your soul and prepare your body to die.”

“Consider, sir, the chance of war,” Caius Lucius replied. “The day was yours by fate; if fate had favored us, we Romans would have won the battle. Had victory come to us, we would not, when soldiers’ blood and the heat of battle were cool, have threatened our prisoners with the sword. But since the gods will have it thus — that nothing but our lives may be called ransom — let death come. This is something that a Roman with a Roman’s heart can endure. Augustus lives to think about this.”

Caius Lucius believed that Caesar Augustus would send more Roman soldiers to conquer Britain and avenge the death of his soldiers, including Caius himself, and he wanted Cymbeline to think about this.

He continued, “So much for my individual concerns. One thing only I will ask you for. My young page is a Briton born. Let him be ransomed. Never has a master ever had a page who was so kind, so duteous, so diligent, so considerate over his occasions to serve me. He is so true and loyal, so adept at his duties, and so nurse-like. Let his virtue join with my request, which I strongly believe that your highness cannot deny. He has done no Briton harm, although he has served a Roman. Save him, sir, even if you spare no one else’s life.”

“I have surely seen him before,” Cymbeline said. “His face is familiar to me.”

He said to Imogen (Fidele), “Boy, your looks have made me favor you, and you are now my own servant. I don’t know why, exactly, I say to you, ‘Live, boy.’ You need not thank your master, Caius Lucius, for your life since it is your own appearance that makes me give you mercy. Live, and ask from me, Cymbeline, whatever boon you want that is suitable for me to give and for you to take. I’ll give that boon to you; I will grant your wish even if you demand that a prisoner, the noblest taken today, be spared from death.”

Cymbeline was hoping to be able to spare the life of Caius Lucius, who had been a friend before the war.

“I humbly thank your highness,” Imogen (Fidele) said.

“I do not ask you to beg that my life be saved, good lad,” Caius Lucius said, “and yet I know you will do that.”

“No, no,” Imogen (Fidele) replied. “I’m sorry, but there’s other work at hand: I see a thing that is as bitter to me as death. Your life, good master, must shift for itself.”

Imogen (Fidele) was looking at Iachimo, and the thing that she saw that was as bitter to her as death was the diamond ring — the ring that she had given Posthumus — that he was wearing on his finger.

“The boy disdains me,” Caius Lucius said. “He leaves me and scorns me. Quickly die the joys of those who make them depend on the loyalty of girls and boys.”

He looked at Imogen (Fidele) more closely and asked, “Why does he look so perplexed?”

“What do you want, boy?” Cymbeline asked. “I love you more and more. Think more and more about what’s best for you to ask for. Do you know the man you are looking at? Speak. Do you want him to live? Is he your kin? Is he your friend?”

“He is a Roman,” Imogen (Fidele) replied, “and so he is no more kin to me than I am to your highness.”

This was true of Fidele, if Fidele actually existed, but Imogen was Cymbeline’s daughter, and so she added, “But I, being born your vassal, am somewhat nearer to you than I am to him.”

“Why are you looking at him in that way?” Cymbeline asked.

“I’ll tell you, sir, in private, if you please to give me a hearing.”

“I will, with all my heart, and I will give you my best attention. What’s your name?”

“Fidele, sir.”

“You are my good youth; you are my page,” Cymbeline said. “I’ll be your employer. Walk with me; speak freely.”

Cymbeline and Imogen (Fidele) spoke privately, away from the others.

Belarius (Morgan) said to Guiderius (Polydore) and Arviragus (Cadwal), “Has this boy been revived from death?”

“One grain of sand does not resemble another grain of sand more closely than this boy resembles that sweet rosy lad who died and was named Fidele,” Arviragus (Cadwal) said.

He then asked his brother, “What do you think?”

“The same boy that we saw dead is now alive,” Guiderius (Polydore) replied.

“Quiet! Quiet!” Belarius (Morgan) said. “Let’s wait and see. He does not see us. Let’s wait. Creatures may be alike. If this boy were our Fidele, I am sure that he would have spoken to us.”

“But we saw him dead,” Guiderius (Polydore) replied.

“Be quiet; let’s wait and see,” Belarius (Morgan) said.

Recognizing Imogen, Pisanio said, “It is my female boss. Since she is living, let the time run on, whether the end result is good or bad.”

Cymbeline and Imogen (Fidele) rejoined the others.

Cymbeline said to Imogen (Fidele), “Come and stand by our side. State your demand out loud.”

He ordered Iachimo, “Sir, step forward. Answer this boy’s questions, and do it freely, or by our greatness and the power that goes with it, which is our honor, bitter torture shall winnow the truth from falsehood.”

Iachimo stepped forward, and Cymbeline said to Imogen (Fidele), “Go on, speak to him.”

Imogen (Fidele) said loudly, “The boon I ask for is that this gentleman tells from whom he got this ring.”

Posthumus Leonatus thought, What is my ring to him?

Cymbeline said to Iachimo, “Say how you came to have this diamond ring that is on your finger.”

Iachimo replied, “If I say that, it will torture you, and you will torture me to take it back.”

“What? Torture me?” Cymbeline said.

“I am glad to be forced to utter that which torments me to conceal,” Iachimo said. “I got this ring by villainy. This was Posthumus Leonatus’ ring, whom you banished, and — which may grieve you more, as it does me — who is a nobler sir than any man who has ever lived between sky and ground. Will you hear more, my lord?”

“I want to hear everything that is relevant to him,” Cymbeline replied.

“That paragon, your daughter — for whom my heart drops blood, and my false spirits quail to remember — give me permission to stop awhile. I am faint.”

“My daughter! What about her? Regain your strength. I had rather you should live out your full natural life than die before I hear more. Make an effort, man, and speak.”

“Once upon a time … unhappy was the clock that struck the hour! … it was in Rome … accursed be the mansion where it happened! … it was at a feast … oh, I wish that all our food had been poisoned, or at least those bits of food that I heaved up to my head! … the good Posthumus … what should I say? He was too good to be where evil men were, and he was the best of all the men who are among the rarest and best of good men … sitting sadly, hearing us praise our loves — our loved ones — of Italy.

“We praised our loves of Italy for their beauty — beauty that we said outdid even the biggest and most swelled boast that the man who could best speak about beauty could make.

“We praised our loves of Italy for their bodily features, features that we said in comparison made Venus lame in her shrine or that we said made tall, straight-backed Minerva lame. Both goddesses have postures much better than those of mortals who live only briefly.

“We praised our loves of Italy for their disposition, saying that our women were a shop of all the qualities that man loves woman for, besides that enticing hook that persuades men to take wives, that hook of women’s beauty that strikes the eye —”

Impatient at Iachimo’s flowery way of speaking, Cymbeline interrupted, “I stand on fire; I am impatient and angry. Get to the point.”

“All too soon I shall,” Iachimo replied, “unless you want to grieve quickly. This Posthumus, who was most like a noble lord in love and one who had a royal lover, took his opportunity, and, not dispraising those whom we praised — therein he was as calm as virtue — he began to paint in words his wife’s picture, which once being made by his tongue, he added a description of her mind to it, and we realized that either our brags were crowing about kitchen girls, or his description proved that we were idiots who were incapable of speech.”

“Get to the point,” Cymbeline again ordered Iachimo.

“Your daughter’s chastity — there it begins. Posthumus spoke about your daughter as if in comparison to her the virgin goddess Diana had lecherous wet dreams and your daughter alone were chaste. Hearing this, I, wretch that I am, objected to his praise, and I wagered with him pieces of gold against this diamond ring that he then wore upon his finger, which was honored by the wearing. I bet him that by wooing his wife I could attain his place in her bed and win this ring by persuading her to commit adultery.

“He, a true knight, was completely confident of her honor — I later found that he was truly justified in his confidence — and he bet this ring, and he would have bet it even if it had been a ruby from one of the wheels of Phoebus Apollo’s Sun-chariot. Indeed, he could have safely bet his ring even if it had been worth what the entire Sun-chariot is worth.

“I hurried away to Britain to carry out the seduction I had planned. Well may you, sir, remember me visiting your court, where your chaste daughter taught me the wide difference between faithful love and adulterous love.

“My hope being thus quenched, although my lust was not quenched, my Italian brain began in your Britain, which is located in a northern climate that produces dullness, to operate most vilely and excellently for my profit. And, to be brief, the plot I thought up so prevailed that I returned with enough fake but plausible evidence to make the noble Leonatus mad— insane. I wounded his belief in his wife’s reputation by doing such things as describing the wall tapestries and pictures in the bedchamber.”

He pulled her bracelet out of his pocket and said, “I also showed him her bracelet — it was cunning how I got it from her. In addition, I described some hidden marks on her body. I provided so much spurious evidence that he could not but think that her bond of chastity was quite cracked and broken, and that I had won our bet.

“Whereupon — but I think that I see Posthumus now —”

Angry, Posthumus, who had been a short distance away but unnoticed by most of the people present, advanced toward Iachimo and said, “Yes, you do see me, you Italian fiend! Call me the most credulous fool, egregious murderer, thief, any name used to refer to all the villains in the past, the present, and the future! Oh, I wish that upright justice would give me a rope, or a knife, or poison to use to kill myself! King Cymbeline, send out for ingenious torturers: I make all the abhorred things of the Earth seem better by comparison because I am worse than they are. I am Posthumus, who killed your daughter — but like a villain, I lie — I caused a lesser villain than myself, a sacrilegious thief, to do the killing. She was the temple of Virtue, yes, and she herself was the personification of Virtue.

“Spit on, throw stones at, and cast mire upon me. Sic the dogs of the street on me! Let every villain be called Posthumus Leonatus, and let villainy be less than it was because it is compared to the villainy I have done!

“Oh, Imogen! My Queen, my life, my wife! Oh, Imogen, Imogen, Imogen!”

Imogen, still dressed as the young man Fidele, went to him and said, “Be calm, my lord; listen, listen —”

Posthumus interrupted her: “Shall we make a play out of what is happening here? You scornful page, there lies your part.”

He hit her, and she fell down.

Pisanio, who had recognized Imogen because he was familiar with her disguise, said, “Oh, gentlemen, help! This is my employer and Posthumus’ wife! Oh, my lord Posthumus! You never killed Imogen until now! Help, help! My honored lady!”

“Does the world still go around?” Cymbeline asked, shocked by such strange events.

“Why do I feel so faint?” Posthumus asked, staggering.

“Wake up, Imogen!” Pisanio cried.

“If this is truly Imogen,” Cymbeline said, “then the gods mean to strike me dead by giving me more joy than I can take.”

Pisanio said to Imogen, “How are you?”

Imogen, who thought that Pisanio had given her poison when he left her in Wales, said angrily to him, “Get out of my sight! You gave me poison! Dangerous fellow, leave here! Do not breathe where Princes are! Stay away from royalty!”

“That is the voice of Imogen!” Cymbeline cried.

“Lady,” Pisanio said to Imogen, “may the gods throw stones of sulfur — thunderbolts — at me, if I did not think that box I gave you was a precious thing. I received it from the Queen.”

“Still more revelations?” Cymbeline said.

“Its contents poisoned me,” Imogen said.

Doctor Cornelius said, “Gods! I left out one thing that the Queen confessed, which will prove that Pisanio is honest and loyal. The Queen said, ‘If Pisanio has given Imogen that confection that I gave him and told him that it was medicine, she is served as I would serve a rat. It is poison, and she will die.’”

“What’s this all about, Cornelius?” Cymbeline asked.

“The Queen, sir, very often importuned me to mix poisons for her, always pretending that she wanted to gain knowledge by killing vile creatures, such as cats and dogs, of no esteem. I, fearing that she intended to do something more dangerous than that, mixed for her a certain substance, which, being taken, would stop the bodily functions that make people live, but after a short time all bodily parts would again do their due functions. The person swallowing some of the substance would ‘die’ — that is, appear to be dead — but only for a short time.”

He asked Imogen, “Did you swallow some of that substance?”

“Most likely I did, because I was dead.”

Belarius (Morgan) said to Guiderius (Polydore) and Arviragus (Cadwal), “My boys, we were wrong when we thought that Fidele was dead.”

Guiderius (Polydore) said, “This is certainly Fidele.”

Imogen said to Posthumus, “Why did you throw your wedded lady away from you? Imagine that you are standing upon a cliff, and throw me away from you now.”

She embraced him tightly. They were together now until death.

Posthumus said to his wife, “Hang there like a fruit, my soul, until the tree dies!”

He embraced her tightly. They were together now until death.

Cymbeline said to Imogen, “Now, my flesh, my child! Are you making me a dullard in this act by not allowing me to speak any lines? Won’t you speak to me?”

Imogen knelt before him and said, “I ask for your blessing, sir.”

Belarius (Morgan) said to Guiderius (Polydore) and Arviragus (Cadwal), “Although you loved this youth, I don’t blame you. You had a reason for it.”

That reason, although Guiderius (Polydore) and Arviragus (Cadwal) did not know it, was that Imogen was their sister.

Cymbeline said, “May my tears that fall prove to be holy water falling on you! Imogen, your mother-in-law is dead.”

“I am sorry, my lord,” she replied.

“Oh, she was evil, and it is because of her that we meet here so strangely, but her son, Cloten, is gone — we don’t know why or where.”

Pisanio said, “My lord, now that I am no longer afraid, I’ll speak the truth.”

Pisanio had been afraid first, that Imogen was hurt, and second, that he would be unjustly punished for “poisoning” her.

He continued, “After my lady, Imogen, was discovered to be missing from court, Lord Cloten came to me with his sword drawn. He foamed at the mouth, and he swore that unless I revealed which way she had gone, he would instantly kill me. I happened to have a deceptive letter written by my master, Posthumus, in my pocket. I gave the letter to Cloten; it directed him to seek Imogen on the mountains near Milford Haven. Frenzied, and wearing Posthumus’ clothing, which he forced me to bring to him, he hurried there with an unchaste purpose and with an oath to violate my lady’s honor and rape her. What then became of him I don’t know.”

Guiderius (Polydore) said, “Let me end the story: I slew Cloten in Wales.”

A commoner — or even a knight — killing a Prince was a serious offense, one that would be punished with death.

Cymbeline said, “The gods forbid! You have done deeds of note in battle for me, and killing the nobleman who wanted to rape my daughter is a notable good deed. I don’t want such a good deed to pluck from my lips a hard sentence of death. Please, valiant youth, deny what you just said.”

“I have spoken it, and I did it.”

“The man you killed was a Prince,” Cymbeline said.

“He was a very uncivil one,” Guiderius (Polydore) said. “The wrongs he did me were not things that a Prince would do. He provoked me with language that would make me spurn the sea, if it could roar to me like Cloten did. I cut off his head, and I am very glad that he is dead and is not standing here telling you that he cut off my head.”

“I am sorry for you,” Cymbeline said. “You are condemned by your own tongue, and you must endure our law: You are sentenced to die.”

Imogen said, “I thought that headless man was my husband.”

“Bind the offender, and take him away from our presence,” Cymbeline ordered.

“Wait, sir King,” Belarius (Morgan) said. “This man you are arresting is better and higher in rank than the man he slew. In fact, he is as well descended as you are, and because of his battle scars he has earned more from you than a band of Clotens ever has.”

He then said to the guards, “Let his arms alone; they were not born for bondage.”

King Cymbeline was angry. In his view, to say that an impoverished man like Polydore, even though he was recently knighted, was descended as well as a King such as Cymbeline was an insult.

He said, “Why, old soldier, will you throw away the rewards that you have not yet received by making me angry and tasting of our wrath?”

Using the royal plural, he asked, “How can this man be descended as well as we are?”

Arviragus (Cadwal), who did not know that he was Cymbeline’s son, said, “When Morgan made that claim, he claimed way too much.”

Cymbeline said, “And you, Morgan, shall die for it.”

Belarius (Morgan) said, referring to himself and his two “sons,” “In the long run, all three of us will die. But I will prove that two of us are as well descended as I have said this man is.”

He then said to Guiderius (Polydore) and Arviragus (Cadwal), “My ‘sons,’ I must unfold a speech that will be dangerous for me, although it will, fortunately, help you.”

“Your danger is ours,” Arviragus (Cadwal) said to Belarius (Morgan).

“And our good is his,” Guiderius (Polydore) said to Arviragus (Cadwal).

“Let me do this, then, by your leave,” Belarius (Morgan) said to Cymbeline. “You had, great King, a subject who was called Belarius.”

“What about him? He is a banished traitor.”

“He has become aged, and he is the man whom you see before you; he is indeed a banished man, but I do not know how he is a traitor.”

Cymbeline ordered, “Take Belarius away. The whole world shall not save him.”

“Not so hasty,” Belarius replied. “First pay me for raising up your sons. If you want, confiscate all you pay me as soon as I have received my pay.”

“The raising up of my sons!”

“I am too blunt and insolent,” Belarius said. “I need to be more respectful.”

He knelt and said, “Here’s my knee. Before I arise, I will advance and promote my sons in life, and then you need not spare the old father. Mighty sir, these two young gentlemen, who call me father and think they are my sons, are not my sons. They are your sons. They are the issue of your loins, my liege, and they are blood of your begetting.”

“What! My sons!”

“They are your sons as surely as you are your father’s son. I, old Morgan, am that Belarius whom you once banished. I did no harm, but you thought I did, and it was your thoughts that caused me to be accused of and punished for treason. The only harm I did was to be unjustly punished for something I did not do.

“I have raised these gentle Princes — for such and so they are — for these past twenty years. I taught them those accomplishments that they have and that I was able to give them. My breeding was, sir, as your highness knows.

“Their nurse, Euriphile, whom I wedded because of the theft, kidnapped these children after I was banished. I persuaded her to do it. Having received the punishment before I did anything wrong, I did something that would deserve that punishment. Being beaten for having been loyal made me want to commit treason. The more that you would hurt because of the loss of your dear children, the more I wanted to steal them.

“But, gracious sir, here are your sons again; and I must lose two of the sweetest companions in the world. May the benediction and blessings of these covering Heavens fall on their heads like dew for they are worthy to inlay Heaven with stars. Once they die, they are worthy to become Heavenly constellations!”

Cymbeline said, “You weep, and speak. The service that you three have done is more remarkable than this story you tell me now. I believe the service you did for me in battle because I saw it, and therefore I ought now to believe your tears and your story. If these two young men are my sons, I don’t know how I could wish for a pair of worthier sons.”

Belarius said, “Be pleased awhile. This gentleman, whom I call Polydore, is really Guiderius, a most worthy Prince and your elder son.”

“This gentleman, my Cadwal, is really Arviragus, your younger Princely son. He, sir, was wrapped in a most skillfully wrought mantle, created by the hand of his Queen mother, which for more evidence I can with ease produce. This additional evidence will help prove that what I am saying is true.”

Cymbeline said, “Guiderius had on his neck a mole, a blood-colored star. It was a birthmark of wonder.”

“This is he,” Belarius said. “He still has on him that natural stamp. Wise nature gave him that birthmark so that it would now serve as evidence of his identity.”

“What! Am I a mother to the birth of three children?” Cymbeline said. “Never has a mother rejoiced over delivery more than I do now.”

He said to his two sons, “May you be blessed. For a long time, you have been removed from your places at court, but may you now reign in them!”

He said to his daughter, “Oh, Imogen, you have lost a Kingdom by this finding of your two brothers.”

Daughters inherited the crown only when no sons existed or if existing sons were not able to inherit it.

“No, my lord,” Imogen replied. “I have gotten two worlds — two brothers — by it.”

She then said to Guiderius and Arviragus, “Oh, my gentle brothers, have we really met here? Oh, never say hereafter that I am not the truest speaker of us three. You called me brother, when I was really your sister; I called you brothers, when you were indeed my brothers.”

“Have you three met?” Cymbeline asked.

Arviragus replied, “Yes, my good lord.”

Guiderius added, “And at first meeting we loved him — our sister — and we continued to love him — our sister — until we thought he — our sister — died.”

Doctor Cornelius said, “She appeared to die because she swallowed a small portion of the Queen’s potion.”

“Oh, rare instinct!” Cymbeline said. “Brothers and sister immediately loved each other although they did not know that they were related!

“When shall I hear everything in detail? I have heard only a severely short summary of a story that has parts that are full of details I do not yet know.

“Imogen, where did you meet your brothers? How did you live? When did you come to serve our Roman captive: Caius Lucius? How did you part from your brothers? How did you first meet them? Why did you flee from the court and where did you go?

“These questions, and the reasons that Belarius and my two sons decided to fight in the battle, and I don’t know how many more questions, should be asked, and I should ask about all the other side issues, from event to event, but this time and this place are not suitable for the long question-and-answer session we will have later.

“Look, Posthumus anchors upon — holds tight to — Imogen, and she, like harmless lightning, directs her eye at her husband, her brother, me, and her master, Caius Lucius, looking at each person with joy. And everyone else does as Imogen does.

“Let’s leave this ground, and fill the temple with smoke from our sacrifices.”

He said to Belarius, “You are my brother.”

Using the royal plural, he said, “We’ll regard you as our brother forever.”

Imogen said to Belarius, “You are my father, too, and you assisted me with the result that I can see this gracious season.”

“All are overjoyed,” Cymbeline said, “except these captives who are in bonds. Let them be joyful, too, because they shall taste our mercy.”

Imogen said to Caius Lucius, “My good master, I will yet do you service.”

“May you be happy!” he replied.

Cymbeline said, “The peasant soldier, who so nobly fought in the front ranks, would have well become this place. I would like to give him words of gratitude from a King.”

Posthumus said, “I am, sir, the soldier who fought beside these three — Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus — and who had an appearance of poverty. It was a fit disguise for the goal I then had.

“Iachimo, say that I was that man. I had you down and might have killed you.”

Iachimo had not recognized Posthumus during the battle. Now he realized that Posthumus must have been the peasant soldier because Posthumus knew that the peasant soldier had defeated him and could have killed him.

Iachimo knelt and said, “I am down again, but now my heavy conscience makes my knee sink, just as your strength made my knee sink in the battle. Take that life, I beg you, which I so many times owe you because of my misdeeds, but let me give you back your ring first, and also the bracelet of the truest Princess who ever swore her faithfulness to a husband.”

“Don’t kneel to me,” Posthumus replied. “The power that I have over you is to spare your life, and the ‘malice’ that I have towards you is to forgive you. Live, and deal with others better in the future.”

“Nobly judged!” Cymbeline said. “We’ll learn generosity from our son-in-law. Pardon’s the word to all our Roman captives.”

Arviragus said to Posthumus, “You helped us in the battle, sir, as if you meant indeed to be our brother-in-law. We rejoice that in fact you are our brother-in-law.”

Posthumus replied, “I am your servant, Princes.”

He said to Caius Lucius, “My good lord of Rome, call forth your soothsayer. As I slept, I thought that great Jupiter, riding on the back of his eagle, appeared to me, with some spritely and ghostly shows of my own dead relatives. When I awakened, I found this tablet lying on my chest. Its content is so difficult that I cannot understand it. Let your soothsayer show his skill by interpreting it.”

“Philarmonus!” Caius Lucius called.

Philarmonus the soothsayer replied, “Here I am, my good lord.”

“Read the tablet, and explain its meaning.”

The soothsayer read the tablet out loud:

When a lion’s whelp shall, to himself unknown, without seeking find, and be embraced by a piece of tender air; and when from a stately cedar shall be lopped branches, which, being dead many years, shall afterward revive, be joined to the old stock and freshly grow, then Posthumus shall end his miseries, and Britain shall be fortunate and flourish in peace and plenty.”

He then said to Posthumus, “You, Leonatus, are the lion’s whelp — the lion’s young. The fit and apt construction of your name Leonatus, which is Latin for ‘born from a lion,’ shows this.”

He then said to Cymbeline, “The ‘piece of tender air’ is your virtuous daughter, Imogen. Mollis aeris Latin for ‘tender air,’ and it is a near homonym for mulier, Latin for ‘woman,’ and Imogen is a masterpiece of a woman.”

He said to Posthumus, “Imogen is a very loyal woman, who, just now, in accordance with the letter of the oracle, embraced you. You thought she was dead, so you did not seek her, but you found her without looking for her, and she embraced you.”

“This interpretation makes sense,” Cymbeline said.

The soothsayer said to King Cymbeline, “The lofty cedar, royal Cymbeline, symbolizes you, and your lopped branches are your two sons. They were stolen by Belarius and for many years were thought to be dead, but they are now revived and joined again to you, the majestic cedar, and your children promise peace and plenty to Britain.”

“This is good,” Cymbeline said. “We will begin by promoting peace. Caius Lucius, although we are the victors of the battle, we submit to Caesar Augustus and to the Roman Empire. We promise to pay our usual, accustomed tribute, which our wicked Queen persuaded us to not pay. The Heavens justly have laid a heavy hand both on her and on Cloten, her son.”

The soothsayer said, “The fingers of the powers above tune the harmony of this peace. The vision that I revealed to Caius Lucius before the beginning stroke of this yet scarcely cold battle is at this instant fully accomplished. My vision was that the Roman eagle, soaring aloft and traveling from south to west on its wings, seemed to grow smaller as it flew and eventually vanished in the beams of the Sun. This vision foreshowed that our Princely eagle, the imperial Caesar Augustus, would again unite his favor with the radiant Cymbeline, who shines here in the west.”

“Let us praise the gods,” Cymbeline said, “and let our curling smoke climb to their nostrils from the sacrifices on our blest altars. We publicly pronounce news of this peace to all our subjects. Let us go forward. Let a Roman flag and a British flag wave friendly together as we march through Lud’s town. In the temple of great Jupiter, we’ll ratify our peace and we will seal it with feasts.

“Let’s go! Never was there a war that did cease, before bloody hands were washed, with such a peace.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Edgar Lee Masters: George Trimble (Spoon River Anthology)

Do you remember when I stood on the steps
Of the Court House and talked free-silver,
And the single-tax of Henry George?
Then do you remember that, when the Peerless Leader
Lost the first battle, I began to talk prohibition,
And became active in the church?
That was due to my wife,
Who pictured to me my destruction
If I did not prove my morality to the people.
Well, she ruined me:
For the radicals grew suspicious of me,
And the conservatives were never sure of me—
And here I lie, unwept of all.


Lao-Tze #55: To unnaturally try to extend life is not appropriate.



One who is filled with the Tao

is like a newborn child.

The infant is protected from

the stinging insects, wild beasts, and birds of prey.

Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,

but its grip is firm and strong.

It doesn’t know about the union

of male and female,

yet his penis can stand erect,

because of the power of life within him.

It can cry all day and never become hoarse.

This is perfect harmony.


To understand harmony is to understand the Constant.

To know the Constant is to be called ‘enlightened’.

To unnaturally try to extend life is not appropriate.

To try and alter the life-breath is unnatural.

The master understands that when something reaches its prime

it will soon begin to decline.


Tao Te Ching

By Lao-Tzu

A translation for the public domain by j.h.mcdonald, 1996


Aesop: The Goose With the Golden Eggs

One day a countryman going to the nest of his Goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it was as heavy as lead and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home on second thoughts, and soon found to his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing occurred, and he soon became rich by selling his eggs. As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the Goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.

Greed often o’er reaches itself.