Milford-Haven from the mountain top, how near it seemed!' Then the
thoughts of her husband and his cruel mandate came across her, and she
said: 'My dear Posthumus, thou art a false one!'
The two brothers of Imogen, who had been hunting with their reputed
father, Bellarius, were by this time returned home. Bellarius had given
them the names of Polydore and Cadwal, and they knew no better, but
supposed that Bellarius was their father; but the real names of these
princes were Guiderius and Arviragus.
Bellarius entered the cave first, and seeing Imogen, stopped them,
saying: 'Come not in yet; it eats our victuals, or I should think it
was a fairy.'
'What is the matter, sir?' said the young men. 'By Jupiter,' said
Bellarius again, 'there is an angel in the cave, or if not, an earthly
paragon.' So beautiful did Imogen look in her boy's apparel.
She, hearing the sound of voices, came forth from the cave, and
addressed them in these words: 'Good masters, do not harm me; before I
entered your cave, I had thought to have begged or bought what I have
eaten. Indeed I have stolen nothing, nor would I, though I had found
gold strewed on the floor. Here is money for my meat, which I would
have left on the board when I had made my meal, and parted with prayers
for the provider.' They refused her money with great earnestness. 'I
see you are angry with me,' said the timid Imogen; 'but, sirs, if you
kill me for my fault, know that I should have died if I had not made
'Whither are you bound?' asked Bellarius, 'and what is your name?'
'Fidele is my name,' answered Imogen. 'I have a kinsman, who is bound
for Italy; he embarked at Milford-Haven, to whom being going, almost
spent with hunger, I am fallen into this offence.'
'Prithee, fair youth,' said old Bellarius, 'do not think us churls, nor
measure our good minds by this rude place we live in. You are well
encountered; it is almost night. You shall have better cheer before you
depart, and thanks to stay and eat it. Boys, bid him welcome.'
The gentle youths, her brothers, then welcomed Imogen to their cave
with many kind expressions, saying they would love her (or, as they
said, him) as a brother; and they entered the cave, where (they having
killed venison when they were hunting) Imogen delighted them with her
neat housewifery, assisting them in preparing their supper; for though
it is not the custom now for young women of high birth to understand
cookery, it was then, and Imogen excelled in this useful art; and, as
her brothers prettily expressed it, Fidele cut their roots in
characters, and sauced their broth, as if Juno had been sick, and
Fidele were her dieter. 'And then,' said Polydore to his brother, 'how
angel-like he sings!'
They also remarked to each other, that though Fidele smiled so sweetly,
yet so sad a melancholy did overcloud his lovely face, as if grief and
patience had together taken possession of him.
For these her gentle qualities (or perhaps it was their near
relationship, though they knew it not) Imogen (or, as the boys called
her, Fidele) became the doting-piece of her brothers, and she scarcely
less loved them, thinking that but for the memory of her dear
Posthumus, she could live and die in the cave with these wild forest
youths; and she gladly consented to stay with them, till she was enough
rested from the fatigue of travelling to pursue her way to
When the venison they had taken was all eaten and they were going out
to hunt for more. Fidele could not accompany them because she was
unwell. Sorrow, no doubt, for her husband's cruel usage, as well as the
fatigue of wandering in the forest, was the cause of her illness.
They then bid her farewell, and went to their hunt, praising all the
way the noble parts and graceful demeanour of the youth Fidele.
Imogen was no sooner left alone then she recollected the cordial
Pisanio had given her, and drank it off, and presently fell into a
sound and deathlike sleep.
When Bellarius and her brothers returned from hunting, Polydore went
first into the cave, and supposing her asleep, pulled off his heavy
shoes, that he might tread softly and not awake her; so did true
gentleness spring up in the minds of these princely foresters; but he
soon discovered that she could not be awakened by any noise, and
concluded her to be dead, and Polydore lamented over her with dear and
brotherly regret, as if they had never from their infancy been parted.
Bellarius also proposed to carry her out into the forest, and there
celebrate her funeral with songs and solemn dirges, as was then the
Imogen's two brothers then carried her to a shady covert, and there
laying her gently on the grass, they sang repose to her departed
spirit, and covering her over with leaves and flowers, Polydore said:
'While summer lasts and I live here, Fidele, I will daily strew thy
grave. The pale primrose, that flower most like thy face; the
blue-bell, like thy clear veins; and the leaf of eglantine, which is
not sweeter than was thy breath; all these will I strew over thee. Yea,
and the furred moss in winter, when there are no flowers to cover thy
When they had finished her funeral obsequies they departed very
Imogen had not been long left alone, when, the effect of the sleepy
drug going off, she awaked, and easily shaking off the slight covering
of leaves and flowers they had thrown over her, she arose, and
imagining she had been dreaming, she said: 'I thought I was a
cave-keeper, and cook to honest creatures; how came I here covered with
flowers?' Not being able to find her way back to the cave, and seeing
nothing of her new companions, she concluded it was certainly all a
dream; and once more Imogen set out on her weary pilgrimage, hoping at
last she should find her way to Milford-Haven, and thence get a passage
in some ship bound for Italy; for all her thoughts were still with her
husband Posthumus, whom she intended to seek in the disguise of a page.
But great events were happening at this time, of which Imogen knew
nothing; for a war had suddenly broken out between the Roman emperor
Augustus Caesar and Cymbeline, the king of Britain; and a Roman army
had landed to invade Britain, and was advanced into the very forest
over which Imogen was journeying. With this army came Posthumus.
Though Posthumus came over to Britain with the Roman army, he did not
mean to fight on their side against his own countrymen, but intended to
join the army of Britain, and fight in the cause of his king who had
He still believed Imogen false to him; yet the death of her he had so
fondly loved, and by his own orders too (Pisanio having written him a
letter to say he had obeyed his command, and that Imogen was dead), sat
heavy on his heart, and therefore he returned to Britain, desiring
either to be slain in battle, or to be put to death by Cymbeline for
returning home from banishment.
Imogen, before she reached Milford-Haven, fell into the hands of the
Roman army; and her presence and deportment recommending her, she was
made a page to Lucius, the Roman general.
Cymbeline's army now advanced to meet the enemy, and when they entered
this forest, Polydore and Cadwal joined the king's army. The young men
were eager to engage in acts of velour, though they little thought they
were going to fight for their own royal father: and old Bellarius went
with them to the battle. He had long since repented of the injury he
had done to Cymbeline in carrying away his sons; and having been a
warrior in his youth, he gladly joined the army to fight for the king
he had so injured.
And now a great battle commenced between the two armies, and the
Britons would have been defeated, and Cymbeline himself killed, but for
the extraordinary velour of Posthumus and Bellarius and the two sons of
Cymbeline. They rescued the king, and saved his life, and so entirely
turned the fortune of the day, that the Britons gained the victory.
When the battle was over, Posthumus, who had not found the death he
sought for, surrendered himself up to one of the officers of Cymbeline,
willing to suffer the death which was to be his punishment if he
returned from banishment.
Imogen and the master she served were taken prisoners, and brought
before Cymbeline, as was also her old enemy Iachimo, who was an officer
in the Roman army; and when these prisoners were before the king,
Posthumus was brought in to receive his sentence of death; and at this
strange juncture of time, Bellarius with Polydore and Cadwal were also
brought before Cymbeline, to receive the rewards due to the great
services they had by their velour done for the king. Pisanio, being one
of the king's attendants, was likewise present.
Therefore there were now standing in the king's presence (but with very
different hopes and fears) Posthumus and Imogen, with her new master
the Roman general; the faithful servant Pisanio, and the false friend
Iachimo; and likewise the two lost sons of Cymbeline, with Bellarius,
who had stolen them away.
The Roman general was the first who spoke; the rest stood silent before
the king, though there was many a beating heart among them.
Imogen saw Posthumus, and knew him, though he was in the disguise of a
peasant; but he did not know her in her male attire; and she knew
Iachimo, and she saw a ring on his finger which she perceived to be her
own, but she did not know him as yet to have been the author of all her
troubles: and she stood before her own father a prisoner of war.
Pisanio knew Imogen, for it was he who had dressed her in the garb of a
boy. 'It is my mistress,' thought he; 'since she is living, let the
time run on to good or bad.' Bellarius knew her too, and softly said to
Cadwal: 'Is not this boy revived from death?' 'One sand,' replied
Cadwal, 'does not more resemble another than that sweet rosy lad is
like the dead Fidele.' 'The same dead thing alive,' said Polydore.
'Peace, peace,' said Bellarius; 'if it were he, I am sure he would have
spoken to us.' 'But we saw him dead,' again whispered Polydore. 'Be
silent,' replied Bellarius.
Posthumus waited in silence to hear the welcome sentence of his own
death; and he resolved not to disclose to the king that he had saved
his life in the battle, lest that should move Cymbeline to pardon him.
Lucius, the Roman general, who had taken Imogen under his protection as
his page, was the first (as has been before said) who spoke to the
king. He was a man of high courage and noble dignity, and this was his
speech to the king:
'I hear you take no ransom for your prisoners, but doom them all to
death: I am a Roman, and with a Roman heart will suffer death. But
there is one thing for which I would entreat.' Then bringing Imogen
before the king, he said: 'This boy is a Briton born. Let him be
ransomed. He is my page. Never master had a page so kind, so duteous,
so diligent on all occasions, so true, so nurse-like. He hath done no
Briton wrong, though he hath served a Roman. Save him, if you spare no
Cymbeline looked earnestly on his daughter Imogen. He knew her not in
that disguise; but it seemed that all-powerful Nature spake in his
heart, for he said: 'I have surely seen him, his face appears familiar
to me. I know not why or wherefore I say, Live, boy; but I give you
your life, and ask of me what boon you will, and I will grant it you.
Yea, even though it be the life of the noblest prisoner I have.'
'I humbly thank your highness,' said Imogen.
What was then called granting a boon was the same as a promise to give
any one thing, whatever it might be, that the person on whom that
favour was conferred chose to ask for. They all were attentive to hear
what thing the page would ask for; and Lucius her master said to her:
'I do not beg my life, good lad, but I know that is what you will ask
for.' 'No, no, alas!' said Imogen, 'I have other work in hand, good
master; your life I cannot ask for.'
This seeming want of gratitude in the boy astonished the Roman general.
Imogen then, fixing her eye on Iachimo, demanded no other boon than
this: that Iachimo should be made to confess whence he had the ring he
wore on his finger.
Cymbeline granted her this boon, and threatened Iachimo with the
torture if he did not confess how he came by the diamond ring on his
Iachimo then made a full acknowledgment of all his villany, telling, as
has been before related, the whole story of his wager with Posthumus,
and how he had succeeded in imposing upon his credulity.
What Posthumus felt at hearing this proof of the innocence of his lady
cannot be expressed. He instantly came forward, and confessed to
Cymbeline the cruel sentence which he had enjoined Pisanio to execute
upon the princess; exclaiming wildly: 'O Imogen, my queen, my life, my
wife! O Imogen, Imogen, Imogen!'
Imogen could not see her beloved husband in this distress without
discovering herself, to the unutterable joy of Posthumus, who was thus
relieved from a weight of guilt and woe, and restored to the good
graces of the dear lady he had so cruelly treated.
Cymbeline, almost as much overwhelmed as he with joy, at finding his
lost daughter so strangely recovered, received her to her former place
in his fatherly affection, and not only gave her husband Posthumus his
life, but consented to acknowledge him for his son-in-law.
Bellarius chose this, time of joy and reconciliation to make his
confession. He presented Polydore and Cadwal to the king, telling him
they were his two lost sons, Guiderius and Arviragus.
Cymbeline forgave old Bellarius; for who could think of punishments at
a season of such universal happiness? To find his daughter living, and
his lost sons in the persons of his young deliverers, that he had seen
so bravely fight in his defence, was unlooked-for joy indeed!
Imogen was now at leisure to perform good services for her late master,
the Roman general Lucius, whose life the king her father readily
granted at her request; and by the mediation of the same Lucius a peace
was concluded between the Romans and the Britons, which was kept
inviolate many years.
How Cymbeline's wicked queen, through despair of bringing her projects
to pass, and touched with remorse of conscience, sickened and died,
having first lived to see her foolish son Cloten slain in a quarrel
which he had provoked, are events too tragical to interrupt this happy
conclusion by more than merely touching upon. It is sufficient that all
were made happy who were deserving; and even the treacherous Iachimo,
in consideration of his villainy having missed its final aim, was
dismissed without punishment.
Lear, king of Britain, had three daughters; Goneril, wife to the duke
of Albany; Regan, wife to the duke of Cornwall; and Cordelia, a young
maid, for whose love the king of France and duke of Burgundy were joint
suitors, and were at this time making stay for that purpose in the
court of Lear.
The old king, worn out with age and the fatigues of government, he
being more than fourscore years old, determined to take no further part
in state affairs, but to leave the management to younger strengths,
that he might have time to prepare for death, which must at no long
period ensue. With this intent he called his three daughters to him, to
know from their own lips which of them loved him best, that he might
part his kingdom among them in such proportions as their affection for
him should seem to deserve.
Goneril, the eldest, declared that she loved her father more than words
could give out, that he was dearer to her than the light of her own
eyes, dearer than life and liberty, with a deal of such professing
stuff, which is easy to counterfeit where there is no real love, only a
few fine words delivered with confidence being wanted in that case. The
king, delighted to hear from her own mouth this assurance of her love,
and thinking truly that her heart went with it, in a fit of fatherly
fondness bestowed upon her and her husband one-third of his ample
Then calling to him his second daughter, he demanded what she had to
say. Regan, who was made of the same hollow metal as her sister, was
not a whit behind in her profession, but rather declared that what her
sister had spoken came short of the love which she professed to bear
for his highness; insomuch that she found all other joys dead, in
comparison with the pleasure which she took in the love of her dear
king and father.
Lear blessed himself in having such loving children, as he thought; and
could do no less, after the handsome assurances which Regan had made,
than bestow a third of his kingdom upon her and her husband, equal in
size to that which he had already given away to Goneril.
Then turning to his youngest daughter Cordelia, whom he called his joy,
he asked what she had to say, thinking no doubt that she would glad his
ears with the same loving speeches which her sisters had uttered, or
rather that her expressions would be so much stronger than theirs, as
she had always been his darling, and favoured by him above either of
them. But Cordelia, disgusted with the flattery of her sisters, whose
hearts she knew were far from their lips, and seeing that all their
coaxing speeches were only intended to wheedle the old king out of his
dominions, that they and their husbands might reign in his lifetime,
made no other reply but this, that she loved his majesty according to
her duty, neither more nor less.
The king, shocked with this appearance of ingratitude in his favourite
child, desired her to consider her words, and to mend her speech, lest
it should mar her fortunes.
Cordelia then told her father, that he was her father, that he had
given her breeding, and loved her; that she returned those duties back
as was most fit, and did obey him, love him, and most honour him. But
that she could not frame her mouth to such large speeches as her
sisters had done, or promise to love nothing else in the world. Why had
her sisters husbands, if (as they said) they had no love for anything
but their father? If she should ever wed, she was sure the lord to whom
she gave her hand would want half her love, half of her care and duty;
she should never marry like her sisters, to love her father all.
Cordelia, who in earnest loved her old father even almost as
extravagantly as her sisters pretended to do, would have plainly told
him so at any other time, in more daughter-like and loving terms, and
without these qualifications, which did indeed sound a little
ungracious; but after the crafty flattering speeches of her sisters,
which she had seen drawn such extravagant rewards, she thought the
handsomest thing she could do was to love and be silent. This put her
affection out of suspicion of mercenary ends, and showed that she
loved, but not for gain; and that her professions, the less
ostentatious they were, had so much the more of truth and sincerity
than her sisters'.
This plainness of speech, which Lear called pride, so enraged the old
monarch who in his best of times always showed much of spleen and
rashness, and in whom the dotage incident to old age had so clouded
over his reason, that he could not discern truth from flattery, nor a
gay painted speech from words that came from the heart - that in a fury
of resentment he retracted the third part of his kingdom, which yet
remained, and which he had reserved for Cordelia, and gave it away from
her, sharing it equally between her two sisters and their husbands, the
dukes of Albany and Cornwall; whom he now called to him, and in
presence of all his courtiers bestowing a coronet between them,
invested them jointly with all the power, revenue, and execution of
government, only retaining to himself the name of king; all the rest of
royalty he resigned; with this reservation, that himself, with a
hundred knights for his attendants, was to be maintained by monthly
course in each of his daughters' palaces in turn.
So preposterous a disposal of his kingdom, so little guided by reason,
and so much by passion, filled all his courtiers with astonishment and
sorrow; but none of them had the courage to interpose between this
incensed king and his wrath, except the earl of Kent, who was beginning
to speak a good word for Cordelia, when the passionate Lear on pain of
death commanded him to desist; but the good Kent was not so to be
repelled. He had been ever loyal to Lear, whom he had honoured as a
king, loved as a father, followed as a master; and he had never
esteemed his life further than as a pawn to wage against his royal
master's enemies, nor feared to lose it when Lear's safety was the
motive; nor now that Lear was most his own enemy, did this faithful
servant of the king forget his old principles, but manfully opposed
Lear, to do Lear good; and was unmannerly only because Lear was mad. He
had been a most faithful counsellor in times past to the king, and he
besought him now, that he would see with his eyes (as he had done in
many weighty matters), and go by his advice still; and in his best
consideration recall this hideous rashness: for he would answer with
his life, his judgment that Lear's youngest daughter did not love him
least, nor were those empty-hearted whose low sound gave no token of
hollowness. When power bowed to flattery, honour was bound to
plainness. For Lear's threats, what could he do to him, whose life was
already at his service? That should not hinder duty from speaking.
The honest freedom of this good earl of Kent only stirred up the king's
wrath the more, and like a frantic patient who kills his physician, and
loves his mortal disease, he banished this true servant, and allotted
him but five days to make his preparations for departure; but if on the
sixth his hated person was found within the realm of Britain, that
moment was to be his death. And Kent bade farewell to the king, and
said, that since he chose to show himself in such fashion, it was but
banishment to stay there; and before he went, he recommended Cordelia
to the protection of the gods, the maid who had so rightly thought, and
so discreetly spoken; and only wished that her sisters' large speeches
might be answered with deeds of love; and then he went, as he said, to
shape his old course to a new country.
The king of France and duke of Burgundy were now called in to hear the
determination of Lear about his youngest daughter, and to know whether
they would persist in their courtship to Cordelia, now that she was
under her father's displeasure, and had no fortune but her own person
to recommend her: and the duke of Burgundy declined the match, and
would not take her to wife upon such conditions; but the king of
France, understanding what the nature of the fault had been which had
lost her the love of her father, that it was only a tardiness of
speech, and the not being able to frame her tongue to flattery like her
sisters, took this young maid by the hand, and saying that her virtues
were a dowry above a kingdom, bade Cordelia to take farewell of her
sisters and of her father, though he had been unkind, and she should go
with him, and be queen of him and of fair France, and reign over fairer
possessions than her sisters: and he called the duke of Burgundy in
contempt a waterish duke, because his love for this young maid had in a
moment run all away like water.
Then Cordelia with weeping eyes took leave of her sisters, and besought
them to love their father well, and make good their professions: and
they sullenly told her not to prescribe to them, for they knew their
duty; but to strive to content her husband, who had taken her (as they
tauntingly expressed it) as Fortune's alms. And Cordelia with a heavy
heart departed, for she knew the cunning of her sisters, and she wished
her father in better hands than she was about to leave him in.
Cordelia was no sooner gone, than the devilish dispositions of her
sisters began to show themselves in their true colours. Even before the
expiration of the first month, which Lear was to spend by agreement
with his eldest daughter Goneril, the old king began to find out the
difference between promises and performances. This wretch having got
from her father all that he had to bestow, even to the giving away of
the crown from off his head, began to grudge even those small remnants
of royalty which the old man had reserved to himself, to please his
fancy with the idea of being still a king. She could not bear to see
him and his hundred knights. Every time she met her father, she put on
a frowning countenance; and when the old man wanted to speak with her,