Friday, November 9, 2007



The following Tales are meant to be submitted to the young reader as
an introduction to the study of Shakespeare, for which purpose his
words are used whenever it seemed possible to bring them in; and in
whatever has been added to give them the regular form of a connected
story, diligent are has been taken to select such words as might least
interrupt the effect of the beautiful English tongue in which he wrote:
therefore, words introduced into our language since his time have
been as far as possible avoided.
In those tales which have been taken from the Tragedies, the young
readers will perceive, when they come to see the source from which
these stories are derived, that Shakespeare's own words, with little
alteration, recur very frequently in the narrative as well as in the
dialogue; but in those made from the Comedies the writers found
themselves scarcely ever able to turn his words into the narrative
form: therefore it is feared that, in them, dialogue has been made use
of too frequently for young people not accustomed to the dramatic
form of writing. But this fault, if it be a fault, has been caused by an
earnest wish to give as much of Shakespeare's own words as possible:
and if the 'He said,' and 'She said,' the question and the reply, should
sometimes seem tedious to their young ears, they must pardon it,
because it was the only way in which could be given to them a few
hints and little foretastes of the great pleasure which awaits them in
their elder years, when they come to the rich treasures from which
these small and valueless coins are extracted; pretending to no other
merit than as faint and imperfect stamps of Shakespeare's matchless
image. Faint and imperfect images they must be called, because the
beauty of his language is too frequently destroyed by the necessity of
changing many of his excellent words into words far less expressive
of his true sense, to make it read something like prose; and even in
some few places, where his blank verse is given unaltered, as hoping
from its simple plainness to cheat the young reader into the belief that
they are reading prose, yet still his language being transplanted from
its own natural soil and wild poetic garden, it must want much of its
native beauty.
It has been wished to make these Tales easy reading for very young
children. To the utmost of their ability the writers have constantly
kept this in mind; but the subjects of most of them made this a very
difficult task. It was no easy matter to give the histories of men and
women in terms familiar to the apprehension of a very young mind.
For young ladies too, it has been the intention chiefly to write;
because boys being generally permitted the use of their fathers'
libraries at a much earlier age than girls are, they frequently have the
best scenes of Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted
to look into this manly book; and, therefore, instead of recommending
these Tales to the perusal of young gentlemen who can read them so
much better in the originals, their kind assistance is rather requested
in explaining to their sisters such parts as are hardest for them to
understand: and when they have helped them to get over the
difficulties, then perhaps they will read to them (carefully selecting
what is proper for a young sister's ear) some passage which has
pleased them in one of these stories, in the very words of the scene
from which it is taken; and it is hoped they will find that the beautiful
extracts, the select passages, they may choose to give their sisters in
this way will be much better relished and understood from their
having some notion of the general story from one of these imperfect
abridgments; which if they be fortunately so done as to prove
delightful to any of the young readers, it is hoped that no worse effect
will result than to make them wish themselves a little older, that they
may be allowed to read the Plays at full length (such a wish will be
neither peevish nor irrational). When time and leave of judicious
friends shall put them into their hands, they will discover in such of
them as are here abridged (not to mention almost as many more,
which are left untouched) many surprising events and turns of fortune,
which for their infinite variety could not be contained in this little
book, besides a world of sprightly and cheerful characters, both men
and women, the humour of which it was feared would be lost if it
were attempted to reduce the length of them.
What these Tales shall have been to the young readers, that and much
more it is the writers' wish that the true Plays of Shakespeare may
prove to them in older years - enrichers of the fancy, strengtheners of
virtue, a withdrawing from all selfish and mercenary thoughts, a
lesson of all sweet and honourable thoughts and actions, to teach
courtesy, benignity, generosity, humanity: for of examples, teaching
these virtues, his pages are full.
There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhabitants of which
were an old man, whose name was Prospero, and his daughter
Miranda, a very beautiful young lady. She came to this island so
young, that she had no memory of having seen any other human face
than her father's.
They lived in a cave or cell, made out of a rock; it was divided into
several apartments, one of which Prospero called his study; there he
kept his books, which chiefly treated of magic, a study at that time
much affected by all learned men: and the knowledge of this art he
found very useful to him; for being thrown by a strange chance upon
this island, which had been enchanted by a witch called Sycorax, who
died there a short time before his arrival, Prospero, by virtue of his art,
released many good spirits that Sycorax had imprisoned in the bodies
of large trees, because they had refused to execute her wicked
commands. These gentle spirits were ever after obedient to the will of
Prospero. Of these Ariel was the chief.
The lively little sprite Ariel had nothing mischievous in his nature,
except that he took rather too much pleasure in tormenting an ugly
monster called Caliban, for he owed him a grudge because he was the
son of his old enemy Sycorax. This Caliban, Prospero found in the
woods, a strange misshapen thing, far less human in form than an ape:
he took him home to his cell, and taught him to speak; and Prospero
would have been very kind to him, but the bad nature which Caliban
inherited from his mother Sycorax, would not let him learn anything
good or useful: therefore he was employed like a slave, to fetch wood,
and do the most laborious offices; and Ariel had the charge of
compelling him to these services.
When Caliban was lazy and neglected his work, Ariel (who was
invisible to all eyes but Prospero's) would come slily and pinch him,
and sometimes tumble him down in the mire; and then Ariel, in the
likeness of an ape, would make mouths at him. Then swiftly changing
his shape, in the likeness of a hedgehog, he would lie tumbling in
Caliban's way, who feared the hedgehog's sharp quills would prick his
bare feet. With a variety of suchlike vexatious tricks Ariel would often
torment him, whenever Caliban neglected the work which Prospero
commanded him to do.
Having these powerful spirits obedient to his will, Prospero could by
their means command the winds, and the waves of the sea. By his
orders they raised a violent storm, in the midst of which, and
struggling with the wild sea-waves that every moment threatened to
swallow it up, he showed his daughter a fine large ship, which he told
her was full of living beings like themselves. 'O my dear father,' said
she, 'if by your art you have raised this dreadful storm, have pity on
their sad distress. See! the vessel will be dashed to pieces. Poor souls!
they will all perish. If I had power, I would sink the sea beneath the
earth, rather than the good ship should be destroyed, with all the
precious souls within her.'
'Be not so amazed, daughter Miranda,' said Prospero; 'there is no harm
done. I have so ordered it, that no person in the ship shall receive any
hurt. What I have done has been in care of you, my dear child. You
are ignorant who you are, or where you came from, and you know no
more of me, but that I am your father, and live in this poor cave Can
you remember a time before you came to this cell? I think you cannot
for you were not then three years of age.'
'Certainly I can, sir,' replied Miranda.
'By what?' asked Prospero; 'by any other house or person? Tell me
what you can remember, my child.'
Miranda said: 'It seems to me like the recollection of a dream. But had
I not once four or Eve women who attended upon me?'
Prospero answered: 'You had, and more. How is it that this still lives
in your mind? Do you remember how you came here?'
'No, sir,' said Miranda, 'I remember nothing more.'
'Twelve years ago, Miranda,' continued Prospero, 'I was duke of
Milan, and you were a princess, and my only heir. I had a younger
brother, whose name was Antonio, to whom I trusted everything: and
as I was fond of retirement and deep study, I commonly left the
management of my state affairs to your uncle, my false brother (for so
indeed he proved). I, neglecting all worldly ends, buried among my
books, did dedicate my whole time to the bettering of my mind. My
brother Antonio being thus in possession of my power, began to think
himself the duke indeed. The opportunity I gave him of making
himself popular among my subjects awakened in his bad nature a
proud ambition to deprive me of my dukedom: this he soon effected
with the aid of the king of Naples, a powerful prince, who was my
'Wherefore,' said Miranda, 'did they not that hour destroy us?'
'My child,' answered her father, 'they durst not, so dear was the love
that my people bore me. Antonio carried us on board a ship, and when
we were some leagues out at sea, he forced us into a small boat,
without either tackle, sail, or mast: there he left us, as he thought, to
perish. But a kind lord of my court, one Gonzalo, who loved me, had
privately placed in the boat, water, provisions, apparel, and some
books which I prize above my dukedom.'
'O my father,' said Miranda, 'what a trouble must I have been to you
'No, my love,' said Prospero, 'you were a little cherub that did preserve
me. Your innocent smiles made me bear up against my misfortunes.
Our food lasted till we landed on this desert island, since when my
chief delight has been in teaching you, Miranda, and well have you
profited by my instructions.'
'Heaven thank you, my dear father,' said Miranda 'Now pray tell me,
sir, your reason for raising this sea-storm?'
'Know then,' said her father, 'that by means of this storm, my enemies,
the king of Naples, and my cruel brother, are cast ashore upon this
Having so said, Prospero gently touched his daughter with his magic
wand, and she fell fast asleep; for the spirit Ariel just then presented
himself before his master, to give an account of the tempest, and how
he had disposed of the ship's company, and though the spirits were
always invisible to Miranda, Prospero did not choose she should hear
him holding converse (as would seem to her) with the empty air.
'Well, my brave spirit,' said Prospero to Ariel, 'how have you
performed your task?'
Ariel gave a lively description of the storm, and of the terrors of the
mariners; and how the king's son, Ferdinand, was the first who leaped
into the sea; and his father thought he saw his dear son swallowed up
by the waves and lost. 'But he is safe,' said Ariel, 'in a corner of the
isle, sitting with his arms folded, sadly lamenting the loss of the king,
his father, whom he concludes drowned. Not a hair of his head is
injured, and his princely garments, though drenched in the sea-waves,
look fresher than before.'
'That's my delicate Ariel,' said Prospero. 'Bring him hither: my
daughter must see this young prince. Where is the king, and my
'I left them,' answered Ariel, 'searching for Ferdinand, whom they
have little hopes of finding, thinking they saw him perish. Of the
ship's crew not one is missing; though each one thinks himself the
only one saved: and the ship, though invisible to them, is safe in the
'Ariel,' said Prospero, 'thy charge is faithfully performed: but there is
more work yet.'
'Is there more work?' said Ariel. 'Let me remind you, master, you have
promised me my liberty. I pray, remember, I have done you worthy
service, told you no lies, made no mistakes, served you without
grudge or grumbling.'
'How now!' said Prospero. 'You do not recollect what a torment I freed
you from. Have you forgot the wicked witch Sycorax, who with age
and envy was almost bent double? Where was she born? Speak; tell
'Sir, in Algiers,' said Ariel.
'O was she so?' said Prospero. 'I must recount what you have been,
which I find you do not remember. This bad witch, Sycorax, for her
witchcrafts, too terrible to enter human hearing, was banished from
Algiers, and here left by the sailors; and because you were a spirit too
delicate to execute her wicked commands, she shut you up in a tree,
where I found you howling. This torment, remember, I did free you
'Pardon me, dear master,' said Ariel, ashamed to seem ungrateful; 'I
will obey your commands.'
'Do so,' said Prospero, 'and I will set you free.' He then gave orders
what further he would have him do; and away went Ariel, first to
where he had left Ferdinand, and found him still sitting on the grass in
the same melancholy posture.
'O my young gentleman,' said Ariel, when he saw him, 'I will soon
move you. You must be brought, I find, for the Lady Miranda to have
a sight of your pretty person. Come, sir, follow me.' He then began
'Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them, Ding-dong, bell.'
This strange news of his lost father soon roused the prince from the
stupid fit into which he had fallen. He followed in amazement the
sound of Ariel's voice, till it led him to Prospero and Miranda, who
were sitting under the shade of a large tree. Now Miranda had never
seen a man before, except her own father.
'Miranda,' said Prospero, 'tell me what you are looking at yonder.'
'O father,' said Miranda, in a strange surprise, 'surely that is a spirit.
Lord! how it looks about! Believe me, sir, it is a beautiful creature. Is
it not a spirit?'
'No, girl,' answered her father; 'it eats, and sleeps, and has senses such
as we have. This young man you see was in the ship. He is somewhat
altered by grief, or you might call him a handsome person. He has lost
his companions, and is wandering about to find them.'
Miranda, who thought all men had grave faces and grey beards like
her father, was delighted with the appearance of this beautiful young
prince; and Ferdinand, seeing such a lovely lady in this desert place,
and from the strange sounds he had heard, expecting nothing but
wonders, thought he was upon an enchanted island, and that Miranda
was the goddess of the place, and as such he began to address her.
She timidly answered, she was no goddess, but a simple maid, and
was going to give him an account of herself, when Prospero
interrupted her. He was well pleased to find they admired each other,
for he plainly perceived they had (as we say) fallen in love at first
sight: but to try Ferdinand's constancy, he resolved to throw some
difficulties in their way: therefore advancing forward, he addressed
the prince with a stern air, telling him, he came to the island as a spy,
to take it from him who was the lord of it. 'Follow me,' said he, 'I will
tie you neck and feet together. You shall drink sea-water; shell-lush,
withered roots, and husks of acorns shall be your food.' 'No,' said
Ferdinand, 'I will resist such entertainment, till I see a more powerful
enemy,' and drew his sword; but Prospero, waving his magic wand,
fixed him to the spot where he stood, so that he had no power to
Miranda hung upon her father, saying: 'Why are you so ungentle?
Have pity, sir; I will be his surety. This is the second man I ever saw,
and to me he seems a true one.'
'Silence,' said the father: 'one word more will make me chide you, girl!
What! an advocate for an impostor! You think there are no more such
fine men, having seen only him and Caliban. I tell you, foolish girl,
most men as far excel this, as he does Caliban.' This he said to prove
his daughter's constancy; and she replied: 'My affections are most
humble. I have no wish to see a goodlier man.'
'Come on, young man,' said Prospero to the prince; 'you have no
power to disobey me.'
'I have not indeed,' answered Ferdinand; and not knowing that it was
by magic he was deprived of all power of resistance, he was
astonished to kind himself so strangely compelled to follow Prospero:
looking back on Miranda as long as he could see her, he said, as he
went after Prospero into the cave: 'My spirits are all bound up as if I
were in a dream; but this man's threats, and the weakness which I feel,
would seem light to me if from my prison I might once a day behold
this fair maid.'
Prospero kept Ferdinand not long confined within the cell: he soon
brought out his prisoner, and set him a severe task to perform, taking
care to let his daughter know the hard labour he had imposed on him,
and then pretending to go into his study, he secretly watched them
Prospero had commanded Ferdinand to pile up some heavy logs of
wood. Kings' sons not being much used to laborious work, Miranda
soon after found her lover almost dying with fatigue. 'Alas! ' said she,
'do not work so hard; my father is at his studies, he is safe for these
three hours; pray rest yourself.'
'O my dear lady,' said Ferdinand, 'I dare not. I must finish my task
before I take my rest.'
'If you will sit down,' said Miranda, 'I will carry your logs the while.'
But this Ferdinand would by no means agree to. Instead of a help
Miranda became a hindrance, for they began a long conversation, so
that the business of log-carrying went on very slowly.
Prospero, who had enjoined Ferdinand this task merely as a trial of his
love, was not at his books, as his daughter supposed, but was standing
by them invisible, to overhear what they said.
Ferdinand inquired her name, which she told, saying it was against her
father's express command she did so.
Prospero only smiled at this first instance of his daughter's
disobedience, for having by his magic art caused his daughter to fall
in love so suddenly, he was not angry that she showed her love by
forgetting to obey his commands. And he listened well pleased to a
long speech of Ferdinand's, in which he professed to love her above
all the ladies he ever saw.
In answer to his praises of her beauty, which he said exceeded all the
women in the world, she replied: 'I do not remember the face of any
woman, nor have I seen any more men than you, my good friend, and
my dear father. How features are abroad, I know not: but, believe me,
sir, I would not wish any companion in the world but you, nor can my
imagination form any shape but yours that I could like. But, sir, I fear
I talk to you too freely, and my father's precepts I forget.'
At this Prospero smiled, and nodded his head, as much as to say: 'This
goes on exactly as I could wish; my girl will be queen of Naples.'
And then Ferdinand, in another fine long speech (for young princes
speak in courtly phrases), told the innocent Miranda he was heir to the
crown of Naples, and that she should be his queen.
'Ah! sir,' said she, 'I am a fool to weep at what I am glad of. I will
answer you in plain and holy innocence. I am your wife if you will
marry me.'
Prospero prevented Ferdinand's thanks by appearing visible before
'Fear nothing, my child,' said he; 'I have overheard, and approve of all
you have said. And, Ferdinand, if I have too severely used you, I will
make you rich amends, by giving you my daughter. All your vexations
were but trials of your love, and you have nobly stood the test. Then
as my gift, which your true love has worthily purchased, take my
daughter, and do not smile that I boast she is above all praise.' He
then, telling them that he had business which required his presence,
desired they would sit down and talk together till he returned; and this
command Miranda seemed not at all disposed to disobey.
When Prospero left them, he called his spirit Ariel, who quickly
appeared before him, eager to relate what he had done with Prospero's
brother and the king of Naples. Ariel said he had left them almost out
of their senses with fear, at the strange things he had caused them to
see and hear. When fatigued with wandering about, and famished for
want of food, he had suddenly set before them a delicious banquet,
and then, just as they were going to eat, he appeared visible before
them in the shape of a harpy, a voracious monster with wings, and the
feast vanished away. Then, to their utter amazement, this seeming
harpy spoke to them, reminding them of their cruelty in driving
Prospero from his dukedom, and leaving him and his infant daughter
to perish in the sea; saying, that for this cause these terrors were
suffered to afflict them.
The king of Naples, and Antonio the false brother, repented the
injustice they had done to Prospero; and Ariel told his master he was
certain their penitence was sincere, and that he, though a spirit, could
not but pity them.
'Then bring them hither, Ariel,' said Prospero: 'if you, who are but a
spirit, feel for their distress, shall not I, who am a human being like
themselves, have compassion on them? Bring them, quickly, my
dainty Ariel.'
Ariel soon returned with the king, Antonio, and old Gonzalo in their
train, who had followed him, wondering at the wild music he played
in the air to draw them on to his master's presence. This Gonzalo was
the same who had so kindly provided Prospero formerly with books
and provisions, when his wicked brother left him, as he thought, to
perish in an open boat in the sea.
Grief and terror had so stupefied their senses, that they did not know
Prospero. He first discovered himself to the good old Gonzalo, calling
him the preserver of his life; and then his brother and the king knew
that he was the injured Prospero.
Antonio with tears, and sad words of sorrow and true repentance,
implored his brother's forgiveness, and the king expressed his sincere
remorse for having assisted Antonio to depose his brother: and
Prospero forgave them and, upon their engaging to restore his
dukedom, he said to the king of Naples: 'I have a gift in store for you
too'; and opening a door, showed him his son Ferdinand playing at
chess with Miranda.
Nothing could exceed the joy of the father and the son at this
unexpected meeting, for they each thought the other drowned in the
'O wonder!' said Miranda, 'what noble creatures these are! It must
surely be a brave world that has such people in it.'
The king of Naples was almost as much astonished at the beauty and
excellent graces of the young Miranda, as his son had been. 'Who is
this maid?' said he; 'she seems the goddess that has parted us, and
brought us thus together.' 'No, sir,' answered Ferdinand, smiling to find
his father had fallen into the same mistake that he had done when he
first saw Miranda, 'she is a mortal but by immortal Providence she is
mine; I chose her when I could not ask you, my father, for your
consent, not thinking you were alive. She is the daughter to this
Prospero, who is the famous duke of Milan, of whose renown I have
heard so much, but never saw him till now: of him I have received a
new life: he has made himself to me a second father, giving me this
dear lady.'
'Then I must be her father,' said the king; 'but oh! how oddly will it
sound, that I must ask my child forgiveness.'
'No more of that,' said Prospero: 'let us not remember our troubles
past, since they so happily have ended.' And then Prospero embraced
his brother, and again assured him of his forgiveness; and said that a
wise overruling Providence had permitted that he should be driven
from his poor dukedom of Milan, that his daughter might inherit the
crown of Naples, for that by their meeting in this desert island, it had
happened that the king's son had loved Miranda.
These kind words which Prospero spoke, meaning to comfort his
brother, so filled Antonio with shame and remorse, that he wept and
was unable to speak; and the kind old Gonzalo wept to see this joyful
reconciliation, and prayed for blessings on the young couple.
Prospero now told them that their ship was safe in the harbour, and
the sailors all on board her, and that he and his daughter would
accompany them home the next morning. 'In the meantime,' says he,
'partake of such refreshments as my poor cave affords; and for your
evening's entertainment I will relate the history of my life from my
first landing in this desert island.' He then called for Caliban to
prepare some food, and set the cave in order; and the company were
astonished at the uncouth form and savage appearance of this ugly
monster, who (Prospero said) was the only attendant he had to wait
upon him.
Before Prospero left the island, he dismissed Ariel from his service, to
the great joy of that lively little spirit; who, though he had been a
faithful servant to his master, was always longing to enjoy his free
liberty, to wander uncontrolled in the air, like a wild bird, under green
trees, among pleasant fruits, and sweet-smelling flowers. 'My quaint
Ariel,' said Prospero to the little sprite when he made him free, 'I shall
miss you; yet you shall have your freedom.' 'Thank you, my dear
master,' said Ariel; 'but give me leave to attend your ship home with
prosperous gales, before you bid farewell to the assistance of your
faithful spirit; and then, master, when I am free, how merrily I shall
live!' Here Ariel sung this pretty song:
Where the bee sucks there suck I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I crouch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.'
Prospero then buried deep in the earth his magical books and wand,
for he was resolved never more to make use of the magic art. And
having thus overcome his enemies. and being reconciled to his brother
and the king of Naples, nothing now remained to complete his
happiness, but to revisit his native land, to take possession of his
dukedom, and to witness the happy nuptials of his daughter and Prince
Ferdinand, which the king said should be instantly celebrated with
great splendour on their return to Naples. At which place, under the
safe convoy of the spirit Ariel, they, after a pleasant voyage, soon
There was a law in the city of Athens which gave to its citizens the
power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever they
pleased; for upon a daughter's refusing to marry the man her father
had chosen to be her husband, the father was empowered by this law
to cause her to be put to death; but as fathers do not often desire the
death of their own daughters, even though they do happen to prove a
little refractory, this law was seldom or never put in execution, though
perhaps the young ladies of that city were not unfrequently threatened
by their parents with the terrors of it.
There was one instance, however, of an old man, whose name was
Egeus, who actually did come before Theseus (at that time the
reigning duke of Athens), to complain that his daughter Hermia,
whom he had commanded to marry Demetrius, a young man of a
noble Athenian family, refused to obey him, because she loved
another young Athenian, named Lysander. Egeus demanded justice of
Theseus, and desired that this cruel law might be put in force against
his daughter.
Hermia pleaded in excuse for her disobedience, that Demetrius had
formerly professed love for her dear friend Helena, and that Helena
loved Demetrius to distraction; but this honourable reason, which
Hermia gave for not obeying her father's command, moved not the
stern Egeus.
Theseus, though a great and merciful prince, had no power to alter the
laws of his country; therefore he could only give Hermia four days to
consider of it: and at the end of that time, if she still refused to marry
Demetrius, she was to be put to death.
When Hermia was dismissed from the presence of the duke, she went
to her lover Lysander, and told him the peril she was in, and that she
must either give him up and marry Demetrius, or lose her life in four
Lysander was in great affliction at hearing these evil tidings; but
recollecting that he had an aunt who lived at some distance from
Athens, and that at the place where she lived the cruel law could not
be put in force against Hermia (this law not extending beyond the
boundaries of the city), he proposed to Hermia that she should steal
out of her father's house that night, and go with him to his aunt's
house, where he would marry her. 'I will meet you,' said Lysander, 'in
the wood a few miles without the city; in that delightful wood where
we have so often walked with Helena in the pleasant month of May.'
To this proposal Hermia joyfully agreed; and she told no one of her
intended flight but her friend Helena. Helena (as maidens will do
foolish things for love) very ungenerously resolved to go and tell this
to Demetrius, though she could hope no benefit from betraying her
friend's secret, but the poor pleasure of following her faithless lover to
the wood; for she well knew that Demetrius would go thither in
pursuit of Hermia.
The wood in which Lysander and Hermia proposed to meet was the
favourite haunt of those little beings known by the name of Fairies.
Oberon the king, and Titania the queen of the fairies, with all their
tiny train of followers, in this wood held their midnight revels.
Between this little king and queen of sprites there happened, at this
time, a sad disagreement; they never met by moonlight in the shady
walks of this pleasant wood, but they were quarrelling, till all their
fairy elves would creep into acorn-cups and hide themselves for fear.
The cause of this unhappy disagreement was Titania's refusing to give
Oberon a little changeling boy, whose mother had been Titania's
friend; and upon her death the fairy queen stole the child from its
nurse, and brought him up in the woods.
The night on which the lovers were to meet in this wood, as Titania
was walking with some of her maids of honour, she met Oberon
attended by his train of fairy courtiers.
'I'll met by moonlight, proud Titania,' said the fairy king. The queen
replied: 'What, jealous Oberon, is it you? Fairies, skip hence; I have
foresworn his company.' 'Tarry, rash fairy,' said Oberon; 'am not I thy
lord? Why does Titania cross her Oberon? Give me your little
changeling boy to be my page.'
Set your heart at rest,' answered the queen; 'your whole fairy kingdom
buys not the boy of me.' She then left her lord in great anger. 'Well, go
your way,' said Oberon 'before the morning dawns I will torment you
for this injury.'
Oberon then sent for Puck, his chief favourite and privy counsellor.
Puck (or as he was sometimes called, Robin Goodfellow) was a
shrewd and knavish sprite, that used to play comical pranks in the
neighbouring villages; sometimes getting into the dairies and
skimming the milk, sometimes plunging his light and airy form into
the butter-churn, and while he was dancing his fantastic shape in the
churn, in vain the dairymaid would labour to change her cream into
butter: nor had the village swains any better success; whenever Puck
chose to play his freaks in the brewing copper, the ale was sure to be
spoiled. When a few good neighbours were met to drink some
comfortable ale together, Puck would jump into the bowl of ale in the
likeness of a roasted crab, and when some old goody was going to
drink he would bob against her lips, and spill the ale over her withered
chin; and presently after, when the same old dame was gravely seating
herself to tell her neighbours a sad and melancholy story, Puck would
slip her three-legged stool from under her, and down toppled the poor
old woman, and then the old gossips would hold their sides and laugh
at her, and swear they never wasted a merrier hour.
'Come hither, Puck,' said Oberon to this little merry wanderer of the
night; 'fetch me the flower which maids call Lore in Idleness; the juice
of that little purple flower laid on the eyelids of those who sleep, will
make them, when they awake, dote on the first thing they see. Some
of the juice of that flower I will drop on the eyelids of my Titania
when she is asleep; and the first thing she looks upon when she opens
her eyes she will fall in love with, even though it be a lion or a bear, a
meddling monkey, or a busy ape; and before I will take this charm
from off her sight, which I can do with another charm I know of, I will
make her give me that boy to be my page.'
Puck, who loved mischief to his heart, was highly diverted with this
intended frolic of his master, and ran to seek the flower; and while
Oberon was waiting the return of Puck, he observed Demetrius and
Helena enter the wood: he overheard Demetrius reproaching Helena
for following him, and after many unkind words on his part, and
gentle expostulations from Helena, reminding him of his former love
and professions of true faith to her, he left her (as he said) to the
mercy of the wild beasts, and she ran after him as swiftly as she could.
The fairy king, who was always friendly to true lovers, felt great
compassion for Helena; and perhaps, as Lysander said they used to
walk by moonlight in this pleasant wood, Oberon might have seen
Helena in those happy times when she was beloved by Demetrius.
However that might be, when Puck returned with the little purple
flower, Oberon said to his favourite: 'Take a part of this flower; there
has been a sweet Athenian lady here, who is in love with a disdainful
youth; if you find him sleeping, drop some of the love-juice in his
eyes, but contrive to do it when she is near him, that the first thing he
sees when he awakes may be this despised lady. You will know the
man by the Athenian garments which he wears.' Puck promised to
manage this matter very dexterously: and then Oberon went,
unperceived by Titania, to her bower, where she was reparing to go to
rest. Her fairy bower was a bank, where grew wild thyme, cowslips,
and sweet violets, under a canopy of wood-bine, musk-roses, and
eglantine. There Titania always slept some part of the night; her
coverlet the enamelled skin of a snake, which, though a small mantle,
was wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
He found Titania giving orders to her fairies, how they were to
employ themselves while she slept. 'Some of you,' said her majesty,
'must kill cankers in the musk-rose buds, and some wage war with the
bats for their leathern wings, to make my small elves coats; and some
of you keep watch that the clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, come
not near me: but first sing me to sleep.' Then they began to sing this
'You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen
Newts and blind-worms do no wrong
Come not near our Fairy Queen.
Philomel, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby;
Never harm, nor spell, nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So good night with lullaby.'
When the fairies had sung their queen asleep with this pretty lullaby,
they left her to perform the important services she had enjoined them.
Oberon then softly drew near his Titania, and dropped some of the
love-juice on her eyelids, saying:
'What thou seest when thou wake
Do it for thy true-love take.'
But to return to Hermia, who made her escape out of her father's
house that night, to avoid the death she was doomed to for refusing to
marry Demetrius. When she entered the wood, she found her dear
Lysander waiting for her, to conduct her to his aunt's house; but before
they had passed half through the wood, Hermia was so much fatigued,
that Lysander, who was very careful of this dear lady, who had proved
her affection for him even by hazarding her life for his sake,
persuaded her to rest till morning on a bank of soft moss, and lying
down himself on the ground at some little distance, they soon fell fast
asleep. Here they were found by Puck, who, seeing a handsome young
man asleep, and perceiving that his clothes were made in the Athenian
fashion, and that a pretty lady was sleeping near him, concluded that
this must be the Athenian maid and her disdainful lover whom Oberon
had sent him to seek; and he naturally enough conjectured that, as
they were alone together, she must be the first thing he would see
when he awoke; so, without more ado, he proceeded to pour some of
the juice of the little purple flower into his eyes. But it so fell out, that
Helena came that way, and, instead of Hermia, was the first object
Lysander beheld when he opened his eyes; and strange to relate, so
powerful was the love-charm, all his love for Hermia vanished away,
and Lysander fell in love with Helena.
Had he first seen Hermia when he awoke, the blunder Puck
committed would have been of no consequence, for he could not love
that faithful lady too well; but for poor Lysander to be forced by a
fairy love-charm to forget his own true Hermia, and to run after
another lady, and leave Hermia asleep quite alone in a wood at
midnight, was a sad chance indeed.
Thus this misfortune happened. Helena, as has been before related,
endeavoured to keep pace with Demetrius when he ran away so rudely
from her; but she could not continue this unequal race long, men
being always better runners in a long race than ladies. Helena soon
lost sight of Demetrius; and as she was wandering about, dejected and
forlorn, she arrived at the place where Lysander was sleeping. 'Ah!'
said she, 'this is Lysander lying on the ground: is he dead or asleep?'
Then, gently touching him, she said: 'Good sir, if you are alive,
awake.' Upon this Lysander opened his eyes, and (the love-charm
beginning to work) immediately addressed her in terms of extravagant
love and admiration; telling her she as much excelled Hermia in
beauty as a dove does a raven, and that he would run through fire for
her sweet sake; and many more such lover-like speeches. Helena,
knowing Lysander was her friend Hermia's lover, and that he was
solemnly engaged to marry her, was in the utmost rage when she
heard herself addressed in this manner; for she thought (as well she
might) that Lysander was making a jest of her. 'Oh!' said she, 'why was
I born to be mocked and scorned by every one? Is it not enough, is it
not enough, young man, that I can never get a sweet look or a kind
word from Demetrius; but you, sir, must pretend in this disdainful
manner to court me? I thought, Lysander, you were a lord of more true
gentleness.' Saying these words in great anger, she ran away; and
Lysander followed her, quite forgetful of his own Hermia, who was
still asleep.
When Hermia awoke, she was in a sad fright at finding herself alone.
She wandered about the wood, not knowing what was become of
Lysander, or which way to go to seek for him. In the meantime
Demetrius, not being able to find Hermia and his rival Lysander, and
fatigued with his fruitless search, was observed by Oberon fast asleep.
Oberon had learnt by some questions he had asked of Puck, that he
had applied the love-charm to the wrong person's eyes; and now
having found the person first intended, he touched the eyelids of the
sleeping Demetrius with the love-juice, and he instantly awoke; and
the first thing he saw being Helena, he, as Lysander had done before,
began to address love-speeches to her; and just at that moment
Lysander, followed by Hermia (for through Puck's unlucky mistake it
was now become Hermia's turn to run after her lover) made his
appearance; and then Lysander and Demetrius, both speaking
together, made love to Helena, they being each one under the
influence of the same potent charm.
The astonished Helena thought that Demetrius, Lysander, and her
once dear friend Hermia, were all in a plot together to make a jest of
Hermia was as much surprised as Helena; she knew not why Lysander
and Demetrius, who both before loved her, were now become the
lovers of Helena; and to Hermia the matter seemed to be no jest.
The ladies, who before had always been the dearest of friends, now
fell to high words together.
'Unkind Hermia,' said Helena, 'it is you have set Lysander on to vex
me with mock praises; and your other lover Demetrius, who used
almost to spurn me with his foot, have you not bid him call me
Goddess, Nymph, rare, precious, and celestial? He would not speak
thus to me, whom he hates, if you did not set him on to make a jest of
me. Unkind Hermia, to join with men in scorning your poor friend.
Have you forgot our school-day friendship? How often, Hermia, have
we two, sitting on one cushion, both singing one song, with our
needles working the same flower, both on the same sampler wrought;
growing up together in fashion of a double cherry, scarcely seeming
parted! Hermia, it is not friendly in you, it is not maidenly to join with
men in scorning your poor friend.'
I am amazed at your passionate words,' said Hermia: I scorn you not;
it seems you scorn me.' 'Ay, do,' returned Hermia, 'persevere,
counterfeit serious looks, and make mouths at me when I turn my
back; then wink at each other, and hold the sweet jest up. If you had
any pity, grace, or manners, you would not use me thus.'
While Helena and Hermia were speaking these angry words to each
other, Demetrius and Lysander left them, to fight together in the wood
for the love of Helena.
When they found the gentlemen had left them, they departed, and
once more wandered weary in the wood in search of their lovers.
As soon as they were gone, the fairy king, who with little Puck had
been listening to their quarrels, said to him: 'This is your negligence,
Puck; or did you do this wilfully?' 'Believe me, king of shadows,'
answered Puck, 'it was a mistake; did not you tell me I should know
the man by his Athenian garments? However, I am not sorry this has
happened, for I think their jangling makes excellent sport.' 'You
heard,' said Oberon, 'that Demetrius and Lysander are gone to seek a
convenient place to fight in. I command you to overhang the night
with a thick fog, and lead these quarrelsome lovers so astray in the
dark, that they shall not be able to kind each other. Counterfeit each of
their voices to the other, and with bitter taunts provoke them to follow
you, while they think it is their rival's tongue they hear. See you do
this, till they are so weary they can go no farther; and when you find
they are asleep, drop the juice of this other flower into Lysander's
eyes, and when he awakes he will forget his new love for Helena, and
return to his old passion for Hermia; and then the two fair ladies may
each one be happy with the man she loves, and they will think all that
has passed a vexatious dream. About this quickly, Puck, and I will go
and see what sweet love my Titania has found.'
Titania was still sleeping, and Oberon seeing a clown near her, who
had lost his way in the wood, and was likewise asleep: 'This fellow,'
said he, 'shall be my Titania's true love'; and clapping an ass's head
over the clown's, it seemed to fit him as well as if it had grown upon
his own shoulders. Though Oberon fixed the ass's head on very gently,
it awakened him, and rising up, unconscious of what Oberon had done
to him, he went towards the bower where the fairy queen slept.
'Ah! what angel is that I see?' said Titania, opening her eyes, and the
juice of the little purple flower beginning to take effect: 'are you as
wise as you are beautiful?'
'Why, mistress,' said the foolish clown, 'if I have wit enough to find
the way out of this wood, I have enough to serve my turn.'
'Out of the wood do not desire to go,' said the enamoured queen. 'I am
a spirit of no common rate. I love you. Go with me, and I will give
you fairies to attend upon you.'
She then called four of her fairies: their names were, Pease-blossom,
Cobweb, Moth, and Mustard-seed.
'Attend,' said the queen, 'upon this sweet gentleman; hop in his walks,
and gambol in his sight; feed him with grapes and apricots, and steal
for him the honey-bags from the bees. Come, sit with me,' said she to
the clown, 'and let me play with your amiable hairy cheeks, my
beautiful ass! and kiss your fair large ears, my gentle joy!'
'Where is Pease-blossom?' said the ass-headed clown, not much
regarding the fairy queen's courtship, but very proud of his new
'Here, sir,' said little Pease-blossom.
'Scratch my head,' said the clown. 'Where is Cobweb?'
'Here, sir,' said Cobweb.
'Good Mr. Cobweb,' said the foolish clown, 'kill me the red humble
bee on the top of that thistle yonder; and, good Mr. Cobweb, bring me
the honey-bag. Do not fret yourself too much in the action, Mr.
Cobweb, and take care the honey-bag break not; I should be sorry to
have you overflown with a honey-bag. Where is Mustard-seed?'
'Here, sir,' said Mustard-seed: 'what is your will?'
'Nothing,' said the clown, 'good Mr. Mustard-seed, but to help Mr.
Pease-blossom to scratch; I must go to a barber's, Mr. Mustard-seed,
for methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face.'
'My sweet love,' said the queen, 'what will you have to eat? I have a
venturous fairy shall seek the squirrel's hoard, and fetch you some new
'I had rather have a handful of dried pease,' said the clown, who with
his ass's head had got an ass's appetite. 'But, I pray, let none of your
people disturb me, for I have a mind to sleep.'
'Sleep, then,' said the queen, 'and I will wind you in my arms. O how I
love you! how I dote upon you!'
When the fairy king saw the clown sleeping in the arms of his queen,
he advanced within her sight, and reproached her with having lavished
her favours upon an ass.
This she could not deny, as the clown was then sleeping within her
arms, with his ass's head crowned by her with flowers.
When Oberon had teased her for some time, he again demanded the
changeling boy; which she, ashamed of being discovered by her lord
with her new favourite, did not dare to refuse him.
Oberon, having thus obtained the little boy he had so long wished for
to be his page, took pity on the disgraceful situation into which, by his
merry contrivance, he had brought his Titania and threw some of the
juice of the other flower into her eyes; and the fairy queen
immediately recovered her senses, and wondered at her late dotage,
saying how she now loathed the sight of the strange monster.
Oberon likewise took the ass's head from off the clown, and left him
to finish his nap with his own fool's head upon his shoulders.
Oberon and his Titania being now perfectly reconciled, he related to
her the history of the lovers, and their midnight quarrels; and she
agreed to go with him and see the end of their adventures.
The fairy king and queen found the lovers and their fair ladies, at no
great distance from each other, sleeping on a grass-plot; for Puck, to
make amends for his former mistake, had contrived with the utmost
diligence to bring them all to the same spot, unknown to each other:
and he had carefully removed the charm from off the eyes of Lysander
with the antidote the fairy king gave to him.
Hermia first awoke, and finding her lost Lysander asleep so near her,
was looking at him and wondering at his strange inconstancy.
Lysander presently opening his eyes, and seeing his dear Hermia,
recovered his reason which the fairy charm had before clouded, and
with his reason, his love for Hermia; and they began to talk over the
adventures of the night, doubting if these things had really happened,
or if they had both been dreaming the same bewildering dream.
Helena and Demetrius were by this time awake; and a sweet sleep
having quieted Helena's disturbed and angry spirits, she listened with
delight to the professions of love which Demetrius still made to her,
and which, to her surprise as well as pleasure, she began to perceive
were sincere.
These fair night-wandering ladies, now no longer rivals, became once
more true friends; all the unkind words which had passed were
forgiven, and they calmly consulted together what was best to be done
in their present situation. It was soon agreed that, as Demetrius had
given up his pretensions to Hermia, he should endeavour to prevail
upon her father to revoke the cruel sentence of death which had been
passed against her. Demetrius was preparing to return to Athens for
this friendly purpose, when they were surprised with the sight of
Egeus, Hermia's father, who came to the wood in pursuit of his
runaway daughter.
When Egeus understood that Demetrius would not now marry his
daughter, he no longer opposed her marriage with Lysander, but gave
his consent that they should be wedded on the fourth day from that
time, being the same day on which Hermia had been condemned to
lose her life; and on that same day Helena joyfully agreed to marry her
beloved and now faithful Demetrius.
The fairy king and queen, who were invisible spectators of this
reconciliation, and now saw the happy ending of the lovers' history,
brought about through the good offices of Oberon, received so much
pleasure, that these kind spirits resolved to celebrate the approaching
nuptials with sports and revels throughout their fairy kingdom.
And now, if any are offended with this story of fairies and their
pranks, as judging it incredible and strange, they have only to think
that they have been asleep and dreaming, and that all these adventures
were visions which they saw in their sleep: and I hope none of my
readers will be so unreasonable as to be offended with a pretty
harmless Midsummer Night's Dream.
Leontes, king of Sicily, and his queen, the beautiful and virtuous
Hermione, once lived in the greatest harmony together. So happy was
Leontes in the love of this excellent lady, that he had no wish
ungratified, except that he sometimes desired to see again, and to
present to his queen, his old companion and school-fellow, Polixenes,
king of Bohemia. Leontes and Polixenes were brought up together
from their infancy, but being, by the death of their fathers, called to
reign over their respective kingdoms, they had not met for many years,
though they frequently interchanged gifts, letters, and loving
At length, after repeated invitations, Polixenes came from Bohemia to
the Sicilian court, to make his friend Leontes a visit.
At first this visit gave nothing but pleasure to Leontes. He
recommended the friend of his youth to the queen's particular
attention, and seemed in the presence of his dear friend and old
companion to have his felicity quite completed. They talked over old
times; their schooldays and their youthful pranks were remembered,
and recounted to Hermione, who always took a cheerful part in these
When, after a long stay, Polixenes was preparing to depart, Hermione,
at the desire of her husband, joined her entreaties to his that Polixenes
would prolong his visit.
And now began this good queen's sorrow; for Polixenes refusing to
stay at the request of Leontes, was won over by Hermione's gentle and
persuasive words to put off his departure for some weeks longer.
Upon this, although Leontes had so long known the integrity and
honourable principles of his friend Polixenes, as well as the excellent
disposition of his virtuous queen, he was seized with an ungovernable
jealousy. Every attention Hermione showed to Polixenes, though by
her husband's particular desire, and merely to please him, increased
the unfortunate king's jealousy; and from being a loving and a true
friend, and the best and fondest of husbands, Leontes became
suddenly a savage and inhuman monster. Sending for Camillo, one of
the lords of his court, and telling him of the suspicion he entertained,
he commanded him to poison Polixenes.
Camillo was a good man; and he, well knowing that the jealousy of
Leontes had not the slightest foundation in truth, instead of poisoning
Polixenes, acquainted him with the king his master's orders, and
agreed to escape with him out of the Sicilian dominions; and
Polixenes, with the assistance of Camillo, arrived safe in his own
kingdom of Bohemia, where Camillo lived from that time in the king's
court, and became the chief friend and favourite of Polixenes.
The flight of Polixenes enraged the jealous Leontes still more; he
went to the queen's apartment, where the good lady was sitting with
her little son Mamillius, who was just beginning to tell one of his best
stories to amuse his mother, when the king entered, and taking the
child away, sent Hermione to prison.
Mamillius, though but a very young child, loved his mother tenderly;
and when he saw her so dishonoured, and found she was taken from
him to be put into a prison, he took it deeply to heart, and drooped and
pined away by slow degrees, losing his appetite and his sleep, till it
was thought his grief would kill him.
The king, when he had sent his queen to prison, commanded
Cleomenes and Dion, two Sicilian lords, to go to Delphos, there to
inquire of the oracle at the temple of Apollo, if his queen had been
unfaithful to him. When Hermione had been a short time in prison,
she was brought to bed of a daughter; and the poor lady received
much comfort from the sight of her pretty baby, and she said to it: 'My
poor little prisoner, I am as innocent as you are.'
Hermione had a kind friend in the noble-spirited Paulina, who was the
wife of Antigonus, a Sicilian lord; and when the lady Paulina heard
her royal mistress was brought to bed, she went to the prison where
Hermione was confined; and she said to Emilia, a lady who attended
upon Hermione: 'I pray you, Emilia, tell the good queen, if her majesty
dare trust me with her little babe, I will carry it to the king, its father;
we do not know how he may soften at the sight of his innocent child.'
'Most worthy madam,' replied Emilia, 'I will acquaint the queen with
your noble offer; she was wishing to-day that she had any friend who
would venture to present the child to the king.' 'And tell her,' said
Paulina, 'that I will speak boldly to Leontes in her defence.' 'May you
be for ever blessed,' said Emilia, 'for your kindness to our gracious
queen!' Emilia then went to Hermione, who joyfully gave up her baby
to the care of Paulina, for she had feared that no one would dare
venture to present the child to its father.
Paulina took the new-born infant, and forcing herself into the king's
presence, notwithstanding her husband, fearing the king's anger,
endeavoured to prevent her, she laid the babe at its father's feet, and
Paulina made a noble speech to the king in defence of Hermione, and
she reproached him severely for his inhumanity, and implored him to
have mercy on his innocent wife and child. But Paulina's spirited
remonstrances only aggravated Leontes' displeasure, and he ordered
her husband Antigonus to take her from his presence.
When Paulina went away, she left the little baby at its father's feet,
thinking when he was alone with it, he would look upon it, and have
pity on its helpless innocence.
The good Paulina was mistaken: for no sooner was she gone than the
merciless father ordered Antigonus, Paulina's husband, to take the
child, and carry it out to sea, and leave it upon some desert shore to
Antigonus, unlike the good Camillo, too well obeyed the orders of
Leontes; for he immediately carried the child on ship-board, and put
out to sea, intending to leave it on the first desert coast he could find.
So firmly was the king persuaded of the guilt of Hermione, that he
would not wait for the return of Cleomenes and Dion, whom he had
sent to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphos; but before the queen
was recovered from her lying-in, and from her grief for the loss of her
precious baby, he had her brought to a public trial before all the lords
and nobles of his court. And when all the great lords, the judges, and
all the nobility of the land were assembled together to try Hermione,
and that unhappy queen was standing as a prisoner before her subjects
to receive their judgement Cleomenes and Dion entered the assembly,
and presented to the king the answer of the oracle, sealed up; and
Leontes commanded the seal to be broken, and the words of the oracle
to be read aloud, and these were the words: 'Hermione is innocent,
Polixenes blameless,-Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant,
and the king shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not
found.' The king would give no credit to the words of the oracle: he
said it was a falsehood invented by the queen's friends, and he desired
the judge to proceed in the trial of the queen; but while Leontes was
speaking, a man entered and told him that the prince Mamillius,
hearing his mother was to be tried for her life, struck with grief and
shame, had suddenly died.
Hermione, upon hearing of the death of this dear affectionate child,
who had lost his life in sorrowing for her misfortune, fainted; and
Leontes, pierced to the heart by the news, began to feel pity for his
unhappy queen, and he ordered Paulina, and the ladies who were her
attendants, to take her away, and use means for her recovery. Paulina
soon returned, and told the king that Hermione was dead.
When Leontes heard that the queen was dead, he repented of his
cruelty to her; and now that he thought his ill-usage had broken
Hermione's heart, he believed her innocent; and now he thought the
words of the oracle were true, as he knew 'if that which was lost was
not found,' which he concluded was his young daughter, he should be
without an heir, the young prince Mamillius being dead; and he would
give his kingdom now to recover his lost daughter: and Leontes gave
himself up to remorse, and passed many years in mournful thoughts
and repentant grief.
The ship in which Antigonus carried the infant princess out to sea was
driven by a storm upon the coast of Bohemia, the very kingdom of the
good king Polixenes. Here Antigonus landed, and here he left the little
Antigonus never returned to Sicily to tell Leontes where he had left
his daughter, for as he was going back to the ship, a bear came out of
the woods, and tore him to pieces; a just punishment on him for
obeying the wicked order of Leontes.
The child was dressed in rich clothes and jewels; for Hermione had
made it very fine when she sent it to Leontes, and Antigonus had
pinned a paper to its mantle, and the name of Perdita written thereon,
and words obscurely intimating its high birth and untoward fate.
This poor deserted baby was found by a shepherd. He was a humane
man, and so he carried the little Perdita home to his wife, who nursed
it tenderly; but poverty tempted the shepherd to conceal the rich prize
he had found: therefore he left that part of the country, that no one
might know where he got his riches, and with part of Perdita's jewels
he bought herds of sheep, and became a wealthy shepherd. He brought
up Perdita as his own child, and she knew not she was any other than
a shepherd's daughter.
The little Perdita grew up a lovely maiden; and though she had no
better education than that of a shepherd's daughter, yet so did the
natural graces she inherited from her royal mother shine forth in her
untutored mind, that no one from her behaviour would have known
she had not been brought up in her father's court.
Polixenes, the king of Bohemia, had an only son, whose name was
Florizel. As this young prince was hunting near the shepherd's
dwelling, he saw the old man's supposed daughter; and the beauty,
modesty, and queen-like deportment of Perdita caused him instantly
to fall in love with her. He soon, under the name of Doricles, and in
the disguise of a private gentleman, became a constant visitor at the
old shepherd's house. Florizel's frequent absences from court alarmed
Polixenes; and setting people to watch his son, he discovered his love
for the shepherd's fair daughter.
Polixenes then called for Camillo, the faithful Camillo, who had
preserved his life from the fury of Leontes, and desired that he would
accompany him to the house of the shepherd, the supposed father of
Polixenes and Camillo, both in disguise, arrived at the old shepherd's
dwelling while they were celebrating the feast of sheep-shearing; and
though they were strangers, yet at the sheep-shearing every guest
being made welcome, they were invited to walk in, and join in the
Nothing but mirth and jollity was going forward. Tables were spread,
and great preparations were making for the rustic feast. Some lads and
lasses were dancing on the green before the house, while others of the
young men were buying ribands, gloves, and such toys, of a pedlar at
the door.
While this busy scene was going forward, Florizel and Perdita sat
quietly in a retired corner, seemingly more pleased with the
conversation of each other, than desirous of engaging in the sports and
silly amusements of those around them.
The king was so disguised that it was impossible his son could know
him: he therefore advanced near enough to hear the conversation. The
simple yet elegant manner in which Perdita conversed with his son did
not a little surprise Polixenes: he said to Camillo: 'This is the prettiest
low-born lass I ever saw; nothing she does or says but looks like
something greater than herself, too noble for this place.'
Pamillo replied: 'Indeed she is the very queen of curds and cream.'
'Pray, my good friend,' said the king to the old shepherd, ' what fair
swain is that talking with your daughter?' 'They call him Doricles,'
replied the shepherd. 'He says he loves my daughter; and, to speak
truth, there is not a kiss to choose which loves the other best. If young
Doricles can get her, she shall bring him that he little dreams of';
meaning the remainder of Perdita's jewels; which, after he had bought
herds of sheep with part of them, he had carefully hoarded up for her
marriage portion.
Polixenes then addressed his son. 'How now, young man!' said he:
'your heart seems full of something that takes off your mind from
feasting. When I was young, I used to load my love with presents; but
you have let the pedlar go, and have bought your lass no toy.'
The young prince, who little thought he was talking to the king his
father, replied: 'Old sir, she prizes not such trifles; the gifts which
Perdita expects from me are locked up in my heart.' Then turning to
Perdita, he said to her: 'O hear me, Perdita, before this ancient
gentleman, who it seems was once himself a lover; he shall hear what
I profess.' Florizel then called upon the old stranger to be a witness to
a solemn promise of marriage which he made to Perdita, saying to
Polixenes: 'I pray you, mark our contract.'
'Mark your divorce, young sir,' said the king, discovering himself.
Polixenes then reproached his son for daring to contract himself to
this low-born maiden, calling Perdita 'shepherd's brat, sheep-hook,'
and other disrespectful names; and threatening, if ever she suffered
his son to see her again, he would put her, and the old shepherd her
father, to a cruel death.
The king then left them in great wrath, and ordered Camillo to follow
him with prince Florizel.
When the king had departed, Perdita, whose royal nature was roused
by Polixenes' reproaches, said: 'Though we are all undone, I was not
much afraid; and once or twice I was about to speak, and tell him
plainly that the selfsame sun which shines upon his palace, hides not
his face from our cottage, but looks on both alike.' Then sorrowfully
she said: 'But now I am awakened from this dream, I will queen it no
further. Leave me, sir; I will go milk my ewes and weep.'
The kind-hearted Camillo was charmed with the spirit and propriety
of Perdita's behaviour; and perceiving that the young prince was too
deeply in love to give up his mistress at the command of his royal
father, he thought of a way to befriend the lovers, and at the same
time to execute a favourite scheme he had in his mind.
Camillo had long known that Leontes, the king of Sicily, was become
a true penitent; and though Camillo was now the favoured friend of
king Polixenes, he could not help wishing once more to see his late
royal master and his native home. He therefore proposed to Florizel
and Perdita that they should accompany him to the Sicilian court,
where he would engage Leontes should protect them, till, through his
mediation, they could obtain pardon from Polixenes, and his consent
to their marriage.
To this proposal they joyfully agreed; and Camillo, who conducted
everything relative to their flight, allowed the old shepherd to go
along with them.
The shepherd took with him the remainder of Perdita's jewels, her
baby clothes, and the paper which he had found pinned to her mantle.
After a prosperous voyage, Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the old
shepherd, arrived in safety at the court of Leontes. Leontes, who still
mourned his dead Hermione and his lost child, received Camillo with
great kindness, and gave a cordial welcome to prince Florizel. But
Perdita, whom Florizel introduced as his princess, seemed to engross
all Leontes' attention: perceiving a resemblance between her and his
dead queen Hermione, his grief broke out afresh, and he said, such a
lovely creature might his own daughter have been, if he had not so
cruelly destroyed her. 'And then, too,' said he to Florizel, 'I lost the
society and friendship of your grave father, whom I now desire more
than my life once again to look upon.'
When the old shepherd heard how much notice the king had taken of
Perdita, and that he had lost a daughter, who was exposed in infancy,
he fell to comparing the time when he found the little Perdita, with the
manner of its exposure, the jewels and other tokens of its high birth;
from all which it was impossible for him not to conclude that Perdita
and the king's lost daughter were the same.
Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the faithful Paulina, were present
when the old shepherd related to the king the manner in which he had
found the child, and also the circumstance of Antigonus' death, he
having seen the bear seize upon him. He showed the rich mantle in
which Paulina remembered Hermione had wrapped the child; and he
produced a jewel which she remembered Hermione had tied about
Perdita's neck, and he gave up the paper which Paulina knew to be the
writing of her husband; it could not be doubted that Perdita was
Leontes' own daughter: but oh! the noble struggles of Paulina,
between sorrow for her husband's death, and joy that the oracle was
fulfilled, in the king's heir, his long-lost daughter being found. When
Leontes heard that Perdita was his daughter, the great sorrow that he
felt that Hermione was not living to behold her child, made him that
he could say nothing for a long time, but 'O thy mother, thy mother!'
Paulina interrupted this joyful yet distressful scene, with saying to
Leontes, that she had a statue newly finished by that rare Italian
master, Julio Romano, which was such a perfect resemblance of the
queen, that would his majesty be pleased to go to her house and look
upon it, he would be almost ready to think it was Hermione herself.
Thither then they all went; the king anxious to see the semblance of
his Hermione, and Perdita longing to behold what the mother she
never saw did look like.
When Paulina drew back the curtain which concealed this famous
statue, so perfectly did it resemble Hermione, that all the king's
sorrow was renewed at the sight: for a long time he had no power to
speak or move.
'I like your silence, my liege,' said Paulina, 'it the more shows your
wonder. Is not this statue very like your queen?'
At length the king said: 'O, thus she stood, even with such majesty,
when I first wooed her. But yet, Paulina, Hermione was not so aged as
this statue looks.' Paulina replied: 'So much the more the carver's
excellence, who has made the statue as Hermione would have looked
had she been living now. But let me draw the curtain, sire, lest
presently you think it moves.'
The king then said: 'Do not draw the curtain; would I were dead! See,
Camillo, would you not think it breathed? Her eye seems to have
motion in it.' 'I must draw the curtain, my liege,' said Paulina. 'You are
so transported, you will persuade yourself the statue lives.' 'O, sweet
Paulina,' said Leontes, 'make me think so twenty years together! Still
methinks there is an air comes from her. What fine chisel could ever
yet cut breath? Let no man mock me, for I will kiss her.' 'Good my
lord, forbear!' said Paulina. 'The ruddiness upon her lip is wet; you
will stain your own with oily painting. Shall I draw the curtain?' 'No,
not these twenty years,' said Leontes.
Perdita, who all this time had been kneeling, and beholding in silent
admiration the statue of her matchless mother, said now: 'And so long
could I stay here, looking upon my dear mother.'
'Either forbear this transport,' said Paulina to Leontes, 'and let me
draw the curtain; or prepare yourself for more amazement. I can make
the statue move indeed; ay, and descend from off the pedestal, and
take you by the hand. But then you will think, which I protest I am
not, that I am assisted by some wicked powers.'
'What you can make her do,' said the astonished king, 'I am content to
hear; for it is as easy to make her speak as move.'
Paulina then ordered some slow and solemn music, which she had
prepared for the purpose, to strike up; and, to the amazement of all the
beholders, the statue came down from off the pedestal, and threw its
arms around Leontes' neck. The statue then began to speak, praying
for blessings on her husband, and on her child, the newly-found
No wonder that the statue hung upon Leontes' neck, and blessed her
husband and her child. No wonder; for the statue was indeed
Hermione herself, the real, the living queen.
Paulina had falsely reported to the king the death of Hermione,
thinking that the only means to preserve her royal mistress's life; and
with the good Paulina, Hermione had lived ever since, never choosing
Leontes should know she was living, till she heard Perdita was found;
for though she had long forgiven the injuries which Leontes had done
to herself, she could not pardon his cruelty to his infant daughter.
His dead queen thus restored to life, his lost daughter found, the longsorrowing
Leontes could scarcely support the excess of his own
Nothing but congratulations and affectionate speeches were heard on
all sides. Now the delighted parents thanked prince Florizel for loving
their lowly-seeming daughter; and now they blessed the good old
shepherd for preserving their child. Greatly did Camillo and Paulina
rejoice that they had lived to see so good an end of all their faithful
And as if nothing should be wanting to complete this strange and
unlooked-for joy, king Polixenes himself now entered the palace.
When Polixenes first missed his son and Camillo, knowing that
Camillo had long wished to return to Sicily, he conjectured he should
find the fugitives here; and, following them with all speed, he
happened to just arrive at this, the happiest moment of Leontes' life.
Polixenes took a part in the general joy; he forgave his friend Leontes
the unjust jealousy he had conceived against him, and they once more
loved each other with all the warmth of their first boyish friendship.
And there was no fear that Polixenes would now oppose his son's
marriage with Perdita. She was no 'sheep-hook' now, but the heiress of
the crown of Sicily.
Thus have we seen the patient virtues of the long-suffering Hermione
rewarded. That excellent lady lived many years with her Leontes and
her Perdita, the happiest of mothers and of queens.
There lived in the palace at Messina two ladies, whose names were
Hero and Beatrice. Hero was the daughter, and Beatrice the niece, of
Leonato, the governor of Messina.
Beatrice was of a lively temper, and loved to divert her cousin Hero,
who was of a more serious disposition, with her sprightly sallies.
Whatever was going forward was sure to make matter of mirth for the
light-hearted Beatrice.
At the time the history of these ladies commences some young men of
high rank in the army, as they were passing through Messina on their
return from a war that was just ended, in which they had distinguished
themselves by their great bravery, came to visit Leonato. Among these
were Don Pedro, the prince of Arragon; and his friend Claudio, who
was a lord of Florence; and with them came the wild and witty
Benedick, and he was a lord of Padua.
These strangers had been at Messina before, and the hospitable
governor introduced them to his daughter and his niece as their old
friends and acquaintance.
Benedick, the moment he entered the room, began a lively
conversation with Leonato and the prince. Beatrice, who liked not to
be left out of any discourse, interrupted Benedick with saying: 'I
wonder that you will still be talking, signior Benedick: nobody marks
you.' Benedick was just such another rattle-brain as Beatrice, yet he
was not pleased at this free salutation; he thought it did not become a
well-bred lady to be so flippant with her tongue; and he remembered,
when he was last at Messina, that Beatrice used to select him to make
her merry jests upon. And as there is no one who so little likes to be
made a jest of as those who are apt to take the same liberty
themselves, so it was with Benedick and Beatrice; these two sharp
wits never met in former times but a perfect war of raillery was kept
up between them, and they always parted mutually displeased with
each other. Therefore when Beatrice stopped him in the middle of his
discourse with telling him nobody marked what he was saying,
Benedick, affecting not to have observed before that she was present,
said: 'What, my dear lady Disdain, are you yet living?' And now war
broke out afresh between them, and a long jangling argument ensued,
during which Beatrice, although she knew he had so well approved his
velour in the late war, said that she would eat all he had killed there:
and observing the prince take delight in Benedick's conversation, she
called trim ' the prince's jester.' This sarcasm sunk deeper into the
mind of Benedick than all Beatrice had said before. The hint she gave
him that he was a coward, by saying she would eat all he had killed,
he did not regard, knowing himself to be a brave man; but there is
nothing that great wits so much dread as the imputation of buffoonery,
because the charge comes sometimes a little too near the truth:
therefore Benedick perfectly hated Beatrice when she called him 'the
prince's jester.'
The modest lady Hero was silent before the noble guests; and while
Claudio was attentively observing the improvement which time had
made in her beauty, and was contemplating the exquisite graces of her
fine figure (for she was an admirable young lady), the prince was
highly amused with listening to the humorous dialogue between
Benedick and Beatrice; and he said in a whisper to Leonato: 'This is a
pleasant-spirited young lady. She were an excellent wife for
Benedick.' Leonato replied to this suggestion: 'O, my lord, my lord, if
they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.' But
though Leonato thought they would make a discordant pair, the prince
did not give up the idea of matching these two keen wits together.
When the prince returned with Claudio from the palace, he found that
the marriage he had devised between Benedick and Beatrice was not
the only one projected in that good company, for Claudio spoke in
such terms of Hero, as made the prince guess at what was passing in
his heart; and he liked it well, and he said to Claudio: 'Do you affect
Hero?' To this question Claudio replied: 'O my lord, when I was last at
Messina, I looked upon her with a soldier's eye, that liked, but had no
leisure for loving; but now, in this happy time of peace, thoughts of
war have left their places vacant in my mind, and in their room come
thronging soft and delicate thoughts, all prompting me how fair young
Hero is, reminding me that I liked her before I went to the wars.'
Claudio's confession of his love for Hero so wrought upon the prince,
that he lost no time in soliciting the consent of Leonato to accept of
Claudio for a son-in-law. Leonato agreed to this proposal, and the
prince found no great difficulty in persuading the gentle Hero herself
to listen to the suit of the noble Claudio, who was a lord of rare
endowments, and highly accomplished, and Claudio, assisted by his
kind prince, soon prevailed upon Leonato to fix an early day for the
celebration of his marriage with Hero.
Claudio was to wait but a few days before he was to be married to his
fair lady; yet he complained of the interval being tedious, as indeed
most young men are impatient when they are waiting for the
accomplishment of any event they have set their hearts upon: the
prince, therefore, to make the time seem short to him, proposed as a
kind of merry pastime that they should invent some artful scheme to
make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other. Claudio
entered with great satisfaction into this whim of the prince, and
Leonato promised them his assistance, and even Hero said she would
do any modest office to help her cousin to a good husband.
The device the prince invented was, that the gentlemen should make
Benedick believe that Beatrice was in love with him, and that Hero
should make Beatrice believe that Benedick was in love with her.
The prince, Leonato, and Claudio began their operations first: and
watching upon an opportunity when Benedick was quietly seated
reading in an arbour, the prince and his assistants took their station
among the trees behind the arbour, so near that Benedick could not
choose but hear all they said; and after some careless talk the prince
said: 'Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me the other day
that your niece Beatrice was in love with signior Benedick? I did
never think that lady would have loved any man.' 'No, nor I neither,
my lord.' answered Leonato. 'It is most wonderful that she should so
dote on Benedick, whom she in all outward behaviour seemed ever to
dislike.' Claudio confirmed all this with saying that Hero had told him
Beatrice was so in love with Benedick, that she would certainly die of
grief, if he could not be brought to love her; which Leonato and
Claudio seemed to agree was impossible, he having always been such
a railer against all fair ladies, and in particular against Beatrice.
The prince affected to hearken to all this with great compassion for
Beatrice, and he said: 'It were good that Benedick were told of this.'
'To what end?' said Claudio; 'he would but make sport of it, and
torment the poor lady worse.' 'And if he should,' said the prince, 'it
were a good deed to hang him; for Beatrice is an excellent sweet lady,
and exceeding wise in everything but in loving Benedick.' Then the
prince motioned to his companions that they should walk on, and
leave Benedick to meditate upon what he had overheard.
Benedick had been listening with great eagerness to this conversation;
and he said to himself when he heard Beatrice loved him: 'Is it
possible? Sits the wind in that corner?' And when they were gone, he
began to reason in this manner with himself: 'This can be no trick!
they were very serious, and they have the truth from Hero, and seem
to pity the lady. Love me! Why it must be requited! I did never think
to marry. But when I said I should die a bachelor, I did not think I
should live to be married. They say the lady is virtuous and fair. She is
so. And wise in everything but loving me. Why, that is no great
argument of her folly. But here comes Beatrice. By this day, she is a
fair lady. I do spy some marks of love in her.' Beatrice now
approached him, and said with her usual tartness: 'Against my will I
am sent to bid you come in to dinner.' Benedick, who never felt
himself disposed to speak so politely to her before, replied: 'Fair
Beatrice, I thank you for your pains': and when Beatrice, after two or
three more rude speeches, left him, Benedick thought he observed a
concealed meaning of kindness under the uncivil words she uttered,
and he said aloud: 'If I do not take pity on her, I am a villain. If I do
not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture.'
The gentleman being thus caught in the net they had spread for him, it
was now Hero's turn to play her part with Beatrice; and for this
purpose she sent for Ursula and Margaret, two gentlewomen who
attended upon her, and she said to Margaret: 'Good Margaret, run to
the parlour; there you will kind my cousin Beatrice talking with the
prince and Claudio. Whisper in her ear, that I and Ursula are walking
in the orchard, and that our discourse is all of her. Bid her steal into
that pleasant arbour, where honeysuckles, ripened by the sun, like
ungrateful minions, forbid the sun to enter.' This arbour, into which
Hero desired Margaret to entice Beatrice, was the very same pleasant
arbour where Benedick had so lately been an attentive listener.
'I will make her come, I warrant, presently,' said Margaret.
Hero, then taking Ursula with her into the orchard, said to her: 'Now,
Ursula, when Beatrice comes, we will walk up and down this alley,
and our talk must be only of Benedick, and when I name him, let it be
your part to praise him more than ever man did merit. My talk to you
must be how Benedick is in love with Beatrice. Now begin; for look
where Beatrice like a lapwing runs close by the ground, to hear our
conference.' They then began; Hero saying, as if in answer to
something which Ursula had said: 'No, truly, Ursula. She is too
disdainful; her spirits are as coy as wild birds of the rock.' 'But are you
sure,' said Ursula, 'that Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?' Hero
replied: ' So says the prince, and my lord Claudio, and they entreated
me to acquaint her with it; but I persuaded them, if they loved
Benedick, never to let Beatrice know of it.' 'Certainly,' replied Ursula,
'it were not good she knew his love, lest she made sport of it.' 'Why, to
say truth,' said Hero, 'I never yet saw a man, how wise soever, or
noble, young, or rarely featured, but she would dispraise him.' 'Sure,
sure, such carping is not commendable,' said Ursula. 'No,' replied
Hero, 'but who dare tell her so? If I should speak, she would mock me
into air.' 'O! you wrong your cousin,' said Ursula: 'she cannot be so
much without true judgment, as to refuse so rare a gentleman as
signior Benedick.' 'He hath an excellent good name,' said Hero:
'indeed, he is the first man in Italy, always excepting my dear
Claudio.' And now, Hero giving her attendant a hint that it was time to
change the discourse, Ursula said: 'And when are you to be married,
madam?' Hero then told her, that she was to be married to Claudio the
next day, and desired she would go in with her, and look at some new
attire, as she wished to consult with her on what she would wear on
the morrow. Beatrice, who had been listening with breathless
eagerness to this dialogue, when they went away, exclaimed: 'What
fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Farewell, contempt and scorn,
and maiden pride, adieu! Benedick, love on! I will requite you, taming
my wild heart to your loving hand.'
It must have been a pleasant sight to see these old enemies converted
into new and loving friends, and to behold their first meeting after
being cheated into mutual liking by the merry artifice of the goodhumoured
prince. But a sad reverse in the fortunes of Hero must now
be thought of. The morrow, which was to have been her wedding-day,
brought sorrow on the heart of Hero and her good father Leonato.
The prince had a half-brother, who came from the wars along with
him to Messina. This brother (his name was Don John) was a
melancholy, discontented man, whose spirits seemed to labour in the
contriving of villanies. He hated the prince his brother, and he hated
Claudio, because he was the prince's friend, and determined to prevent
Claudio's marriage with Hero, only for the malicious pleasure of
making Claudio and the prince unhappy; for he knew the prince had
set his heart upon this marriage, almost as much as Claudio himself;
and to effect this wicked purpose, he employed one Borachio, a man
as bad as himself, whom he encouraged with the offer of a great
reward. This Borachio paid his court to Margaret, Hero's attendant;
and Don John, knowing this, prevailed upon him to make Margaret
promise to talk with him from her lady's chamber window that night,
after Hero was asleep, and also to dress herself in Hero's clothes, the
better to deceive Claudio into the belief that it was Hero; for that was
the end he meant to compass by this wicked plot.
Don John then went to the prince and Claudio, and told them that
Hero was an imprudent lady, and that she talked with men from her
chamber window at midnight. Now this was the evening before the
wedding, and he offered to take them that night, where they should
themselves hear Hero discoursing with a man from her window; and
they consented to go along with him, and Claudio said: 'If I see
anything to-night why I should not marry her, to-morrow in the
congregation, where I intended to wed her, there will I shame her.'
The prince also said: 'And as I assisted you to obtain her, I will join
with you to disgrace her.'
When Don John brought them near Hero's chamber that night, they
saw Borachio standing under the window, and they saw Margaret
looking out of Hero's window, and heard her talking with Borachio:
and Margaret being dressed in the same clothes they had seen Hero
wear, the prince and Claudio believed it was the lady Hero herself.
Nothing could equal the anger of Claudio, when he had made (as he
thought) this discovery. All his love for the innocent Hero was at once
converted into hatred, and he resolved to expose her in the church, as
he had said he would, the next day; and the prince agreed to this,
thinking no punishment could be too severe for the naughty lady, who
talked with a man from her window the very night before she was
going to be married to the noble Claudio.
The next day, when they were all met to celebrate the marriage, and
Claudio and Hero were standing before the priest, and the priest, or
friar, as he was called, was proceeding to pronounce the marriage
ceremony, Claudio, in the most passionate language, proclaimed the
guilt of the blameless Hero, who, amazed at the strange words he
uttered, said meekly: 'Is my lord well, that he does speak so wide?'
Leonato, in the utmost horror, said to the prince: 'My lord, why speak
not you?' 'What should I speak?' said the prince; 'I stand dishonoured,
that have gone about to link my dear friend to an unworthy woman.
Leonato, upon my honour, myself, my brother, and this grieved
Claudio, did see and hear her last night at midnight talk with a man at
her chamber window.'
Benedick, in astonishment at what he heard, said: 'This looks not like
a nuptial.'
'True, O God!' replied the heart-struck Hero; and then this hapless lady
sunk down in a fainting fit, to all appearance dead. The prince and
Claudio left the church, without staying to see if Hero would recover,
or at all regarding the distress into which they had thrown Leonato. So
hard-hearted had their anger made them.
Benedick remained, and assisted Beatrice to recover Hero from her
swoon, saying: 'How does the lady?' 'Dead, I think,' replied Beatrice in
great agony, for she loved her cousin; and knowing her virtuous
principles, she believed nothing of what she had heard spoken against
her. Not so the poor old father; he believed the story of his child's
shame, and it was piteous to hear him lamenting over her, as she lay
like one dead before him, wishing she might never more open her
But the ancient friar was a wise man, and full of observation on
human nature, and he had attentively marked the lady's countenance
when she heard herself accused, and noted a thousand blushing
shames to start into her face, and then he saw an angel-like whiteness
bear away those blushes, and in her eye he saw a fire that did belie the
error that the prince did speak against her maiden truth, and he said to
the sorrowing father: 'Call me a fool; trust not my reading, nor my
observation; trust not my age, my reverence, nor my calling, if this
sweet lady lie not guiltless here under some biting error.'
When Hero had recovered from the swoon into which she had fallen,
the friar said to her: 'Lady, what man is he you are accused of?' Hero
replied: 'They know that do accuse me; I know of none': then turning
to Leonato, she said: 'O my father, if you can prove that any man has
ever conversed with me at hours unmeet, or that I yesternight changed
words with any creature, refuse me, hate me, torture me to death.'
'There is,' said the friar, 'some strange misunderstanding in the prince
and Claudio'; and then he counselled Leonato, that he should report
that Hero was dead; and he said that the death-like swoon in which
they had left Hero would make this easy of belief; and he also advised
him that he should put on mourning, and erect a monument for her,
and do all rites that appertain to a burial. 'What shall become of this?'
said Leonato; 'What will this do?' The friar replied: 'This report of her
death shall change slander into pity: that is some good; but that is not
all the good I hope for. When Claudio shall hear she died upon
hearing his words, the idea of her life shall sweetly creep into his
imagination. Then shall he mourn, if ever love had interest in his
heart, and wish that he had not so accused her; yea, though he thought
his accusation true.'
Benedick now said: 'Leonato, let the friar advise you; and though you
know how well I love the prince and Claudio, yet on my honour I will
not reveal this secret to them.'
Leonato, thus persuaded, yielded; and he said sorrowfully: 'I am so
grieved, that the smallest twine may lead me.' The kind friar then led
Leonato and Hero away to comfort and console them, and Beatrice
and Benedick remained alone; and this was the meeting from which
their friends, who contrived the merry plot against them, expected so
much diversion; those friends who were now overwhelmed with
affliction, and from whose minds all thoughts of merriment seemed
for ever banished.
Benedick was the first who spoke, and he said: 'Lady Beatrice, have
you wept all this while?' 'Yea, and I will weep a while longer,' said
Beatrice. 'Surely,' said Benedick, 'I do believe your fair cousin is
wronged.' 'Ah!' said Beatrice, 'how much might that man deserve of
me who would right her!' Benedick then said: 'Is there any way to
show such friendship? I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is
not that strange?' 'It were as possible,' said Beatrice, 'for me to say I
loved nothing in the world so well as you; but believe me not, and yet
I lie not. I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my
cousin.' 'By my sword,' said Benedick, 'you love me, and I protest I
love you. Come, bid me do anything for you.' 'Kill Claudio,' said
Beatrice. 'Ha! not for the wide world,' said Benedick; for he loved his
friend Claudio, and he believed he had been imposed upon. 'Is not
Claudio a villain, that has slandered, scorned, and dishonoured my
cousin?' said Beatrice: 'O that I were a man!' 'Hear me, Beatrice!' said
Benedick. But Beatrice would hear nothing in Claudio's defence; and
she continued to urge on Benedick to revenge her cousin's wrongs:
and she said: 'Talk with a man out of the window; a proper saying!
Sweet Hero! she is wronged; she is slandered; she is undone. O that I
were a man for Claudio's sake! or that I had any friend, who would be
a man for my sake! but velour is melted into courtesies and
compliments. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a
woman with grieving.' 'Tarry, good Beatrice,' said Benedick; 'by this
hand I love you.' 'Use it for my love some other way than swearing by
it,' said Beatrice. 'Think you on your soul that Claudio has wronged
Hero?' asked Benedick. 'Yea,' answered Beatrice; 'as sure as I have a
thought, or a soul.' 'Enough,' said Benedick; 'I am engaged; I will
challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so leave you. By tints hand,
Claudio shall render me a dear account! As you hear from me, so
think of me. Go, comfort your cousin.'
While Beatrice was thus powerfully pleading with Benedick, and
working his gallant temper by the spirit of her angry words, to engage
in the cause of Hero, and fight even with his dear friend Claudio,
Leonato was challenging the prince and Claudio to answer with their
swords the injury they had done his child, who, he affirmed, had died
for grief. But they respected his age and his sorrow, and they said:
'Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man.' And now came Benedick,
and he also challenged Claudio to answer with his sword the injury he
had done to Hero; and Claudio and the prince said to each other:
'Beatrice has set him on to do this.' Claudio nevertheless must have
accepted this challenge of Benedick, had not the justice of Heaven at
the moment brought to pass a better proof of the innocence of Hero
than the uncertain fortune of a duel.
While the prince and Claudio were yet talking of the challenge of
Benedick, a magistrate brought Borachio as a prisoner before the
prince. Borachio had been overheard talking with one of his
companions of the mischief he had been employed by Don John to do.
Borachio made a full confession to the prince in Claudio's hearing,
that it was Margaret dressed in her lady's clothes that he had talked
with from the window, whom they had mistaken for the lady Hero
herself; and no doubt continued on the minds of Claudio and the
prince of the innocence of Hero. If a suspicion had remained it must
have been removed by the flight of Don John, who, funding his
villanies were detected, fled from Messina to avoid the just anger of
his brother.
The heart of Claudio was sorely grieved when he found he had falsely
accused Hero, who, he thought, died upon hearing his cruel words;
and the memory of his beloved Hero's image came over him, in the
rare semblance that he loved it first; and the prince asking him if what
he heard did not run like iron through his soul, he answered, that he
felt as if he had taken poison while Borachio was speaking.
And the repentant Claudio implored forgiveness of the old man
Leonato for the injury he had done his child; and promised, that
whatever penance Leonato would lay upon him for his fault in
believing the false accusation against his betrothed wife, for her dear
sake he would endure it.
The penance Leonato enjoined him was, to marry the next morning a
cousin of Hero's, who, he said, was now his heir, and in person very
like Hero. Claudio, regarding the solemn promise he made to Leonato,
said, he would marry this unknown lady, even though she were an
Ethiop: but his heart was very sorrowful, and he passed that night in
tears, and in remorseful grief, at the tomb which Leonato had erected
for Hero.
When the morning came, the prince accompanied Claudio to the
church, where the good friar, and Leonato and his niece, were already
assembled, to celebrate a second nuptial; and Leonato presented to
Claudio his promised bride; and she wore a mask, that Claudio might
not discover her face. And Claudio said to the lady in the mask: 'Give
me your hand, before this holy friar; I am your husband, if you will
marry me.' 'And when I lived I was your other wife,' said this unknown
lady; and, taking off her mask, she proved to be no niece (as was
pretended), but Leonato's very daughter, the lady Hero herself. We
may be sure that this proved a most agreeable surprise to Claudio,
who thought her dead, so that he could scarcely for joy believe his
eyes; and the prince, who was equally amazed at what he saw,
exclaimed: 'Is not this Hero, Hero that was dead?' Leonato replied:
'She died, my lord, but while her slander lived.' The friar promised
them an explanation of this seeming miracle, after the ceremony was
ended; and was proceeding to marry them, when he was interrupted
by Benedick, who desired to be married at the same time to Beatrice.
Beatrice making some demur to this match, and Benedick challenging
her with her love for him, which he had learned from Hero, a pleasant
explanation took place; and they found they had both been tricked
into a belief of love, which had never existed, and had become lovers
in truth by the power of a false jest: but the affection, which a merry
invention had cheated them into, was grown too powerful to be
shaken by a serious explanation; and since Benedick proposed to
marry, he was resolved to think nothing to the purpose that the world
could say against it; and he merrily kept up the jest, and swore to
Beatrice, that he took her but for pity, and because he heard she was
dying of love for him; and Beatrice protested, that she yielded but
upon great persuasion, and partly to save his life, for she heard he was
m a consumption. So these two mad wits were reconciled, and made a
match of it, after Claudio and Hero were married; and to complete the
history, Don John, the contriver of the villany, was taken in his flight,
and brought back to Messina; and a brave punishment it was to this
gloomy, discontented man, to see the joy and feastings which, by the
disappointment of his plots, took place in the palace in Messina.
During the time that France was divided into provinces (or dukedoms
as they were called) there reigned in one of these provinces an
usurper, who had deposed and banished his elder brother, the lawful
The duke, who was thus driven from his dominions, retired with a few
faithful followers to the forest of Arden; and here the good duke lived
with his loving friends, who had put themselves into a voluntary exile
for his sake, while their land and revenues enriched the false usurper;
and custom soon made the life of careless ease they led here more
sweet to them than the pomp and uneasy splendour of a courtier's life.
Here they lived like the old Robin Hood of England, and to this forest
many noble youths daily resorted from the court, and did fleet the
time carelessly, as they did who lived in the golden age. In the
summer they lay along under the fine shade of the large forest trees,
marking the playful sports of the wild deer; and so fond were they of
these poor dappled fools, who seemed to be the native inhabitants of
the forest, that it grieved them to be forced to kill them to supply
themselves with venison for their food. When the cold winds of winter
made the duke feel the change of his adverse fortune, he would
endure it patiently, and say: 'These chilling winds which blow upon
my body are true counsellors; they do not flatter, but represent truly to
me my condition; and though they bite sharply, their tooth is nothing
like so keen as that of unkindness and ingratitude. I find that
howsoever men speak against adversity, yet some sweet uses are to be
extracted from it; like the jewel, precious for medicine, which is taken
from the head of the venomous and despised toad.' In this manner did
the patient duke draw a useful moral from everything that he saw; and
by the help of this moralizing turn, in that life of his, remote from
public haunts, he could find tongues in trees, books in the running
brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
The banished duke had an only daughter, named Rosalind, whom the
usurper, duke Frederick, when he banished her father, still retained in
his court as a companion for his own daughter Celia. A strict
friendship subsisted between these ladies, which the disagreement
between their fathers did not in the least interrupt, Celia striving by
every kindness in her power to make amends to Rosalind for the
injustice of her own father in deposing the father of Rosalind; and
whenever the thoughts of her father's banishment, and her own
dependence on the false usurper, made Rosalind melancholy, Celia's
whole care was to comfort and console her.
One day, when Celia was talking in her usual kind manner to
Rosalind, saying: 'I pray you, Rosalind, my sweet cousin, be merry,' a
messenger entered from the duke, to tell them that if they wished to
see a wrestling match, which was just going to begin, they must come
instantly to the court before the palace; and Celia, thinking it would
amuse Rosalind, agreed to go and see it.
In those times wrestling, which is only practiced now by country
clowns, was a favourite sport even in the courts of princes, and before
fair ladies and princesses. To this wrestling match, therefore, Celia
and Rosalind went. They found that it was likely to prove a very
tragical sight; for a large and powerful man, who had been long
practiced in the art of wrestling, and had slain many men in contests
of this kind, was just going to wrestle with a very young man, who,
from his extreme youth and inexperience in the art, the beholders all
thought would certainly be killed.
When the duke saw Celia and Rosalind, he said: 'How now, daughter
and niece, are you crept hither to see the wrestling? You will take
little delight in it, there is such odds in the men: in pity to this young
man, I would wish to persuade him from wrestling. Speak to him,
ladies, and see if you can move him.'
The ladies were well pleased to perform this humane office, and first
Celia entreated the young stranger that he would desist from the
attempt; and then Rosalind spoke so kindly to him, and with such
feeling consideration for, the danger he was about to undergo, that
instead of being persuaded by her gentle words to forego his purpose,
all his thoughts were bent to distinguish himself by his courage in this
lovely lady's eyes. He refused the request of Celia and Rosalind in
such graceful and modest words, that they felt still more concern for
him; he concluded his refusal with saying: 'I am sorry to deny such
fair and excellent ladies anything. But let your fair eyes and gentle
wishes go with me to my trial, wherein if I be conquered there is one
shamed that was never gracious; if I am killed, there is one dead that
is willing to die; I shall do my friends no wrong, for I have none to
lament me; the world no injury, for in it I have nothing; for I only fill
up a place in the world which may be better supplied when I have
made it empty.'
And now the wrestling match began. Celia wished the young stranger
might not be hurt; but Rosalind felt most for him. The friendless state
which he said he was in, and that he wished to die, made Rosalind
think that he was like herself, unfortunate; and she pitied him so
much, and so deep an interest she took in his danger while he was
wrestling, that she might almost be said at that moment to have fallen
in love with him.
The kindness shown this unknown youth by these fair and noble ladies
gave him courage and strength, so that he performed wonders; and in
the end completely conquered his antagonist, who was so much hurt,
that for a while he was unable to speak or move.
The duke Frederick was much pleased with the courage and skill
shown by this young stranger; and desired to know his name and
parentage, meaning to take him under his protection.
The stranger said his name was Orlando, and that he was the youngest
son of Sir Roland de Boys.
Sir Rowland de Boys, the father of Orlando, had been dead some
years; but when he was living, he had been a true subject and dear
friend of the banished duke; therefore, when Freeerick heard Orlando
was the son of his banished brother's friend, all his liking for this
brave young man was changed into displeasure, and he left the place
in very ill humour. Hating to hear the very name of any of his brother's
friends, and yet still admiring the velour of the youth, he said, as he
went out, that he wished Orlando had been the son of any other man.
Rosalind was delighted to hear that her new favourite was the son of
her father's old friend; and she said to Celia: 'My father loved Sir
Rowland de Boys, and if I had known this young man was his son, I
would have added tears to my entreaties before he should have
The ladies then went up to him; and seeing him abashed by the sudden
displeasure shown by the duke, they spoke kind and encouraging
words to him; and Rosalind, when they were going away, turned back
to speak some more civil things to the brave young son of her father's
old friend; and taking a chain from off her neck, she said: 'Gentleman,
wear this for me. I am out of suits with fortune, or I would give you a
more valuable present.'
When the ladies were alone, Rosalind's talk being still of Orlando,
Celia began to perceive her cousin had fallen in love with the
handsome young wrestler, and she said to Rosalind: 'Is it possible you
should fall in love so suddenly?' Rosalind replied: 'The duke, my
father, loved his father dearly.' 'But,' said Celia, 'does it therefore
follow that you should love his son dearly? for then I ought to hate
him, for my father hated his father; yet I do not hate Orlando.'
Frederick being enraged at the sight of Sir Rowland de Boys' son,
which reminded him of the many friends the banished duke had
among the nobility, and having been for some time displeased with his
niece, because the people praised her for her virtues, and pitied her for
her good father's sake, his malice suddenly broke out against her; and
while Celia and Rosalind were talking of Orlando, Frederick entered
the room, and with looks full of anger ordered Rosalind instantly to
leave the palace, and follow her father into banishment; telling Celia,
who in vain pleaded for her, that he had only suffered Rosalind to stay
upon her account. 'I did not then,' said Celia, 'entreat you to let her
stay, for I was too young at that time to value her; but now that I know
her worth, and that we so long have slept together, rose at the same
instant, learned, played, and eat together, I cannot live out of her
company.' Frederick replied: 'She is too subtle for you; her
smoothness, her very silence, and her patience speak to the people,
and they pity her. You are a fool to plead for her, for you will seem
more bright and virtuous when she is gone; therefore open not your
lips in her favour, for the doom which I have passed upon her is
When Celia found she could not prevail upon her father to let
Rosalind remain with her, she generously resolved to accompany her;
and leaving her father's palace that night, she went along with her
friend to seek Rosalind's father, the banished duke, in the forest of
Before they set out, Celia considered that it would be unsafe for two
young ladies to travel in the rich clothes they then wore; she therefore
proposed that they should disguise their rank by dressing themselves
like country maids. Rosalind said it would be a still greater protection
if one of them was to be dressed like a man: and so it was quickly
agreed on between them, that as Rosalind was the tallest, she should
wear the dress of a young countryman, and Celia should be habited
like a country lass, and that they should say they were brother and
sister, and Rosalind said she would be called Ganymede, and Celia
chose the name of Aliena.
In this disguise, and taking their money and jewels to defray their
expenses, these fair princesses set out on their long travel; for the
forest of Arden was a long way off, beyond the boundaries of the
duke's dominions.
The Lady Rosalind (or Ganymede as she must now be called) with her
manly garb seemed to have put on a manly courage. The faithful
friendship Celia had shown in accompanying Rosalind so many weary
miles, made the new brother, in recompense for this true love, exert a
cheerful spirit, as if he were indeed Ganymede, the rustic and stouthearted
brother of the gentle village maiden, Aliena.
When at last they came to the forest of Arden, they no longer found
the convenient inns and good accommodations they had met with on
the road; and being in want of food and rest, Ganymede, who had so
merrily cheered his sister with pleasant speeches and happy remarks
all the way, now owned to Aliena that he was so weary, he could find
in his heart to disgrace his man's apparel, and cry like a woman; and
Aliena declared she could go no farther; and then again Ganymede
tried to recollect that it was a man's duty to comfort and console a
woman, as the weaker vessel; and to seem courageous to his new
sister; he said: 'Come, have a good heart, my sister Aliena; we are now
at the end of our travel, in the forest of Arden.' But feigned manliness
and forced courage would no longer support them; for though they
were in the forest of Arden, they knew not where to find the duke: and
here the travel of these weary ladies might have come to a sad
conclusion, for they might have lost themselves, and perished for want
of food; but providentially, as they were sitting on the grass, almost
dying with fatigue and hopeless of any relief, a countryman chanced
to pass that way, and Ganymede once more tried to speak with a
manly boldness, saying: 'Shepherd, if love or gold can in this desert
place procure us entertainment, I pray you bring us where we may rest
ourselves; for this young maid, my sister, is much fatigued with
travelling, and faints for want of food.'
The man replied that he was only a servant to a shepherd, and that his
master's house was just going to be sold, and therefore they would
find but poor entertainment; but that if they would go with him, they
should be welcome to what there was. They followed the man, the
near prospect of relief giving them fresh strength; and bought the
house and sheep of the shepherd, and took the man who conducted
them to the shepherd's house to wait on them; and being by this means
so fortunately provided with a neat cottage, and well supplied with
provisions, they agreed to stay here till they could learn in what part
of the forest the duke dwelt.
When they were rested after the fatigue of their journey, they began to
like their new way of life, and almost fancied themselves the shepherd
and shepherdess they feigned to be: yet sometimes Ganymede
remembered he had once been the same lady Rosalind who had so
dearly loved the brave Orlando, because he was the son of old Sir
Rowland, her father's friend; and though Ganymede thought that
Orlando was many miles distant, even so many weary miles as they
had travelled, yet it soon appeared that Orlando was also in the forest
of Arden: and in this manner this strange event came to pass.
Orlando was the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, who, when he
died, left him (Orlando being then very young) to the care of his eldest
brother Oliver, charging Oliver on his blessing to give his brother a
good education, and provide for him as became the dignity of their
ancient house. C)liver proved an unworthy brother; and disregarding
the commands of his dying father, he never put his bother to school,
but kept him a,: home untaught and entirely neglected. But in his
nature and in the noble qualities of his mind Orlando so much
resembled his excellent father, that without any advantages of
education he seemed like a youth who had been bred with the utmost
care; and Oliver so envied the fine person and dignified manners of
his untutored brother, that at last he wished to destroy him, and to
effect this he set on people to persuade him to wrestle with the famous
wrestler, who, as has been before related, had killed so many men.
Now, it was this cruel brother's neglect of him which made Orlando
say he wished to die, being so friendless.
When, contrary to the wicked hopes he had formed, his brother
proved victorious, his envy and malice knew no bounds, and he swore
he would burn the chamber where Orlando slept. He was overheard
making this vow by one that had been an old and faithful servant to
their father, and that loved Orlando because he resembled Sir
Rowland. This old man went out to meet him when he returned from
the duke's palace, and when he saw Orlando, the peril his dear young
master was in made him break out into these passionate exclamations:
'O my gentle master, my sweet master, O you memory of old Sir
Rowland! why are you virtuous? why are you gentle, strong, and
valiant? and why would you be so fond to overcome the famous
wrestler? Your praise is come too swiftly home before you.' Orlando,
wondering what all this meant, asked him what was the matter. And
then the old man told him how his wicked brother, envying the love
all people bore him, and now hearing the fame he had gained by his
victory in the duke s palace, intended to destroy him, by setting fire to
his chamber that night; and in conclusion, advised him to escape the
danger he was in by instant flight; and knowing Orlando had no
money, Adam (for that was the good old man's name) had brought out
with him his own little hoard, and he said: 'I have five hundred
crowns, the thrifty hire I saved under your father, and laid by to be
provision for me when my old limbs should become unfit for service;
take that, and He that cloth the ravens feed be comfort to my age!
Here is the gold; all this I give to you: let me be your servant; though I
look old I will do the service of a younger man in all your business
and necessities.' 'O good old man! ' said Orlando, 'how well appears in
you the constant service of the old world! You are not for the fashion
of these times. We will go along together, and before your youthful
wages are spent, I shall light upon some means for both our
Together then this faithful servant and his loved master set out; and
Orlando and Adam travelled on, uncertain what course to pursue, till
they came to the forest of Arden, and there they found themselves in
the same distress for want of food that Ganymede and Aliena had
been. They wandered on, seeking some human habitation, till they
were almost spent with hunger and fatigue. Adam at last said: 'O my
dear master, I die for want of food, I can go no farther!' He then laid
himself down, thinking to make that place his grave, and bade his dear
master farewell. Orlando, seeing him in this weak state, took his old
servant up in his arms, and carried him under the shelter of some
pleasant trees; and he said to him: 'Cheerly, old Adam, rest your weary
limbs here awhile, and do not talk of dying!'
Orlando then searched about to find some food, and he happened to
arrive at that part of the forest where the duke was; and he and his
friends were just going to eat their dinner, this royal duke being seated
on the grass, under no other canopy than the shady covert of some
large trees.
Orlando, whom hunger had made desperate, drew his sword,
intending to take their meat by force, and said: 'Forbear and eat no
more; I must have your food!' The duke asked him, if distress had
made him so bold, or if he were a rude despiser of good manners? On
this Orlando said, he was dying with hunger; and then the duke told
him he was welcome to sit down and eat with them. Orlando hearing
him speak so gently, put up his sword, and blushed with shame at the
rude manner in which he had demanded their food. 'Pardon me, I pray
you,' said he: 'I thought that all things had been savage here, and
therefore I put on the countenance of stern command; but whatever
men you are, that in this desert, under the shade of melancholy
boughs, lose and neglect the creeping hours of time; if ever you have
looked on better days; if ever you have been where bells have knolled
to church; if you have ever sat at any good man's feast; if ever from
your eyelids you have wiped a tear, and know what it is to pity or be
pitied, may gentle speeches now move you to do me human courtesy!'
The duke replied: 'True it is that we are men (as you say) who have
seen better days, and though we have now our habitation in this wild
forest, we have lived in towns and cities, and have with holy bell been
knolled to church, have sat at good men's feasts, and from our eyes
have wiped the drops which sacred pity has engendered; therefore sit
you down, and take of our refreshment as much as will minister to
your wants.' 'There is an old poor man,' answered Orlando, 'who has
limped after me many a weary step in pure love, oppressed at once
with two sad infirmities, age and hunger; till he be satisfied, I must
not touch a bit.' 'Go, find him out, and bring him hither,' said the duke;
'we will forbear to eat till you return.' Then Orlando went like a doe to
kind its fawn and give it food; and presently returned, bringing Adam
in his arms; and the duke said: 'Set down your venerable burthen; you
are both welcome'; and they fed the old man, and cheered his heart,
and he revived, and recovered his health and strength again.
The duke inquired who Orlando was; and when he found that he was
the son of his old friend, Sir Rowland de Boys, he took him under his
protection, and Orlando and his old servant lived with the duke in the
Orlando arrived in the forest not many days after Ganymede and
Aliena came there, and (as has been before 'elated) bought the
shepherd's cottage.
Ganymede and Aliena were strangely surprised to find the name of
Rosalind carved on the trees, and love-sonnets, fastened to them, all
addressed to Rosalind; and while they were wondering how this could
be, they met Orlando, and they perceived the chain which Rosalind
had given him about his neck.
Orlando little thought that Ganymede was the fair princess Rosalind,
who, by her noble condescension and favour, had so won his heart
that he passed his whole time in carving her name upon the trees, and
writing sonnets in praise of her beauty: but being much pleased with
the graceful air of this pretty shepherd-youth, he entered into
conversation with him, and he thought he saw a likeness in Ganymede
to his beloved Rosalind, but that he had none of the dignified
deportment of that noble lady; for Ganymede assumed the forward
manners often seen in youths when they are between boys and men,
and with much archness and humour talked to Orlando of a certain
lover, 'who,' said he, 'haunts our forest, and spoils our young trees with
carving Rosalind upon their barks; and he hangs odes upon hawthorns,
and elegies on brambles, all praising this same Rosalind. If I could
find this lover, I would give him some good counsel that would soon
cure him of his love.'
Orlando confessed that he was the fond lover of whom he spoke, and
asked Ganymede to give him the good counsel he talked of. The
remedy Ganymede proposed, and the counsel he gave him, was that
Orlando should come every day to the cottage where he and his sister
Aliena dwelt: 'And then,' said Ganymede, 'I will feign myself to be
Rosalind, and you shall feign to court me in the same manner as you
would do if I was Rosalind, and then I will imitate the fantastic ways
of whimsical ladies to their lovers, till I make you ashamed of your
love; and this is the way I propose to cure you.' Orlando had no great
faith in the remedy, yet he agreed to come every day to Ganymede's
cottage, and feign a playful courtship; and every day Orlando visited
Ganymede and Aliena, and Orlando called the shepherd Ganymede
his Rosalind, and every day talked over all the fine words and
flattering compliments which young men delight to use when they
court their mistresses. It does not appear, however, that Ganymede
made any progress in curing Orlando of his love for Rosalind.
Though Orlando thought all this was but a sportive play (not dreaming
that Ganymede was his very Rosalind), yet the opportunity it gave him
of saying all the fond things he had in his heart, pleased his fancy
almost as well as it did Ganymede's, who enjoyed the secret jest in
knowing these fine love-speeches were all addressed to the right
In this manner many days passed pleasantly on with these young
people; and the good-natured Aliena, seeing it made Ganymede
happy, let him have his own way, and was diverted at the mockcourtship,
and did not care to remind Ganymede that the Lady
Rosalind had not yet made herself known to the duke her father,
whose place of resort in the forest they had learnt from Orlando.
Ganymede met the duke one day, and had some talk with him, and the
duke asked of what parentage he came. Ganymede answered that he
came of as good parentage as he did, which made the duke smile, for
he did not suspect the pretty shepherd-boy came of royal lineage.
Then seeing the duke look well and happy, Ganymede was content to
put off all further explanation for a few days longer.
One morning, as Orlando was going to visit Ganymede, he saw a man
lying asleep on the ground, and a large green snake had twisted itself
about his neck. The snake, seeing Orlando approach, glided away
among the bushes. Orlando went nearer, and then he discovered a
lioness lie crouching, with her head on the ground, with a cat-like
watch, waiting until the sleeping man awaked (for it is said that lions
will prey on nothing that is dead or sleeping). It seemed as if Orlando
was sent by Providence to free the man from the danger of the snake
and lioness; but when Orlando looked in the man's face, he perceived
that the sleeper who was exposed to this double peril, was his own
brother Oliver, who had so cruelly used him, and had threatened to
destroy him by fire; and he was almost tempted to leave him a prey to
the hungry lioness; but brotherly affection and the gentleness of his
nature soon overcame his first anger against his brother; and he drew
his sword, and attacked the lioness, and slew her, and thus preserved
his brother's life both from the venomous snake and from the furious
lioness; but before Orlando could conquer the lioness, she had torn
one of his arms with her sharp claws.
While Orlando was engaged with the lioness, Oliver awaked, and
perceiving that his brother Orlando, whom he had so cruelly treated,
was saving him from the fury of a wild beast at the risk of his own
life, shame and remorse at once seized him, and he repented of his
unworthy conduct, and besought with many tears his brother's pardon
for the injuries he had done him. Orlando rejoiced to see him so
penitent, and readily forgave him: they embraced each other; and from
that hour Oliver loved Orlando with a true brotherly affection, though
he had come to the forest bent on his destruction.
The wound in Orlando's arm having bled very much, he found himself
too weak to go to visit Ganymede, and therefore he desired his brother
to go and tell Ganymede, 'whom,' said Orlando, 'I in sport do call my
Rosalind,' the accident which had befallen him.
Thither then Oliver went, and told to Ganymede and Aliena how
Orlando had saved his life: and when he had finished the story of
Orlando's bravery, and his own providential escape, he owned to them
that he was Orlando's brother, who had so cruelly used him; and then
he told them of their reconciliation.
The sincere sorrow that Oliver expressed for his offences made such a
lively impression on the kind heart of Aliena, that she instantly fell in
love with him; and Oliver observing how much she pitied the distress
he told her he felt for his fault, he as suddenly fell in love with her.
But while love was thus stealing into the hearts of Aliena and Oliver,
he was no less busy with Ganymede, who hearing of the danger
Orlando had been in, and that he was wounded by the lioness, fainted;
and when he recovered, he pretended that he had counterfeited the
swoon in the imaginary character of Rosalind, and Ganymede said to
Oliver: 'Tell your brother Orlando how well I counterfeited a swoon.'
But Oliver saw by the paleness of his complexion that he did really
faint, and much wondering at the weakness of the young man, he said:
'Well, if you did counterfeit, take a good heart, and counterfeit to be a
man.' 'So I do,' replied Ganymede, truly, 'but I should have been a
woman by right.'
Oliver made this visit a very long one, and when at last he returned
back to his brother, he had much news to tell him; for besides the
account of Ganymede's fainting at the hearing that Orlando was
wounded, Oliver told him how he had fallen in love with the fair
shepherdess Aliena, and that she had lent a favourable ear to his suit.
even in this their first interview: and he talked to his brother, as of a
thing almost settled, that he should marry Aliena, saying, that he so
well loved her, that he would live here as a shepherd, and settle his
estate and house at home upon Orlando.
'You have my consent,' said Orlando. 'Let your wedding be to-morrow,
and I will invite the duke and his friends. Go and persuade your
shepherdess to this: she is now alone, for look, here comes her
brother.' Oliver went to Aliena; and Ganymede, whom Orlando had
perceived approaching, came to inquire after the health of his
wounded friend.
When Orlando and Ganymede began to talk over the sudden love
which had taken place between Oliver and Aliena, Orlando said he
had advised his brother to persuade his fair shepherdess to be married
on the morrow, and then he added how much he could wish to be
married on the same day to his Rosalind.
Ganymede, who well approved of this arrangement, said that if
Orlando really loved Rosalind as well as he professed to do, he should
have his wish; for on the morrow he would engage to make Rosalind
appear in her own person, and also that Rosalind should be willing to
marry Orlando.
This seemingly wonderful event, which, as Ganymede was the lady
Rosalind, he could so easily perform, he pretended he would bring to
pass by the aid of magic, which he said he had learnt of an uncle who
was a famous magician.
The fond lover Orlando, half believing and half doubting what he
heard, asked Ganymede if he spoke in sober meaning. 'By my life I
do,' said Ganymede; 'therefore put on your best clothes, and bid the
duke and your friends to your wedding; for if you desire to be married
to-morrow to Rosalind, she shall be here.'
The next morning, Oliver having obtained the consent of Aliena, they
came into the presence of the duke, and with them also came Orlando.
They being all assembled to celebrate this double marriage, and as yet
only one of the brides appearing, there was much of wondering and
conjecture, but they mostly thought that Ganymede was making a jest
of Orlando.
The duke, hearing that it was his own daughter that was to be brought
in this strange way, asked Orlando if he believed the shepherd-boy
could really do what he had promised; and while Orlando was
answering that he knew not what to think, Ganymede entered, and
asked the duke, if he brought his daughter, whether he would consent
to her marriage with Orlando. 'That I would,' said the duke, 'if I had
kingdoms to give with her.' Ganymede then said to Orlando: 'And you
say you will marry her if I bring her here.' 'That I would,' said Orlando,
'if I were king of many kingdoms.'
Ganymede and Aliena then went out together, and Ganymede
throwing off his male attire, and being once more dressed in woman's
apparel, quickly became Rosalind without the power of magic; and
Aliena changing her country garb for her own rich clothes, was with
as little trouble transformed into the lady Celia.
While they were gone, the duke said to Orlando, that he thought the
shepherd Ganymede very like his daughter Rosalind; and Orlando
said, he also had observed the resemblance.
They had no time to wonder how all this would end, for Rosalind and
Celia in their own clothes entered; and no longer pretending that it
was by the power of magic that she came there, Rosalind threw
herself on her knees before her father, and begged his blessing. It
seemed so wonderful to all present that she should so suddenly
appear, that it might well have passed for magic; but Rosalind would
no longer trifle with her father, and told him the story of her
banishment, and of her dwelling in the forest as a shepherd-boy, her
cousin Celia passing as her sister.
The duke ratified the consent he had already given to the marriage;
and Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, were married at the same
time. And though their wedding could not be celebrated in this wild
forest with any of the parade or splendour usual on such occasions, yet
a happier wedding-day was never passed: and while they were eating
their venison under the cool shade of the pleasant trees, as if nothing
should be wanting to complete the felicity of this good duke and the
true lovers, an unexpected messenger arrived to tell the duke the
joyful news, that his dukedom was restored to him.
The usurper, enraged at the flight of his daughter Celia, and hearing
that every day men of great worth resorted to the forest of Arden to
join the lawful duke in his exile, much envying' that his brother should
be so highly respected in his adversity, put himself at the head of a
large force, and advanced towards the forest, intending to seize his
brother, and put him with all his faithful followers to the sword; but,
by a wonderful interposition of Providence, this bad brother was
converted from his evil intention; for just as he entered the skirts of
the wild forest, he was met by an old religious man, a hermit, with
whom he had much talk, and who in the end completely turned his
heart from his wicked design. Thenceforward he became a true
penitent, and resolved, relinquishing his unjust dominion, to spend the
remainder of his days in a religious house. The first act of his newlyconceived
penitence was to send a messenger to his brother (as has
been related) to offer to restore to him his dukedom, which he had
usurped so long, and with it the lands and revenues of his friends, the
faithful followers of his adversity.
This joyful news, as unexpected as it was welcome, came opportunely
to heighten the festivity and rejoicings at the wedding of the
princesses. Celia complimented her cousin on this good fortune which
had happened to the duke, Rosalind's father, and wished her joy very
sincerely, though she herself was no longer heir to the dukedom, but
by this restoration which her father had made, Rosalind was now the
heir: so completely was the love of these two cousins unmixed with
anything of jealousy or of envy.
The duke had now an opportunity of rewarding those true friends who
had stayed with him in his banishment; and these worthy followers,
though they had patiently shared his adverse fortune, were very well
pleased to return in peace and prosperity to the palace of their lawful
There lived in the city of Verona two young gentlemen, whose names
were Valentine and Proteus, between whom a firm and uninterrupted
friendship had long subsisted. They pursued their studies together, and
their hours of leisure were always passed in each other's company,
except when Proteus visited a lady he was in love with; and these
visits to his mistress, and this passion of Proteus for the fair Julia,
were the only topics on which these two friends disagreed; for
Valentine, not being himself a lover, was sometimes a little weary of
hearing his friend for ever talking of his Julia, and then he would
laugh at Proteus, and in pleasant terms ridicule the passion of love,
and declare that no such idle fancies should ever enter his head,
greatly preferring (as he said) the free and happy life he led, to the
anxious hopes and fears of the lover Proteus.
One morning Valentine came to Proteus to tell him that they must for
a time be separated, for that he was going to Milan. Proteus, unwilling
to part with his friend, used many arguments to prevail upon
Valentine not to leave him: but Valentine said: 'Cease to persuade me,
my loving Proteus. I will not, like a sluggard, wear out my youth in
idleness at home. Home-keeping youths have ever homely wits. If
your affection were not chained to the sweet glances of your honoured
Julia, I would entreat you to accompany me, to see the wonders of the
world abroad; but since you are a lover, love on still, and may your
love be prosperous!'
They parted with mutual expressions of unalterable friendship. 'Sweet
Valentine, adieu!' said Proteus; 'think on me, when you see some rare
object worthy of notice in your travels, and wish me partaker of your
Valentine began his journey that same day towards Milan; and when
his friend had left him, Proteus sat down to write a letter to Julia,
which he gave to her maid Lucetta to deliver to her mistress.
Julia loved Proteus as well as he did her, but she was a lady of a noble
spirit, and she thought it did not become her maiden dignity too easily
to be won; therefore she affected to be insensible of his passion, and
gave him much uneasiness in the prosecution of his suit.
And when Lucetta offered the letter to Julia, she would not receive it,
and chid her maid for taking letters from Proteus, and ordered her to
leave the room. But she so much wished to see what was written in
the letter, that she soon called in her maid again; and when Lucetta
returned, she said: 'What o'clock is it?' Lucetta, who knew her mistress
more desired to see the letter than to know the time of day, without
answering her question, again offered the rejected letter. Julia, angry
that her maid should thus take the liberty of seeming to know what
she really wanted, tore the letter in pieces, and threw it on the floor,
ordering her maid once more out of the room. As Lucetta was retiring,
she stopped to pick up the fragments of the torn letter; but Julia, who
meant not so to part with them, said, in pretended anger: 'Go, get you
gone, and let the papers lie, you would be fingering them to anger me.'
Julia then began to piece together as well as she could the torn
fragments. She first made out these words: 'Love-wounded Proteus';
and lamenting over these and such like loving words, which she made
out though they were all torn asunder, or, she said wounded (the
expression 'Love-wounded Proteus' giving her that idea), she talked to
these kind words, telling them she would lodge them in her bosom as
in a bed, till their wounds were healed, and that she would kiss each
several piece, to make amends.
In this manner she went on talking with a pretty ladylike childishness,
till finding herself unable to make out the whole, and vexed at her
own ingratitude in destroying such sweet and loving words, as she
called them, she wrote a much kinder letter to Proteus than she had
ever done before.
Proteus was greatly delighted at receiving this favourable answer to
his letter; and while he was reading it, he exclaimed: 'Sweet love,
sweet lines, sweet life!' In the midst of his raptures he was interrupted
by his father. 'How now!' said the old gentleman; 'what letter are you
reading there?'
'My lord,' replied Proteus, 'it is a letter from my friend Valentine, at
'Lend me the letter,' said his father: 'let me see what news.'
'There are no news, my lord,' said Proteus, greatly alarmed, 'but that he
writes how well beloved he is of the duke of Milan, who daily graces
him with favours; and how he wishes me with him, the partner of his
'And how stand you affected to his wish?' asked the father.
'As one relying on your lordship's will, and not depending on his
friendly wish,' said Proteus.
Now it had happened that Proteus' father had just been talking with a
friend on this very subject: his friend had said, he wondered his
lordship suffered his son to spend his youth at home, while most men
were sending their sons to seek preferment abroad; 'some,' said he, 'to
the wars, to try their fortunes there, and some to discover islands far
away, and some to study in foreign universities; and there is his
companion Valentine, he is gone to the duke of Milan's court. Your
son is fit for any of these things, and it will be a great disadvantage to
him in his riper age not to have travelled in his youth.'
Proteus' father thought the advice of his friend was very good, and
upon Proteus telling him that Valentine 'wished him with him, the
partner of his fortune,' he at once determined to send his son to Milan;
and without giving Proteus any reason for this sudden resolution, it
being the usual habit of this positive old gentleman to command his
son, not reason with him, he said: 'My will is the same as Valentine's
wish'; and seeing his son look astonished, he added: 'Look not amazed,
that I so suddenly resolve you shall spend some time in the duke of
Milan's court; for what I will I will, and there is an end. To-morrow be
in readiness to go. Make no excuses; for I am peremptory.'
Proteus knew it was of no use to make objections to his father, who
never suffered him to dispute his will; and he blamed himself for
telling his father an untruth about Julia's letter, which had brought
upon him the sad necessity of leaving her.
Now that Julia found she was going to lose Proteus for so long a time,
she no longer pretended indifference; and they bade each other a
mournful farewell, with many vows of love and constancy. Proteus
and Julia exchanged rings, which they both promised to keep for ever
in remembrance of each other; and thus, taking a sorrowful leave,
Proteus set out on his journey to Milan, the abode of his friend
Valentine was in reality what Proteus had feigned to his father, in high
favour with the duke of Milan; and another event had happened to
him, of which Proteus did not even dream, for Valentine had given up
the freedom of which he used so much to boast, and was become as
passionate a lover as Proteus.
She who had wrought this wondrous change in Valentine was the lady
Silvia, daughter of the duke of Milan, and she also loved him; but they
concealed their love from the duke, because although he showed
much kindness for Valentine, and invited him every day to his palace,
yet he designed to marry his daughter to a young courtier whose name
was Thurio. Silvia despised this Thurio, for he had none of the fine
sense and excellent qualities of Valentine.
These two rivals, Thurio and Valentine, were one day on a visit to
Silvia, and Valentine was entertaining Silvia with turning everything
Thurio said into ridicule, when the duke himself entered the room,
and told Valentine the welcome news of his friend Proteus' arrival.
Valentine said: 'If I had wished a thing, it would have been to have
seen him here!' And then he highly praised Proteus to the duke,
saying: 'My lord, though I have been a truant of my time, yet hath my
friend made use and fair advantage of his days, and is complete in
person and in mind, in all good grace to grace a gentleman.'
'Welcome him then according to his worth,' said the duke. 'Silvia, I
speak to you, and you, Sir Thurio; for Valentine, I need not bid him do
so.' They were here interrupted by the entrance of Proteus, and
Valentine introduced him to Silvia, saying: 'Sweet lady, entertain him
to be my fellow-servant to your ladyship.'
When Valentine and Proteus had ended their visit, and were alone
together, Valentine said: 'Now tell me how all does from whence you
came? How does your lady, and how thrives your love?' Proteus
replied: 'My tales of love used to weary you. I know you joy not in a
love discourse.'
'Ay, Proteus,' returned Valentine, 'but that life is altered now. I have
done penance for condemning love. For in revenge of my contempt of
love, love has chased sleep from my enthralled eyes. O gentle Proteus,
Love is a mighty lord, and hath so humbled me, that I confess there is
no woe like his correction, nor so such joy on earth as in his service. I
now like no discourse except it be of love. Now I can break my fast,
dine, sup, and sleep, upon the very name of love.'
This acknowledgment of the change which love had made in the
disposition of Valentine was a great triumph to his friend Proteus. But
'friend' Proteus must be called no longer, for the same all-powerful
deity Love, of whom they were speaking (yea, even while they were
talking of the change he had made in Valentine), was working in the
heart of Proteus; and he, who had till this time been a pattern of true
love and perfect friendship, was now, in one short interview with
Silvia, become a false friend and a faithless lover; for at the first sight
of Silvia all his love for Julia vanished away like a dream, nor did his
long friendship for Valentine deter him from endeavouring to supplant
him in her affections; and although, as it will always be, when people
of dispositions naturally good become unjust, he had many scruples
before he determined to forsake Julia, and become the rival of
Valentine; yet he at length overcame his sense of duty, and yielded
himself up, almost without remorse, to his new unhappy passion.
Valentine imparted to him in confidence the whole history of his love,
and how carefully they had concealed it from the duke her father, and
told him, that, despairing of ever being able to obtain his consent, he
had prevailed upon Silvia to leave her father's palace that night, and
go with him to Mantua; then he showed Proteus a ladder of ropes, by
help of which he meant to assist Silvia to get out of one of the
windows of the palace after it was dark.
Upon hearing this faithful recital of his friend's dearest secrets, it is
hardly possible to be believed, but so it was, that Proteus resolved to
go to the duke, and disclose the whole to him.
This false friend began his tale with many artful speeches to the duke,
such as that by the laws of friendship he ought to conceal what he was
going to reveal, but that the gracious favour the duke had shown him,
and the duty he owed his grace, urged him to tell that which else no
worldly good should draw from him. He then told all he had heard
from Valentine, not omitting the ladder of ropes, and the manner in
which Valentine meant to conceal them under a long cloak.
The duke thought Proteus quite a miracle of integrity, in that he
preferred telling his friend's intention rather than he would conceal an
unjust action, highly commended him, and promised him not to let
Valentine know from whom he had learnt this intelligence, but by
some artifice to make Valentine betray the secret himself. For this
purpose the duke awaited the coming of Valentine in the evening,
whom he soon saw hurrying towards the palace, and he perceived
somewhat was wrapped within his cloak, which he concluded was the
The duke upon this stopped him, saying: 'Whither away so fast,
Valentine?' 'May it please your grace,' said Valentine, 'there is a
messenger that stays to bear my letters to my friends, and I am going
to deliver them.' Now this falsehood of Valentine's had no better
success in the event than the untruth Proteus told his father.
'Be they of much import?' said the duke.
'No more, my lord,' said Valentine, 'than to tell my father I am well
and happy at your grace's court.'
'Nay then,' said the duke, 'no matter; stay with me a while. I wish your
counsel about some affairs that concern me nearly.' He then told
Valentine an artful story, as a prelude to draw his secret from him,
saying that Valentine knew he wished to match his daughter with
Thurio, but that she was stubborn and disobedient to his commands,
'neither regarding,' said he, 'that she is my child, nor fearing me as if I
were her father. And I may say to thee, this pride of hers has drawn
my love from her. I had thought my age should have been cherished
by her childlike duty. I now am resolved to take a wife, and turn her
out to whosoever will take her in. Let her beauty be her wedding
dower, for me and my possessions she esteems not.'
Valentine, wondering where all this would end, made answer: 'And
what would your grace have me do in all this?'
'Why,' said the duke, 'the lady I would wish to marry is nice and coy,
and does not much esteem my aged eloquence. Besides, the fashion of
courtship is much changed since I was young; now I would willingly
have you to be my tutor to instruct me how I am to woo.'
Valentine gave him a general idea of the modes of courtship then
practiced by young men, when they wished to win a fair lady's love,
such as presents, frequent visits, and the like.
The duke replied to this, that the lady did refuse a present which he
sent her, and that she was so strictly kept by her father, that no man
might have access to her by day.
'Why then,' said Valentine, 'you must visit her by night.'
'But at night,' said the artful duke, who was now coming to the drift of
his discourse, 'her doors are fast locked.'
Valentine then unfortunately proposed that the duke should go into
the lady's chamber at night by means of a ladder of ropes, saying he
would procure him one tatting for that purpose; and in conclusion
advised him to conceal this ladder of ropes under such a cloak as that
which he now wore. 'Lend me your cloak,' said the duke, who had
feigned this long story on purpose to have a presence to get off the
cloak; so upon saying these words, he caught hold of Valentine's
cloak, and throwing it back, he discovered not only the ladder of
ropes, but also a letter of Silvia's, which he instantly opened and read;
and this letter contained a full account of their intended elopement.
The duke, after upbraiding Valentine for his ingratitude in thus
returning the favour he had shown him, by endeavouring to steal away
his daughter, banished him from the court and city of Milan for ever;
and Valentine was forced to depart that night, without even seeing
While Proteus at Milan was thus injuring Valentine, Julia at Verona
was regretting the absence of Proteus; and her regard for him at last so
far overcame her sense of propriety, that she resolved to leave Verona,
and seek her lover at Milan; and to secure herself from danger on the
road, she dressed her maiden Lucetta and herself in men's clothes, and
they set out in this disguise, and arrived at Milan soon after Valentine
was banished from that city through the treachery of Proteus.
Julia entered Milan about noon, and she took up her abode at an inn;
and her thoughts being all on her dear Proteus, she entered into
conversation with the innkeeper, or host, as he was called, thinking by
that means to learn some news of Proteus.
The host was greatly pleased that this handsome young gentleman (as
he took her to be), who from his appearance he concluded was of high
rank, spoke so familiarly to him; and being a good-natured man, he
was sorry to see him look so melancholy; and to amuse his young
guest, he offered to take him to hear some fine music, with which, he
said, a gentleman that evening was going to serenade his mistress.
The reason Julia looked so very melancholy was, that she did not well
know what Proteus would think of the imprudent step she had taken;
for she knew he had loved her for her noble maiden pride and dignity
of character, and she feared she should lower herself in his esteem:
and this it was that made her wear a sad and thoughtful countenance.
She gladly accepted the offer of the host to go with him, and hear the
music; for she secretly hoped she might meet Proteus by the way.
But when she came to the palace whither the host conducted her, a
very different effect was produced to what the kind host intended; for
there, to her heart's sorrow, she beheld her lover, the inconstant
Proteus, serenading the lady Silvia with music, and addressing
discourse of love and admiration to her. And Julia overheard Silvia
from a window talk with Proteus, and reproach him for forsaking his
own true lady, and for his ingratitude to his friend Valentine; and then
Silvia left the window, not choosing to listen to his music and his fine
speeches; for she was a faithful lady to her banished Valentine, and
abhorred the ungenerous conduct of his false friend Proteus.
Though Julia was in despair at what she had just witnessed, yet did
she still love the truant Proteus; and hearing that he had lately parted
with a servant, she contrived with the assistance of her host, the
friendly innkeeper, to hire herself to Proteus as a page; and Proteus
knew not she was Julia, and he sent her with letters and presents to
her rival Silvia, and he even sent by her the very ring she gave him as
a parting gift at Verona.
When she went to that lady with the ring, she was most glad to find
that Silvia utterly rejected the suit of Proteus; and Julia, or the page
Sebastian as she was called, entered into conversation with Silvia
about Proteus' first love, the forsaken lady Julia. She putting in (as one
may say) a good word for herself, said she knew Julia; as well she
might, being herself the Julia of whom she spoke; telling how fondly
Julia loved her master Proteus, and how his unkind neglect would
grieve her: and then she with a pretty equivocation went on: 'Julia is
about my height, and of my complexion, the colour of her eyes and
hair the same as mine': and indeed Julia looked a most beautiful youth
in her boy's attire. Silvia was moved to pity this lovely lady, who was
so sadly forsaken by the man she loved; and when Julia offered the
ring which Proteus had sent, refused it, saying: 'The more shame for
him that he sends me that ring; I will not take it; for I have often heard
him say his Julia gave it to him. I love thee, gentle youth, for pitying
her, poor lady! Here is a purse; I give it you for Julia's sake.' These
comfortable words coming from her kind rival's tongue cheered the
drooping heart of the disguised lady.
But to return to the banished Valentine; who scarce knew which way
to bend his course, being unwilling to return home to his father a
disgraced and banished man: as he was wandering over a lonely
forest, not far distant from Milan, where he had left his heart's dear
treasure, the lady Silvia, he was set upon by robbers, who demanded
his money.
Valentine told them that he was a man crossed by adversity, that he
was going into banishment, and that he had no money, the clothes he
had on being all his riches.
The robbers, hearing that he was a distressed man, and being struck
with his noble air and manly behaviour, told him if he would live with
them, and be their chief, or captain, they would put themselves under
his command; but that if he refused to accept their offer, they would
kill him.
Valentine, who cared little what became of himself, said he would
consent to live with them and be their captain, provided they did no
outrage on women or poor passengers.
Thus the noble Valentine became, like Robin Hood, of whom we read
in ballads, a captain of robbers and outlawed banditti; and in this
situation he was found by Silvia, and in this manner it came to pass.
Silvia, to avoid a marriage with Thurio, whom her father insisted upon
her no longer refusing, came at last to the resolution of following
Valentine to Mantua, at which place she had heard her lover had taken
refuge; but in this account she was misinformed, for he still lived in
the forest among the robbers, bearing the name of their captain, but
taking no part in their depredations, and using the authority which
they had imposed upon him in no other way than to compel them to
show compassion to the travellers they robbed.
Silvia contrived to effect her escape from her father's palace in
company with a worthy old gentleman, whose name was Eglamour,
whom she took along with her for protection on the road. She had to
pass through the forest where Valentine and the banditti dwelt; and
one of these robbers seized on Silvia, and would also have taken
Eglamour, but he escaped.
The robber who had taken Silvia, seeing the terror ;he was in, bid her
not be alarmed, for that he was only going to carry her to a cave where
his captain lived, and that she need not be afraid, for their captain had
an honourable mind, and always showed humanity to women. Silvia
found little comfort in hearing she was going to be carried as a
prisoner before the captain of a lawless banditti. 'O Valentine,' she
cried, 'this I endure for thee!'
But as the robber was conveying her to the cave of his captain, he was
stopped by Proteus, who, still attended by Julia in the disguise of a
page, having heard of the flight of Silvia, had traced her steps to this
forest. Proteus now rescued her from the hands of the robber; but
scarce had she time to thank him for the service he had done her,
before he began to distress her afresh with his love suit; and while he
was rudely pressing her to consent to marry him, and his page (the
forlorn Julia) was standing beside him in great anxiety of mind,
fearing lest the great service which Proteus had just done to Silvia
should win her to show him some favour, they were all strangely
surprised with the sudden appearance of Valentine, who, having heard
his robbers had taken a lady prisoner, came to console and relieve her.
Proteus was courting Silvia, and he was so much ashamed of being
caught by his friend, that he was all at once seized with penitence and
remorse; and he expressed such a lively sorrow for the injuries he had
done to Valentine, that Valentine, whose nature was noble and
generous, even to a romantic degree, not only forgave and restored
him to his former place in his friendship, but in a sudden flight of
heroism he said: 'I freely do forgive you; and all the interest I have in
Silvia, I give it up to you.' Julia, who was standing beside her master
as a page, hearing this strange offer, and fearing Proteus would not be
able with this new-found virtue to refuse Silvia, fainted, and they were
all employed in recovering her: else would Silvia have been offended
at being thus made over to Proteus, though she could scarcely think
that Valentine would long persevere in this overstrained and too
generous act of friendship. When Julia recovered from the fainting kit,
she said: 'I had forgot, my master ordered me to deliver this ring to
Silvia.' Proteus, looking upon the ring, saw that it was the one he gave
to Julia, in return for that which he received from her, and which he
had sent by the supposed page to Silvia. 'How is this?' said he, 'this is
Julia's ring: how came you by it, boy?' Julia answered: 'Julia herself
did give it me, and Julia herself hath brought it hither.'
Proteus, now looking earnestly upon her, plainly perceived that the
page Sebastian was no other than the lady Julia herself; and the proof
she had given of her constancy and true love so wrought in him, that
his love for her returned into his heart, and he took again his own dear
lady, and joyfully resigned all pretensions to the lady Silvia to
Valentine, who had so well deserved her.
Proteus and Valentine were expressing their happiness in their
reconciliation, and in the love of their faithful ladies when they were
surprised with the sight of the duke of Milan and Thurio, who came
there in pursuit of Silvia.
Thurio first approached, and attempted to seize Silvia, saying: 'Silvia
is mine.' Upon this Valentine said to him in a very spirited manner:
'Thurio, keep back: if once again you say that Silvia is yours, you shall
embrace your death. Here she stands, take but possession of her with a
torch! I dare you but to breathe upon my love.' Hearing this threat,
Thurio, who was a great coward, drew back, and said he cared not for
her, and that none but a fool would fight for a girl who loved him not.
The duke, who was a very brave man himself, said now in great anger:
The more base and degenerate in you to take such means for her as
you have done, and leave her on such slight conditions.' Then turning
to Valentine, he said: 'I do applaud your spirit Valentine, and think
you worthy of an empress's love. You shall have Silvia, for you have
well deserved her.' Valentine then with great humility kissed the
duke's hand, and accepted the noble present which he had made him
of his daughter with becoming thankfulness: taking occasion of this
joyful minute to entreat the good-humoured duke to pardon the
thieves with whom he had associated in the forest, assuring him, that
when reformed and restored to society, there would be found among
them many good, and ht for great employment; for the most of them
had been banished, like Valentine, for state offences, rather than for
any black crimes they had been guilty of. To this the ready duke
consented: and now nothing remained but that Proteus, the false
friend, was ordained, by way of penance for his love-prompted faults,
to be present at the recital of the whole story of his loves and
falsehoods before the duke; and the shame of the recital to his
awakened conscience was judged sufficient punishment: which being
done, the lovers, all four, returned back to Milan, and their nuptials
were solemnized in the presence of the duke, with high triumphs and
Shylock, the Jew, lived at Venice: he was an usurer, who had amassed
an immense fortune by lending money at great interest to Christian
merchants. Shylock, being a hard-hearted man, exacted the payment
of the money he lent with such severity that he was much disliked by
all good men, and particularly by Antonio, a young merchant of
Venice; and Shylock as much hated Antonio, because he used to lend
money to people in distress, and would never take any interest for the
money he lent; therefore there was great enmity between this covetous
Jew and the generous merchant Antonio. Whenever Antonio met
Shylock on the Rialto (or Exchange), he used to reproach him with his
usuries and hard dealings, which the Jew would bear with seeming
patience, while he secretly meditated revenge.
Antonio was the kindest man that lived, the best conditioned, and had
the most unwearied spirit in doing courtesies; indeed, he was one in
whom the ancient Roman honour more appeared than in any that drew
breath in Italy. He was greatly beloved by all his fellow-citizens; but
the friend who was nearest and dearest to his heart was Bassanio, a
noble Venetian, who, having but a small patrimony, had nearly
exhausted his little fortune by living in too expensive a manner for his
slender means, as young men of high rank with small fortunes are too
apt to do. Whenever Bassanio wanted money, Antonio assisted him;
and it seemed as if they had but one heart and one purse between
One day Bassanio came to Antonio, and told him that he wished to
repair his fortune by a wealthy marriage with a lady whom he dearly
loved, whose father, that was lately dead, had left her sole heiress to a
large estate; and that in her father's lifetime he used to visit at her
house, when he thought he had observed this lady had sometimes
from her eyes sent speechless messages, that seemed to say he would
be no unwelcome suitor; but not having money to furnish himself with
an appearance befitting the lover of so rich an heiress, he besought
Antonio to add to the many favours he had shown him, by lending him
three thousand ducats.
Antonio had no money by him at that time to lend his friend; but
expecting soon to have some ships come home laden with
merchandise, he said he would go to Shylock, the rich money-lender,
and borrow the money upon the credit of those ships.
Antonio and Bassanio went together to Shylock, and Antonio asked
the Jew to lend him three thousand ducats upon any interest he should
require, to be paid out of the merchandise contained in his ships at
sea. On this, Shylock thought within himself: 'If I can once catch him
on the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him; he hates our
Jewish nation; he lends out money gratis, and among merchants he
rails at me and my well-earned bargains, which he calls interest.
Cursed be my tribe if I forgive him!' Antonio finding he was musing
within himself and did not answer, and being impatient for the money,
said: 'Shylock, do you hear? will you lend the money?' To this
question the Jew replied: 'Signior Antonio, on the Rialto many a time
and often you have railed at me about my monies and my usuries, and
I have borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all
our tribe; and then you have called me unbeliever, cut-throat dog, and
spit upon my Jewish garments, and spurned at me with your foot, as if
I was a cur. Well then, it now appears you need my help; and you
come to me, and say, Shylock, lend me monies. Has a dog money? Is
it possible a cur should lend three thousand ducats? Shall I bend low
and say, Fair sir, you spit upon me on Wednesday last, another time
you called me dog, and for these courtesies I am to lend you monies.'
Antonio replied: 'I am as like to call you so again, to spit on you again,
and spurn you too. If you will lend me this money, lend it not to me as
to a friend, but rather lend it to me as to an enemy, that, if I break, you
may with better face exact the penalty.' 'Why, look you,' said Shylock,
'how you storm! I would be friends with you, and have your love. I
will forget the shames you have put upon me. I will supply your
wants, and take no interest for my money.' This seemingly kind offer
greatly surprised Antonio; and then Shylock, still pretending kindness,
and that all he did was to gain Antonio's love, again said he would
lend him the three thousand ducats, and take no interest for his
money; only Antonio should go with him to a lawyer, and there sign
in merry sport a bond, that if he did not repay the money by a certain
day, he would forfeit a pound of flesh, to be cut off from any part of
his body that Shylock pleased.
'Content,' said Antonio: 'I will sign to this bond, and say there is much
kindness in the Jew.'
Bassanio said Antonio should not sign to such a bond for him; but still
Antonio insisted that he would sign it, for that before the day of
payment came, his ships would return laden with many times the
value of the money.
Shylock, hearing this debate, exclaimed: 'O, father Abraham, what
suspicious people these Christians are! Their own hard dealings teach
them to suspect the thoughts of others. I pray you tell me this,
Bassanio: if he should break this day, what should I gain by the
exaction of the forfeiture? A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man,
is not so estimable, nor profitable neither, as the flesh of mutton or
beef. I say, to buy his favour I offer this friendship: if he will take it,
so; if not, adieu.'
At last, against the advice of Bassanio, who, notwithstanding all the
Jew had said of his kind intentions, did not like his friend should run
the hazard of this shocking penalty for his sake, Antonio signed the
bond, thinking it really was (as the Jew said) merely in sport.
The rich heiress that Bassanio wished to marry lived near Venice, at a
place called Belmont: her name was Portia, and in the graces of her
person and her mind she was nothing inferior to that Portia, of whom
we read, who was Cato's daughter, and the wife of Brutus.
Bassanio being so kindly supplied with money by his friend Antonio,
at the hazard of his life, set out for Belmont with a splendid train, and
attended by a gentleman of the name of Gratiano.
Bassanio proving successful in his suit, Portia in a short time
consented to accept of him for a husband.
Bassanio confessed to Portia that he had no fortune, and that his high
birth and noble ancestry was all that he could boast of; she, who loved
him for his worthy qualities, and had riches enough not to regard
wealth in a husband, answered with a graceful modesty, that she
would wish herself a thousand times more fair, and ten thousand times
more rich, to be more worthy of him; and then the accomplished
Portia prettily dispraised herself, and said she was an unlessoned girl,
unschooled, unpractised, yet not so old but that she could learn, and
that she would commit her gentle spirit to be directed and governed
by him in all things; and she said: 'Myself and what is mine, to you
and yours is now converted. But yesterday, Bassanio, I was the lady of
this fair mansion, queen of myself, and mistress over these servants;
and now this house, these servants, and myself, are yours, my lord; I
give them with this ring'; presenting a ring to Bassanio.
Bassanio was so overpowered with gratitude and wonder at the
gracious manner in which the rich and noble Portia accepted of a man
of his humble fortunes, that he could not express his joy and reverence
to the dear lady who so honoured him, by anything but broken words
of love and thankfulness; and taking the ring, he vowed never to part
with it.
Gratiano and Nerissa, Portia's waiting-maid, were in attendance upon
their lord and lady, when Portia so gracefully promised to become the
obedient wife of Bassanio; and Gratiano, wishing Bassanio and the
generous lady joy, desired permission to be married at the same time.
'With all my heart, Gratiano,' said Bassanio, 'if you can get a wife.
Gratiano then said that he loved the lady Portia's fair waiting
gentlewoman Nerissa, and that she had promised to be his wife, if her
lady married Bassanio. Portia asked Nerissa if this was true. Nerissa
replied: 'Madam, it is so, if you approve of it.' Portia willingly
consenting, Bassanio pleasantly said: 'Then our wedding-feast shall be
much honoured by your marriage, Gratiano.'
The happiness of these lovers was sadly crossed at this moment by the
entrance of a messenger, who brought a letter from Antonio
containing fearful tidings. When Bassanio read Antonio's letter, Portia
feared it was to tell him of the death of some dear friend, he looked so
pale; and inquiring what was the news which had so distressed him,
he said: 'O sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasantest words that
ever blotted paper; gentle lady, when I first imparted my love to you, I
freely told you all the wealth I had ran in my veins; but I should have
told you that I had less than nothing, being in debt.' Bassanio then told
Portia what has been here related, of his borrowing the money of
Antonio, and of Antonio's procuring it of Shylock the Jew, and of the
bond by which Antonio had engaged to forfeit a pound of flesh, if it
was not repaid by a certain day: and then Bassanio read Antonio's
letter: the words of which were: 'Sweet Bassanio, my ships are all lost,
my bond to the Jew is forfeited, and since in paying it is impossible I
should live, I could wish to see you at my death; notwithstanding use
your pleasure; if your love for me do not persuade you to come, let not
my letter.' 'O, my dear love,' said Portia, 'despatch all business, and
begone; you shall have gold to pay the money twenty times over,
before this kind friend shall lose a hair by my Bassanio's fault; and as
you are so dearly bought, I will dearly love you.' Portia then said she
would be married to Bassanio before he set out, to give him a legal
right to her money; and that same day they were married, and
Gratiano was also married to Nerissa; and Bassanio and Gratiano, the
instant they were married, set out in great haste for Venice, where
Bassanio found Antonio in prison.
The day of payment being past, the cruel Jew would not accept of the
money which Bassanio offered him, but insisted upon having a pound
of Antonio's flesh. A day was appointed to try this shocking cause
before the duke of Venice, and Bassanio awaited in dreadful suspense
the event of the trial.
When Portia parted with her husband, she spoke cheeringly to him,
and bade him bring his dear friend along with him when he returned;
yet she feared it would go hard with Antonio, and when she was left
alone, she began to think and consider within herself, if she could by
any means be instrumental in saving the life of her dear Bassanio's
friend; and notwithstanding when she wished to honour her Bassanio,
she had said to him with such a meek and wifelike grace, that she
would submit in all things to be governed by his superior wisdom, yet
being now called forth into action by the peril of her honoured
husband's friend, she did nothing doubt her own powers, and by the
sole guidance of her own true and perfect judgment, at once resolved
to go herself to Venice, and speak in Antonio's defence.
Portia had a relation who was a counsellor in the law; to this
gentleman, whose name was Bellario, she wrote, and stating the case
to him, desired his opinion, and that with his advice he would also
send her the dress worn by a counsellor. When the messenger
returned, he brought letters from Bellario of advice how to proceed,
and also everything necessary for her equipment.
Portia dressed herself and her maid Nerissa in men's apparel, and
putting on the robes of a counsellor, she took Nerissa along with her
as her clerk; and setting out immediately, they arrived at Venice on
the very day of the trial. The cause was just going to be heard before
the duke and senators of Venice in the senate-house, when Portia
entered this high court of justice, and presented a letter from Bellario,
in which that learned counsellor wrote to the duke, saying, he would
have come himself to plead for Antonio, but that he was prevented by
sickness, and he requested that the learned young doctor Balthasar (so
he called Portia) might be permitted to plead in his stead. This the
duke granted, much wondering at the youthful appearance of the
stranger, who was prettily disguised by her counsellor's robes and her
large wig.
And now began this important trial. Portia looked around her, and she
knew the merciless Jew; and she saw Bassanio, but he knew her not in
her disguise. He was standing beside Antonio, in an agony of distress
and fear for his friend.
The importance of the arduous task Portia had engaged in gave this
tender lady courage, and she boldly proceeded in the duty she had
undertaken to perform: and first of all she addressed herself to
Shylock; and allowing that he had a right by the Venetian law to have
the forfeit expressed in the bond, she spoke so sweetly of the noble
quality of merry, as would have softened any heart but the unfeeling
Shylock's; saying, that it dropped as the gentle rain from heaven upon
the place beneath; and how mercy was a double blessing, it blessed
him that gave, and him that received it, and how it became monarchs
better than their crowns, being an attribute of God Himself; and that
earthly power came nearest to God's, in proportion as mercy tempered
justice; and she bid Shylock remember that as we all pray for mercy,
that same prayer should teach us to show mercy. Shylock only
answered her by desiring to have the penalty forfeited in the bond. 'Is
he not able to pay the money?' asked Portia. Bassanio then offered the
Jew the payment of the three thousand ducats as many times over as
he should desire; which Shylock refusing, and still insisting upon
having a pound of Antonio's flesh, Bassanio begged the learned young
counsellor would endeavour to wrest the law a little, to save Antonio's
life. But Portia gravely answered, that laws once established must
never be altered. Shylock hearing Portia say that the law might not be
altered, it seemed to him that she was pleading in his favour, and he
said: 'A Daniel is come to judgment! O wise young judge, how I do
honour you! How much elder are you than your looks! '
Portia now desired Shylock to let her look at the bond; and when she
had read it, she said: 'This bond is forfeited, and by this the Jew may
lawfully claim a pound of flesh, to be by him cut off nearest Antonio's
heart.' Then she said to Shylock: 'Be merciful: take the money, and bid
me tear the bond.' But no mercy would the cruel Shylock show; and
he said: 'By my soul I swear, there is no power in the tongue of men to
alter me.' 'Why then, Antonio,' said Portia, 'you must prepare your
bosom for the knife': and while Shylock was sharpening a long knife
with great eagerness to cut off the pound of flesh, Portia said to
Antonio: 'Have you anything to say?' Antonio with a calm resignation
replied, that he had but little to say, for that he had prepared his mind
for death. Then he said to Bassanio: 'Give me your hand, Bassanio!
Fare you well! Grieve not that I am fallen into this misfortune for you.
Commend me to your honourable wife, and tell her how I have loved
you!' Bassanio in the deepest affliction replied: 'Antonio, I am married
to a wife, who is as dear to me as life itself; but life itself, my wife,
and all the world, are not esteemed with me above your life; I would
lose all, I would sacrifice all to this devil here, to deliver you.'
Portia hearing this, though the kind-hearted lady was not at all
offended with her husband for expressing the love he owed to so true
a friend as Antonio in these strong terms, yet could not help
answering: 'Your wife would give you little thanks, if she were
present, to hear you make this offer.' And then Gratiano, who loved to
copy what his lord did, thought he must make a speech like
Bassanio's, and he said, in Nerissa's hearing, who was writing in her
clerk's dress by the side of Portia: 'I have a wife, whom I protest I
love; I wish she were in heaven, if she could but entreat some power
there to change the cruel temper of this currish Jew.' 'It is well you
wish this behind her back, else you would have but an unquiet house,'
said Nerissa.
Shylock now cried out impatiently: 'We trifle time; I pray pronounce
the sentence.' And now all was awful expectation in the court, and
every heart was full of grief for Antonio.
Portia asked if the scales were ready to weigh the flesh; and she said
to the Jew: 'Shylock, you must have some surgeon by, lest he bleed to
death.' Shylock, whose whole intent was that Antonio should bleed to
death, said: 'It is not so named in the bond.' Portia replied: 'It is not so
named in the bond, but what of that? It were good you did so much for
charity.' To this all the answer Shylock would make was: 'I cannot find
it; it is not in the bond.' 'Then,' said Portia, 'a pound of Antonio's flesh
is shine. The law allows it, and the court awards it. And you may cut
this flesh from off his breast. The law allows it and the court awards
it.' Again Shylock exclaimed: 'O wise and upright judge! A Daniel is
come to judgment! ' And then he sharpened his long knife again, and
looking eagerly on Antonio, he said: 'Come, prepare! '
'Tarry a little, Jew,' said Portia; 'there is something else. This bond
here gives you no drop of blood; the words expressly are ' a pound of
flesh.' If in the cutting off the pound of flesh you shed one drop of
Christian blood, your lands and goods are by the law to be confiscated
to the state of Venice.' Now as it was utterly impossible for Shylock to
cut off the pound of flesh without shedding some of Antonio's blood,
this wise discovery of Portia's, that it was flesh and not blood that was
named in the bond, saved the life of Antonio; and all admiring the
wonderful sagacity of the young counsellor, who had so happily
thought of this expedient, plaudits resounded from every part of the
senate-house; and Gratiano exclaimed, in the words which Shylock
had used: 'O wise and upright judge! mark, Jew, a Daniel is come to
judgment! '
Shylock, finding himself defeated in his cruel intent, said with a
disappointed look, that he would take the money; and Bassanio,
rejoiced beyond measure at Antonio's unexpected deliverance, cried
out: 'Here is the money!' But Portia stopped him, saying: 'Softly; there
is no haste; the Jew shall have nothing but the penalty: therefore
prepare, Shylock, to cut off the flesh; but mind you shed no blood: nor
do not cut off more nor less than just a pound; be it more or less by
one poor scruple, nay if the scale turn but by the weight of a single
hair, you are condemned by the laws of Venice to die, and all your
wealth is forfeited to the senate.' 'Give me my money, and let me go,'
said Shylock. 'I have it ready,' said Bassanio: 'here it is.'
Shylock was going to take the money, when Portia again stopped him,
saying: 'Tarry, Jew; I have yet another hold upon you. By the laws of
Venice, your wealth is forfeited to the state, for having conspired
against the life of one of its citizens, and your life lies at the mercy of
the duke; therefore, down on your knees, and ask him to pardon you.'
The duke then said to Shylock: 'That you may see the difference of
our Christian spirit, I pardon you your life before you ask it; half your
wealth belongs to Antonio, the other half comes to the state.'
The generous Antonio then said that he would give up his share of
Shylock's wealth, if Shylock would sign a deed to make it over at his
death to his daughter and her husband; for Antonio knew that the Jew
had an only daughter who had lately married against his consent to a
young Christian, named Lorenzo, a friend of Antonio's, which had so
offended Shylock, that he had disinherited her.
The Jew agreed to this: and being thus disappointed in his revenge,
and despoiled of his riches, he said: 'I am ill. Let me go home; send
the deed after me, and I will sign over half my riches to my daughter.'
'Get thee gone, then,' said the Duke, 'and sign it; and if you repent your
cruelty and turn Christian, the state will forgive you the fine of the
other half of your riches.'
The duke now released Antonio, and dismissed the court. He then
highly praised the wisdom and ingenuity of the young counsellor, and
invited him home to dinner. Portia, who meant to return to Belmont
before her husband, replied: 'I humbly thank your grace, but I must
away directly.' The duke said he was sorry he had not leisure to stay
and dine with him; and turning to Antonio, he added: 'Reward this
gentleman; for in my mind you are much indebted to him.'
The duke and his senators left the court; and then Bassanio said to
Portia: 'Most worthy gentleman, I and my friend Antonio have by your
wisdom been this day acquitted of grievous penalties, and I beg you
will accept of the three thousand ducats due unto the Jew.' 'And we
shall stand indebted to you over and above,' said Antonio, 'in love and
service evermore.'
Portia could not be prevailed upon to accept the money; but upon
Bassanio still pressing her to accept of some reward, she said: 'Give
me your gloves; I will wear them for your sake'; and then Bassanio
taking off his gloves, she espied the ring which she had given him
upon his finger: now it was the ring the wily lady wanted to get from
him to make a merry jest when she saw her Bassanio again, that made
her ask him for his gloves; and she said, when she saw the ring, 'and
for your love I will take this ring from you.' Bassanio was sadly
distressed that the counsellor should ask him for the only thing he
could not part with, and he replied in great confusion, that he could
not give him that ring, because it was his wife's gift, and he had
vowed never to part with it; but that he would give him the most
valuable ring in Venice, and find it out by proclamation. On this
Portia affected to be affronted, and left the court, saying: 'You teach
me, sir, how a beggar should be answered.'
'Dear Bassanio,' said Antonio, 'let him have the ring; let my love and
the great service he has done for me be valued against your wife's
displeasure,' Bassanio, ashamed to appear so ungrateful, yielded, and
sent Gratiano after Portia with the ring; and then the clerk Nerissa,
who had also given Gratiano a ring, she begged his ring, and Gratiano
(not choosing to be outdone in generosity by his lord) gave it to her.
And there was laughing among these ladies to think, when they got
home, how they would tax their husbands with giving away their
rings, and swear that they had given them as a present to some
Portia, when she returned, was in that happy temper of mind which
never fails to attend the consciousness of having performed a good
action; her cheerful spirits enjoyed everything she saw: the moon
never seemed to shine so bright before; and when that pleasant moon
was hid behind a cloud, then a light which she saw from her house at
Belmont as well pleased her charmed fancy, and she said to Nerissa:
'That light we see is burning in my hall; how far that little candle
throws its beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty world'; and
hearing the sound of music from her house, she said: 'Methinks that
music sounds much sweeter than by day.'
And now Portia and Nerissa entered the house, and dressing
themselves in their own apparel, they awaited the arrival of their
husbands, who soon followed them with Antonio; and Bassanio
presenting his dear friend to the lady Portia, the congratulations and
welcomings of that lady were hardly over, when they perceived
Nerissa and her husband quarrelling in a corner of the room. 'A
quarrel already?' said Portia. 'What is the matter?' Gratiano replied:
'Lady, it is about a paltry gilt ring that Nerissa gave me, with words
upon it like the poetry on a cutler's knife; Love me, and leave me not.'
'What does the poetry or the value of the ring signify?' said Nerissa.
'You swore to me when I gave it to you, that you would keep it till the
hour of death; and now you say you gave it to the lawyer's clerk. I
know you gave it to a woman.' 'By this hand,' replied Gratiano, 'I gave
it to a youth, a kind of boy, a little scrubbed boy, no higher than
yourself; he was clerk to the young counsellor that by his wise
pleading saved Antonio's life: this prating boy begged it for a fee, and
I could not for my life deny him.' Portia said: 'You were to blame,
Gratiano, to part with your wife's first gift. I gave my lord Bassanio a
ring, and I am sure he would not part with it for all the world.'
Gratiano, in excuse for his fault, now said: 'My lord Bassanio gave his
ring away to the counsellor, and then the boy, his clerk, that took
some pains in writing, he begged my ring.'
Portia, hearing this, seemed very angry, and reproached Bassanio for
giving away her ring; and she said, Nerissa had taught her what to
believe, and that she knew some woman had the ring. Bassanio was
very unhappy to have so offended his dear lady, and he said with great
earnestness: 'No, by my honour, no woman had it, but a civil doctor,
who refused three thousand ducats of me, and begged the ring, which
when I denied him, he went displeased away. What could I do, sweet
Portia? I was so beset with shame for my seeming ingratitude, that I
was forced to send the ring after him. Pardon me, good lady; had you
been there, I think you would have begged the ring of me to give the
worthy doctor.'
'Ah!' said Antonio, 'I am the unhappy cause of these quarrels.'
Portia bid Antonio not to grieve at that, for that he was welcome
notwithstanding; and then Antonio said: 'I once did lend my body for
Bassanio's sake; and but for him to whom your husband gave the ring,
I should have now been dead. I dare be bound again, my soul upon the
forfeit, your lord will never more break his faith with you.' 'Then you
shall be his surety,' said Portia; 'give him this ring, and bid him keep it
better than the other.'
When Bassanio looked at this ring, he was strangely surprised to find
it was the same he gave away; and then Portia told him how she was
the young counsellor, and Nerissa was her clerk; and Bassanio found,
to his unspeakable wonder and delight, that it was by the noble
courage and wisdom of his wife that Antonio's life was saved.
And Portia again welcomed Antonio, and gave him letters which by
some chance had fallen into her hands, which contained an account of
Antonio's ships, that were supposed lost, being safely arrived in the
harbour. So these tragical beginnings of this rich merchant's story
were all forgotten in the unexpected good fortune which ensued; and
there was leisure to laugh at the comical adventure of the rings, and
the husbands that did not know their own wives Gratiano merrily
swearing, in a sort of rhyming speech, that
. . . while he lived, he'd fear no other thing
So sore, as keeping safe Nerissa's ring.
During the time of Augustus Caesar, emperor of Rome, there reigned
n England (which was then called Britain) a king whose name was
Cymbeline's first wife died when his three children (two sons and a
daughter) were very young. Imogen, the eldest of these children, was
brought up in her father's court; but by a strange chance the two sons
of Cymbeline were stolen out of their nursery, when the eldest was
but three years of age, and the youngest quite an infant; and
Cymbeline could never discover what was become of them, or by
whom they were conveyed away.
Cymbeline was twice married: his second wife was a wicked, plotting
woman, and a cruel stepmother to Imogen, Cymbeline's daughter by
his first wife.
The queen, though she hated Imogen, yet wished her to marry a son of
her own by a former husband (she also having been twice married):
for by this means she hoped upon the death of Cymbeline to place the
crown of Britain upon the head of her son Cloten; for she knew that, if
the king's sons were not found, the princess Imogen must be the king's
heir. But this design was prevented by Imogen herself, who married
without the consent or even knowledge of her father or the queen.
Posthumus (for that was the name of Imogen's husband) was the best
scholar and most accomplished gentleman of that age. His father died
fighting in the wars for Cymbeline, and soon after his birth his mother
died also for grief at the loss of her husband.
Cymbeline, pitying the helpless state of this orphan, took Posthumus
(Cymbeline having given him that name, because he was born after
his father's death), and educated him in his own court.
Imogen and Posthumus were both taught by the same masters, and
were playfellows from their infancy; they loved each other tenderly
when they were children, and their affection continuing to increase
with their years, when they grew up they privately married.
The disappointed queen soon learnt this secret, for she kept spies
constantly in watch upon the actions of her daughter-in-law, and she
immediately told the king of the marriage of Imogen with Posthumus.
Nothing could exceed the wrath of Cymbeline, when he heard that his
daughter had been so forgetful of her high dignity as to marry a
He commanded Posthumus to leave Britain, and banished him from
native country for ever.
The queen, who pretended to pity Imogen for the grief she suffered at
losing her husband, offered to procure them a private meeting before
Posthumus set out on his journey to Rome, which place he had chosen
for his residence in his banishment: this seeming kindness she
the better to succeed in her future designs in regard to her son Cloten;
for she meant to persuade Imogen, when her husband was gone, that
marriage was not lawful, being contracted without the consent of the
Imogen and Posthumus took a most affectionate leave of each other.
Imogen gave her husband a diamond ring, which had been her
mother's, and Posthumus promised never to part with the ring; and he
fastened a bracelet on the arm of his wife, which he begged she would
preserve with great care, as a token of his love; they then bid each
other farewell, with many vows of everlasting love and fidelity.
Imogen remained a solitary and dejected lady in her father's court, and
Posthumus arrived at Rome, the place he had chosen for his
Posthumus fell into company at Rome with some gay young men of
different nations, who were talking freely of ladies: each one praising
the ladies of his own country, and his own mistress. Posthumus, who
had ever his own dear lady in his mind, affirmed that his wife, the fair
Imogen, was the most virtuous, wise, and constant lady in the world.
One of those gentlemen, whose name was Iachimo, being offended
that a lady of Britain should be so praised above the Roman ladies, his
country-women, provoked Posthumus by seeming to doubt the
constancy of his so highly-praised wife; and at length, after much
altercation, Posthumus consented to a proposal of Iachimo's, that he
(Iachimo) should go to Britain, and endeavour to gain the love of the
married Imogen. They then laid a wager, that if Iachimo did not
succeed in this wicked design, he was to forfeit a large sum of money;
but if he could win Imogen's favour, and prevail upon her to give him
the bracelet which Posthumus had so earnestly desired she would
keep as a token of his love, then the wager was to terminate with
Posthumus giving to Iachimo the ring, which was Imogen's love
present when she parted with her husband. Such firm faith had
Posthumus in the fidelity of Imogen, that he thought he ran no hazard
in this trial of her honour.
Iachimo, on his arrival in Britain, gained admittance, and a courteous
welcome from Imogen, as a friend of her husband; but when he began
to make professions of love to her, she repulsed him with disdain, and
he soon found that he could have no hope of succeeding in his
dishonourable design.
The desire Iachimo had to win the wager made him now have
recourse to a stratagem to impose upon Posthumus, and for this
purpose he bribed some of Imogen's attendants, and was by them
conveyed into her bedchamber, concealed in a large trunk, where he
remained shut up till Imogen was retired to rest, and had fallen asleep;
and then getting out of the trunk, he examined the chamber with great
attention, and wrote down everything he saw there, and particularly
noticed a mole which he observed upon Imogen's neck, and then
softly unloosing the bracelet from her arm, which Posthumus had
given to her, he retired into the chest again; and the next day he set off
for Rome with great expedition, and boasted to Posthumus that
Imogen had given him the bracelet, and likewise permitted him to
pass a night in her chamber: and in this manner Iachimo told his false
tale: 'Her bedchamber,' said he, 'was hung with tapestry of silk and
silver, the story was the proud Cleopatra when she met her Anthony, a
piece of work most bravely wrought.'
'This is true,' said Posthumus; 'but this you might have heard spoken of
without seeing.'
'Then the chimney,' said Iachimo, 'is south of the chamber, and the
chimney-piece is Diana bathing; never saw I figures livelier
'This is a thing you might have likewise heard,' said Posthumus, 'for it
is much talked of.'
Iachimo as accurately described the roof of the chamber; and added: 'I
had almost forgot her andirons; they were two winking Cupids made
of silver, each on one foot standing.' He then took out the bracelet,
and said: 'Know you this jewel, sir? She gave me this. She took it from
her arm. I see her yet; her pretty action did outsell her gift, and yet
enriched it too. She gave it me, and said, she prized it once.' He last of
all described the mole he had observed upon her neck.
Posthumus, who had heard the whole of this artful recital in an agony
of doubt, now broke out into the most passionate exclamations against
Imogen. He delivered up the diamond ring to Iachimo, which he had
agreed to forfeit to him, if he obtained the bracelet from Imogen.
Posthumus then in a jealous rage wrote to Pisanio, a gentleman of
Britain, who was one of Imogen's attendants, and had long been a
faithful friend to Posthumus; and after telling him what proof he had
of his wife's disloyalty, he desired Pisanio would take Imogen to
Milford-Haven, a seaport of Wales, and there kill her. And at the same
time he wrote a deceitful letter to Imogen desiring her to go with
Pisanio, for that finding he could live no longer without seeing her,
though he was forbidden upon pain of death to return to Britain, he
would come to Milford-Haven, at which place he begged she would
meet him. She, good unsuspecting lady, who loved her husband above
all things, and desired more than her life to see him, hastened her
departure with Pisanio, and the same night she received the letter she
set out.
When their journey was nearly at an end, Pisanio, who, though
faithful to Posthumus, was not faithful to serve him in an evil deed,
disclosed to Imogen the cruel order he had received.
Imogen, who, instead of meeting a loving and beloved husband, found
herself doomed by that husband to suffer death, was afflicted beyond
Pisanio persuaded her to take comfort, and wait with patient fortitude
for the time when Posthumus should see and repent his injustice: in
the meantime, as she refused in her distress to return to her father's
court, he advised her to dress herself in boy's clothes for more security
in travelling; to which device she agreed, and thought in that disguise
she would go over to Rome, and see her husband, whom, though he
had used her so barbarously, she could not forget to love.
When Pisanio had provided her with her new apparel, he left her to
her uncertain fortune, being obliged to return to court; but before he
departed he gave her a phial of cordial, which he said the queen had
given him as a sovereign remedy in all disorders.
The queen, who hated Pisanio because he was a friend to Imogen and
Posthumus, gave him this phial, which she supposed contained
poison, she having ordered her physician to give her some poison, to
try its effects (as she said) upon animals; but the physician, knowing
her malicious disposition, would not trust her with real poison, but
gave her a drug which would do no other mischief than causing a
person to sleep with every appearance of death for a few hours. This
mixture, which Pisanio thought a choice cordial, he gave to Imogen,
desiring her, if she found herself ill upon the road, to take it; and so,
with blessings and prayers for her safety and happy deliverance from
her undeserved troubles, he left her.
Providence strangely directed Imogen's steps to the dwelling of her
two brothers, who had been stolen away in their infancy. Bellarius,
who stole them away, was a lord in the court of Cymbeline, and
having been falsely accused to the king of treason, and banished from
the court, in revenge he stole away the two sons of Cymbeline, and
brought them up in a forest, where he lived concealed in a cave. He
stole them through revenge, but he soon loved them as tenderly as if
they had been his own children, educated them carefully, and they
grew up fine youths, their princely spirits leading them to bold and
daring actions; and as they subsisted by hunting, they were active and
hardy, and were always pressing their supposed father to let them seek
their fortune in the wars.
At the cave where these youths dwelt it was Imogen's fortune to
arrive. She had lost her way in a large forest, through which her road
lay to Milford-Haven (from which she meant to embark for Rome);
and being unable to find any place where she could purchase food, she
was with weariness and hunger almost dying; for it is not merely
putting on a man's apparel that will enable a young lady, tenderly
brought up, to bear the fatigue of wandering about lonely forests like a
man. Seeing this cave, she entered, hoping to find someone within of
whom she could procure food. She found the cave empty, but looking
about she discovered some cold meat, and her hunger was so pressing,
that she could not wait for an invitation, but sat down and began to
eat. 'Ah,' said she, talking to herself, 'I see a man's life is a tedious one;
how tired am I! for two nights together I have made the ground my
bed: my resolution helps me, or I should be sick. When Pisanio
showed me 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
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
'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 it.'
'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 angellike
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 Milford-Haven.
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
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 sweet corset'
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 cavekeeper,
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
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 banished him.
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
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 one beside.'
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
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-inlaw.
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 ht 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
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, she would feign sickness, or anything to get rid of the
sight of him; for it was plain that she esteemed his old age a useless
burden, and his attendants an unnecessary expense: not only she
herself slackened in her expressions of duty to the king, but by her
example, and (it is to be feared) not without her private instructions,
her very servants affected to treat him with neglect, and would either
refuse to obey his orders, or still more contemptuously pretend not to
hear them. Lear could not but perceive this alteration in the behaviour
of his daughter, but he shut his eyes against it as long as he could, as
people commonly are unwilling to believe the unpleasant
consequences which their own mistakes and obstinacy have brought
upon them.
True love and fidelity are no more to be estranged by ill, than
falsehood and hollow-heartedness can be conciliated by good, usage.
This eminently appears in the instance of the good earl of Kent, who,
though banished by Lear, and his life made forfeit if he were found in
Britain, chose to stay and abide all consequences, as long as there was
a chance of his being useful to the king his master. See to what mean
shifts and disguises poor loyalty is forced to submit sometimes; yet it
counts nothing base or unworthy, so as it can but do service where it
owes an obligation! In the disguise of a serving man, all his greatness
and pomp laid aside, this good earl proffered his services to the king,
who, not knowing him to be Kent in that disguise, but pleased with a
certain plainness, or rather bluntness in his answers, which the earl
put on (so different from that smooth oily flattery which he had so
much reason to be sick of, having found the effects not answerable in
his daughter), a bargain was quickly struck, and Lear took Kent into
his service by the name of Caius, as he called himself, never
suspecting him to be his once great favourite, the high and mighty earl
of Kent.
This Caius quickly found means to show his fidelity and love to his
royal master: for Goneril's steward that same day behaving in a
disrespectful manner to Lear, and giving him saucy looks and
language, as no doubt he was secretly encouraged to do by his
mistress, Caius, not enduring to hear so open an affront put upon his
majesty, made no more ado but presently tripped up his heels, and laid
the unmannerly slave in the kennel; for which friendly service Lear
became more and more attached to him.
Nor was Kent the only friend Lear had. In his degree, and as far as so
insignificant a personage could show his love, the poor fool, or jester,
that had been of his palace while Lear had a palace, as it was the
custom of kings and great personages at that time to keep a fool (as he
was called) to make them sport after serious business: this poor fool
clung to Lear after he had given away his crown, and by his witty
sayings would keep up his good humour, though he could not refrain
sometimes from jeering at his master for his imprudence in
uncrowning himself, and giving all away to his daughters; at which
time, as he rhymingly expressed it, these daughters
For sudden joy did weep
And he for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep
And go the fools among.
And in such wild sayings, and scraps of songs, of which he had plenty,
this pleasant honest fool poured out his heart even in the presence of
Goneril herself, in many a bitter taunt and jest which cut to the quick:
such as comparing the king to the hedge-sparrow, who feeds the
young of the cuckoo till they grow old enough, and then has its head
bit off for its pains; and saying, that an ass may know when the cart
draws the horse (meaning that Lear's daughters, that ought to go
behind, now ranked before their father); and that Lear was no longer
Lear, but the shadow of Lear: for which free speeches he was once or
twice threatened to be whipped.
The coolness and falling off of respect which Lear had begun to
perceive, were not all which this foolish fond father was to suffer
from his unworthy daughter: she now plainly told him that his staying
in her palace was inconvenient so long as he insisted upon keeping up
an establishment of a hundred knights; that this establishment was
useless and expensive, and only served to kill her court with riot and
feasting; and she prayed him that he would lessen their number, and
keep none but old men about him, such as himself, and fitting his age.
Lear at first could not believe his eyes or ears, nor that it was his
daughter who spoke so unkindly. He could not believe that she who
had received a crown from him could seek to cut off his train, and
grudge him the respect due to his old age. But she persisting in her
undutiful demand, the old man's rage was so excited, that he called
her a detested kite, and said that she spoke an untruth; and so indeed
she did, for the hundred knights were all men of choice behaviour and
sobriety of manners, skilled in all particulars of duty, and not given to
rioting or feasting, as she said. And he bid his horses to be prepared,
for he would go to his other daughter, Regan, he and his hundred
knights; and he spoke of ingratitude, and said it was a marble-hearted
devil, and showed more hideous in a child than the sea-monster. And
he cursed his eldest daughter Goneril so as was terrible to hear;
praying that she might never have a child, or if she had, that it might
live to return that scorn and contempt upon her which she had shown
to him that she might feel how sharper than a serpent's tooth it was to
have a thankless child. And Goneril's husband, the duke of Albany,
beginning to excuse himself for any share which Lear might suppose
he had in the unkindness, Lear would not hear him out, but in a rage
ordered his horses to be saddled, and set out with his followers for the
abode of Regan, his other daughter. And Lear thought to himself how
small the fault of Cordelia (if it was a fault) now appeared, in
comparison with her sister's, and he wept; and then he was ashamed
that such a creature as Goneril should have so much power over his
manhood as to make him weep.
Regan and her husband were keeping their court in great pomp and
state at their palace; and Lear despatched his servant Caius with
letters to his daughter, that she might be prepared for his reception,
while he and his train followed after. But it seems that Goneril had
been beforehand with him, sending letters also to Regan, accusing her
father of waywardness and ill humours, and advising her not to
receive so great a train as he was bringing with him. This messenger
arrived at the same time with Caius, and Caius and he met: and who
should it be but Caius's old enemy the steward, whom he had formerly
tripped up by the heels for his saucy behaviour to Lear. Caius not
liking the fellow's look, and suspecting what he came for, began to
revile him, and challenged him to fight, which the fellow refusing,
Caius, in a fit of honest passion, beat him soundly, as such a mischiefmaker
and carrier of wicked messages deserved; which coming to the
ears of Regan and her husband, they ordered Caius to be put in the
stocks, though he was a messenger from the king her father, and in
that character demanded the highest respect: so that the first thing the
king saw when he entered the castle, was his faithful servant Caius
sitting in that disgraceful situation.
This was but a bad omen of the reception which he was to expect; but
a worse followed, when, upon inquiry for his daughter and her
husband, he was told they were weary with travelling all night, and
could not see him; and when lastly, upon his insisting in a positive and
angry manner to see them, they came to greet him, whom should he
see in their company but the hated Goneril, who had come to tell her
own story, and set her sister against the king her father!
This sight much moved the old man, and still more to see Regan take
her by the hand; and he asked Goneril if she was not ashamed to look
upon his old white beard. And Regan advised him to go home again
with Goneril, and live with her peaceably, dismissing half of his
attendants, and to ask her forgiveness; for he was old and wanted
discretion, and must be ruled and led by persons that had more
discretion than himself. And Lear showed how preposterous that
would sound, if he were to go down on his knees, and beg of his own
daughter for food and raiment, and he argued against such an
unnatural dependence, declaring his resolution never to return with
her, but to stay where he was with Regan, he and his hundred knights;
for he said that she had not forgot the half of the kingdom which he
had endowed her with, and that her eyes were not fierce like Goneril's,
but mild and kind. And he said that rather than return to Goneril, with
half his train cut off, he would go over to France, and beg a wretched
pension of the king there, who had married his youngest daughter
without a portion.
But he was mistaken in expecting kinder treatment of Regan than he
had experienced from her sister Goneril. As if willing to outdo her
sister in unequal behaviour, she declared that she thought fifty knights
too many to wait upon him: that five-and-twenty were enough. Then
Lear, nigh heart-broken, turned to Goneril and said that he would go
back with her, for her fifty doubled five-and-twenty, and so her love
was twice as much as Regan's. But Goneril excused herself, and said,
what -teed of so many as five-and-twenty? or even ten? or five? when
he might be waited upon by her servants, or her sister's servants? So
these two wicked daughters, as if they strove to exceed each other in
cruelty to their old father, who had been so good to them, by little and
little would have abated him of all his train, all respect (little enough
for him that once commanded a kingdom), which was left him to
show that he had once been a king! Not that a splendid train is
essential to happiness, but from a king to a beggar is a hard change,
from commanding millions to be without one attendant; and it was the
ingratitude in his daughters' denying it, more than what he would
suffer by the want of it, which pierced this poor king to the heart;
insomuch, that with this double ill-usage, a vexation for having so
foolishly given away a kingdom, his wits began to be unsettled, and
while he said e knew not what, he vowed revenge against those
unnatural hags, and to make examples of them that should be a terror
to the earth!
While he was thus idly threatening what his weak arm could never
execute, night came on, and a loud storm of thunder and lightning
with rain; and his daughters still persisting in their resolution not to
admit his followers, he called for his horses, and chose rather to
encounter the utmost fury of the storm abroad, than stay under the
same roof with these ungrateful daughters: and they, saying that the
injuries which wilful men procure to themselves are their just
punishment, suffered him to go in that condition and shut their doors
upon him.
The wind were high, and the rain and storm increased, when the old
man sallied forth to combat with the elements, less sharp than his
daughters' unkindness. For many miles about there was scarce a bush;
and there upon a heath, exposed to the fury of the storm in a dark
night, did king Lear wander out, and defy the winds and the thunder;
and he bid the winds to blow the earth into the sea, or swell the waves
of the sea till they drowned the earth, that no token might remain of
any such ungrateful animal as man. The old king was now left with no
other companion than the poor fool, who still abided with him, with
his merry conceits striving to outjest misfortune, saying it was but a
naughty night to swim in, and truly the king had better go in and ask
his daughter's blessing:
But he that has a little tiny wit
With heigh ho, the wind and the rain!
Must make content with his fortunes fit
Though the rain it raineth every day:
and swearing it was a brave night to cool a lady's pride.
Thus poorly accompanied, this once great monarch was found by his
ever-faithful servant the good earl of Kent, now transformed to Caius,
who ever followed close at his side, though the king did not know him
to be the earl; and he said: 'Alas! sir, are you here? creatures that love
night, love not such nights as these. This dreadful storm has driven the
beasts to their hiding places. Man's nature cannot endure the affliction
or the fear.' And Lear rebuked him and said, these lesser evils were
not felt, where a greater malady was taxed. When the mind is at ease,
the body has leisure to be delicate, but the temper in his mind did take
all feeling else from his senses, but of that which beat at his heart.
And he spoke of filial ingratitude, and said it was all one as if the
mouth should tear the hand for lifting food to it; for parents were
hands and food and everything to children.
But the good Caius still persisting in his entreaties that the king would
not stay out in the open air, at last persuaded him to enter a little
wretched hovel which stood upon the heath, where the fool first
entering, suddenly ran back terrified, saying that he had seen a spirit.
But upon examination this spirit proved to be nothing more than a
poor Bedlam beggar, who had crept into this deserted hovel for
shelter, and with his talk about devils frighted the fool, one of those
poor lunatics who are either mad, or feign to be so, the better to extort
charity from the compassionate country people, who go about the
country, calling themselves poor Tom and poor Turlygood, saying:
'Who gives anything to poor Tom?' sticking pins and nails and sprigs
of rosemary into their arms to make them bleed; and with such
horrible actions, partly by prayers, and partly with lunatic curses, they
move or terrify the ignorant countryfolks into giving them alms. This
poor fellow was such a one; and the king seeing him in so wretched a
plight, with nothing but a blanket about his loins to cover his
nakedness, could not be persuaded but that the fellow was some father
who had given all away to his daughters, and brought himself to that
pass: for nothing he thought could bring a man to such wretchedness
but the having unkind daughters.
And from this and many such wild speeches which he uttered, the
good Caius plainly perceived that he was not in his perfect mind, but
that his daughters' ill usage had really made him go mad. And now the
loyalty of this worthy earl of Kent showed itself in more essential
services than he had hitherto found opportunity to perform. For with
the assistance of some of the king's attendants who remained loyal, he
had the person of his royal master removed at daybreak to the castle
of Dover, where his own friends and influence, as earl of Kent, chiefly
lay; and himself embarking for France, hastened to the court of
Cordelia, and did there in such moving terms represent the pitiful
condition of her royal father, and set out in such lively colours the
inhumanity of her sisters, that this good and loving child with many
tears besought the king her husband that he would give her leave to
embark for England, with a sufficient power to subdue these cruel
daughters and their husbands, and restore the old king her father to his
throne; which being granted, she set forth, and with a royal army
landed at Dover.
Lear having by some chance escaped from the guardians which the
good earl of Kent had put over him to' take care of him in his lunacy,
was found by some of Cordelia's train, wandering about the fields near
Dover, in a pitiable condition, stark mad, and singing aloud to himself
with a crown upon his head which he had made of straw, and nettles,
and other wild weeds that he had picked up in the corn-fields. By the
advice of the physicians, Cordelia, though earnestly desirous of seeing
her father, was prevailed upon to put off the meeting, till by sleep and
the operation of herbs which they gave him, he should be restored to
greater composure. By the aid of these skilful physicians, to whom
Cordelia promised all her gold and jewels for the recovery of the old
king, Lear was soon in a condition to see his daughter.
A tender sight it was to see the meeting between this father and
daughter; to see the struggles between the joy of this poor old king at
beholding again his once darling child, and the shame at receiving
such filial kindness from her whom he had cast off for so small a fault
in his displeasure; both these passions struggling with the remains of
his malady, which in his half-crazed brain sometimes made him that
he scarce remembered where he was, or who it was that so kindly
kissed him and spoke to him; and then he would beg the standers-by
not to laugh at him, if he were mistaken in thinking this lady to be his
daughter Cordelia! And then to see him fall on his knees to beg
pardon of his child; and she, good lady, kneeling all the while to ask a
blessing of him, and telling him that it did not become him to kneel,
but it was her duty, for she was his child, his true and very child
Cordial! and she kissed him (as she said) to kiss away all her sisters'
unkindness, and said that they might be ashamed of themselves, to
turn their old kind father with his white beard out into the cold air,
when her enemy's dog, though it had bit her (as she prettily expressed
it), should have stayed by her fire such a night as that, and warmed
himself. And she told her father how she had come from France with
purpose to bring him assistance; and he said that she must forget and
forgive, for he was old and foolish, and did not know what he did, but
that to be sure she had great cause not to love him, but her sisters had
none. And Cordelia said that she had no cause, no more than they had.
So we will leave this old king in the protection of his dutiful and
loving child, where, by the help of sleep and medicine, she and her
physicians at length succeeded in winding up the untuned and jarring
senses which the cruelty of his other daughters had so violently
shaken. Let us return to say a word or two about those cruel daughters.
These monsters of ingratitude, who had been so false to their old
father, could not be expected to prove more faithful to their own
husbands. They soon grew tired of paying even the appearance of duty
and affection, and in an open way showed they had fixed their loves
upon another. It happened that the object of their guilty loves was the
same. It was Edmund, a natural son of the late earl of Gloucester, who
by his treacheries had succeeded in disinheriting his brother Edgar,
the lawful heir, from his earldom, and by his wicked practices was
now earl himself; a wicked man, and a fit object for the love of such
wicked creatures as Goneril and Regan. It falling out about this time
that the duke of Cornwall, Regan's husband, died, Regan immediately
declared her intention of wedding this earl of Gloucester, which
rousing the jealousy of her sister, to whom as well as to Regan this
wicked earl had at sundry times professed love, Goneril found means
to make away with her sister by poison; but being detected in her
practices, and imprisoned by her husband, the duke of Albany, for this
deed, and for her guilty passion for the earl which had come to his
ears, she, in a ht of disappointed love and rage, shortly put an end to
her own life. Thus' the justice of Heaven at last overtook these wicked
While the eyes of all men were upon this event, admiring the justice
displayed in their deserved deaths, the same eyes were suddenly taken
off from this sight to admire at the mysterious ways of the same power
in the melancholy fate of the young and virtuous daughter, the lady
Cordelia, whose good deeds did seem to deserve a more fortunate
conclusion: but it is an awful truth, that innocence and piety are not
always successful in this world. The forces which Goneril and Regan
had sent out under the command of the bad earl of Gloucester were
victorious, and Cordelia, by the practices of this wicked earl, who did
not like that any should stand between him and the throne, ended her
life in prison. Thus, Heaven took this innocent lady to itself in her
young years, after showing her to the world an illustrious example of
filial duty. Lear did not long survive this kind child.
Before he died, the good earl of Kent, who had still attended his old
master's steps from the first of his daughters' ill usage to this sad
period of his decay, tried to make him understand that it was he who
had followed him under the name of Caius; but Lear's care-crazed
brain at that time could not comprehend how that could be, or how
Kent and Caius could be the same person: so Kent thought it needless
to trouble him with explanations at such a time; and Lear soon after
expiring, this faithful servant to the king, between age and grief for his
old master's vexations, soon followed him to the grave.
How the judgment of Heaven overtook the bad earl of Gloucester,
whose treasons were discovered, and himself slain in single combat
with his brother, the lawful earl; and how Goneril's husband, the duke
of Albany, who was innocent of the death of Cordelia, and had never
encouraged his lady in her wicked proceedings against her father,
ascended the throne of Britain after the death of Lear, is needless here
to narrate; Lear and his Three Daughters being dead, whose
adventures alone concern our story.
When Duncan the Meek reigned king of Scotland, there lived a great
thane, or lord, called Macbeth. This Macbeth was a near kinsman to
the king, and in great esteem at court for his velour and conduct in the
wars; an example of which he had lately given, in defeating a rebel
army assisted by the troops of Norway in terrible numbers.
The two Scottish generals, Macbeth and Banquo, returning victorious
from this great battle, their way lay over a blasted heath, where they
were stopped by the strange appearance of three figures like women,
except that they had beards, and their withered skins and wild attire
made them look not like any earthly creatures. Macbeth first
addressed them, when they, seemingly offended, laid each one her
choppy finger upon her skinny lips, in token of silence; and the first of
them saluted Macbeth with the title of thane of Glamis. The general
was not a little startled to find himself known by such creatures; but
how much more, when the second of them followed up that salute by
giving him the title of thane of Cawdor, to which honour he had no
pretensions; and again the third bid him 'All hail! king that shalt be
hereafter!' Such a prophetic greeting might well amaze him, who
knew that while the king's sons lived he could not hope to succeed to
the throne. Then turning to Banquo, they pronounced him, in a sort of
riddling terms, to be lesser than Macbeth and greater! not so happy,
but much happier! and prophesied that though he should never reign,
yet his sons after him should be kings in Scotland. They then turned
into air, and vanished: by which the generals knew them to be the
weird sisters, or witches.
While they stood pondering on the strangeness of this adventure, there
arrived certain messengers from the king, who were empowered by
him to confer upon Macbeth the dignity of thane of Cawdor: an event
so miraculously corresponding with the prediction of the witches
astonished Macbeth, and he stood wrapped in amazement, unable to
make reply to the messengers; and in that point of time swelling hopes
arose in his mind that the prediction of the third witch might in like
manner have its accomplishment, and that he should one day reign
king in Scotland.
Turning to Banquo, he said: 'Do you not hope that your children shall
be kings, when what the witches promised to me has so wonderfully
come to pass?' 'That hope,' answered the general, 'might enkindle you
to aim at the throne; but oftentimes these ministers of darkness tell us
truths in little things, to betray us into deeds of greatest consequence.'
But the wicked suggestions of the witches had sunk too deep into the
mind of Macbeth to allow him to attend to the warnings of the good
Banquo. From that time he bent all his thoughts how to compass the
throne of Scotland.
Macbeth had a wife, to whom he communicated the strange prediction
of the weird sisters, and its partial accomplishment. She was a bad,
ambitious woman, and so as her husband and herself could arrive at
greatness, she cared not much by what means. She spurred on the
reluctant purpose of Macbeth, who felt compunction at the thoughts
of blood, and did not cease to represent the murder of the king as a
step absolutely necessary to the fulfilment of the flattering prophecy.
It happened at this time that the king, who out of his royal
condescension would oftentimes visit his principal nobility upon
gracious terms, came to Macbeth's house, attended by his two sons,
Malcolm and Donalbain, and a numerous train of thanes and
attendants, the more to honour Macbeth for the triumphal success of
his wars.
The castle of Macbeth was pleasantly situated, and the air about it was
sweet and wholesome, which appeared by the nests which the martlet,
or swallow, had built under all the jutting friezes and buttresses of the
building, wherever it found a place of advantage; for where those
birds most breed and haunt, the air is observed to be delicate. The
king entered well-pleased with the place, and not less so with the
attentions and respect of his honoured hostess, lady Macbeth, who had
the art of covering treacherous purposes with smiles; and could look
like the innocent flower, while she was indeed the serpent under it.
The king being tired with his journey, went early to bed, and in his
state-room two grooms of his chamber (as was the custom) slept
beside him. He had been unusually pleased with his reception, and
had made presents before he retired to his principal officers; and
among the rest, had sent a rich diamond to lady Macbeth, greeting her
by the name of his most kind hostess.
Now was the middle of night, when over half the world nature seems
dead, and wicked dreams abuse men's minds asleep, and none but the
wolf and the murderer is abroad. This was the time when lady
Macbeth waked to plot the murder of the king. She would not have
undertaken a deed so abhorrent to her sex, but that she feared her
husband's nature, that it was too full of the milk of human kindness, to
do a contrived murder. She knew him to be ambitious, but withal to
be scrupulous, and not yet prepared for that height of crime which
commonly in the end accompanies inordinate ambition. She had won
him to consent to the murder, but she doubted his resolution; and she
feared that the natural tenderness of his disposition (more humane
than her own) would come between, and defeat the purpose. So with
her own hands armed with a dagger, she approached the king's bed;
having taken care to ply the grooms of his chamber so with wine, that
they slept intoxicated, and careless of their charge. There lay Duncan
in a sound sleep after the fatigues of his journey, and as she viewed
him earnestly, there was something in his face, as he slept, which
resembled her own father; and she had not the courage to proceed.
She returned to confer with her husband. His resolution had begun to
stagger. He considered that there were strong reasons against the deed.
In the first place, he was not only a subject, but a near kinsman to the
king; and he had been his host and entertainer that day, whose duty,
by the laws of hospitality, it was to shut the door against his
murderers, not bear the knife himself. Then he considered how just
and merciful a king this Duncan had been, how clear of offence to his
subjects, how loving to his nobility, and in particular to him; that such
kings are the peculiar care of Heaven, and their subjects doubly bound
to revenge their deaths. Besides, by the favours of the king, Macbeth
stood high in the opinion of all sorts of men, and how would those
honours be stained by the reputation of so foul a murder!
In these conflicts of the mind lady Macbeth found her husband
inclining to the better part, and resolving to proceed no further. But
she being a woman not easily shaken from her evil purpose, began to
pour in at his ears words which infused a portion of her own spirit into
his mind, assigning reason upon reason why he should not shrink from
what he had undertaken, how easy the deed was; how soon it would
be over; and how the action of one short night would give to all their
nights and days to come sovereign sway and royalty! Then she threw
contempt on his change of purpose, and accused him of fickleness and
cowardice; and declared that she had given suck, and knew how
tender it was to love the babe ':hat milked her; but she would, while it
was smiling in her face, have plucked it from her breast, and dashed
its brains out, if she had so sworn to do it, as he had sworn to perform
that murder. Then she added, how practicable it was to lay the guilt of
the deed upon the drunken sleepy grooms. And with the velour of her
tongue she so chastised his sluggish resolutions, that he once more
summoned up courage to the bloody business.
So, taking the dagger in his hand, he softly stole in the dark to the
room where Duncan lay; and as he went, he thought he saw another
dagger in the air, with the handle towards him, and on the blade and at
the point of it drops of blood; but when he tried to grasp at it, it was
nothing but air, a mere phantasm proceeding from his own hot and
oppressed brain and the business he had in hand.
Getting rid of this fear, he entered the king's room, whom he
despatched with one stroke of his dagger. Just as he had done the
murder, one of the grooms, who slept in the chamber, laughed in his
sleep, and the other cried: 'Murder,' which woke them both, but they
said a short prayer; one of them said: 'God bless us!' and the other
answered 'Amen'; and addressed themselves to sleep again. Macbeth,
who stood listening to them, tried to say 'Amen,' when the fellow said
'God bless us!' but, though he had most need of a blessing, the word
stuck in his throat, and he could not pronounce it.
Again he thought he heard a voice which cried: 'Sleep no more:
Macbeth cloth murder sleep, the innocent sleep, that nourishes life.'
Still it cried: 'Sleep no more,' to all the house. 'Glamis hath murdered
sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep
no more.'
With such horrible imaginations Macbeth returned to his listening
wife, who began to think he had failed of his purpose, and that the
deed was somehow frustrated. He came in so distracted a state, that
she reproached him with his want of firmness, and sent him to wash
his hands of the blood which stained them, while she took his dagger,
with purpose to stain the cheeks of the grooms with blood, to make it
seem their guilt.
Morning came, and with it the discovery of the murder, which could
not be concealed; and though Macbeth and his lady made great show
of grief, and the proofs against the grooms (the dagger being produced
against them and their faces smeared with blood) were sufficiently
strong, yet the entire suspicion fell upon Macbeth, whose inducements
to such a deed were so much more forcible than such poor silly
grooms could be supposed to have; and Duncan's two sons fled.
Malcolm, the eldest, sought for refuge in the English court; and the
youngest, Donalbain, made his escape to Ireland.
The king's sons, who should have succeeded him, having thus vacated
the throne, Macbeth as next heir was crowned king, and thus the
prediction of the weird sisters was literally accomplished.
Though placed so high, Macbeth and his queen could not forget the
prophecy of the weird sisters, that, though Macbeth should be king,
yet not his children, but the children of Banquo, should be kings after
him. The thought of this, and that they had defiled their hands with
blood, and done so great crimes, only to place the posterity of Banquo
upon the throne, so rankled within them, that they determined to put
to death both Banquo and his son, to make void the predictions of the
weird sisters, which in their own case had been so remarkably brought
to pass.
For this purpose they made a great supper, to which they invited all
the chief thanes; and, among the rest, with marks of particular respect,
Banquo and his son Fleance were invited. The way by which Banquo
was to pass to the palace at night was beset by murderers appointed by
Macbeth, who stabbed Banquo; but in the scuffle Fleance escaped.
From that Fleance descended a race of monarchs who afterwards
filled the Scottish throne, ending with James the Sixth of Scotland and
the First of England, under whom the two crowns of England and
Scotland were united.
At supper, the queen, whose manners were in the highest degree
affable and royal, played the hostess with a gracefulness and attention
which conciliated every one present, and Macbeth discoursed freely
with his thanes and nobles, saying, that all that was honourable in the
country was under his roof, if he had but his good friend Banquo
present, whom yet he hoped he should rather have to chide for
neglect, than to lament for any mischance. Just at these words the
ghost of Banquo, whom he had caused to be murdered, entered the
room and placed himself on the chair which Macbeth was about to
occupy. Though Macbeth was a bold man, and one that could have
faced the devil without trembling, at this horrible sight his cheeks
turned white with fear, and he stood quite unmanned with his eyes
fixed upon the ghost. His queen and all the nobles, who saw nothing,
but perceived him gazing (as they thought) upon an empty chair, took
it for a fit of distraction; and she reproached him, whispering that it
was but the same fancy which made him see the dagger in the air,
when he was about to kill Duncan. But Macbeth continued to see the
ghost, and gave no heed to all they could say, while he addressed it
with distracted words, yet so significant, that his queen, fearing the
dreadful secret would be disclosed, in great haste dismissed the
guests, excusing the infirmity of Macbeth as a disorder he was often
troubled with.
To such dreadful fancies Macbeth was subject. His queen and he had
their sleeps afflicted with terrible dreams, and the blood of Banquo
troubled them not more than the escape of Fleance, whom now they
looked upon as father to a line of kings who should keep their
posterity out of the throne. With these miserable thoughts they found
no peace, and Macbeth determined once more to seek out the weird
sisters, and know from them the worst.
He sought them in a cave upon the heath, where they, who knew by
foresight of his coming, were engaged in preparing their dreadful
charms, by which they conjured up infernal spirits to reveal to them
futurity. Their horrid ingredients were toads, bats, and serpents, the
eye of a newt, and the tongue of a dog, the leg of a lizard, and the
wing of the night-owl, the scale of a dragon, the tooth of a wolf, the
maw of the ravenous salt-sea shark, the mummy of a witch, the root of
the poisonous hemlock (this to have effect must be digged in the
dark), the gall of a goat, and the liver of a Jew, with slips of the yew
tree that roots itself in graves, and the finger of a dead child: all these
were set on to boil in a great kettle, or cauldron, which, as fast as it
grew too hot, was cooled with a baboon's blood: to these they poured
in the blood of a sow that had eaten her young, and they threw into the
flame the grease that had sweaten from a murderer's gibbet. By these
charms they bound the infernal spirits to answer their questions.
It was demanded of Macbeth, whether he would have his doubts
resolved by them, or by their masters, the spirits. He, nothing daunted
by the dreadful ceremonies which he saw, boldly answered: 'Where
are they? let me see them.' And they called the spirits, which were
three. And the first arose in the likeness of an armed head, and he
called Macbeth by name, and bid him beware of the thane of Fife; for
which caution Macbeth thanked him; for Macbeth had entertained a
jealousy of Macduff, the thane of Fife.
And the second spirit arose in the likeness of a bloody child, and he
called Macbeth by name, and bid him have no fear, but laugh to scorn
the power of man, for none of woman born should have power to hurt
him; and he advised him to be bloody, bold, and resolute. 'Then live,
Macduff! cried the king; 'what need I fear of thee? but yet I will make
assurance doubly sure. Thou shalt not live; that I may tell pale-hearted
Fear it lies, and sleep in spite of thunder.'
That spirit being dismissed, a third arose in the form of a child
crowned, with a tree in his hand. He called Macbeth by name, and
comforted him against conspiracies, saying, that he should never be
vanquished, until the wood of Birnam to Dunsinane Hill should come
against him. 'Sweet bodements! good !' cried Macbeth; 'who can unfix
the forest, and move it from its earth-bound roots? I see I shall live the
usual period of man's life, and not be cut off by a violent death. But
my heart throbs to know one thing. Tell me, if your art can tell so
much, if Banquo's issue shall ever reign in this kingdom?' Here the
cauldron sank into the ground, and a noise of music was heard, and
eight shadows, like kings, passed by Macbeth, and Banquo last, who
bore a glass which showed the figures of many more, and Banquo all
bloody smiled upon Macbeth, and pointed to them; by which Macbeth
knew that these were the posterity of Banquo, who should reign after
him in Scotland; and the witches, with a sound of soft music, and with
dancing, making a show of duty and welcome to Macbeth, vanished.
And from this time the thoughts of Macbeth were all bloody and
The first thing he heard when he got out of the witches' cave, was that
Macduff, thane of Fife, had fled to England, to join the army which
was forming against him under Malcolm, the eldest son of the late
king, with intent to displace Macbeth, and set Malcolm, the right heir,
upon the throne. Macbeth, stung with rage, set upon the castle of
Macduff, and put his wife and children, whom the thane had left
behind, to the sword, and extended the slaughter to all who claimed
the least relationship to Macduff.
These and such-like deeds alienated the minds of all his chief nobility
from him. Such as could, fled to join with Malcolm and Macduff, who
were now approaching with a powerful army, which they had raised in
England; and the rest secretly wished success to their arms, though for
fear of Macbeth they could take no active part. His recruits went on
slowly. Everybody hated the tyrant; nobody loved or honoured him;
but all suspected him, and he began to envy the condition of Duncan,
whom he had murdered, who slept soundly in his grave, against whom
treason had done its worst: steel nor poison, domestic malice nor
foreign levies, could hurt him any longer.
While these things were acting, the queen, who had been the sole
partner in his wickedness, in whose bosom he could sometimes seek a
momentary repose from those terrible dreams which afflicted them
both nightly, died, it is supposed, by her own hands, unable to bear the
remorse of guilt, and public hate; by which event he was left alone,
without a soul to love or care for him, or a friend to whom he could
confide his wicked purposes.
He grew careless of life, and wished for death, but the near approach
of Malcolm's army roused in him what remained of his ancient
courage, and he determined to die (as he expressed it) 'with armour on
his back.' Besides this, the hollow promises of the witches had filled
him with a false confidence, and he remembered the sayings of the
spirits, that none of woman born was to hurt him, and that he was
never to be vanquished till Birnam wood should come to Dunsinane,
which he thought could never be. So he shut himself up in his castle,
whose impregnable strength was such as defied a siege: here he
sullenly waited the approach of Malcolm. When, upon a day, there
came a messenger to him, pale and shaking with fear, almost unable
to report that which he had seen; for he averred, that as he stood upon
his watch on the hill, he looked towards Birnam, and to his thinking
the wood began to move! 'Liar and slave!' cried Macbeth: 'if thou
speakest false, thou shalt hang alive upon the next tree, till famine end
thee. If thy tale be true, I care not if thou cost as much by me': for
Macbeth now began to faint in resolution, and to doubt the equivocal
speeches of the spirits. He was not to fear till Birnam wood should
come to Dunsinane; and now a wood did move! 'However,' said he, 'if
this which he avouches be true, let us arm and out. There is no flying
hence, nor staying here. I begin to be weary of the sun, and wish my
life at an end.' With these desperate speeches he sallied forth upon the
besiegers, who had now come up to the castle.
The strange appearance which had given the messenger an idea of a
wood moving is easily solved. When the besieging army marched
through the wood of Birnam, Malcolm, like a skilful general,
instructed his soldiers to hew down every one a bough and bear it
before him, by way of concealing the true numbers of his host. This
marching of the soldiers with boughs had at a distance the appearance
which had frightened the messenger. Thus were the words of the spirit
brought to pass, in a sense different from that in which Macbeth had
understood them, and one great hold of his confidence was gone.
And now a severe skirmishing took place, in which Macbeth, though
feebly supported by those who called themselves his friends, but in
reality hated the tyrant and inclined to the party of Malcolm and
Macduff, yet fought with the extreme of rage and velour, cutting to
pieces all who were opposed to him, till he came to where Macduff
was fighting. Seeing Macduff, and remembering the caution of the
spirit who had counselled him to avoid Macduff, above all men, he
would have turned, but Macduff, who had been seeking him through
the whole fight, opposed his turning, and a fierce contest ensued;
Macduff giving him many foul reproaches for the murder of his wife
and children. Macbeth, whose soul was charged enough with blood of
that family already, would still have declined the combat: but Macduff
still urged him to it, calling him tyrant, murderer, hell-hound, and
Then Macbeth remembered the words of the spirit, how none of
woman born should hurt him; and smiling confidently he said to
Macduff: 'Thou losest thy labour, Macduff. As easily thou mayest
impress the air with thy sword, as make me vulnerable. I bear a
charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.'
'Despair thy charm,' said Macduff, 'and let that lying spirit whom thou
hast served, tell thee, that Macduff was never born of woman, never
as the ordinary manner of men is to be born, but was untimely taken
from his mother.'
'Accursed be the tongue which tells me so,' said the trembling
Macbeth, who felt his last hold of confidence give way; 'and let never
man in future believe the lying equivocations of witches and juggling
spirits, who deceive us in words which have double senses, and while
they keep their promise literally, disappoint our hopes with a different
meaning. I will not fight with thee.'
'Then live!' said the scornful Macduff; 'we will have a show of thee, as
men show monsters, and a painted board, on which shall be written:
'Here men may see the tyrant! ''
'Never,' said Macbeth, whose courage returned with despair; 'I will not
live to kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet, and to be baited
with the curses of the rabble. Though Birnam wood be come to
Dunsinane, and thou opposed to me, who west never born of woman,
yet will I try the last.' With these frantic words he threw himself upon
Macduff, who, after a severe struggle, in the end overcame him, and
cutting off his head, made a present of it to the young and lawful king,
Malcolm; who took upon him the government which, by the
machinations of the usurper, he had so long been deprived of, and
ascended the throne of Duncan the Meek, amid the acclamations of
the nobles and the people.
Bertram, count of Rousillon, had newly come to his title and estate, by
the death of his father. The king of France loved the father of Bertram,
and when he heard of his death, he sent for his son to come
immediately to his royal court in Paris, intending, for the friendship he
bore the late count, to grace young Bertram with his especial favour
and protection.
Bertram was living with his mother, the widowed countess, when
Lafeu, an old lord of the French court, came to conduct him to the
king. The king of France was an absolute monarch, and the invitation
to court was in the form of a royal mandate, or positive command,
which no subject, of what high dignity soever, might disobey;
therefore though the countess, in parting with this dear son, seemed a
second time to bury her husband, whose loss she had so lately
mourned, yet she dared not to keep him a single day, but gave instant
orders for his departure. Lafeu, who came to fetch him, tried to
comfort the countess for the loss of her late lord, and her son's sudden
absence; and he said, in a courtier's flattering manner, that the king
was so kind a prince, she would find in his majesty a husband, and
that he would be a father to her son; meaning only, that the good king
would befriend the fortunes of Bertram. Lafeu told the countess that
the king had fallen into a sad malady, which was pronounced by his
physicians to be incurable. The lady expressed great sorrow on
hearing this account of the king's ill health, and said, she wished the
father of Helena (a young gentlewoman who was present in
attendance upon her) were living, for that she doubted not he could
have cured his majesty of his disease. And she told Lafeu something
of the history of Helena, saying she was the only daughter of the
famous physician Gerard de Narbon, and that he had recommended
his daughter to her care when he was dying, so that since his death she
had taken Helena under her protection; then the countess praised the
virtuous disposition and excellent qualities of Helena, saying she
inherited these virtues from her worthy father. While she was
speaking, Helena wept in sad and mournful silence, which made the
countess gently reprove her for too much grieving for her father's
Bertram now bade his mother farewell. The countess parted with this
dear son with tears and many blessings, and commended him to the
care of Lafeu, saying: 'Good my lord, advise him, for he is an
unseasoned courtier.'
Bertram's last words were spoken to Helena, but they were words of
mere civility, wishing her happiness; and he concluded his short
farewell to her with saying: 'Be comfortable to my mother, your
mistress, and make much of her.'
Helena had long loved Bertram, and when she wept in sad mournful
silence, the tears she shed were not for Gerard de Narbon. Helena
loved her father, but in the present feeling of a deeper love, the object
of which she was about to lose, she had forgotten the very form and
features of her dead father, her imagination presenting no image to her
mind but Bertram's.
Helena had long loved Bertram, yet she always remembered that he
was the count of Rousillon, descended from the most ancient family
in France. She of humble birth. Her parents of no note at all. His
ancestors all noble. And therefore she looked up to the high-born
Bertram as to her master and to her dear lord, and dared not form any
wish but to live his servant, and so living to die his vassal. So great the
distance seemed to her between his height of dignity and her lowly
fortunes, that she would day: 'It were all one that I should love a bright
particular star, and think to wed it, Bertram is so far above me.'
Bertram's absence filled her eyes with tears and her heart with sorrow;
for though she loved without hope, yet it was a pretty comfort to her
to see him every hour, and Helena would sit and look upon his dark
eye, his arched brow, and the curls of his fine hair, till she seemed to
draw his portrait on the tablet of her heart, that heart too capable of
retaining the memory of every line in the features of that loved face.
Gerard de Narbon, when he died, left her no other portion than some
prescriptions of rare and well-proved virtue, which by deep study and
long experience in medicine he had collected as sovereign and almost
infallible remedies. Among the rest, there was one set down as an
approved medicine for the disease under which Lafeu said the king at
that time languished: and when Helena heard of the king's complaint,
she, who till now had been so humble and so hopeless, formed an
ambitious project in her mind to go herself to Paris, and undertake the
cure of the king. But though Helena was the possessor of this choice
prescription, it was unlikely, as the king as well as his physicians was
of opinion that his disease was incurable, that they would give credit
to a poor unlearned virgin, if she should offer to perform a cure. The
firm hopes that Helena had of succeeding, if she might be permitted to
make the trial, seemed more than even her father's skill warranted,
though he was the most famous physician of his time; for she felt a
strong faith that this good medicine was sanctified by all the luckiest
stars in heaven to be the legacy that should advance her fortune, even
to the high dignity of being count Rousillon's wife.
Bertram had not been long gone, when the countess was informed by
her steward, that he had overheard Helena talking to herself, and that
he understood from some words she uttered, she was in love with
Bertram, and thought of following him to Paris. The countess
dismissed the steward with thanks, and desired him to tell Helena she
wished to speak with her. What she had just heard of Helena brought
the remembrance of days long past into the mind of the countess;
those days probably when her love for Bertram's father first began;
and she said to herself: 'Even so it was with me when I was young.
Love is a thorn that belongs to the rose of youth; for in the season of
youth, if ever we are nature's children, these faults are ours, though
then we think not they are faults.' While the countess was thus
meditating on the loving errors of her own youth, Helena entered, and
she said to her: 'Helena, you know I am a mother to you.' Helena
replied: 'You are my honourable mistress.' 'You are my daughter,' said
the countess again: 'I say I am your mother. Why do you start and look
pale at my words?' With looks of alarm and confused thoughts, fearing
the countess suspected her love, Helena still replied: 'Pardon me,
madam, you are not my mother; the count Rousillon cannot be my
brother, nor I your daughter.' 'Yet, Helena,' said the countess, 'you
might be my daughter-in-law; and I am afraid that is what you mean
to be, the words mother and daughter so disturb you. Helena, do you
love my son?' 'Good madam, pardon me,' said the affrighted Helena.
Again the countess repeated her question. 'Do you love my son?' 'Do
not you love him, madam?' said Helena. The countess replied: 'Give
me not this evasive answer, Helena. Come, come, disclose the state of
your affections, for your love has to the full appeared.' Helena on her
knees now owned her love, and with shame and terror implored the
pardon of her noble mistress; and with words expressive of the sense
she had of the inequality between their fortunes, she protested
Bertram did not know she loved him, comparing her humble
unaspiring love to a poor Indian, who adores the sun that looks upon
his worshipper, but knows of him no more. The countess asked
Helena if she had not lately an intent to go to Paris? Helena owned the
design she had formed in her mind, when she heard Lafeu speak of the
king's illness. 'This was your motive for wishing to go to Paris,' said
the countess, 'was it? Speak truly.' Helena honestly answered: 'My lord
your son made me to think of this; else Paris, and the medicine, and
the king, had from the conversation of my thoughts been absent then.'
The countess heard the whole of this confession without saying a
word either of approval or of blame, but she strictly questioned
Helena as to the probability of the medicine being useful to the king.
She found that it was the most prized by Gerard de Narbon of all he
possessed, and that he had given it to his daughter on his deathbed;
and remembering the solemn promise she had made at that awful hour
in regard to this young maid, whose destiny, and the life of the king
himself, seemed to depend on the execution of a project (which
though conceived by the fond, suggestions of a loving maiden's
thoughts, the countess knew not but it might be the unseen workings
of Providence to bring to pass the recovery of the king, and to lay the
foundation of the future fortunes of Gerard de Narbon's daughter),
free leave she gave to Helena to pursue her own way, and generously
furnished her with ample means and suitable attendants; and Helena
set out for Paris with the blessings of the countess, and her kindest
wishes for her success.
Helena arrived at Paris, and by the assistance of her friend the old lord
Lafeu, she obtained an audience of the king. She had still many
difficulties to encounter, for the king was not easily prevailed on to try
the medicine offered him by this fair young doctor. But she told him
she was Gerard de Narbon's daughter (with whose fame the king was
well acquainted), and she offered the precious medicine as the darling
treasure which contained the essence of all her father's long
experience and skill, and she boldly engaged to forfeit her life, if it
failed to restore his majesty to perfect health in the space of two days.
The king at length consented to try it, and in two days' time Helena
was to lose her life if the king did not recover; but if she succeeded,
he promised to give her the choice of any man throughout all France
(the princes only excepted) whom she could like for a husband; the
choice of a husband being the fee Helena demanded if she cured the
king of his disease.
Helena did not deceive herself in the hope she conceived of the
efficacy of her father's medicine. Before two days were at an end, the
king was restored to perfect health, and he assembled all the young
noblemen -of his court together, in order to confer the promised
reward of a husband upon his fair physician; and he desired Helena to
look round on this youthful parcel of noble bachelors, and choose her
husband. Helena was not slow to make her choice, for among these
young lords she saw the count Rousillon, and turning to Bertram, she
said: 'This is the man. I dare not say, my lord, I take you, but I give me
and my service ever whilst I live into your guiding power.' 'Why, then,'
said the king 'young Bertram, take her; she is your wife.' Bertram did
not hesitate to declare his dislike to this present of the king's of the
self-offered Helena, who, he said, was a poor physician's daughter,
bred at his father's charge, and now living a dependent on his mother's
bounty. Helena heard him speak these words of rejection and of scorn,
and she said to the king: 'That you are well, my lord, I am glad. Let the
rest go.' But the king would not suffer his royal command to be so
slighted; for the power of bestowing their nobles in marriage was one
of the many privileges of the kings of France; and that same day
Bertram was married to Helena, a forced and uneasy marriage to
Bertram, and of no promising hope to the poor lady, who, though she
gained the noble husband she had hazarded her life to obtain, seemed
to have won but a splendid blank, her husband's love not being a gift
in the power of the king of France to bestow.
Helena was no sooner married than she was desired by Bertram to
apply to the king for him for leave of absence from court; and when
she brought him the king's permission for his departure, Bertram told
her that he was not prepared for this sudden marriage, it had much
unsettled him, and therefore she must not wonder at the course he
should pursue. If Helena wondered not, she grieved when she found it
was his intention to leave her. He ordered her to go home to his
mother. When Helena heard this unkind command, she replied: 'Sir, I
can nothing say to this, but that I am your most obedient servant, and
shall ever with true observance seek to eke out that desert, wherein
my homely stars have failed to equal my great fortunes.' But this
humble speech of Helena's did not at all move the haughty Bertram to
pity his gentle wife, and he parted from her without even the common
civility of a kind farewell.
Back to the countess then Helena returned. She had accomplished the
purport of her journey, she had preserved the life of the king, and she
had wedded her heart's dear lord, the count Rousillon; but she
returned back a dejected lady to her noble mother-in-law, and as soon
as she entered the house she received a letter from Bertram which
almost broke her heart.
The good countess received her with a cordial welcome, as if she had
been her son's own choice, and a lady of a high degree, and she spoke
kind words to comfort her for the unkind neglect of Bertram in
sending his wife home on her bridal day alone. But this gracious
reception failed to cheer the sad mind of Helena, and she said:
'Madam my lord is gone, for ever gone.' She then read these words out
of Bertram's letter: When you can get the ring from my finger, which
never shall come of, then call me husband, but in such a Then I write
a Never. 'This is a dreadful sentence! ' said Helena. The countess
begged her to have patience, and said, now Bertram was gone, she
should be her child, and that she deserved a lord that twenty such rude
boys as Bertram might tend upon, and hourly call her mistress. But in
vain by respectful condescension and kind flattery this matchless
mother tried to soothe the sorrows of her daughter in-law.
Helena still kept her eyes fixed upon the letter, and cried out in an
agony of grief: Till I have no wife, I have nothing in France. The
countess asked her if she found those words in the letter? 'Yes,
madam,' was all poor Helena could answer.
The next morning Helena was missing. She left a letter to be delivered
to the countess after she was gone, to acquaint her with the reason of
her sudden absence: in this letter she informed her that she was so
much grieved at having driven Bertram from his native country and
his home, that to atone for her offence, she had undertaken a
pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Jaques le Grand, and concluded with
requesting the countess to inform her son that the wife he so hated had
left his house for ever.
Bertram, when he left Paris, went to Florence, and there became an
officer in the duke of Florence's army, and after a successful war, in
which he distinguished himself by many brave actions, Bertram
received letters from his mother, containing the acceptable tidings that
Helena would no more disturb him; and he was preparing to return
home, when Helena herself, clad in her pilgrim's weeds, arrived at the
city of Florence.
Florence was a city through which the pilgrims used to pass on their
way to St. Jaques le Grand; and when Helena arrived at this city, she
heard that a hospitable widow dwelt there, who used to receive into
her house the female pilgrims that were going to visit the shrine of
that saint, giving them lodging and kind entertainment. To this good
lady, therefore, Helena went, and the widow gave her a courteous
welcome, and invited her to see whatever was curious in that famous
city, and told her that if she would like to see the duke's army, she
would take her where she might have a full view of it. 'And you will
see a countryman of yours,' said the widow; 'his name is count
Rousillon, who has done worthy service in the duke's wars.' Helena
wanted no second invitation, when she found Bertram was to make
part of the show. She accompanied her hostess; and a sad and
mournful pleasure it was to her to look once more upon her dear
husband's face. 'Is he not a handsome man?' said the widow. 'I like
him well,' replied Helena, with great truth. All the way they walked,
the talkative widow's discourse was all of Bertram: she told Helena
the story of Bertram's marriage, and how he had deserted the poor
lady his wife, and entered into the duke's army to avoid living with
her. To this account of her own misfortunes Helena patiently listened,
and when it was ended, the history of Bertram was not yet done, for
then the widow began another tale, every word of which sank deep
into the mind of Helena; for the story she now told was of Bertram's
love for her daughter.
Though Bertram did not like the marriage forced on him by the king,
it seems he was not insensible to love, for since he had been stationed
with the army at Florence, he had fallen in love with Diana, a fair
young gentlewoman, the daughter of this widow who was Helena's
hostess; and every night, with music of all sorts, and songs composed
in praise of Diana's beauty, he would come under her window, and
solicit her love; and all his suit to her was, that she would permit him
to visit her by stealth after the family were retired to rest; but Diana
would by no means be persuaded to grant this improper request, nor
give any encouragement to his suit, knowing him to be a married man;
for Diana had been brought up under the counsels of a prudent
mother, who, though she was now in reduced circumstances, was well
born, and descended from the noble family of the Capulets.
All this the good lady related to Helena, highly praising the virtuous
principles of her discreet daughter, which she said were entirely
owing to the excellent education and good advice she had given her;
and she further said, that Bertram had been particularly importunate
with Diana to admit him to the visit he so much desired that night,
because he was going to leave Florence early the next morning.
Though it grieved Helena to hear of Bertram's love for the widow's
daughter, yet from the story the ardent mind of Helena conceived a
project (nothing discouraged at the ill success of her former one) to
recover her truant lord. She disclosed to the widow that she was
Helena, the deserted wife of Bertram, and requested that her kind
hostess and her daughter would suffer this visit from Bertram to take
place, and allow her to pass herself upon Bertram for Diana; telling
them, her chief motive for desiring to have this secret meeting with
her husband, was to get a ring from him, which he had said, if ever
she was in possession of he would acknowledge her as his wife.
The widow and her daughter promised to assist her in this affair,
partly moved by pity for this unhappy forsaken wife, and partly won
over to her interest by the promises of reward which Helena made
them, giving them a purse of money in earnest of her future favour. In
the course of that day Helena caused information to be sent to
Bertram that she was dead; hoping that when he thought himself free
to make a second choice by the news of her death, he would offer
marriage to her in her feigned character of Diana. And if she could
obtain the ring and this promise too, she doubted not she should make
some future good come of it.
In the evening, after it was dark, Bertram was admitted into Diana's
chamber, and Helena was there ready to receive him. The flattering
compliments and love discourse he addressed to Helena were precious
sounds to her, though she knew they were meant for Diana; and
Bertram was so well pleased with her, that he made her a solemn
promise to be her husband, and to love her for ever; which she hoped
would be prophetic of a real affection, when he should know it was
his own wife the despised Helena, whose conversation had so
delighted him.
Bertram never knew how sensible a lady Helena was, else perhaps he
would not have been so regardless of her; and seeing her every day, he
had entirely overlooked her beauty; a face we are accustomed to see
constantly, losing the effect which is caused by the first sight either of
beauty or of plainness; and of her understanding it was impossible he
should judge, because she felt such reverence, mixed with her love for
him, that she was always silent in his presence: but now that her future
fate, and the happy ending of all her love-projects, seemed to depend
on her leaving a favourable impression on the mind of Bertram from
this night's interview, she exerted all her wit to please him; and the
simple graces of her lively conversation and the endearing sweetness
of her manners so charmed Bertram, that he vowed she should be his
wife. Helena begged the ring from off his finger as a token of his
regard, and he gave it to her; and in return for this ring, which it was
of such importance to her to possess, she gave him another ring,
which was one the king had made her a present of. Before it was light
in the morning, she sent Bertram away; and he immediately set out on
his journey towards his mother's house.
Helena prevailed on the widow and Diana to accompany her to Paris,
their further assistance being necessary to the full accomplishment of
the plan she had formed. When they arrived there, they found the king
was gone upon a visit to the countess of Rousillon, and Helena
followed the king with all the speed she could make.
The king was still in perfect health, and his gratitude to her who had
been the means of his recovery was so lively in his mind, that the
moment he saw the countess of Rousillon, he began to talk of Helena,
calling her a precious jewel that was lost by the folly of her son; but
seeing; the subject distressed the countess, who sincerely lamented the
death of Helena, he said: 'My good lady, I have forgiven and forgotten
all.' But the good-natured old Lafeu, who was present, and could not
bear that the memory of his favourite Helena should be so lightly
passed over, said: 'This I must say, the young lord did great offence to
his majesty, his mother, and his lady; but to himself he did the greatest
wrong of all, for he has lost a wife whose beauty astonished all eyes,
whose words took all ears captive, whose deep perfection made all
hearts wish to serve her.' The king said: 'Praising what is lost makes
the remembrance dear. Well call him hither'; meaning Bertram, who
now presented himself before the king: and, on his expressing deep
sorrow for the injuries he had done to Helena, the king, for his dead
father's and his admirable mother's sake, pardoned him and restored
him once more to his favour. But the gracious countenance of the king
was soon changed towards him, for he perceived that Bertram wore
the very ring upon his finger which he had given to Helena: and he
well remembered that Helena had called all the saints in heaven to
witness she would never part with that ring, unless she sent it to the
king himself upon some great disaster befalling her; and Bertram, on
the king's questioning him how he came by the ring, told an
improbable story of a lady throwing it to him out of a window, and
denied ever having seen Helena since the day of their marriage. The
king, knowing Bertram's dislike to his wife, feared he had destroyed
her: and he ordered his guards to seize Bertram, saying: 'I am wrapt in
dismal thinking, for I fear the life of Helena was foully snatched.' At
this moment Diana and her mother entered, and presented a petition to
the king, wherein they begged his majesty to exert his royal power to
compel Bertram to marry Diana, he having made her a solemn
promise of marriage. Bertram, fearing the king's anger, denied he had
made any such promise; and then Diana produced the ring (which
Helena had put into her hands) to confirm the truth of her words; and
she said that she had given Bertram the ring he then wore, in exchange
for that, at the time he vowed to marry her. On hearing this, the king
ordered the guards to seize her also; and her account of the ring
differing from Bertram's, the king's suspicions were confirmed: and he
said, if they did not confess how they came by this ring of Helena's,
they should be both put to death. Diana requested her mother might be
permitted to fetch the jeweller of whom she bought the ring, which
being granted, the widow went out, and presently returned leading in
Helena herself.
The good countess, who in silent grief had beheld her son's danger,
and had even dreaded that the suspicion of his having destroyed his
wife might possibly be true, finding her dear Helena, whom she loved
with even a maternal affection, was still living, felt a delight she was
hardly able to support; and the king, scarce believing for joy that it
was Helena, said: 'Is this indeed the wife of Bertram that I see?'
Helena, feeling herself yet an unacknowledged wife, replied: 'No, my
good lord, it is but the shadow of a wife you see, the name and not the
thing.' Bertram cried out: 'Both, both! O pardon!' 'O my lord,' said
Helena, 'when I personated this fair maid, I found you wondrous kind;
and look, here is your letter!' reading to him in a joyful tone those
words which she had once repeated so sorrowfully: When from my
finger you can get this ring--' This is done; it was to me you gave the
ring. Will you be mine, now you are doubly won?' Bertram replied: 'If
you can make it plain that you were the lady I talked with that night, I
will love you dearly ever, ever dearly.' This was no difficult task, for
the widow and Diana came with Helena to prove this fact; and the
king was so well pleased with Diana, for the friendly assistance she
had rendered the dear lady he so truly valued for the service she had
done him, that he promised her also a noble husband: Helena's history
giving him a hint, that it was a suitable reward for kings to bestow
upon fair ladies when they perform notable services.
Thus Helena at last found that her father's legacy was indeed
sanctified by the luckiest stars in heaven; for she was now the beloved
wife of her dear Bertram, the daughter-in-law of her noble mistress,
and herself the countess of Rousillon.
Katharine, the Shrew, was the eldest daughter of Baptista, a rich
gentleman of Padua. She was a lady of such an ungovernable spirit
and fiery temper, such a loud-tongued scold, that she was known in
Padua by no other name than Katharine the Shrew. It seemed very
unlikely, indeed impossible, that any gentleman would ever be found
who would venture to marry this lady, and therefore Baptista was
much blamed for deferring his consent to many excellent offers that
were made to her gentle sister Bianca, putting off all Bianca's suitors
with this excuse, that when the eldest sister was fairly off his hands,
they should have free leave to address young Bianca.
It happened, however, that a gentleman, named Petruchio, came to
Padua, purposely to look out for a wife, who, nothing discouraged by
these reports of Katharine's temper. and hearing she was rich and
handsome, resolved upon marrying this famous termagant, and taming
her into a meek and manageable wife. And truly none was so fit to set
about this herculean labour as Petruchio, whose spirit was as high as
Katharine's, and he was a witty and most happy-tempered humourist,
and withal so wise, and of such a true judgment, that he well knew
how to feign a passionate and furious deportment, when his spirits
were so calm that himself could have laughed merrily at his own
angry feigning, for his natural temper was careless and easy; the
boisterous airs he assumed when he became the husband of Katharine
being but in sport, or more properly speaking, affected by his
excellent discernment, as the only means to overcome, in her own
way, the passionate ways of the furious Katharine.
A courting then Petruchio went to Katharine the Shrew; and first of all
he applied to Baptista her father, for leave to woo his gentle daughter
Katharine, as Petruchio called her, saying archly, that having heard of
her bashful modesty and mild behaviour, he had come from Verona to
solicit her love. Her father, though he wished her married, was forced
to confess Katharine would ill answer this character, it being soon
apparent of what manner of gentleness she was composed, for her
music-master rushed into the room to complain that the gentle
Katharine, his pupil, had broken his head with her lute, for presuming
to find fault with her performance; which, when Petruchio heard, he
said: 'It is a brave wench; I love her more than ever, and long to have
some chat with her'; and hurrying the old gentleman for a positive
answer, he said: 'My business is in haste, signior Baptista, I cannot
come every day to woo. You knew my father: he is dead, and has left
me heir to all his lands and goods. Then tell me, if I get your
daughter's love, what dowry you will give with her.' Baptista thought
his manner was somewhat blunt for a lover; but being glad to get
Katharine married, he answered that he would give her twenty
thousand crowns for her dowry, and half his estate at his death: so this
odd match was quickly agreed on, and Baptista went to apprise his
shrewish daughter of her lover's addresses, and sent her in to
Petruchio to listen to his suit.
In the meantime Petruchio was settling with himself the mode of
courtship he should pursue; and he said: 'I will woo her with some
spirit when she comes. If she rails at me, why then I will tell her she
sings as sweetly as a nightingale; and if she frowns. I will say she
looks as clear as roses newly washed with dew. If she will not speak a
word, I will praise the eloquence of her language; and if she bids me
leave her. I will give her thanks as if she bid me stay with her a week.'
Now the stately Katharine entered, and Petruchio first addressed her
with 'Good morrow, Kate, for that is your name, I hear.' Katharine, not
liking this plain salutation, said disdainfully: 'They call me Katharine
who do speak to me.' 'You lie,' replied the lover; 'for you are called
plain Kate, and bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the Shrew: but, Kate,
you are the prettiest Kate in Christendom, and therefore, Kate, hearing
your mildness praised in every town, I am come to woo you for my
A strange courtship they made of it. She in loud and angry terms
showing him how justly she had gained the name of Shrew, while he
still praised her sweet and courteous words, till at length, hearing her
father coming, he said (intending to make as quick a wooing as
possible): 'Sweet Katharine, let us set this idle chat aside, for your
father has consented that you shall be my wife, your dowry is agreed
on, and whether you will or no, I will marry you.'
And now Baptista entering, Petruchio told him his daughter had
received him kindly, and that she had promised to be married the next
Sunday. This Katharine denied, saying she would rather see him
hanged on Sunday, and reproached her father for wishing to wed her
to such a mad-cap ruffian as Petruchio. Petruchio desired her father
not to regard her angry words, for they had agreed she should seem
reluctant before him, but that when they were alone he had found her
very fond and loving; and he said to her: 'Give me your hand, Kate; I
will go to Venice to buy you fine apparel against our wedding day.
Provide the feast, father, and bid the wedding guests. I will be sure to
bring rings, fine array, and rich clothes, that my Katharine may be
fine; and kiss me, Kate, for we will be married on Sunday.'
On the Sunday all the wedding guests were assembled, but they
waited long before Petruchio came, and Katharine wept for vexation
to think that Petruchio had only been making a jest of her. At last,
however, he appeared; but he brought none of the bridal finery he had
promised Katharine, nor was he dressed himself like a bridegroom,
but in strange disordered attire, as if he meant to make a sport of the
serious business he came about; and his servant and the very horses on
which they rode were in like manner in mean and fantastic fashion
Petruchio could not be persuaded to change his dress; he said
Katharine was to be married to him, and not to his clothes; and
finding it was in vain to argue with him, to the church they went, he
still behaving in the same mad way, for when the priest asked
Petruchio if Katharine should be his wife, he swore so loud that she
should, that, all amazed, the priest let fall his book, and as he stooped
to take it up, this mad-brained bridegroom gave him such a cuff, that
down fell the priest and his book again. And all the while they were
being married he stamped and swore so, that the high-spirited
Katharine trembled and shook with fear. After the ceremony was over,
while they were yet in the church, he called for wine, and drank a loud
health to the company, and threw a sop which was at the bottom of
the glass full in the sexton's face, giving no other reason for this
strange act, than that the sexton's beard grew thin and hungerly, and
seemed to ask the sop as he was drinking. Never sure was there such a
mad marriage; but Petruchio did but put this wildness on, the better to
succeed in the plot he had formed to tame his shrewish wife.
Baptista had provided a sumptuous marriage feast, but when they
returned from church, Petruchio, taking hold of Katharine, declared
his intention of carrying his wife home instantly: and no remonstrance
of his father-in-law, or angry words of the enraged Katharine, could
make him change his purpose. He claimed a husband's right to dispose
of his wife as he pleased, and away he hurried Katharine off: he
seeming so daring and resolute that no one dared attempt to stop him.
Petruchio mounted his wife upon a miserable horse, lean and lank,
which he had picked out for the purpose, and himself and his servant
no better mounted; they journeyed on through rough and miry ways,
and ever when this horse of Katharine's stumbled, he would storm and
swear at the poor jaded beast, who could scarce crawl under his
burthen, as if he had been the most passionate man alive.
At length, after a weary journey, during which Katharine had heard
nothing but the wild ravings of Petruchio at the servant and the horses,
they arrived at his house. Petruchio welcomed her kindly to her home,
but he resolved she should have neither rest nor food that night. The
tables were spread, and supper soon served; but Petruchio, pretending
to find fault with every dish, threw the meat about the floor, and
ordered the servants to remove it away; and all this he did, as he said,
in love for his Katharine, that she might not eat meat that was not well
dressed. And when Katharine, weary and supperless, retired to rest, he
found the same fault with the bed, throwing the pillows and
bedclothes about the room, so that she was forced to sit down in a
chair, where if she chanced to drop asleep, she was presently
awakened by the loud voice of her husband, storming at the servants
for the ill-making of his wife's bridal-bed.
The next day Petruchio pursued the same course, still speaking kind
words to Katharine, but when she attempted to eat, finding fault with
everything that was set before her throwing the breakfast on the floor
as he had done the supper; and Katharine, the haughty Katherine, was
fain to beg the servants would bring her secretly a morsel of food; but
they being instructed by Petruchio, replied, they dared not give her
anything unknown to their master. 'Ah,' said she, 'did he marry me to
famish me? Beggars that come to my father's door have food given
them. But I, who never knew what it was to entreat for anything, am
starved for want of food, giddy for want of sleep, with oaths kept
waking, and with brawling fed; and that which vexes me more than
all, he does it under the name of perfect love, pretending that if I sleep
or eat, it were present death to me.' Here the soliloquy was interrupted
by the entrance of Petruchio: he, not meaning she should be quite
starved, had brought her a small portion of meat, and he said to her:
'How fares my sweet Kate? Here, love, you see how diligent I am, I
have dressed your meat myself. I am sure this kindness merits thanks.
What, not a word? Nay, then you love not the meat, and all the pains I
have taken is to no purpose.' He then ordered the servant to take the
dish away. Extreme hunger, which had abated the pride of Katharine,
made her say, though angered to the heart: 'I pray you let it stand.' But
this was not all Petruchio intended to bring her to, and he replied: 'The
poorest service is repaid with thanks, and so shall mine before you
touch the meat.' On this Katharine brought out a reluctant 'I thank you,
sir.' And now he suffered her to make a slender meal, saying: 'Much
good may it do your gentle heart, Kate; eat apace! And now, my honey
love, we will return to your father's house, and revel it as bravely as
the best, with silken coats and caps and golden rings, with ruffs and
scares and fans and double change of finery'; and to make her believe
he really intended to give her these gay things, he called in a tailor and
a haberdasher, who brought some new clothes he had ordered for her,
and then giving her plate to the servant to take away, before she had
half satisfied her hunger, he said: 'What, have you dined?' The
haberdasher presented a cap, saying: 'Here is the cap your worship
bespoke'; on which Petruchio began to storm afresh, saying the cap
was moulded in a porringer, and that it was no bigger than a cockle or
walnut shell, desiring the haberdasher to take it away and make it
bigger. Katharine said: 'I will have this; all gentlewomen wear such
caps as these.' 'When you are gentle,' replied Petruchio, 'you shall have
one too, and not till then.' The meat Katharine had eaten had a little
revived her fallen spirits, and she said: 'Why, sir, I trust I may have
leave to speak, and speak I will: I am no child, no babe; your betters
have endured to hear me say my mind; and if you cannot, you had
better stop your ears.' Petruchio would not hear these angry words, for
he had happily discovered a better way of managing his wife than
keeping up a jangling argument with her; therefore his answer was:
'Why, you say true; it is a paltry cap, and I love you for not liking it.'
'Love me, or love me not,' said Katharine, 'I like the cap, and I will
have this cap or none.' 'You say you wish to see the gown,' said
Petruchio, still affecting to misunderstand her. The tailor then came
forward and showed her a fine gown he had made for her. Petruchio,
whose intent was that she should have neither cap nor gown, found as
much fault with that. 'O mercy, Heaven!' said he, 'what stuff is here!
What, do you call this a sleeve? it is like a demi-cannon, carved up
and down like an apple tart.' The tailor said: 'You bid me make it
according to the fashion of the times'; and Katharine said, she never
saw a better fashioned gown. This was enough for Petruchio, and
privately desiring these people might be paid for their goods, and
excuses made to them for the seemingly strange treatment he
bestowed upon them, he with fierce words and furious gestures drove
the tailor and the haberdasher out of the room; and then, turning to
Katharine, he said: 'Well, come, my Kate, we will go to your father's
even in these mean garments we now wear.' And then he ordered his
horses, affirming they should reach Baptista's house by dinner-time,
for that it was but seven o'clock. Now it was not early morning but the
very middle of the day, when he spoke this, therefore Katharine
ventured to say, though modestly, being almost overcome by the
vehemence of his manner: 'I dare assure you, sir, it is two o'clock. and
will be supper-time before we get there.' But Petruchio meant that she
should be so completely subdued, that she should assent to everything
he said, before he carried her to her father; and therefore, as if he were
lord even of the sun, and could command the hours, he said it should
be what time he pleased to have it, before he set forward; 'For,' he
said, 'whatever I say or do, you still are crossing it. I will not go today,
and when I go, it shall be what o'clock I say it is.' Another day
Katherine was forced to practice her newly found obedience, and not
till he had brought her proud spirit to such a perfect subjection, that
she dared not remember there was such a word as contradiction,
would Petruchio allow her to go to her father's house; and even while
they were upon their journey thither, she was in danger of being
turned back again, only because she happened to hint it was the sun,
when he affirmed the moon shone brightly at noonday. 'Now, by my
mother's son,' said he, 'and that is myself, it shall be the moon, or stars,
or what I list, before I journey to your father's house.' He then made as
if he were going back again; but Katherine, no longer Katherine the
Shrew, but the obedient wife, said: 'Let us go forward, I pray, now we
have come so far, and it shall be the sun, or moon, or what you please,
and if you please to call it a rush candle henceforth, I vowed it shall
be so for me.' This he was resolved to prove, therefore he said again: 'I
say, it is the moon.' 'I know it is the moon,' replied Katherine. 'You lie,
it is the blessed sun,' said Petruchio. 'Then it is the blessed sun,'
replied Katherine; 'but sun it is not, when you say it is not. What you
will have it named, even so it is, and so it ever shall be for Katherine.'
Now then he suffered her to proceed on her journey; but further to try
if this yielding humour would last, he addressed an old gentleman
they met on the road as if he had been a young woman, saying to him:
'Good morrow, gentle mistress'; and asked Katherine if she had ever
beheld a fairer gentlewoman, praising the red and white of the old
man's cheeks, and comparing his eyes to two bright stars; and again he
addressed him, saying: 'Fair lovely maid, once more good day to you!'
and said to his wife: 'Sweet Kate, embrace her for her beauty's sake.'
The now completely vanquished Katharine quickly adopted her
husband's opinion, and made her speech in like sort to the old
gentleman, saying to him: 'Young budding virgin, you are fair, and
fresh, and sweet: whither are you going, and where is your dwelling?
Happy are the parents of so fair a child.' 'Why, how now, Kate,' said
Petruchio; 'I hope you are not mad. This is a man, old and wrinkled,
faded and withered, and not a maiden, as you say he is.' On this
Katharine said: 'Pardon me, old gentleman; the sun has so dazzled my
eyes, that everything I look on seemeth green. Now I perceive you are
a reverend father: I hope you will pardon me for my sad mistake.' 'Do,
good old grand-sire,' said Petruchio, 'and tell us which way you are
travelling. We shall be glad of your good company, if you are going
our way.' The old gentleman replied: ' Fair sir, and you my merry
mistress, your strange encounter has much amazed me. My name is
Vincentio, and I am going to visit a son of mine who lives at Padua.'
Then Petruchio knew the old gentleman to e the father of Lucentio, a
young gentleman who was to be married to Baptista's younger
daughter, Bianca, and he made Vincentio very happy, by telling him
the rich marriage his son was about to make: and they all journeyed on
pleasantly together till they came to Baptista's house, where there was
a large company assembled to celebrate the wedding of Bianca and
Lucentio, Baptista having willingly consented to the marriage of
Bianca when he had got Katharine off his hands.
When they entered, Baptista welcomed them to the wedding feast, and
there was present also another newly married pair.
Lucentio, Bianca's husband, and Hortensio, the other new married
man, could not forbear sly jests, which seemed to hint at the shrewish
disposition of Petruchio's wife, and these fond bridegrooms seemed
high pleased with the mild tempers of the ladies they had chosen,
laughing at Petruchio for his less fortunate choice. Petruchio took
little notice of their jokes till the ladies were retired after dinner, and
then he perceived Baptista himself joined in the laugh against him: for
when Petruchio affirmed that his wife would prove more obedient
than theirs, the father of Katharine said: 'Now, in good sadness, son
Petruchio, I fear you have got the veriest shrew of all.' 'Well,' said
Petruchio, 'I say no, and therefore for assurance that I speak the truth,
let us each one send for his wife, and he whose wife is most obedient
to come at first when she is sent for, shall win a wager which we will
propose.' To this the other two husbands willingly consented, for they
were quite confident that their gentle wives would prove more
obedient than the headstrong Katharine; and they proposed a wager of
twenty crowns, but Petruchio merrily said, he would lay as much as
that upon his hawk or hound, but twenty times as much upon his wife.
Lucentio and Hortensio raised the wager to a hundred crowns, and
Lucentio first sent his servant to desire Bianca would come to him.
But the servant returned, and said: 'Sir, my mistress sends you word
she is busy and cannot come.' 'How,' said Petruchio, 'does she say she
is busy and cannot come? Is that an answer for a wife?' Then they
laughed at him, and said, it would be well if Katharine did not send
him a worse answer. And now it was Hortensio's turn to send for his
wife; and he said to his servant: 'Go, and entreat my wife to come to
me.' 'Oh ho! entreat her!' said Petruchio. 'Nay, then, she needs must
come.' 'I am afraid, sir,' said Hortensio, 'your wife will not be
entreated.' But presently this civil husband looked a little blank, when
the servant returned without his mistress; and he said to him: 'How
now! Where is my wife?' 'Sir,' said the servant, 'my mistress says, you
have some goodly jest in hand, and therefore she will not come. She
bids you come to her.' 'Worse and worse!' said Petruchio; and then he
sent his servant, saying: 'Sirrah, go to your mistress, and tell her I
command her to come to me.' The company had scarcely time to think
she would not obey this summons, when Baptista, all in amaze,
exclaimed: 'Now, by my holidame, here comes Katharine!' and she
entered, saying meekly to Petruchio: 'What is your will, sir, that you
send for me?' 'Where is your sister and Hortensio's wife?' said he.
Katharine replied: 'They sit conferring by the parlour fire.' 'Go, fetch
them hither!' said Petruchio. Away went Katharine without reply to
perform her husband's command. 'Here is a wonder,' said Lucentio, 'if
you talk of a wonder.' 'And so it is,' said Hortensio; 'I marvel what it
bodes.' 'Marry, peace it bodes,' said Petruchio, 'and love, and quiet life,
and right supremacy; and, to be short, everything that is sweet and
happy.' Katharine's father, overjoyed to see this reformation in his
daughter, said: 'Now, fair befall thee, son Petruchio! you have won the
wager, and I will add another twenty thousand crowns to her dowry,
as if she were another daughter, for she is changed as if she had never
been,' 'Nay,' said Petruchio, 'I will win the wager better yet, and show
more signs of her new-built virtue and obedience.' Katharine now
entering with the two ladies, he continued: 'See where she comes, and
brings your froward wives as prisoners to her womanly persuasion.
Katharine, that cap of yours does not become you; off with that
bauble, and throw it under foot.' Katharine instantly took off her cap,
and threw it down. 'Lord!' said Hortensio's wife, 'may I never have a
cause to sigh till I am brought to such a silly pass!' And Bianca, she
too said: 'Fie, what foolish duty call you this?' On this Bianca's
husband said to her: 'I wish your duty were as foolish too! The wisdom
of your duty, fair Bianca, has cost me a hundred crowns since dinnertime.'
'The more fool you,' said Bianca, 'for laying on my duty.'
'Katharine,' said Petruchio, 'I charge you tell these headstrong women
what duty they owe their lords and husbands.' And to the wonder of all
present, the reformed shrewish lady spoke as eloquently in praise of
the wifelike duty of obedience, as she had practiced it implicitly in a
ready submission to Petruchio's will. And Katharine once more
became famous in Padua, not as heretofore, as Katharine the Shrew,
but as Katharine the most obedient and duteous wife in Padua.
The states of Syracuse and Ephesus being at variance, there was a
cruel law made at Ephesus, ordaining that if any merchant of Syracuse
was seen in the city of Ephesus, he was to be put to death, unless he
could pay a thousand marks for the ransom of his life.
Aegeon, an old merchant of Syracuse, was discovered in the streets of
Ephesus, and brought before the duke, either to pay this heavy fine, or
to receive sentence of death.
Aegeon had no money to pay the fine, and the duke, before he
pronounced the sentence of death upon him, desired him to relate the
history of his life, and to tell for what cause he had ventured to come
to the city of Ephesus, which it was death for any Syracusan merchant
to enter.
Aegeon said, that he did not fear to die, for sorrow had made him
weary of his life, but that a heavier task could not have been imposed
upon him than to relate the events of his unfortunate life. He then
began his own history, in the following words:
'I was born at Syracuse, and brought up to the profession of a
merchant. I married a lady, with whom I lived very happily, but being
obliged to go to Epidamnum, I was detained there by my business six
months, and then, finding I should be obliged to stay some time
longer, I sent for my wife, who, as soon as she arrived, was brought to
bed of two sons, and what was very strange, they were both so exactly
alike, that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other. At
the same time that my wife was brought to bed of these twin boys, a
poor woman in the inn where my wife lodged was brought to bed of
two sons, and these twins were as much like each other as my two
sons were. The parents of these children being exceeding poor, I
bought the two boys, and brought them up to attend upon my sons.
'My sons were very fine children, and my wife was not a little proud
of two such boys: and she daily wishing to return home, I unwillingly
agreed, and in an evil hour we got on shipboard; for we had not sailed
above a league from Epidamnum before a dreadful storm arose, which
continued with such violence, that the sailors seeing no chance of
saving the ship, crowded into the boat to save their own lives, leaving
us alone in the ship, which we every moment expected would be
destroyed by the fury of the storm.
'The incessant weeping of my wife, and the piteous complaints of the
pretty babes, who, not knowing what to fear, wept for fashion,
because they saw their mother weep, filled me with terror for them,
though I did not for myself fear death; and all my thoughts were bent
to contrive means for their safety. I tied my youngest son to the end of
a small spare mast, such as seafaring men provide against storms; at
the other end I bound the youngest of the twin slaves, and at the same
time I directed my wife how to fasten the other children in like
manner to another mast. She thus having the care of the two eldest
children, and I of the two younger, we bound ourselves separately to
these masts with the children; and but for this contrivance we had all
been lost, for the ship split on a mighty rock, and was dashed in
pieces; and we, clinging to these slender masts, were supported above
the water, where I, having the care of two children, was unable to
assist my wife, who with the other children was soon separated from
me; but while they were yet in my sight, they were taken up by a boat
of fishermen, from Corinth (as I supposed), and seeing them in safety,
I had no care but to struggle with the wild sea-waves, to preserve my
dear son and the youngest slave. At length we, in our turn, were taken
up by a ship, and the sailors, knowing me, gave us kind welcome and
assistance, and landed us in safety at Syracuse; but from that sad hour
I have never known what became of my wife and eldest child.
'My youngest son, and now my only care, when he was eighteen years
of age, began to be inquisitive after his mother and his brother, and
often importuned me that he might take his attendant, the young slave,
who had also lost his brother, and go in search of them: at length I
unwillingly gave consent, for though I anxiously desired to hear
tidings of my wife and eldest son, yet in sending my younger one to
find them, I hazarded the loss of them also. It is now seven years since
my son left me; five years have I passed in travelling through the
world in search of him: I have been in farthest Greece, and through
the bounds of Asia, and coasting homewards, I landed here in
Ephesus, being unwilling to leave any place unsought that harbours
men; but this day must end the story of my life, and happy should I
think myself in my death, if I were assured my wife and sons were
Here the hapless Aegeon ended the account of his misfortunes; and
the duke, pitying this unfortunate father, who had brought upon
himself this great peril by his love for his lost son, said, if it were not
against the laws, which his oath and dignity did not permit him to
alter, he would freely pardon him; yet, instead of dooming him to
instant death, as the strict letter of the law required, he would give
him that day to try if he could beg or borrow the money to pay the
This day of grace did seem no great favour to Aegeon, for not
knowing any man in Ephesus, there seemed to him but little chance
that any stranger would lend or give him a thousand marks to pay the
fine; and helpless and hopeless of any relief, he retired from the
presence of the duke in the custody of a jailor.
Aegeon supposed he knew no person in Ephesus; but at the very time
he was in danger of losing his life through the careful search he was
making after his youngest son, that son and his eldest son also were
both in the city of Ephesus.
Aegeon's sons, besides being exactly alike in face and person, were
both named alike, being both called Antipholus, and the two twin
slaves were also both named Dromio. Aegeon's youngest son,
Antipholus of Syracuse, he whom the old man had come to Ephesus
to seek, happened to arrive at Ephesus with his slave Dromio that very
same day that Aegeon did; and he being also a merchant of Syracuse,
he would have been in the same danger that his father was, but by
good fortune he met a friend who told him the peril an old merchant
of Syracuse was in, and advised him to pass for a merchant of
Epidamnum; this Antipholus agreed to do, and he was sorry to hear
one of his own countrymen was in this danger, but he little thought
this old merchant was his own father.
The eldest son of Aegeon (who must be called Antipholus of Ephesus,
to distinguish him from his brother Antipholus of Syracuse) had lived
at Ephesus twenty years, and, being a rich man, was well able to have
paid the money for the ransom of his father's life; but Antipholus
knew nothing of his father, being so young when he was taken out of
the sea with his mother by the fishermen that he only remembered he
had been so preserved, but he had no recollection of either his father
or his mother; the fishermen who took up this Antipholus and his
mother and the young slave Dromio, having carried the two children
away from her (to the great grief of that unhappy lady), intending to
sell them.
Antipholus and Dromio were sold by them to duke Menaphon, a
famous warrior, who was uncle to the duke of Ephesus, and he carried
the boys to Ephesus when he went to visit the duke his nephew.
The duke of Ephesus taking a liking to young Antipholus, when he
grew up, made him an officer in his army, in which he distinguished
himself by his great bravery in the wars, where he saved the life of his
patron the duke, who rewarded his merit by marrying him to Adriana,
a rich lady of Ephesus; with whom he was living (his slave Dromio
still attending him) at the time his father came there.
Antipholus of Syracuse, when he parted with his friend, who advised
him to say he came from Epidamnum, gave his slave Dromio some
money to carry to the inn where he intended to dine, and in the mean
time he said he would walk about and view the city, and observe the
manners of the people.
Dromio was a pleasant fellow, and when Antipholus was dull and
melancholy he used to divert himself with the odd humours and merry
jests of his slave, so that the freedoms of speech he allowed in Dromio
were greater than is usual between masters and their servants.
When Antipholus of Syracuse had sent Dromio away, he stood awhile
thinking over his solitary wanderings in search of his mother and his
brother, of whom in no place where he landed could he hear the least
tidings; and he said sorrowfully to himself: 'I am like a drop of water
in the ocean, which seeking to find its fellow drop, loses itself in the
wide sea. So I unhappily, to find a mother and a brother, do lose
While he was thus meditating on his weary travels, which had hitherto
been so useless, Dromio (as he thought) returned. Antipholus,
wondering that he came back so soon, asked him where he had left the
money. Now it was not his own Dromio, but the twin-brother that
lived with Antipholus of Ephesus, that he spoke to. The two Dromios
and the two Antipholuses were still as much alike as Aegeon had said
they were in their infancy; therefore no wonder Antipholus thought it
was his own slave returned, and asked him why he came back so soon.
Dromio replied: 'My mistress sent me to bid you come to dinner. The
capon burns, and the pig falls from the spit, and the meat will be all
cold if you do not come home.' 'These jests are out of season,' said
Antipholus: 'where did you leave the money?' Dromio still answering,
that his mistress had sent him to fetch Antipholus to dinner: 'What
mistress?' said Antipholus. 'Why, your worship's wife, sir,' replied
Dromio. Antipholus having no wife, he was very angry with Dromio,
and said: 'Because I familiarly sometimes chat with you, you presume
to jest with me in this free manner. I am not in a sportive humour
now: where is the money? we being strangers here, how dare you trust
so great a charge from your own custody?' Dromio hearing his master,
as he thought him, talk of their being strangers, supposing Antipholus
was jesting, replied merrily: 'I pray you, sir, jest as you sit at dinner. I
had no charge but to fetch you home, to dine with my mistress and her
sister.' Now Antipholus lost all patience, and beat Dromio, who ran
home, and told his mistress that his master had refused to come to
dinner, and said that he had no wife.
Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, was very angry when she
heard that her husband said he had no wife; for she was of a jealous
temper, and she said her husband meant that he loved another lady
better than herself; and she began to fret, and say unkind words of
jealousy and reproach of her husband; and her sister Luciana, who
lived with her, tried in vain to persuade her out of her groundless
Antipholus of Syracuse went to the inn, and found Dromio with the
money in safety there, and seeing his own Dromio, he was going again
to chide him for his free jests, when Adriana came up to him, and not
doubting but it was her husband she saw, she began to reproach him
for looking strange upon her (as well he might, never having seen this
angry lady before); and then she told him how well he loved her
before they were married, and that now he loved some other lady
instead of her. 'How comes it now, my husband,' said she, 'O how
comes it that I have lost your love?' 'Plead you to me, fair dame?' said
the astonished Antipholus. It was in vain he told her he was not her
husband, and that he had been in Ephesus but two hours; she insisted
on his going home with her, and Antipholus as last, being unable to
get away, went with her to his brother's house, and dined with Adriana
and her sister, the one calling him husband, and the other brother, he,
all amazed, thinking he must have been married to her in his sleep, or
that he was sleeping now. And Dromio, who followed them, was no
less surprised, for the cook-maid, who was his brother's wife, also
claimed him for her husband.
While Antipholus of Syracuse was dining with his brother's wife, his
brother, the real husband, returned home to dinner with his slave
Dromio; but the servants would not open the door, because their
mistress had ordered them not to admit any company; and when they
repeatedly knocked, and said they were Antipholus and Dromio, the
maids laughed at them, and said that Antipholus was at dinner with
their mistress, and Dromio was in the kitchen; and though they almost
knocked the door down, they could not gain admittance, and at last
Antipholus went away very angry, and strangely surprised at hearing a
gentleman was dining with his wife.
When Antipholus of Syracuse had finished his dinner, he was so
perplexed at the lady's still persisting in calling him husband, and at
hearing that Dromio had also been claimed by the cook-maid, that he
left the house, as soon as he could find any presence to get away; for
though he was very much pleased with Luciana, the sister, yet the
jealous-tempered Adriana he disliked very much, nor was Dromio at
all better satisfied with his fair wife in the kitchen; therefore both
master and man were glad to get away from their new wives as fast as
they could.
The moment Antipholus of Syracuse had left the house, he was met by
a goldsmith, who mistaking him, as Adriana had done, for Antipholus
of Ephesus, gave him a gold chain, calling him by his name; and when
Antipholus would have refused the chain, saying it did not belong to
him, the goldsmith replied he made it by his own orders; and went
away, leaving the chain in the hands of Antipholus, who ordered his
man Dromio to get his things on board a ship, not choosing to stay in
a place any longer, where he met with such strange adventures that he
surely thought himself bewitched.
The goldsmith who had given the chain to the wrong Antipholus, was
arrested immediately after for a sum of money he owed; and
Antipholus, the married brother, to whom the goldsmith thought he
had given the chain, happened to come to the place where the officer
was arresting the goldsmith, who, when he saw Antipholus, asked him
to pay for the gold chain he had just delivered to him, the price
amounting to nearly the same sum as that for which he had been
arrested. Antipholus denying the having received the chain, and the
goldsmith persisting to declare that he had but a few minutes before
given it to him, they disputed this matter a long time, both thinking
they were right: for Antipholus knew the goldsmith never gave him
the chain, and so like were the two brothers, the goldsmith was as
certain he had delivered the chain into his hands, till at last the officer
took the goldsmith away to prison for the debt he owed, and at the
same time the goldsmith made the officer arrest Antipholus for the
price of the chain; so that at the conclusion of their dispute,
Antipholus and the merchant were both taken away to prison together.
As Antipholus was going to prison, he met Dromio of Syracuse, his
brother's slave, and mistaking him for his own, he ordered him to go
to Adriana his wife, and tell her to send the money for which he was
arrested. Dromio wondering that his master should send him back to
the strange house where he dined, and from which he had just before
been in such haste to depart, did not dare to reply, though he came to
tell his master the ship was ready to sail: for he saw Antipholus was in
no humour to be jested with. Therefore he went away, grumbling
within himself, that he must return to Adriana's house, 'Where,' said
he, 'Dowsabel claims me for a husband: but I must go, for servants
must obey their masters' commands.'
Adriana gave him the money, and as Dromio was returning, he met
Antipholus of Syracuse, who was still in amaze at the surprising
adventures he met with; for his brother being well known in Ephesus,
there was hardly a man he met in the streets but saluted him as an old
acquaintance: some offered him money which they said was owing to
him, some invited him to come and see them, and some gave thanks
for kindnesses they said he had done them, all mistaking him for his
brother. A tailor showed him some silks he had bought for him, and
insisted upon taking measure of him for some clothes.
Antipholus began to think he was among a nation of sorcerers and
witches, and Dromio did not at all relieve his master from his
bewildered thoughts, by asking him how he got free from the officer
who was carrying him to prison, and giving him the purse of gold
which Adriana had sent to pay the debt with. This talk of Dromio's of
the arrest and of a prison, and of the money he had brought from
Adriana, perfectly confounded Antipholus, and he said: 'This fellow
Dromio is certainly distracted, and we wander here in illusions'; and
quite terrified at his own confused thoughts, he cried out: 'Some
blessed power deliver us from this strange place!'
And now another stranger came up to him, and she was a lady, and
she too called him Antipholus, and told him he had dined with her
that day, and asked him for a gold chain which she said he had
promised to give her. Antipholus now lost all patience, and calling her
a sorceress, he denied that he had ever promised her a chain, or dined
with her, or had ever seen her face before that moment. The lady
persisted in affirming he had dined with her, and had promised her a
chain, which Antipholus still denying, she further said, that she had
given him a valuable ring, and if he would not give her the gold chain,
she insisted upon having her own ring again. On this Antipholus
became quite frantic, and again calling her sorceress and witch, and
denying all knowledge of her or her ring, ran away from her, leaving
her astonished at his words and his wild looks, for nothing to her
appeared more certain than that he had dined with her, and that she
had given him a ring, in consequence of his promising to make her a
present of a gold chain. But this lady had fallen into the same mistake
the others had done, for she had taken him for his brother: the married
Antipholus had done all the things she taxed this Antipholus with.
When the married Antipholus was denied entrance into his own house
(those within supposing him to be already there), he had gone away
very angry, believing it to be one of his wife's jealous freaks, to which
she was very subject, and remembering that she had often falsely
accused him of visiting other ladies, he, to be revenged on her for
shutting him out of his own house, determined to go and dine with
this lady, and she receiving him with great civility, and his wife
having so highly offended him, Antipholus promised to give her a
gold chain, which he had intended as a present for his wife; it was the
same chain which the goldsmith by mistake had given to his brother.
The lady liked so well the thoughts of having a fine gold chain, that
she gave the married Antipholus a ring; which when, as she supposed
(taking his brother for him), he denied, and said he did not know her,
and left her in such a wild passion, she began to think he was certainly
out of his senses; and presently she resolved to go and tell Adriana
that her husband was mad. And while she was telling it to Adriana, he
came, attended by the jailor (who allowed him to come home to get
the money to pay the debt), for the purse of money, which Adriana
had sent by Dromio, and he had delivered to the other Antipholus.
Adriana believed the story the lady told her of her husband's madness
must be true, when he reproached her for shutting him out of his own
house; and remembering how he had protested all dinner-time that he
was not her husband, and had never been in Ephesus till that day, she
had no doubt that he was mad; she therefore paid the jailor the money,
and having discharged him, she ordered her servants to bind her
husband with ropes, and had him conveyed into a dark room, and sent
for a doctor to come and cure him of his madness: Antipholus all the
while hotly exclaiming against this false accusation, which the exact
likeness he bore to his brother had brought upon him. But his rage
only the more confirmed them in the belief that he was mad; and
Dromio persisting in the same story, they bound him also, and took
him away along with his master.
Soon after Adriana had put her husband into confinement, a servant
came to tell her that Antipholus and Dromio must have broken loose
from their keepers, for that they were both walking at liberty in the
next street. On hearing this, Adriana ran out to fetch him home, taking
some people with her to secure her husband again; and her sister went
along with her. When they came to the gates of a convent in their
neighbourhood, there they saw Antipholus and Dromio, as they
thought being again deceived by the likeness of the twin-brothers.
Antipholus of Syracuse was still beset with the perplexities this
likeness had brought upon him. The chain which the goldsmith had
given him was about his neck, and the goldsmith was reproaching him
for denying that he had it, and refusing to pay for it, and Antipholus
was protesting that the goldsmith freely gave him the chain in the
morning, and that from that hour he had never seen the goldsmith
And now Adriana came up to him and claimed him as her lunatic
husband, who had escaped from his keepers; and the men she brought
with her were going to lay violent hands on Antipholus and Dromio;
but they ran into the convent, and Antipholus begged the abbess to
give him shelter in her house.
And now came out the lady abbess herself to inquire into the cause of
this disturbance. She was a grave and venerable lady, and wise to
judge of what she saw, and she would not too hastily give up the man
who had sought protection in her house; so she strictly questioned the
wife about the story she told of her husband's madness, and she said:
'What is the cause of this sudden distemper of your husband's? Has he
lost his wealth at sea? Or is it the death of some dear friend that has
disturbed his mind?' Adriana replied, that no such things as these had
been the cause. 'Perhaps,' said the abbess, 'he has fixed his affections
on some other lady than you his wife; and that has driven him to this
state.' Adriana said she had long thought the love of some other lady
was the cause of his frequent absences from home. Now it was not his
love for another, but the teasing jealousy of his wife's temper, that
often obliged Antipholus to leave his home; and (the abbess
suspecting this from the vehemence of Adriana's manner) to learn the
truth, she said: 'You should have reprehended him for this.' 'Why, so I
did,' replied Adriana. 'Ay,' said the abbess, 'but perhaps not enough.'
Adriana, willing to convince the abbess that she had said enough to
Antipholus on this subject, replied: 'It was the constant subject of our
conversation: in bed I would not let him sleep for speaking of it. At
table I would not let him eat for speaking of it. When I was alone with
him, I talked of nothing else; and in company I gave him frequent
hints of it. Still all my talk was how vile and bad it was in him to love
any lady better than me.'
The lady abbess, having drawn this full confession from the jealous
Adriana, now said: 'And therefore comes it that your husband is mad.
The venomous clamour of a jealous woman is a more deadly poison
than a mad dog's tooth. It seems his sleep was hindered by your
railing; no wonder that his head is light: and his meat was sauced with
your upbraidings; unquiet meals make ill digestions, and that has
thrown him into this fever. You say his sports were disturbed by your
brawls; being debarred from the enjoyment of society and recreation,
what could ensue but dull melancholy and comfortless despair? The
consequence is then, that your jealous kits have made your husband
Luciana would have excused her sister, saying, she always
reprehended her husband mildly; and she said to her sister: 'Why do
you hear these rebukes without answering them?' But the abbess had
made her so plainly perceive her fault, that she could only answer:
'She has betrayed me to my own reproof.'
Adriana, though ashamed of her own conduct, still insisted on having
her husband delivered up to her; but the abbess would suffer no
person to enter her house, nor would she deliver up this unhappy man
to the care of the jealous wife, determining herself to use gentle
means for his recovery, and she retired into her house again, and
ordered her gates to be shut against them.
During the course of this eventful day, in which so many errors had
happened from the likeness the twin brothers bore to each other, old
Aegeon's day of grace was passing away, it being now near sunset;
and at sunset he was doomed to die, if he could not pay the money.
The place of his execution was near this convent, and here he arrived
just as the abbess retired into the convent; the duke attending in
person, that if any offered to pay the money, he might be present to
pardon him.
Adriana stopped this melancholy procession, and cried out to the duke
for justice, telling him that the abbess had refused to deliver up her
lunatic husband to her care. While she was speaking, her real husband
and his servant Dromio, who had got loose, came before the duke to
demand justice, complaining that his wife had confined him on a false
charge of lunacy; and telling in what manner he had broken his bands,
and eluded the vigilance of his keepers. Adriana was strangely
surprised to see her husband, when she thought he had been within the
Aegeon, seeing his son, concluded this was the son who had left him
to go in search of his mother and his brother; and he felt secure that
his dear son would readily pay the money demanded for his ransom.
He therefore spoke to Antipholus in words of fatherly affection, with
joyful hope that he should now be released. But to the utter
astonishment of Aegeon, his son denied all knowledge of him, as well
he might, for this Antipholus had never seen his father since they were
separated in the storm in his infancy; but while the poor old Aegeon
was in vain endeavouring to make his son acknowledge him, thinking
surely that either his griefs and the anxieties he had suffered had so
strangely altered him that his son did not know him, or else that he
was ashamed to acknowledge his father in his misery; in the midst of
this perplexity, the lady abess and the other Antipholus and Dromio
came out and the wondering Adriana saw two husbands and two
romios standing before her.
And now these riddling errors, which had so perplexed them all, were
clearly made out. When the duke saw the two Antipholuses and the
two Dromios both so exactly alike, he at once conjectured aright of
these seeming mysteries, for he remembered the story Aegeon had
told him in the morning; and he said, these men must be the two sons
of Aegeon and their twin slaves.
But now an unlooked-for joy indeed completed the history of Aegeon;
and the tale he had in the morning told in sorrow, and under sentence
of death, before the setting sun went down was brought to a happy
conclusion, for the venerable lady abbess made herself known to be
the long-lost wife of Aegeon, and the fond mother of the two
When the fishermen took the eldest Antipholus and Dromio away
from her, she entered a nunnery, and by her wise and virtuous
conduct, she was at length made lady abbess of this convent, and in
discharging the rites of hospitality to an unhappy stranger she had
unknowingly protected her own son.
Joyful congratulations and affectionate greetings between these long
separated parents and their children made them for a while forget that
Aegeon was yet under sentence of death; but when they were become
a little calm, Antipholus of Ephesus offered the duke the ransom
money for his father's life; but the duke freely pardoned Aegeon, and
would not take the money. And the duke went with the abbess and her
newly found husband and children into the convent, to hear this happy
family discourse at leisure of the blessed ending of their adverse
fortunes. And the two Dromios' humble joy must not be forgotten;
they had their congratulations and greetings too, and each Dromio
pleasantly complimented his brother on his good looks, being well
pleased to see his own person (as in a glass) show so handsome in his
Adriana had so well profited by the good counsel of her mother-inlaw,
that she never after cherished unjust suspicions, or was jealous of
her husband.
Antipholus of Syracuse married the fair Luciana, the sister of his
brother's wife; and the good old Aegeon, with his wife and sons, lived
at Ephesus many years. Nor did the unravelling of these perplexities
so entirely remove every ground of mistake for the future, but that
sometimes, to remind them of adventures past, comical blunders
would happen, and the one Antipholus, and the one Dromio, be
mistaken for the other, making altogether a pleasant and diverting
Comedy of Errors.
In the city of Vienna there once reigned a duke of such a mild and
gentle temper, that he suffered his subjects to neglect the laws with
impunity; and there was in particular one law, the existence of which
was almost forgotten, the duke never having put it in force during his
whole reign. This was a law dooming any man to the punishment of
death, who should live with a woman that was not his wife; and this
law, through the lenity of the duke, being utterly disregarded, the holy
institution of marriage became neglected, and complaints were every
day made to the duke by the parents of the young ladies in Vienna,
that their daughters had been seduced from their rotection, and were
living as the companions of single men.
The good duke perceived with sorrow this growing evil among his
subjects, but he thought that a sudden change in himself from the
indulgence he had hitherto shown, to the strict severity requisite to
check this abuse, would make his people (who had hitherto loved
him) consider him as a tyrant; therefore he determined to absent
himself a while from his dukedom, and depute another to the full
exercise of his power, that the law against these dishonourable lovers
might be put in effect, without giving offence by an unusual severity
in kits own person.
Angelo, a man who bore the reputation of a saint in Vienna for his
strict and rigid life, was chosen by the duke as a fit person to
undertake this important change; and when the duke imparted his
design to lord Escalus, his chief counsellor, Escalus said: 'If any man
in Vienna be of worth to undergo such ample grace and honour, it is
lord Angelo.' And now the duke departed from Vienna under presence
of making a journey into Poland, leaving Angelo to act as the lord
deputy in his absence; but the duke's absence was only a feigned one,
for he privately returned to Vienna, habited like a friar, with the intent
to watch unseen the conduct of the saintly-seeming Angelo.
It happened just about the time that Angelo was invested with his new
dignity, that a gentleman, whose name was Claudio, had seduced a
young lady from her parents; and for this offence, by command of the
new lord deputy, Claudio was taken up and committed to prison, and
by virtue of the old law which had been so long neglected, Angelo
sentenced Claudio to be beheaded. Great interest was made for the
pardon of young Claudio, and the good old lord Escalus himself
interceded for him. 'Alas,' said he, 'this gentleman whom I would save
had an honourable father, for whose sake I pray you pardon the young
man's transgression.' But Angelo replied: 'We must not make a scarecrow
of the law, setting it up to frighten birds of prey, till custom,
finding it harmless, makes it their perch, and not their terror. Sir, he
must die.'
Lucio, the friend of Claudio, visited him in the prison, and Claudio
said to him: 'I pray you, Lucio, do me this kind service. Go to my
sister Isabel, who this day proposes to enter the convent of Saint
Clare; acquaint her with the danger of my state; implore her that she
make friends with the strict deputy; bid her go herself to Angelo. I
have great hopes in that; for she can discourse with prosperous art,
and well she can persuade; besides, there is a speechless dialect in
youthful sorrow, such as moves men.'
Isabel, the sister of Claudio, had, as he said, that day entered her
noviciate in the convent, and it was her intent, after passing through
her probation as a novice, to take the veil, and she was inquiring of a
nun concerning the rules of the convent, when they heard the voice of
Lucio, who, as he entered that religious house, said: 'Peace be in this
place!' 'Who is it that speaks?' said Isabel. 'It is a man's voice,' replied
the nun: 'Gentle Isabel, go to him, and learn his business; you may, I
may not. When you have taken the veil, you must not speak with men
but in the presence of the prioress; then if you speak you must not
show your face, or if you show your face, you must not speak.' 'And
have you nuns no further privileges?' said Isabel. 'Are not these large
enough?' replied the nun. 'Yes, truly,' said Isabel: 'I speak not as
desiring more, but rather wishing a more strict restraint upon the
sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare.' Again they heard the voice of
Lucio, and the nun said: 'He calls again. I pray you answer him.' Isabel
then went out to Lucio, and in answer to his salutation, said: 'Peace
and Prosperity! Who is it that calls?' Then Lucio, approaching her
with reverence, said: 'Hail, virgin, if such you be, as the roses on your
cheeks proclaim you are no less! can you bring me to the sight of
Isabel, a novice of this place, and the fair sister to her unhappy brother
Claudio?' 'Why her unhappy brother?' said Isabel, 'let me ask! for I am
that Isabel, and his sister.' 'Fair and gentle lady,' he replied, 'your
brother kindly greets you by me; he is in prison.' 'Woe is me! for
what?' said Isabel. Lucio then told her, Claudio was imprisoned for
seducing a young maiden. 'Ah,' said she, 'I fear it is my cousin Juliet.'
Juliet and Isabel were not related, but they called each other cousin in
remembrance of their school days' friendship; and as Isabel knew that
Juliet loved Claudio, she feared she had been led by her affection for
him into this transgression. ' She it is,' replied Lucio. 'Why then, let my
brother marry Juliet,' said Isabel. Lucio replied that Claudio would
gladly marry Juliet, but that the lord deputy had sentenced him to die
for his offence; 'Unless,' said he, 'you have the grace by your fair
prayer to soften Angelo, and that is my business between you and your
poor brother.' 'Alas !' said Isabel, 'what poor ability is there in me to do
him good? I doubt I have no power to move Angelo.' 'Our doubts are
traitors,' said Lucio, 'and make us lose the good we might often win,
by fearing to attempt it. Go to lord Angelo! When maidens sue, and
kneel, and weep, men give like gods.' 'I will see what I can do,' said
Isabel: 'I will but stay to give the prioress notice of the affair, and then
I will go to Angelo. Command me to my brother: soon at night I will
send him word of my success.'
Isabel hastened to the palace, and threw herself on her knees before
Angelo, saying: 'I am a woeful suitor to your honour, if it will please
your honour to hear me.' 'Well, what is your suit?' said Angelo. She
then made her petition in the most moving terms for her brother's life.
But Angelo said: 'Maiden, there is no remedy; your brother is
sentenced, and he must die.' 'O just, but severe law,' said Isabel: 'I had
a brother then-- Heaven keep your honour!' and she was about to
depart. But Lucio, who had accompanied her, said: 'Give it not over
so; return to him again, entreat him, kneel down before him, hang
upon his gown. You are too cold; if you should need a pin, you could
not with a more tame tongue desire it.' Then again Isabel on her knees
implored for mercy. 'He is sentenced,' said Angelo: 'it is too late.' 'Too
later' said Isabel: 'Why, no: I that do speak a word may call it back
again. Believe this, my lord, no ceremony that to great ones belongs,
not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword, the marshal's truncheon,
nor the judge's robe, becomes them with one half so good a grace as
mercy does.' 'Pray you begone,' said Angelo. But still Isabel entreated,
and she said: 'If my brother had been as you, and you as he, you might
have slipped like him, but he, like you, would not have been so stern. I
would to heaven I had your power, and you were Isabel. Should it then
be thus? No. I would tell you what it were to be a judge, and what a
prisoner.' 'Be content, fair maid!' said Angelo: 'it is the law, not I,
condemns your brother. Were he my kinsman, my brother, or my son,
it should be thus with him. He must die to-morrow.' 'To-morrow?' said
Isabel; 'Oh, that is sudden: spare him, spare him; he is not prepared for
death. Even for our kitchens we kill the fowl in season; shall we serve
Heaven with less respect than we minister to our gross selves? Good,
good, my lord, bethink you, none have died for my brother's offence,
though many have committed it. So you would be the first that gives
this sentence, and he the first that suffers it. Go to your own bosom,
my lord; knock there, and ask your heart what it does know that is like
my brother's fault; if it confess a natural guiltiness such as his is, let it
not sound a thought against my brother's life!' Her last words more
moved Angelo than all she had before said, for the beauty of Isabel
had raised a guilty passion in his heart, and he began to form thoughts
of dishonourable love, such as Claudio's crime had been; and the
conflict in his mind made him to turn away from Isabel; but she called
him back, saying: 'Gentle my lord, turn back; hark, how I will bribe
you. Good my lord, turn back!' 'How, bribe me!' said Angelo,
astonished that she should think of offering him a bribe. 'Ay,' said
Isabel, 'with such gifts that Heaven itself shall share with you; not
with golden treasures, or those glittering stones, whose price is either
rich or poor as fancy values them, but with true prayers that shall be
up to Heaven before sunrise,--prayers from preserved souls, from
fasting maids whose minds are dedicated to nothing temporal.' 'Well,
come to me to-morrow,' said Angelo. And for this short respite of her
brother's life, and for this permission that she might be heard again,
she left him with the joyful hope that she should at last prevail over
his stern nature: and as she went away she said: 'Heaven keep your
honour safe! Heaven save your honour!' Which when Angelo heard,
he said within his heart: 'Amen, I would be saved from thee and from
thy virtues': and then, affrighted at his own evil thoughts, he said:
'What is this? What is this? Do I love her, that I desire to hear her
speak again, and feast upon her eyes? What is it I dream on? The
cunning enemy of mankind, to catch a saint, with saints does bait the
hook. Never could an immodest woman once stir my temper, but this
virtuous woman subdues me quite. Even till now, when men were
fond, I smiled and wondered at them.'
In the guilty conflict in his mind Angelo suffered more that night than
the prisoner he had so severely sentenced; for in the prison Claudio
was visited by the good duke, who, in his friar's habit, taught the
young man the way to heaven, preaching to him the words of
penitence and peace. But Angelo felt all the pangs of irresolute guilt:
now wishing to seduce Isabel from the paths of innocence and honour,
and now suffering remorse and horror for a crime as yet but
intentional. But in the end his evil thoughts prevailed; and he who had
so lately started at the offer of a bribe, resolved to tempt this maiden
with so high a bribe, as she might not be able to resist, even with the
precious gift of her dear brother's life.
When Isabel came in the morning, Angelo desired she might be
admitted alone to his presence: and being there, he said to her, if she
would yield to him her virgin honour and transgress even as Juliet had
done with Claudio, he would give her her brother's life; 'For,' said he,
'I love you, Isabel.' 'My brother,' said Isabel, 'did so love Juliet, and yet
you tell me he shall die for it.' 'But,' said Angelo, 'Claudio shall not
die, if you will consent to visit me by stealth at night, even as Juliet
left her father's house at night to come to Claudio.' Isabel, in
amazement at his words, that he should tempt her to the same fault for
which he passed sentence upon her brother, said: 'I would do as much
for my poor brother as for myself; that is, were I under sentence of
death, the impression of keen whips I would wear as rubies, and go to
my death as to a bed that longing I had been sick for, ere I would yield
myself up to this shame.' And then she told him, she hoped he only
spoke these words to try her virtue. But he said: 'Believe me, on my
honour, my words express my purpose.' Isabel, angered to the heart to
hear him use the word Honour to express such dishonourable
purposes, said: 'Ha! little honour to be much believed; and most
pernicious purpose. I will proclaim thee, Angelo, look for it! Sign me
a present pardon for my brother, or I will tell the world aloud what
man thou art!' 'Who will believe you, Isabel?' said Angelo; 'my
unsoiled name, the austereness of my life, my word vouched against
yours, will outweigh your accusation. Redeem your brother by
yielding to my will, or he shall die to-morrow. As for you, say what
you can, my false will overweigh your true story. Answer me tomorrow.'
'To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, who would believe me?'
said Isabel, as she went towards the dreary prison where her brother
was confined. When she arrived there, her brother was in pious
conversation with the duke, who in his friar's habit had also visited
Juliet, and brought both these guilty lovers to a proper sense of their
fault; and unhappy Juliet with tears and a true remorse confessed that
she was more to blame than Claudio, in that she willingly consented
to his dishonourable solicitations.
As Isabel entered the room where Claudio was confined, she said:
'Peace be here, grace, and good company!' 'Who is there?' said the
disguised duke; 'come in; the wish deserves a welcome.' 'My business
as a word or two with Claudio,' said Isabel. Then the duke left them
together, and desired the provost, who had the charge of the prisoners,
to place him where he might overhear their conversation.
'Now, sister, what is the comfort?' said Claudio. Isabel told him he
must prepare for death on the morrow. 'Is there no remedy?' said
Claudio. 'Yes, brother,' replied Isabel, 'there is, but such a one, as if
you consented to it would strip your honour from you, and leave you
naked.' 'Let me know the point,' said Claudio. 'O, I do fear you,
Claudio!' replied his sister; 'and I quake, lest you should wish to live,
and more respect the trifling term of six or seven winters added to
your life, then your perpetual honour! Do you dare to die? The sense
of death is most in apprehension, and the poor beetle that we tread
upon, feels a pang as great as when a giant dies.' 'Why do you give me
this shame?' said Claudio. 'Think you I can fetch a resolution from
flowery tenderness? If I must die, I will encounter darkness as a bride,
and hug it in my arms.' 'There spoke my brother,' said Isabel; 'there my
father's grave did utter forth a voice. Yes, you must die; yet would you
think it, Claudio! this outward sainted deputy, if I would yield to him
my virgin honour, would grant your life. O, were it but my life, I
would lay it down for your deliverance as frankly as a pin!' 'Thanks,
dear Isabel,' said Claudio. 'Be ready to die to-morrow,' said Isabel.
'Death is a fearful thing,' said Claudio. 'And shamed life a hateful,'
replied his sister. But the thoughts of death now overcame the
constancy of Claudio's temper, and terrors, such as the guilty only at
their deaths do know, assailing him, he cried out: 'Sweet sister, let me
live! The sin you do to save a brother's life, nature dispenses with the
deed so far, that it becomes a virtue.' 'O faithless coward! O dishonest
wretch!' said Isabel; 'would you preserve your life by your sister's
shame? O fie, fie, fie! I thought, my brother, you had in you such a
mind of honour, that had you twenty heads to render up on twenty
blocks, you would have yielded them up all, before your sister should
stoop to such dishonour.' 'Nay, hear me, Isabel!' said Claudio. But
what he would have said in defence of his weakness, in desiring to
live by the dishonour of his virtuous sister, was interrupted by the
entrance of the duke; who said: 'Claudio, I have overheard what has
passed between you and your sister. Angelo had never the purpose to
corrupt her; what he said, has only been to make trial of her virtue.
She having the truth of honour in her, has given him that gracious
denial which he is most glad to receive. There is no hope that he will
pardon you; therefore pass your hours in prayer, and make ready for
death.' Then Claudio repented of his weakness, and said: 'Let me ask
my sister's pardon! I am so out of love with life, that I will sue to be
rid of it.' And Claudio retired, overwhelmed with shame and sorrow
for his fault.
The duke being now alone with Isabel, commended her virtuous
resolution, saying: 'The hand that made you fair, has made you good.'
'O,' said Isabel, 'how much is the good duke deceived in Angelo! if
ever he return, and I can speak to him, I will discover his government.'
Isabel knew not that she was even now making the discovery she
threatened. The duke replied: 'That shall not be much amiss; yet as the
matter now stands, Angelo will repel your accusation; therefore lend
an attentive ear to my advisings. I believe that you may most
righteously do a poor wronged lady a merited benefit, redeem your
brother from the angry law, do no stain to your own most gracious
person, and much please the absent duke, if peradventure he shall ever
return to have notice of this business. Isabel said, she had a spirit to do
anything he desired, provided it was nothing wrong. 'Virtue is bold,
and never fearful,' said the duke: and then he asked her, if she had
ever heard of Mariana, the sister of Frederick, the great soldier who
was drowned at sea. 'I have heard of the lady,' said Isabel, 'and good
words went with her name.' 'This lady,' said the duke, 'is the wife of
Angelo; but her marriage dowry was on board the vessel in which her
brother perished, and mark how heavily this befell to the poor
gentlewoman! for, beside the loss of a most noble and renowned
brother, who in his love towards her was ever most kind and natural,
in the wreck of her fortune she lost the affections of her husband, the
well-seeming Angelo; who pretending to discover some dishonour in
this honourable lady (though the true cause was the loss of her dowry)
left her in tears, and dried not one of them with his comfort. His
unjust unkindness, that in all reason should have quenched her love,
has, like an impediment in the current, made it more unruly, and
Mariana loves her cruel husband with the full continuance of her first
affection.' The duke then more plainly unfolded his plan. It was, that
Isabel should go to lord Angelo, and seemingly consent to come to
him as he desired at midnight; that by this means she would obtain the
promised pardon; and that Mariana should go in her stead to the
appointment, and pass herself upon Angelo in the dark for Isabel.
'Nor, gentle daughter,' said the feigned friar, 'fear you to do this thing;
Angelo is her husband, and to bring them thus together is no sin.'
Isabel being pleased with this project, departed to do as he directed
her; and he went to apprise Mariana of their intention. He had before
this time visited this unhappy lady in his assumed character, giving
her religious instruction and friendly consolation, at which times he
had learned her sad story from her own lips; and now she, looking
upon him as a holy man, readily consented to be directed by him in
this undertaking.
When Isabel returned from her interview with Angelo, to the house of
Mariana, where the duke had appointed her to meet him, he said:
'Well met, and in good time; what is the news from this good deputy?'
Isabel related the manner in which she had settled the affair. 'Angelo,'
said she, 'has a garden surrounded with a brick wall, on the western
side of which is a vineyard, and to that vineyard is a gate.' And then
she showed to the duke and Mariana two keys that Angelo had given
her; and she said: 'This bigger key opens the vineyard gate; this other a
little door which leads from the vineyard to the garden. There I have
made my promise at the dead of the night to call upon him, and have
got from him his word of assurance for my brother's life. I have taken
a due and wary note of the place; and with whispering and most guilty
diligence he showed me the way twice over.' 'Are there no other
tokens agreed upon between you, that Mariana must observe?' said the
duke. 'No, none,' said Isabel, 'only to go when it is dark. I have told
him my time can be but short; for I have made him think a servant
comes along with me, and that this servant is persuaded I come about
my brother.' The duke commended her discreet management, and she,
turning to Mariana, said: 'Little have you to say to Angelo, when you
depart from him, but soft and low: Remember now my brother!'
Mariana was that night conducted to the appointed place by Isabel,
who rejoiced that she had, as she supposed, by this device preserved
both her brother's life and her own honour. But that her brother's life
was safe the duke was not well satisfied, and therefore at midnight he
again repaired to the prison, and it was well for Claudio that he did so,
else would Claudio have that night been beheaded; for soon after the
duke entered the prison, an order came from the cruel deputy,
commanding that Claudio should be beheaded, and his head sent to
him by five o'clock in the morning. But the duke persuaded the
provost to put off the execution of Claudio, and to deceive Angelo, by
sending him the head of a man who died that morning in the prison.
And to prevail upon the provost to agree to this, the duke, whom still
the provost suspected not to be anything more or greater than he
seemed, showed the provost a letter written with the duke's hand, and
sealed with his seal, which when the provost saw, he concluded this
friar must have some secret order from the absent duke, and therefore
he consented to spare Claudio; and he cut off the dead man's head,
and carried it to Angelo.
Then the duke in his own name, wrote to Angelo a letter, saying, that
certain accidents had put a stop to his journey, and that he should be
in Vienna by the following morning, requiring Angelo to meet him at
the entrance of the city, there to deliver up his authority; and the duke
also commanded it to be proclaimed, that if any of his subjects craved
redress for injustice, they should exhibit their petitions in the street on
his first entrance into the city.
Early in the morning Isabel came to the prison, and the duke, who
there awaited her coming, for secret reasons thought it good to tell her
that Claudio was beheaded; therefore when Isabel inquired if Angelo
had sent the pardon for her brother, he said: 'Angelo has released
Claudio from this world. His head is off, and sent to the deputy.' The
much-grieved sister cried out: 'O unhappy Claudio, wretched Isabel,
injurious world, most wicked Angelo!' The seeming friar bid her take
comfort, and when she was become a little calm, he acquainted her
with the near prospect of the duke's return, and told her in what
manner she should proceed in preferring her complaint against
Angelo; and he bade her not fear if the cause should seem to go
against her for a while. Leaving Isabel sufficiently instructed, he next
went to Mariana, and gave her counsel in what manner she also
should act.
Then the duke laid aside his friar's habit, and in his own royal robes,
amidst a joyful crowd of his faithful subjects, assembled to greet his
arrival, entered the city of Vienna, where he was met by Angelo, who
delivered up his authority in the proper form. And there came Isabel,
in the manner of a petitioner for redress, and said: 'Justice, most royal
duke! I am the sister of one Claudio, who, for the seducing a young
maid, was condemned to lose his head. I made my suit to lord Angelo
for my brother's pardon. It were needless to tell your grace how I
prayed and kneeled, how he repelled me, and how I replied; for this
was of much length. The vile conclusion I now begin with grief and
shame to utter. Angelo would not but by my yielding to his
dishonourable love release my brother; and after much debate within
myself, my sisterly remorse overcame my virtue, and I did yield to
him. But the next morning betimes, Angelo, forfeiting his promise,
sent a warrant for my poor brother's head!' The duke affected to
disbelieve her story; and Angelo said that grief for her brother's death,
who had suffered by the due course of the law, had disordered her
senses. And now another suitor approached, which was Mariana; and
Mariana said: 'Noble prince, as there comes light from heaven, and
truth from breath, as there is sense in truth and truth in virtue, I am
this man's wife, and my good lord, the words of Isabel are false; for
the night she says was with Angelo, I passed that night with him in the
garden-house. As this is true, let me in safety rise, or else for ever be
fixed here a marble monument.' Then did Isabel appeal for the truth of
what she had said to friar Lodowick, that being the name the duke had
assumed in his disguise. Isabel and Mariana had both obeyed his
instructions in what they said, the duke intending that the innocence
of Isabel should be plainly proved in that public manner before the
whole city of Vienna; but Angelo little thought that it was from such a
cause that they thus differed in their story, and he hoped from their
contradictory evidence to be able to clear himself from the accusation
of Isabel, and he said, assuming the look of offended innocence: 'I did
but smile till now; but, good my lord, my patience here is touched,
and I perceive these poor distracted women are but the instruments of
some greater one, who sets them on. Let me have way, my lord, to
find this practice out.' 'Ay, with all my heart,' said the duke, 'and
punish them to the height of your pleasure. You, lord Escalus, sit with
lord Angelo, lend him your pains to discover this abuse; the friar is
sent for that set them on, and when he comes, do with your injuries as
may seem best in any chastisement. I for a while will leave you, but
stir not you, lord Angelo, till you have well determined upon this
slander.' The duke then went away, leaving Angelo well pleased to be
deputed judge and umpire in his own cause. But the duke was absent
only while he threw off his royal robes and put on his friar's habit; and
in that disguise again he presented himself before Angelo and Escalus:
and the good old Escalus, who thought Angelo had been falsely
accused, said to the supposed friar: 'Come, sir, did you set these
women on to slander lord Angelo?' He replied: 'Where is the duke? It
is he who should hear me speak.' Escalus said: 'The duke is in us, and
we will hear you. Speak justly.' 'Boldly at least,' retorted the friar; and
then he blamed the duke for leaving the cause of Isabel in the hands of
him she had accused, and spoke so freely of many corrupt practices he
had observed, while, as he said, he had been a looker-on in Vienna,
that Escalus threatened him with the torture for speaking words
against the state, and for censuring the conduct of the duke, and
ordered him to be taken away to prison. Then, to the amazement of all
present, and to the utter confusion of Angelo, the supposed friar threw
off his disguise, and they saw it was the duke himself.
The duke first addressed Isabel. He said to her: 'Come hither, Isabel.
Your friar is now your prince, but with my habit I have not changed
my heart. I am still devoted to your service.' 'O give me pardon,' said
Isabel, 'that I, your vassal, have employed and troubled your unknown
sovereignty.' He answered that he had most need of forgiveness from
her, for not having prevented the death of her brother for not yet
would he tell her that Claudio was living; meaning first to make a
further trial of her goodness. Angelo now knew the duke had been a
secret witness of his bad deeds, and he said: 'O my dread lord, I should
be guiltier than my guiltiness, to think I can be undiscernible, when I
perceive your grace, like power divine, has looked upon my actions.
Then, good prince, no longer prolong my shame, but let my trial be
my own confession. Immediate sentence and death is all the grace I
beg.' The duke replied: 'Angelo, thy faults are manifest. We do
condemn thee to the very block where Claudio stooped to death; and
with like haste away with him; and for his possessions, Mariana, we
do instate and widow you withal, to buy a better husband.' 'O my dear
lord,' said Mariana, 'I crave no other, nor no better man': and then on
her knees, even as Isabel had begged the life of Claudio, did this kind
wife of an ungrateful husband beg the life of Angelo; and she said:
'Gentle my liege, O good my lord! Sweet Isabel, take my part! Lend
me your knees, and all my life to come I will lend you all my life, to
do you service!' The duke said: 'Against all sense you importune her.
Should Isabel kneel down to beg for mercy, her brother's ghost would
break his paved bed, and take her hence in horror.' Still Mariana said:
'Isabel, sweet Isabel, do but kneel by me, hold up your hand, say
nothing! I will speak all. They say, best men are moulded out of
faults, and for the most part become much the better for being a little
bad. So may my husband. Oh Isabel, will you not lend a knee?' The
duke then said: 'He dies for Claudio,' But much pleased was the good
duke, when his own Isabel, from whom he expected all gracious and
honourable acts, kneeled down before him, and said: 'Most bounteous
sir, look, if it please you, on this man condemned, as if my brother
lived. I partly think a due sincerity governed his deeds, till he did look
on me. Since it is so, let him not die! My brother had but justice, in
that he did the thing for which he died.'
The duke, as the best reply he could make to this noble petitioner for
her enemy's life, sending for Claudio from his prison-house, where he
lay doubtful of his destiny, presented to her this lamented bother
living; and he said to Isabel: 'Give me your hand, Isabel; for your
lovely sake I pardon Claudio. Say you will be mine, and he shall be
my brother too.' By this time lord Angelo perceived he was safe; and
the duke, observing his eye to brighten up a little, said: 'Well, Angelo,
look that you love your wife; her worth has obtained your pardon: joy
to you, Mariana! Love her, Angelo! I have confessed her, and know
her virtue.' Angelo remembered, when dressed in a little brief
authority, how hard his heart had been, and felt how sweet is mercy.
The duke commanded Claudio to marry Juliet, and offered himself
again to the acceptance of Isabel, whose virtuous and noble conduct
had won her prince's heart. Isabel, not having taken the veil, was free
to marry; and the friendly offices, while hid under the disguise of a
humble friar, which the noble duke had done for her, made her with
grateful joy accept the honour he offered her; and when she became
duchess of Vienna, the excellent example of the virtuous Isabel
worked such a complete reformation among the young ladies of that
city that from that time none ever fell into the transgression of Juliet,
the repentant wife of the reformed Claudio. And the mercy-loving
duke long reigned with his beloved Isabel, the happiest of husbands
and of princes.
Sebastian and his sister Viola, a young gentleman and lady of
Messaline, were twins, and (which was accounted a great wonder)
from their birth they so much resembled each other, that, but for the
difference in their dress, they could not be known apart. They were
both born in one hour, and in one hour they were both in danger of
perishing, for they were shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, as they
were making a sea-voyage together. The ship, on board of which they
were, split on a rock in a violent storm, and a very small number of
the ship's company escaped with their lives. The captain of the vessel,
with a few of the sailors that were saved, got to land in a small boat,
and with them they brought Viola safe on shore, where she, poor lady,
instead of rejoicing at her own deliverance, began to lament her
brother's loss; but the captain comforted her with the assurance that he
had seen her brother, when the ship split, fasten himself to a strong
mast, on which, as long as he could see anything of him for the
distance, he perceived him borne up above the waves. Viola was
much consoled by the hope this account gave her, and now considered
how she was to dispose of herself in a strange country, so far from
home; and she asked the captain if he knew anything of Illyria. 'Ay,
very well, madam,' replied the captain, 'for I was born not three hours'
travel from this place.' 'Who governs here?' said Viola. The captain
told her, Illyria was governed by Orsino, a duke noble in nature as
well as dignity. Viola said, she had heard her father speak of Orsino,
and that he was unmarried then. 'And he is so now,' said the captain;
'or was so very lately, for, but a month ago, I went from here, and then
it was the general talk (as you know what great ones do, the people
will prattle of) that Orsino sought the love of fair Olivia, a virtuous
maid, the daughter of a count who died twelve months ago, leaving
Olivia to the protection of her brother, who shortly after died also; and
for the love of this dear brother, they say, she has abjured the sight
and company of men.' Viola, who was herself in such a sad affliction
for her brother's loss, wished she could live with this lady, who so
tenderly mourned a brother's death. She asked the captain if he could
introduce her to Olivia, saying she would willingly serve this lady. But
he replied, this would be a hard thing to accomplish, because the lady
Olivia would admit no person into her house since her brother's death,
not even the duke himself. Then Viola formed another project in her
mind, which was, in a man's habit, to serve the duke Orsino as a page.
It was a strange fancy in a young lady to put on male attire, and pass
for a boy; but the forlorn and unprotected state of Viola, who was
young and of uncommon beauty, alone, and in a foreign land, must
plead her excuse.
She having observed a fair behaviour in the captain, and that he
showed a friendly concern for her welfare, entrusted him with her
design, and he readily engaged to assist her. Viola gave him money,
and directed him to furnish her with suitable apparel, ordering her
clothes to be made of the same colour and in the same fashion her
brother Sebastian used to wear, and when she was dressed in her
manly garb, she looked so exactly like her brother that some strange
errors happened by means of their being mistaken for each other; for,
as will afterwards appear, Sebastian was also saved.
Viola's good friend, the captain, when he had transformed this pretty
lady into a gentleman, having some interest at court, got her presented
to Orsino under the feigned name of Cesario. The duke was
wonderfully pleased with the address and graceful deportment of this
handsome youth, and made Cesario one of his pages that being the
office Viola wished to obtain: and she so well fulfilled the duties of
her new station, and showed such a ready observance and faithful
attachment to he lord, that she soon became his most favoured
attendant;. To Cesario Orsino confided the whole history of his love
for the lady Olivia. To Cesario he told the long and unsuccessful suit
he had made to one who, rejecting his long services, and despising his
person, refused to admit him to her presence; and for the love of this
lady who had so unkindly treated him, the noble Orsino, forsaking the
sports of the held and all manly exercises in which he used to delight,
passed his hours in ignoble sloth, listening to the effeminate sounds of
soft music, gentle airs, and passionate love-songs; and neglecting the
company of the wise and learned lords with whom he used to
associate, he was now all day long conversing with young Cesario.
Unmeet companion no doubt his grave courtiers thought Cesario was
for their once noble master, the great duke Orsino.
It is a dangerous matter for young maidens to be the confidants of
handsome young dukes; which Viola too soon found to her sorrow, for
all that Orsino told her he endured for Olivia, she presently perceived
she suffered for the love of him; and much it moved her wonder, that
Olivia could be so regardless of this her peerless lord and master,
whom she thought no one could behold without the deepest
admiration, and she ventured gently to hint to Orsino, that it was a
pity he should affect a lady who was so blind to his worthy qualities;
and she said: 'If a lady were to love you, my lord, as you love Olivia
(and perhaps there may be one who does), if you could not love her in
return, would you not tell her that you could not love, and must she
not be content with this answer?' But Orsino would not admit of this
reasoning, for he denied that it was possible for any woman to love as
he did. He said, no woman's heart was big enough to hold so much
love, and therefore it was unfair to compare the love of any lady for
him, to his love for Olivia. Now, though Viola had the utmost
deference for the duke's opinions, she could not help thinking this was
not quite true, for she thought her heart had full as much love in it as
Orsino's had; and she said: 'Ah, but I know, my lord.' 'What do you
know, Cesario?' said Orsino. 'Too well I know,' replied Viola, 'what
love women may owe to men. They are as true of heart as we are. My
father had a daughter loved a man, as I perhaps, were I a woman,
should love your lordship.' 'And what is her history?' said Orsino. 'A
blank, my lord,' replied Viola: 'she never told her love, but let
concealment, like a worm in the bud, feed on her damask cheek. She
pined in thought, and with a green and yellow melancholy, she sat like
Patience on a monument, smiling at Grief.' The duke inquired if this
lady died of her love, but to this question Viola returned an evasive
answer; as probably she had feigned the story, to speak words
expressive of the secret love and silent grief she suffered for Orsino.
While they were talking, a gentleman entered whom the duke had sent
to Olivia, and he said: 'So please you, my lord, I might not be admitted
to the lady, but by her handmaid she returned you this answer: Until
seven years hence, the element itself shall not behold her face; but
like a cloistress she will walk veiled, watering her chamber with her
tears for the sad remembrance of her dead brother.' On hearing this,
the duke exclaimed: 'O she that has a heart of this fine frame, to pay
this debt of love to a dead brother, how will she love, when the rich
golden shaft has touched her heart!' And then he said to Viola: 'You
know, Cesario, I have told you all the secrets of my heart; therefore,
good youth, go to Olivia's house. Be not denied access; stand at her
doors, and tell her, there your fixed foot shall grow till you have
audience.' 'And if I do speak to her, my lord, what then?' said Viola. 'O
then,' replied Orsino, 'unfold to her the passion of my love. Make a
long discourse to her of my dear faith. It will well become you to act
my woes, for she will attend more to you than to one of graver aspect.'
Away then went Viola; but not willingly did she undertake this
courtship, for she was to woo a lady to become a wife to him she
wished to marry: but having undertaken the affair, she performed it
with fidelity; and Olivia soon heard that a youth was at her door who
insisted upon being admitted to her presence. 'I told him,' said the
servant, 'that you were sick: he said he knew you were, and therefore
he came to speak with you. I told him that you were asleep: he seemed
to have a foreknowledge of that too, and said, that therefore he must
speak with you. What is to be said to him, lady? for he seems fortified
against all denial, and will speak with you, whether you will or no.'
Olivia, curious to see who this peremptory messenger might be,
desired he might be admitted; and throwing her veil over her face, she
said she would once more hear Orsino's embassy, not doubting but
that he came from the duke, by his importunity. Viola, entering, put
on the most manly air she could assume, and affecting the fine
courtier language of great men's pages, she said to the veiled lady:
'Most radiant, exquisite, and matchless beauty, I pray you tell me if
you are the lady of the house; for I should be sorry to cast away my
speech upon another; for besides that it is excellently well penned, I
have taken great pains to learn it.' 'Whence come you, sir?' said Olivia.
'I can say little more than I have studied,' replied Viola; 'and that
question is out of my part.' 'Are you a comedian?' said Olivia. 'No,'
replied Viola; 'and yet I am not that which I play'; meaning that she,
being a woman, feigned herself to be a man. And again she asked
Olivia if she were the lady of the house. Olivia said she was; and then
Viola, having more curiosity to see her rival's features, than haste to
deliver her master's message, said: 'Good madam, let me see your
face.' With this bold request Olivia was not averse to comply; for this
haughty beauty, whom the duke Orsino had loved so long in vain, at
first sight conceived a passion for the supposed page, the humble
When Viola asked to see her face, Olivia said: 'Have you any
commission from your lord and master to negotiate with my face?'
And then, forgetting her determination to go veiled for seven long
years, she drew aside her veil, saying: 'But I will draw the curtain and
show the picture. Is it not well done?' Viola replied: 'It is beauty truly
mixed; the red and white upon your cheeks is by Nature's own
cunning hand laid on. You are the most cruel lady living, if you will
lead these graces to the grave, and leave the world no copy.' 'O, sir,'
replied Olivia, 'I will not be so cruel. The world may have an
inventory of my beauty. As, item, two Lips, indifferent red; item, two
grey eyes, with lids to them; one neck; one chin; and so forth. Were
you sent here to praise me?' Viola replied: 'I see what you are: you are
too proud, but you are fair. My lord and master loves you. O such a
love could but be recompensed, though you were crowned the queen
of beauty: for Orsino loves you with adoration and with tears, with
groans that thunder love, and sighs of fire.' 'Your lord,' said Olivia,
'knows well my mind. I cannot love him; yet I doubt not he is
virtuous; I know him to be noble and of high estate, of fresh and
spotless youth. All voices proclaim him learned, courteous, and
valiant; yet I cannot love him, he might have taken his answer long
ago.' 'If I did love you as my master does,' said Viola, 'I would make
me a willow cabin at your gates, and call upon your name, I would
write complaining sonnets on Olivia, and sing them in the dead of the
night; your name should sound among the hills, and I would make
Echo, the babbling gossip of the air, cry out Olivia. O you should not
rest between the elements of earth and air, but you should pity me.'
'You might do much,' said Olivia: 'what is your parentage?' Viola
replied: 'Above my fortunes, yet my state is well. I am a gentleman.'
Olivia now reluctantly dismissed Viola, saying: 'Go to your master,
and tell him, I cannot love him. Let him send no more, unless
perchance you come again to tell me how he takes it.' And Viola
departed, bidding the lady farewell by the name of Fair Cruelty. When
she was gone, Olivia repeated the words, Above my fortunes, yet my
state is well. I am a gentleman. And she said aloud: 'I will be sworn he
is; his tongue, his face, his limbs, action, and spirit, plainly show he is
a gentleman.' And then she wished Cesario was the duke; and
perceiving the fast hold he had taken on her affections, she blamed
herself for her sudden love: but the gentle blame which people lay
upon their own faults has no deep root; and presently the noble lady
Olivia so far forgot the inequality between her fortunes and those of
this seeming page, as well as the maidenly reserve which is the chief
ornament of a lady's character, that she resolved to court the love of
young Cesario, and sent a servant after him with a diamond ring,
under the presence that he had left it with her as a present from
Orsino. She hoped by thus artfully making Cesario a present of the
ring, she should give him some intimation of her design; and truly it
did make Viola suspect; for knowing that Orsino had sent no ring by
her, she began to recollect that Olivia's looks and manner were
expressive of admiration, and she presently guessed her master's
mistress had fallen in love with her. 'Alas,' said she, 'the poor lady
might as well love a dream. Disguise I see is wicked, for it has caused
Olivia to breathe as fruitless sighs for me as I do for Orsino.'
Viola returned to Orsino's palace, and related to her lord the ill
success of the negotiation, repeating the command of Olivia, that the
duke should trouble her no more. Yet still the duke persisted in
hoping that the gentle Cesario would in time be able to persuade her
to show some pity, and therefore he bade him he should go to her
again the next day. In the meantime, to pass away the tedious interval,
he commanded a song which he loved to be sung; and he said: 'My
good Cesario, when I heard that song last night, methought it did
relieve my passion much. Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain. The
spinsters and the knitters when they sit in the sun, and the young
maids that weave their thread with bone, chant this song. It is silly, yet
I love it, for it tells of the innocence of love in the old times.'
Come away, come away, Death
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath,
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white stuck all with yew, O prepare it!
My part of death no one so true did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strewn:
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown
A thousand thousand sighs to save, lay me O where
Sad true lover never kind my grave, to weep there!
Viola did not fail to mark the words of the old song which in such true
simplicity described the pangs of unrequited love, and she bore
testimony in her countenance of feeling what the song expressed. Her
sad looks were observed by Orsino, who said to her: 'My life upon it,
Cesario, though you are so young, your eye has looked upon some
face that it loves: has it not, boy?' 'A little, with your leave,' replied
Viola. 'And what kind of woman, and of what age is she?' said Orsino.
'Of your age and of your complexion, my lord,' said Viola; which
made the duke smile to hear this fair young boy loved a woman so
much older than himself, and of a man's dark complexion; but Viola
secretly meant Orsino, and not a woman like him.
When Viola made her second visit to Olivia, she found no difficulty in
gaining access to her. Servants soon discover when their ladies delight
to converse with handsome young messengers; and the instant Viola
arrived, the gates were thrown wide open, and the duke's page was
shown into Olivia's apartment with great respect; and when Viola told
Olivia that she was come once more to plead in her lord's behalf, this
lady said: 'I desired you never to speak of him again; but if you would
undertake another suit, I had rather hear you solicit, than music from
the spheres.' This was pretty plain speaking, but Olivia soon explained
herself still more plainly, and openly confessed her love; and when
she saw displeasure with perplexity expressed in Viola's face, she
said: 'O what a deal of scorn looks beautiful in the contempt and anger
of his lip! Cesario, by the roses of the spring, by maidhood, honour,
and by truth, I love you so, that, in spite of your pride, I have neither
wit nor reason to conceal my passion.' But in vain the lady wooed;
Viola hastened from her presence, threatening never more to come to
plead Orsino's love; and all the reply she made to Olivia's fond
solicitation was, a declaration of a resolution Never to love any
No sooner had Viola left the lady than a claim was made upon her
velour. A gentleman, a rejected suitor of Olivia, who had learned how
that lady had favoured the duke's messenger, challenged him to fight a
duel. What should poor Viola do, who, though she carried a manlike
outside, had a true woman's heart, and feared to look on her own
When she saw her formidable rival advancing towards her with his
sword drawn, she began to think of confessing that she was a woman;
but she was relieved at once from her terror, and the shame of such a
discovery, by a stranger that was passing by, who made up to them,
and as if he had been long known to her, and were her dearest friend,
said to her opponent: 'If this young gentleman has done offence, I will
take the fault on me; and if you offend him, I will for his sake defy
you.' Before Viola had time to thank him for his protection, or to
inquire the reason of his kind interference, her new friend met with an
enemy where his bravery was of no use to him; for the officers of
justice coming up in that instant, apprehended the stranger in the
duke's name, to answer for an offence he had committed some years
before: and he said to Viola: 'This comes with seeking you': and then
he asked her for a purse, saying: 'Now my necessity makes me ask for
my purse, and it grieves me much more for what I cannot do for you,
than for what befalls myself. You stand amazed, but be of comfort.'
His words did indeed amaze Viola, and she protested she knew him
not, nor had ever received a purse from him; but for the kindness he
had just shown her, she offered him a small sum of money, being
nearly the whole she possessed. And now the stranger spoke severe
things, charging her with ingratitude and unkindness. He said: 'This
youth, whom you see here, I snatched from the jaws of death, and for
his sake alone I came to Illyria, and have fallen into this danger.' But
the officers cared little for hearkening to the complaints of their
prisoner, and they hurried him off, saying: 'What is that to us?' And as
he was carried away, he called Viola by the name of Sebastian,
reproaching the supposed Sebastian for disowning his friend, as long
as he was within hearing. When Viola heard herself called Sebastian,
though the stranger was taken away too hastily for her to ask an
explanation, she conjectured that this seeming mystery might arise
from her being mistaken for her brother; and she began to cherish
hopes that it was her brother whose life this man said he had
preserved. And so indeed it was. The stranger, whose name was
Antonio, was a sea-captain. He had taken Sebastian up into his ship,
when, almost exhausted with fatigue, he was floating on the mast to
which he had fastened himself in the storm. Antonio conceived such a
friendship for Sebastian, that he resolved to accompany him
whithersoever he went; and when the youth expressed a curiosity to
visit Orsino's court, Antonio, rather than part from him, came to
Illyria, though he knew, if his person should be known there, his life
would be in danger, because in a sea-fight he had once dangerously
wounded the duke Orsino's nephew. This was the offence for which
he was now made a prisoner.
Antonio and Sebastian had landed together but a few hours before
Antonio met Viola. He had given his purse to Sebastian, desiring him
to use it freely if he saw anything he wished to purchase, telling him
he would wait at the inn, while Sebastian went to view the town; but
Sebastian not returning at the time appointed, Antonio had ventured
out to look for him, and Viola being dressed the same, and in face so
exactly resembling her brother, Antonio drew his sword (as he
thought) in defence of the youth he had saved, and when Sebastian (as
he supposed) disowned him, and denied him his own purse, no
wonder he accused him of ingratitude.
Viola, when Antonio was gone, fearing a second invitation to fight,
slunk home as fast as she could. She had not been long gone, when
her adversary thought he saw her return; but it was her brother
Sebastian, who happened to arrive at this place, and he said: 'Now, sir,
have I met with you again? There's for you'; and struck him a blow.
Sebastian was no coward; he returned the blow with interest, and
drew his sword.
A lady now put a stop to this duel, for Olivia came out of the house,
and she too mistaking Sebastian for Cesario, invited him to come into
her house, expressing much sorrow at the rude attack he had met with.
Though Sebastian was as much surprised at the courtesy of this lady
as at the rudeness of his unknown foe, yet he went very willingly into
the house, and Olivia was delighted to find Cesario (as she thought
him) become more sensible of her attentions; for though their features
were exactly the same, there was none of the contempt and anger to
be seen in his face, which she had complained of when she told her
love to Cesario.
Sebastian did not at all object to the fondness the lady lavished on
him. He seemed to take it in very good part, yet he wondered how it
had come to pass, and he was rather inclined to think Olivia was not
in her right senses; but perceiving that she was mistress of a fine
house, and that she ordered her affairs and seemed to govern her
family discreetly, and that in all but her sudden love for him she
appeared in the full possession of her reason, he well approved of the
courtship; and Olivia finding Cesario in this good humour, and fearing
he might change his mind, proposed that, as she had a priest in the
house, they should be instantly married. Sebastian assented to this
proposal; and when the marriage ceremony was over, he left his lady
for a short time intending to go and tell his friend Antonio the good
fortune that he had met with. In the meantime Orsino came to visit
Olivia: and at the moment he arrived before Olivia's house, the
officers of justice brought their prisoner, Antonio, before the duke.
Viola was with Orsino, her master; and when Antonio saw Viola,
whom he still imagined to be Sebastian, he told the duke in what
manner he had rescued this youth from the perils of the sea; and after
fully relating all the kindness he had really shown to Sebastian, he
ended his complaint with saying, that for three months, both day and
night, this ungrateful youth had been with him. But now the lady
Olivia coming forth from her house, the duke could no longer attend
to Antonio's story; and he said: 'Here comes the countess: now Heaven
walks on earth! but for thee, fellow, thy words are madness. Three
months has this youth attended on me': and then he ordered Antonio to
be taken aside. But Orsino's heavenly countess soon gave the duke
cause to accuse Cesario as much of ingratitude as Antonio had done,
for all the words he could hear Olivia speak were words of kindness to
Cesario: and when he found his page had obtained this high place in
Olivia's favour, he threatened him with all the terrors of his just
revenge; and as he was going to depart, he called Viola to follow him,
saying: 'Come, boy, with me. My thoughts are ripe for mischief.'
Though it seemed in his jealous rage he was going to doom Viola to
instant death, yet her love made her no longer a coward, and she said
she would most joyfully suffer death to give her master ease. But
Olivia would not so lose her husband, and she cried: 'Where goes my
Cesario?' Viola replied: 'After him I love more than my life.' Olivia,
however, prevented their departure by loudly proclaiming that Cesario
was her husband, and sent for the priest, who declared that not two
hours had passed since he had married the lady Olivia to this young
man. In vain Viola protested she was not married to Olivia; the
evidence of that lady and the priest made Orsino believe that his page
had robbed him of the treasure he prized above his life. But thinking
that it was past recall, he was bidding farewell to his faithless
mistress, and the young dissemisler, her husband, as he called Viola,
warning her never to come in his sight again, when (as it seemed to
them) a miracle appeared! for another Cesario entered, and addressed
Olivia as his wife. This new Cesario was Sebastian, the real husband
of Olivia; and when their wonder had a little ceased at seeing two
persons with the same face the same voice, and the same habit, the
brother and sister began to question each other; for Viola could scarce
be persuaded that her brother was living, and Sebastian knew not how
to account for the sister he supposed drowned being found in the habit
of a young man. But Viola presently acknowledged that she was
indeed Viola, and his sister, under that disguise.
When all the errors were cleared up which the extreme likeness
between this twin brother and sister had occasioned, they laughed at
the lady Olivia for the pleasant mistake she had made in falling in
love with a woman; and Olivia showed no dislike to her exchange,
when she found she had wedded the brother instead of the sister.
The hopes of Orsino were for ever at an end by this marriage of
Olivia, and with his hopes, all his fruitless love seemed to vanish
away, and all his thoughts were fixed on the event of his favourite,
young Cesario, being changed into a fair lady. He viewed Viola with
great attention, and he remembered how very handsome he had
always thought Cesario was, and he concluded she would look very
beautiful in a woman's attire; and then he remembered how often she
had said she loved him, which at the time seemed only the dutiful
expressions of a faithful page; but now he guessed that something
more was meant, for many of her pretty sayings, which were like
riddles to him, came now into his mind, and he no sooner
remembered all these things than he resolved to make Viola his wife;
and he said to her (he still could not help calling her Cesario and boy):
'Boy, you have said to me a thousand times that you should never love
a woman like to me, and for the faithful service you have done for me
so much beneath your soft and tender breeding, and since you have
called me master so long, you shall now be your master's mistress, and
Orsino's true duchess.'
Olivia, perceiving Orsino was making over that heart, which she had
so ungraciously rejected, to Viola, invited them to enter her house,
and offered the assistance of the good priest, who had married her to
Sebastian in the morning, to perform the same ceremony in the
remaining part of the day for Orsino and Viola. Thus the twin brother
and sister were both wedded on the same day: the storm and
shipwreck, which had separated them, being the means of bringing to
pass their high and mighty fortunes. Viola was the wife of Orsino, the
duke of Illyria, and Sebastian the husband of the rich and noble
countess, the lady Olivia.
Timon, a lord of Athens, in the enjoyment of a princely fortune,
affected a humour of liberality which knew no limits. His almost
infinite wealth could not flow in so fast, but he poured it out faster
upon all sorts and degrees of people. Not the poor only tasted of his
bounty, but great lords did not disdain to rank themselves among his
dependents and followers. His table was resorted to by all the
luxurious feasters, and his house was open to all comers and goers at
Athens. His large wealth combined with his free and prodigal nature
to subdue all hearts to his love; men of all minds and dispositions
tendered their services to lord Timon, from the glass-faced flatterer,
whose face reflects as in a mirror the present humour of his patron, to
the rough and unbending cynic, who affecting a contempt of men's
persons, and an indifference to worldly things, yet could not stand out
against the gracious manners and munificent soul of lord Timon, but
would come (against his nature) to partake of his royal
entertainments, and return most rich in his own estimation if he had
received a nod or a salutation from Timon.
If a poet had composed a work which wanted a recommendatory
introduction to the world, he had no more to do but to dedicate it to
lord Timon, and the poem was sure of sale, besides a present purse
from the patron, and daily access to his house and table. If a painter
had a picture to dispose of, he had only to take it to lord Timon, and
pretend to consult his taste as to the merits of it; nothing more was
wanting to persuade the liberal-hearted lord to buy it. If a jeweller had
a stone of price, or a mercer rich costly stuffs, which for their
costliness lay upon his hands, lord Timon's house was a ready mart
always open, where they might get off their wares or their jewellery at
any price, and the good-natured lord would thank them into the
bargain, as if they had done him a piece of courtesy in letting him
have the refusal of such precious commodities. So that by this means
his house was thronged with superfluous purchases, of no use but to
swell uneasy and ostentatious pomp; and his person was still more
inconveniently beset with a crowd of these idle visitors, lying poets,
painters, sharking tradesmen, lords, ladies, needy courtiers, and
expectants, who continually filled his lobbies, raining their fulsome
flatteries in whispers in his ears, sacrificing to him with adulation as
to a God, making sacred the very stirrup by which he mounted his
horse, and seeming as though they drank the free air but through his
permission and bounty.
Some of these daily dependents were young men of birth, who (their
means not answering to their extravagance) had been put in prison by
creditors, and redeemed thence by lord Timon; these young prodigals
thenceforward fastened upon his lordship, as if by common sympathy
he were necessarily endeared to all such spendthrifts and loose livers,
who, not being able to follow him in his wealth, found it easier to
copy him in prodigality and copious spending of what was their own.
One of these flesh-flies was Ventidius, for whose debts, unjustly
contracted, Timon but lately had paid down the sum of five talents.
But among this confluence, this great flood of visitors, none were
more conspicuous than the makers of presents and givers of gifts. It
was fortunate for these men if Timon took a fancy to a dog or a horse,
or any piece of cheap furniture which was theirs. The thing so praised,
whatever it was, was sure to be sent the next morning with the
compliments of the giver for lord Timon's acceptance, and apologies
for the unworthiness of the gift; and this dog or horse, or whatever it
might be, did not fail to produce from Timon's bounty, who would not
be outdone in gifts, perhaps twenty dogs or horses, certainly presents
of far richer worth, as these pretended donors knew well enough, and
that their false presents were but the putting out of so much money at
large and speedy interest. In this way lord Lucius had lately sent to
Timon a present of four milk-white horses, trapped in silver, which
this cunning lord had observed Timon upon some occasion to
commend; and another lord, Lucullus, had bestowed upon him in the
same pretended way of free gift a brace of greyhounds, whose make
and fleetness Timon had been heard to admire; these presents the
easy-hearted lord accepted without suspicion of the dishonest views of
the presenters; and the givers of course were rewarded with some rich
return, a diamond or some jewel of twenty times the value of their
false and mercenary donation.
Sometimes these creatures would go to work in a more direct way,
and with gross and palpable artifice, which yet the credulous Timon
was too blind to see, would affect to admire and praise something that
Timon possessed, a bargain that he had bought, or some late purchase,
which was sure to draw from this yielding and soft-hearted lord a gift
of the thing commended, for no service in the world done for it but
the easy expense of a little cheap and obvious flattery. In this way
Timon but the other day had given to one of these mean lords the bay
courser which he himself rode upon, because his lordship had been
pleased to say that it was a handsome beast and went well; and Timon
knew that no man ever justly praised what he did not wish to possess.
For lord Timon weighed his friends' affection with his own, and so
fond was he of bestowing, that he could have dealt kingdoms to these
supposed friends, and never have been weary.
Not that Timon's wealth all went to enrich these wicked flatterers; he
could do noble and praiseworthy actions; and when a servant of his
once loved the daughter of a rich Athenian, but could not hope to
obtain her by reason that in wealth and rank the maid was so far above
him, lord Timon freely bestowed upon his servant three Athenian
talents, to make his fortune equal with the dowry which the father of
the young maid demanded of him who should be her husband. But for
the most part, knaves and parasites had the command of his fortune,
false friends whom he did not know to be such, but, because they
flocked around his person, he thought they must needs love him; and
because they smiled and flattered him, he thought surely that his
conduct was approved by all the wise and good. And when he was
feasting in the midst of all these flatterers and mock friends, when
they were eating him up, and draining his fortunes dry with large
draughts of richest wines drunk to his health and prosperity, he could
not perceive the difference of a friend from a flatterer, but to his
deluded eyes (made proud with the sight) it seemed a precious
comfort to have so many like brothers commanding one another's
fortunes (though it was his own fortune which paid all the costs), and
with joy they would run over at the spectacle of such, as it appeared to
him, truly festive and fraternal meeting.
But while he thus outwent the very heart of kindness, and poured out
his bounty, as if Plutus, the god of gold, had been but his steward;
while thus he proceeded without care or stop, so senseless of expense
that he would neither inquire how he could maintain it, nor cease his
wild flow of riot; his riches, which were not infinite, must needs melt
away before a prodigality which knew no limits. But who should tell
him so? his flatterers? they had no interest in shutting his eyes. In vain
did his honest steward Flavius try to represent to him his condition,
laying his accounts before him, begging of him, praying of him, with
an importunity that on any other occasion would have been
unmannerly in a servant, beseeching him with tears to look into the
state of his affairs. Timon would still put him off, and turn the
discourse to something else; for nothing is so deaf to remonstrance as
riches turned to poverty, nothing is so unwilling to believe its
situation, nothing so incredulous to its own true state, and hard to give
credit to a reverse. Often had this good steward, this honest creature,
when all the rooms of Timon's great house have been choked up with
riotous feeders at his master's cost, when the floors have wept with
drunken spilling of wine, and every apartment has blazed with lights
and resounded with music and feasting, often had he retired by
himself to some solitary spot, and wept faster than the wine ran from
the wasteful casks within, to see the mad bounty of his lord, and to
think, when the means were gone which brought him praises from all
sorts of people, how quickly the breath would be gone of which the
praise was made; praises won in feasting would be lost in feasting,
and at one cloud of winter-showers these flies would disappear.
But now the time was come that Timon could shut his ears no longer
to the representations of this faithful steward. Money must be had;
and when he ordered Flavius to sell some of his land for that purpose,
Flavius informed him, what he had in vain endeavoured at several
times before to make him listen to, that most of his land was already
sold or forfeited, and that all he possessed at present was not enough
to pay the one half of what he owed. Struck with wonder at this
presentation, Timon hastily replied: 'My lands extend from Athens to
Lacedaemon.' 'O my good lord,' said Flavius, 'the world is but a world,
and has bounds; were it all yours to give in a breath, how quickly were
it gone!'
Timon consoled himself that no villanous bounty had yet come from
him, that if he had given his wealth away unwisely, it had not been
bestowed to feed his vices, but to cherish his friends; and he made the
kind-hearted steward (who was weeping) to take comfort in the
assurance that his master could never lack means, while he had so
many noble friends; and this infatuated lord persuaded himself that he
had nothing to do but to send and borrow, to use every man's fortune
(that had ever tasted his bounty) in this extremity, as freely as his own.
Then with a cheerful look, as if confident of the trial, he severally
despatched messengers to lord Lucius, to lords Lucullus and
Sempronius, men upon whom he had lavished his gifts in past times
without measure or moderation; and to Ventidius, whom he had lately
released out of prison by paying his debts, and who, by the death of
his father, was now come into the possession of an ample fortune, and
well enabled to requite Timon's courtesy: to request of Ventidius the
return of those five talents which he had paid for him, and of each of
those noble lords the loan of fifty talents; nothing doubting that their
gratitude would supply his wants (if he needed it) to the amount of
five hundred times fifty talents.
Lucullus was the first applied to. This mean lord had been dreaming
overnight of a silver bason and cup, and when Timon's servant was
announced, his sordid mind suggested to him that this was surely a
making out of his dream, and that Timon had sent him such a present:
but when he understood the truth of the matter, and that Timon
wanted money, the quality of his faint and watery friendship showed
itself, for with many protestations he vowed to the servant that he had
long foreseen the ruin of his master's affairs, and many a time had he
come to dinner to tell him of it, and had come again to supper to try to
persuade him to spend less, but he would take no counsel nor warning
by his coming: and true it was that he had been a constant attender (as
he said) at Timon's feasts, as he had in greater things tasted his
bounty; but that he ever came with that intent, or gave good counsel or
reproof to Timon, was a base unworthy lie, which he suitably
followed up with meanly offering the servant a bribe, to go home to
his master and tell him that he had not found Lucullus at home.
As little success had the messenger who was sent to lord Lucius. This
lying lord, who was full of Timon's meat, and enriched almost to
bursting with Timon's costly presents, when he found the wind
changed, and the fountain of so much bounty suddenly stopped, at
first could hardly believe it; but on its being confirmed, he affected
great regret that he should not have it in his power to serve lord
Timon, for unfortunately (which was a base falsehood) he had made a
great purchase the day before, which had quite disfurnished him of the
means at present, the more beast he, he called himself, to put it out of
his power to serve so good a friend; and he counted it one of his
greatest afflictions that his ability should fail him to pleasure such an
honourable gentleman.
Who can call any man friend that dips in the same dish with him? just
of this metal is every flatterer. In the recollection of everybody Timon
had been a father to this Lucius, had kept up his credit with his purse;
Timon's money had gone to pay the wages of his servants, to pay the
hire of the labourers who had sweat to build the fine houses which
Lucius's pride had made necessary to him: yet, oh! the monster which
man makes himself when he proves ungrateful! this Lucius now
denied to Timon a sum, which, in respect of what Timon had
bestowed on him, was less than charitable men afford to beggars.
Sempronius, and every one of these mercenary lords to whom Timon
applied in their turn, returned the same evasive answer or direct
denial; even Ventidius, the redeemed and now rich Ventidius, refused
to assist him with the loan of those five talents which Timon had not
lent but generously given him in his distress.
Now was Timon as much avoided in his poverty as he had been
courted and resorted to in his riches. Now the same tongues which had
been loudest in his praises, extolling him as bountiful, liberal, and
open handed, were not ashamed to censure that very bounty as folly,
that liberality as profuseness, though it had shown itself folly in
nothing so truly as in the selection of such unworthy creatures as
themselves for its objects. Now was Timon's princely mansion
forsaken, and become a shunned and hated place, a place for men to
pass by, not a place, as formerly, where every passenger must stop and
taste of his wine and good cheer; now, instead of being thronged with
feasting and tumultuous guests, it was beset with impatient and
clamorous creditors, usurers, extortioners, fierce and intolerable in
their demands, pleading bonds, interest, mortgages; iron-hearted men
that would take no denial nor putting off, that Timon's house was now
his jail, which he could not pass, nor go in nor out for them; one
demanding his due of fifty talents, another bringing in a bill of five
thousand crowns, which if he would tell out his blood by drops, and
pay them so, he had not enough in his body to discharge, drop by
In this desperate and irremediable state (as it seemed) of his affairs,
the eyes of all men were suddenly surprised at a new and incredible
lustre which this setting sun put forth. Once more lord Timon
proclaimed a feast, to which he invited his accustomed guests, lords,
ladies, all that was great or fashionable in Athens. Lord Lucius and
Lucullus came, Ventidius, Sempronius, and the rest. Who more sorry
now than these fawning wretches, when they found (as they thought)
that Lord Timon's poverty was all pretence, and had been only to
make trial of their loves, to think that they should not have seen
through the artifice at the time, and have had the cheap credit of
obliging his lordship? yet who more glad to find the fountain of that
noble bounty, which they had thought dried up, still fresh and
running? They came dissembling, protesting, expressing deepest
sorrow and shame, that when his lordship sent to them, they should
have been so unfortunate as to want the present means to oblige so
honourable a friend. But Timon begged them not to give such trifles a
thought, for he had altogether forgotten it. And these base fawning
lords, though they had denied him money in his adversity, yet could
not refuse their presence at this new blaze of his returning prosperity.
For the swallow follows not summer more willingly than men of these
dispositions follow the good fortunes of the great, nor more willingly
leaves winter than these shrink from the first appearance of a reverse;
such summer birds are men. But now with music and state the
banquet of smoking dishes was served up; and when the guests had a
little done admiring whence the bankrupt Timon could find means to
furnish so costly a feast, some doubting whether the scene which they
saw was real, as scarce trusting their own eyes; at a signal given, the
dishes were uncovered, and Timon's drift appeared: instead of those
varieties and far-fetched dainties which they expected, that Timon's
epicurean table in past times had so liberally presented, now appeared
under the covers of these dishes a preparation more suitable to
Timon's poverty, nothing but a little smoke and lukewarm water, fit
feast for this knot of mouth-friends, whose professions were indeed
smoke, and their hearts lukewarm and slippery as the water with
which Timon welcomed his astonished guests, bidding them,
'Uncover, dogs, and lap'; and before they could recover their surprise,
sprinkling it in their faces, that they might have enough, and throwing
dishes and all after them, who now ran huddling out, lords, ladies,
with their caps snatched up in haste, a splendid confusion, Timon
pursuing them, still calling them what they were, 'smooth smiling
parasites, destroyers under the mask of courtesy, affable wolves, meek
bears, fools of fortune, feast-friends, time-flies.' They, crowding out to
avoid him, left the house more willingly than they had entered it;
some losing their gowns and caps, and some their jewels in the hurry,
all glad to escape out of the presence of such a mad lord, and from the
ridicule of his mock banquet.
This was the last feast which ever Timon made, and in it he took
farewell of Athens and the society of men; for, after that, he betook
himself to the woods, turning his back upon the hated city and upon
all mankind, wishing the walls of that detestable city might sink, and
the houses fall upon their owners, wishing all plagues which infest
humanity, war, outrage, poverty, diseases, might fasten upon its
inhabitants, praying the just gods to confound all Athenians, both
young and old, high and low; so wishing, he went to the woods, where
he said he should find the unkindest beast much kinder than mankind.
He stripped himself naked, that he might retain no fashion of a man,
and dug a cave to live in, and lived solitary in the manner of a beast,
eating the wild roots, and drinking water, flying from the face of his
kind, and choosing rather to herd with wild beasts, as more harmless
and friendly than man.
What a change from lord Timon the rich, lord Timon the delight of
mankind, to Timon the naked, Timon the man-hater! Where were his
flatterers now? Where were his attendants and retinue? Would the
bleak air, that boisterous servitor, be his chamberlain, to put his shirt
on warm? Would those stiff trees that had outlived the eagle, turn
young and airy pages to him, to skip on his errands when he bade
them? Would the cool brook, when it was iced with winter, administer
to him his warm broths and caudles when sick of an overnight's
surfeit? Or would the creatures that lived in those wild woods come
and lick his hand and flatter him?
Here on a day, when he was digging for roots, his poor sustenance, his
spade struck against something heavy, which proved to be gold, a
great heap which some miser had probably buried in a time of alarm,
thinking to have come again. and taken it from its prison, but died
before the opportunity had arrived, without making any man privy to
the concealment; so it lay, doing neither good nor harm, in the bowels
of the earth, its mother, as if it had never come from thence, till the
accidental striking of Timon's spade against it once more brought it to
Here was a mass of treasure which, if Timon had retained his old
mind, was enough to have purchased him friends and flatterers again;
but Timon was sick of the false world, and the sight of gold was
poisonous to his eyes; and he would have restored it to the earth, but
that, thinking of the infinite calamities which by means of gold
happen to mankind, how the lucre of it causes robberies, oppression,
injustice, briberies, violence, and murder, among men, he had a
pleasure in imagining (such a rooted hatred did he bear to his species)
that out of this heap, which in digging he had discovered, might arise
some mischief to plague mankind. And some soldiers passing through
the woods near to his cave at that instant, which proved to be a part of
the troops of the Athenian captain Alcibiades, who upon some disgust
taken against the senators of Athens (the Athenians were ever noted to
be a thankless and ungrateful people, giving disgust to their generals
and best friends), was marching at the head of the same triumphant
army which he had formerly headed in their defence, to war against
them; Timon, who liked their business well, bestowed upon their
captain the gold to pay his soldiers, requiring no other service from
him, than that he should with his conquering army lay Athens level
with the ground, and burn, slay, kill all her inhabitants; not sparing the
old men for their white beards, for (he said) they were usurers, nor the
young children for their seeming innocent smiles, for those (he said)
would live, if they grew up, to be traitors; but to steel his eyes and ears
against any sights or sounds that might awaken compassion; and not
to let the cries of virgins, babes, or mothers. hinder him from making
one universal massacre of the city, but to confound them all in his
conquest; and when he had conquered, he prayed that the gods would
confound him also, the conqueror: so thoroughly did Timon hate
Athens, Athenians, and all mankind.
While he lived in this forlorn state, leading a life more brutal than
human, he was suddenly surprised one day with the appearance of a
man standing in an admiring posture at the door of his cave. It was
Flavius, the honest steward, whom love and zealous affection to his
master had led to seek him out at his wretched dwelling, and to offer
his services; and the first sight of his master, the once noble Timon, in
that abject condition, naked as he was born, living in the manner of a
beast among beasts, looking like his own sad ruins and a monument of
decay, so affected this good servant, that he stood speechless,
wrapped up in horror, and confounded. And when he found utterance
at last to his words, they were so choked with tears, that Timon had
much ado to know him again, or to make out who it was that had
come (so contrary to the experience he had had of mankind) to offer
him service in extremity. And being in the form and shape of a man,
he suspected him for a traitor, and his tears for false; but the good
servant by so many tokens confirmed the truth of his fidelity, and
made it clear that nothing but love and zealous duty to his once dear
master had brought him there, that Timon was forced to confess that
the world contained one honest man; yet, being in the shape and form
of a man, he could not look upon his man's face without abhorrence,
or hear words uttered from his man's lips without loathing; and this
singly honest man was forced to depart, because he was a man, and
because, with a heart more gentle and compassionate than is usual to
man, he bore man's detested form and outward feature.
But greater visitants than a poor steward were about to interrupt the
savage quiet of Timon's solitude. For now the day was come when the
ungrateful lords of Athens sorely repented the injustice which they
had done to the noble Timon. For Alcibiades, like an incensed wild
boar, was raging at the walls of their city, and with his hot siege
threatened to lay fair Athens in the dust. And now the memory of lord
Timon's former prowess and military conduct came fresh into their
forgetful minds, for Timon had been their general in past times, and a
valiant and expert soldier, who alone of all the Athenians was deemed
able to cope with a besieging army such as then threatened them, or to
drive back the furious approaches of Alcibiades.
A deputation of the senators was chosen in this emergency to wait
upon Timon. To him they come in their extremity, to whom, when he
was in extremity they had shown but small regard; as if they presumed
upon his gratitude whom they had disobliged, and had derived a claim
to his courtesy from their own most discourteous and unpiteous
Now they earnestly beseech him, implore him with tears, to return and
save that city, from which their ingratitude had so lately driven him;
now they offer him riches, power, dignities, satisfaction for past
injuries, and public honours, and the public love; their persons, lives,
and fortunes, to be at his disposal, if he will but come back and save
them. But Timon the naked, Timon the man-hater, was no longer lord
Timon, the lord of bounty, the flower of velour, their defence in war,
their ornament in peace. If Alcibiades killed his countrymen, Timon
cared not. If he sacked fair Athens, and slew her old men and her
infants, Timon would rejoice. So he told them; and that there was not
a knife in the unruly camp which he did not prize above the
reverendest throat in Athens.
This was all the answer he vouchsafed to the weeping disappointed
senators; only at parting he bade them commend him to his
countrymen, and tell them, that to ease them of their griefs and
anxieties, and to prevent the consequences of fierce Alcibiades' wrath,
there was yet a way left, which he would teach them, for he had yet so
much affection left for his dear countrymen as to be willing to do
them a kindness before his death. These words a little revived the
senators, who hoped that his kindness for their city was returning.
Then Timon told them that he had a tree, which grew near his cave,
which he should shortly have occasion to cut down, and he invited all
his friends in Athens, high or low, of what degree soever, who wished
to shun affliction, to come and take a taste of his tree before he cut it
down; meaning, that they might come and hang themselves on it, and
escape affliction that way.
And this was the last courtesy of all his noble bounties, which Timon
showed to mankind, and this the last sight of him which his
countrymen had: for not many days after, a poor soldier, passing by
the sea-beach, which was at a little distance from the woods which
Timon frequented, found a tomb on the verge of the sea, with an
inscription upon it, purporting that it was the grave of Timon the manhater,
who 'While he lived, did hate all living men, and dying wished a
plague might consume all caitiffs left!'
Whether he finished his life by violence, or whether mere distaste of
life and the loathing he had for mankind brought Timon to his
conclusion, was not clear, yet all men admired the fitness of his
epitaph, and the consistency of his end; dying, as he had lived, a hater
of mankind: and some there were who fancied a conceit in the very
choice which he had made of the sea-beach for his place of burial,
where the vast sea might weep for ever upon his grave, as in contempt
of the transient and shallow tears of hypocritical and deceitful
The two chief families in Verona were the rich Capulets and the
Montagues. There had been an old quarrel between these families,
which was grown to such a height, and so deadly was the enmity
between them, that it extended to the remotest kindred, to the
followers and retainers of both sides, insomuch that a servant of the
house of Montague could not meet a servant of the house of Capulet,
nor a Capulet encounter with a Montague by chance, but fierce words
and sometimes bloodshed ensued; and frequent were the brawls from
such accidental meetings, which disturbed the happy quiet of Verona's
Old lord Capulet made a great supper, to which many fair ladies and
many noble guests were invited. All the admired beauties of Verona
were present, and all comers were made welcome if they were not of
the house of Montague. At this feast of Capulets, Rosaline, beloved of
Romeo, son to the old lord Montague, was present; and though it was
dangerous for a Montague to be seen in this assembly, yet Benvolio, a
friend of Romeo, persuaded the young lord to go to this assembly in
the disguise of a mask, that he might see his Rosaline, and seeing her,
compare her with some choice beauties of Verona, who (he said)
would make him think his swan a crow. Romeo had small faith in
Benvolio's words; nevertheless, for the love of Rosaline, he was
persuaded to go. For Romeo was a sincere and passionate lover, and
one that lost his sleep for love, and fled society to be alone, thinking
on Rosaline, who disdained him, and never requited his love, with the
least show of courtesy or affection; and Benvolio wished to cure his
friend of this love by showing him diversity of ladies and company.
To this feast of Capulets then young Romeo with Benvolio and their
friend Mercutio went masked. Old Capulet bid them welcome, and
told them that ladies who had their toes unplagued with corns would
dance with them. And the old man was light hearted and merry, and
said that he had worn a mask when he was young, and could have told
a whispering tale in a fair lady's ear. And they fell to dancing, and
Romeo was suddenly struck with the exceeding beauty of a lady who
danced there, who seemed to him to teach the torches to burn bright,
and her beauty to show by night like a rich jewel worn by a
blackamoor; beauty too rich for use, too dear for earth! like a snowy
dove trooping with crows (he said), so richly did her beauty and
perfections shine above the ladies her companions. While he uttered
these praises, he was overheard by Tybalt, a nephew of lord Capulet,
who knew him by his voice to be Romeo. And this Tybalt, being of a
fiery and passionate temper, could not endure that a Montague should
come under cover of a mask, to fleer and scorn (as he said) at their
solemnities. And he stormed and raged exceedingly, and would have
struck young Romeo dead. But his uncle, the old lord Capulet, would
not suffer him to do any injury at that time, both out of respect to his
guests, and because Romeo had borne himself like a gentleman, and
all tongues in Verona bragged of him to be a virtuous and wellgoverned
youth. Tybalt, forced to be patient against his will,
restrained himself, but swore that this vile Montague should at
another time dearly pay for his intrusion.
The dancing being done, Romeo watched the place where the lady
stood; and under favour of his masking habit, which might seem to
excuse in part the liberty, he presumed in the gentlest manner to take
her by the hand, calling it a shrine, which if he profaned by touching
it, he was a blushing pilgrim, and would kiss it for atonement. 'Good
pilgrim,' answered the lady, 'your devotion shows by far too mannerly
and too courtly: saints have hands, which pilgrims may touch, but kiss
not.' 'Have not saints lips, and pilgrims too?' said Romeo. 'Ay,' said the
lady, 'lips which they must use in prayer.' 'O then, my dear saint,' said
Romeo, 'hear my prayer, and grant it, lest I despair.' In such like
allusions and loving conceits they were engaged, when the lady was
called away to her mother. And Romeo inquiring who her mother
was, discovered that the lady whose peerless beauty he was so much
struck with, was young Juliet, daughter and heir to the lord Capulet,
the great enemy of the Montagues; and that he had unknowingly
engaged his heart to his foe. This troubled him, but it could not
dissuade him from loving. As little rest had Juliet, when she found
that the gentleman that she had been talking with was Romeo and a
Montague, for she had been suddenly smit with the same hasty and
inconsiderate passion for Romeo, which he had conceived for her; and
a prodigious birth of love it seemed to her, that she must love her
enemy, and that her afflictions should settle there, where family
considerations should induce her chiefly to hate.
It being midnight, Romeo with his companions departed; but they
soon missed him, for, unable to stay away from the house where he
had left his heart, he leaped the wall of an orchard which was at the
back of Juliet's house. Here he had not been long, ruminating on his
new love, when Juliet appeared above at a window, through which her
exceeding beauty seemed to break like the light of the sun in the east;
and the moon, which shone in the orchard with a faint light, appeared
to Romeo as if sick and pale with grief at the superior lustre of this
new sun. And she, leaning her cheek upon her hand, he passionately
wished himself a glove upon that hand, that he might touch her cheek.
She all this while thinking herself alone, fetched a deep sigh, and
exclaimed: 'Ah me! ' Romeo, enraptured to hear her speak, said softly,
and unheard by her: 'O speak again, bright angel, for such you appear,
being over my head, like a winged messenger from heaven whom
mortals fall back to gaze upon.' She, unconscious of being overheard,
and full of the new passion which that night's adventure had given
birth to, called upon her lover by name (whom she supposed absent):
'O Romeo, Romeo!' said she, 'wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy
father, and refuse thy name, for my sake; or if thou wilt not, be but my
sworn love, and I no longer will be a Capulet.' Romeo, having this
encouragement, would fain have spoken, but he was desirous of
hearing more; and the lady continued her passionate discourse with
herself (as she thought), still chiding Romeo for being Romeo and a
Montague, and wishing him some other name, or that he would put
away that hated name, and for that name which was no part of
himself, he should take all herself. At this loving word Romeo could
no longer refrain, but taking up the dialogue as if her words had been
addressed to him personally, and not merely in fancy, he bade her call
him Love, or by whatever other name she pleased, for he was no
longer Romeo, if that name was displeasing to her. Juliet, alarmed to
hear a man's voice in the garden, did not at first know who it was, that
by favour of the night and darkness had thus stumbled upon the
discovery of her secret; but when he spoke again, though her ears had
not yet drunk a hundred words of that tongue's uttering, yet so nice is
a lover's hearing, that she immediately knew him to be young Romeo,
and she expostulated with him on the danger to which he had exposed
himself by climbing the orchard walls, for if any of her kinsmen
should find him there, it would be death to him, being a Montague.
'slack,' said Romeo, 'there is more peril in your eye, than in twenty of
their swords. Do you but look kind upon me, lady, and I am proof
against their enmity. Better my life should be ended by their hate, than
that hated life should be prolonged, to live without your love.' 'How
came you into this place,' said Juliet, 'and by whose direction?' 'Love
directed me,' answered Romeo: 'I am no pilot, yet wert thou as far
apart from me, as that vast shore which is washed with the farthest
sea, I should venture for such merchandise.' A crimson blush came
over Juliet's face, yet unseen by Romeo by reason of the night, when
she reflected upon the discovery which she had made, yet not meaning
to make it, of her love to Romeo. She would fain have recalled her
words, but that was impossible: fain would she have stood upon form,
and have kept her lover at a distance, as the custom of discreet ladies
is, to frown and be perverse, and give their suitors harsh denials at
first; to stand off, and affect a coyness or indifference, where they
most love, that their lovers may not think them too lightly or too
easily won; for the difficulty of attainment increases the value of the
object. But there was no room in her case for denials, or puttings off,
or any of the customary arts of delay and protracted courtship. Romeo
had heard from her own tongue, when she did not dream that he was
near her, a confession of her love. So with an honest frankness, which
the novelty of her situation excused, she confirmed the truth of what
he had before heard, and addressing him by the name of fair
Montague (love can sweeten a sour name), she begged him not to
impute her easy yielding to levity or an unworthy mind, but that he
must lay the fault of it (if it were a fault) upon the accident of the
night which had so strangely discovered her thoughts. And she added,
that though her behaviour to him might not be sufficiently prudent,
measured by the custom of her sex, yet that she would prove more
true than many whose prudence was dissembling, and their modesty
artificial cunning.
Romeo was beginning to call the heavens to witness, that nothing was
farther from his thoughts than to impute a shadow of dishonour to
such an honoured lady, when she stopped him, begging him not to
swear; for although she joyed in him, yet she had no joy of that night's
contract: it was too rash, too unadvised, too sudden. But he being
urgent with her to exchange a vow of love with him that night, she
said that she already had given him hers before he requested it;
meaning, when he overheard her confession; but she would retract
what she then bestowed, for the pleasure of giving it again, for her
bounty was as infinite as the sea, and her love as deep. From this
loving conference she was called away by her nurse, who slept with
her, and thought it time for her to be in bed, for it was near to
daybreak; but hastily returning, she said three or four words more to
Romeo, the purport of which was, that if his love was indeed
honourable, and his purpose marriage, she would send a messenger to
him to-morrow, to appoint a time for their marriage, when she would
lay all her fortunes at his feet, and follow him as her lord through the
world. While they were settling this point, Juliet was repeatedly called
for by her nurse, and went in and returned, and went and returned
again, for she seemed as jealous of Romeo going from her, as a young
girl of her bird, which she will let hop a little from her hand, and
pluck it back with a silken thread; and Romeo was as loath to part as
she; for the sweetest music to lovers is the sound of each other's
tongues at night. But at last they parted, wishing mutually sweet sleep
and rest for that night.
The day was breaking when they parted, and Romeo, who was too full
of thoughts of his mistress and that blessed meeting to allow him to
sleep, instead of going home, bent his course to a monastery hard by,
to find friar Lawrence. The good friar was already up at his devotions,
but seeing young Romeo abroad so early, he conjectured rightly that
he had not been abed that night, but that some distemper of youthful
affection had kept him waking. He was right in imputing the cause of
Romeo's wakefulness to love, but he made a wrong guess at the
object, for he thought that his love for Rosaline had kept him waking.
But when Romeo revealed his new passion for Juliet, and requested
the assistance of the friar to marry them that day, the holy man lifted
up his eyes and hands in a sort of wonder at the sudden change in
Romeo's affections, for he had been privy to all Romeo's love for
Rosaline, and his many complaints of her disdain: and he said, that
young men's love lay not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. But
Romeo replying, that he himself had often chidden him for doting on
Rosaline, who could not love him again, whereas Juliet both loved
and was beloved by him, the friar assented in some measure to his
reasons; and thinking that a matrimonial alliance between young
Juliet and Romeo might happily be the means of making up the long
breach between the Capulets and the Montagues; which no one more
lamented than this good friar, who was a friend to both the families
and had often interposed his mediation to make up the quarrel without
effect; partly moved by policy, and partly by his fondness for young
Romeo, to whom he could deny nothing, the old man consented to
join their hands in marriage.
Now was Romeo blessed indeed, and Juliet, who knew his intent from
a messenger which she had despatched according to promise, did not
fail to be early at the cell of friar Lawrence, where their hands were
joined in holy marriage; the good friar praying the heavens to smile
upon that act, and in the union of this young Montague and young
Capulet to bury the old strife and long dissensions of their families.
The ceremony being over, Juliet hastened home, where she stayed
impatient for the coming of night, at which time Romeo promised to
come and meet her in the orchard, where they had met the night
before; and the time between seemed as tedious to her, as the night
before some great festival seems to an impatient child, that has got
new finery which it may not put on till the morning.
That same day, about noon, Romeo's friends, Benvolio and Mercutio,
walking through the streets of Verona, were met by a party of the
Capulets with the impetuous Tybalt at their head. This was the same
angry Tybalt who would have fought with Romeo at old lord Capulet's
feast. He, seeing Mercutio, accused him bluntly of associating with
Romeo, a Montague. Mercutio, who had as much fire and youthful
blood in him as Tybalt, replied to this accusation with some
sharpness; and in spite of all Benvolio could say to moderate their
wrath, a quarrel was beginning, when Romeo himself passing that
way, the fierce Tybalt turned from Mercutio to Romeo, and gave him
the disgraceful appellation of villain. Romeo wished to avoid a
quarrel with Tybalt above all men, because he was the kinsman of
Juliet, and much beloved by her; besides, this young Montague had
never thoroughly entered into the family quarrel, being by nature wise
and gentle, and the name of a Capulet, which was his dear lady's
name, was now rather a charm to allay resentment, than a watchword
to excite fury. So he tried to reason with Tybalt, whom he saluted
mildly by the name of good Capulet, as if he, though a Montague, had
some secret pleasure in uttering that name: but Tybalt, who hated all
Montagues as he hated hell, would hear no reason, but drew his
weapon; and Mercutio, who knew not of Romeo's secret motive for
desiring peace with Tybalt, but looked upon his present forbearance as
a sort of calm dishonourable submission, with many disdainful words
provoked Tybalt to the prosecution of his first quarrel with him; and
Tybalt and Mercutio fought, till Mercutio fell, receiving his death's
wound while Romeo and Benvolio were vainly endeavouring to part
the combatants. Mercutio being dead, Romeo kept his temper no
longer, but returned the scornful appellation of villain which Tybalt
had given him; and they fought till Tybalt was slain by Romeo. This
deadly broil falling out in the midst of Verona at noonday, the news of
it quickly brought a crowd of citizens to the spot, and among them the
old lords Capulet and Montague, with their wives; and soon after
arrived the prince himself, who being related to Mercutio, whom
Tybalt had slain, and having had the peace of his government often
disturbed by these brawls of Montagues and Capulets, came
determined to put the law in strictest force against those who should
be found to be offenders. Benvolio, who had been eyewitness to the
fray, was commanded by the prince to relate the origin of it, which he
did, keeping as near the truth as he could without injury to Romeo,
softening and excusing the part which his friends took in it. Lady
Capulet, whose extreme grief for the loss of her kinsman Tybalt made
her keep no bounds in her revenge, exhorted the prince to do strict
justice upon his murderer, and to pay no attention to Benvolio's
representation, who, being Romeo's friend and a Montague, spoke
partially. Thus she pleaded against her new son-in- law, but she knew
not yet that he was her son-in-law and Juliet's husband. On the other
hand was to be seen Lady Montague pleading for her child's life, and
arguing with some justice that Romeo had done nothing worthy of
punishment in taking the life of Tybalt, which was already forfeited to
the law by his having slain Mercutio. The prince, unmoved by the
passionate exclamations of these women, on a careful examination of
the facts, pronounced his sentence, and by that sentence Romeo was
banished from Verona.
Heavy news to young Juliet, who had been but a few hours a bride,
and now by this decree seemed everlastingly divorced! When the
tidings reached her, she at first gave way to rage against Romeo, who
had slain her dear cousin: she called him a beautiful tyrant, a fiend
angelical, a ravenous dove, a lamb with a wolf's nature, a serpentheart
hid with a flowering face, and other like contradictory names,
which denoted the struggles in her mind between her love and her
resentment: but in the end love got the mastery, and the tears which
she shed for grief that Romeo had slain her cousin, turned to drops of
joy that her husband lived whom Tybalt would have slain. Then came
fresh tears, and they were altogether of grief for Romeo's banishment.
That word was more terrible to her than the death of many Tybalts.
Romeo, after the fray, had taken refuge in friar Lawrence's cell, where
he was first made acquainted with the prince's sentence, which
seemed to him far more terrible than death. To him it appeared there
was no world out of Verona's walls, no living out of the sight of Juliet.
Heaven was there where Juliet lived, and all beyond was purgatory,
torture, hell. The good friar would have applied the consolation of
philosophy to his griefs: but this frantic young man would hear of
none, but like a madman he tore his hair, and threw himself all along
upon the ground, as he said, to take the measure of his grave. From
this unseemly state he was roused by a message from his dear lady,
which a little revived him; and then the friar took the advantage to
expostulate with him on the unmanly weakness which he had shown.
He had slain Tybalt, but would he also slay himself, slay his dear lady,
who lived but in his life? The noble form of man, he said, was but a
shape of wax, when it wanted the courage which should keep it firm.
The law had been lenient to him, that instead of death, which he had
incurred, had pronounced by the prince's mouth only banishment. He
had slain Tybalt, but Tybalt would have slain him: there was a sort of
happiness in that. Juliet was alive, and (beyond all hope) had become
his dear wife; therein he was most happy. All these blessings, as the
friar made them out to be, did Romeo put from him like a sullen
misbehaved wench. And the friar bade him beware, for such as
despaired, (he said) died miserable. Then when Romeo was a little
calmed, he counselled him that he should go that night and secretly
take his leave of Juliet, and thence proceed straightways to Mantua, at
which place he should sojourn, till the friar found fit occasion to
publish his marriage, which might be a joyful means of reconciling
their families; and then he did not doubt but the prince would be
moved to pardon him, and he would return with twenty times more
joy than he went forth with grief. Romeo was convinced by these wise
counsels of the friar, and took his leave to go and seek his lady,
proposing to stay with her that night, and by daybreak pursue his
journey alone to Mantua; to which place the good friar promised to
send him letters from time to time, acquainting him with the state of
affairs at home.
That night Romeo passed with his dear wife, gaining secret admission
to her chamber, from the orchard in which he had heard her
confession of love the night before. That had been a night of unmixed
joy and rapture; but the pleasures of this night, and the delight which
these lovers took in each other's society, were sadly allayed with the
prospect of parting, and the fatal adventures of the past day. The
unwelcome daybreak seemed to come too soon, and when Juliet heard
the morning song of the lark, she would have persuaded herself that it
was the nightingale, which sings by night, but it was too truly the lark
which sang, and a discordant and unpleasing note it seemed to her;
and the streaks of day in the east too certainly pointed out that it was
time for these lovers to part. Romeo took his leave of his dear wife
with a heavy heart, promising to write to her from Mantua every hour
in the day; and when he had descended from her chamber-window, as
he stood below her on the ground, in that sad foreboding state of mind
in which she was, he appeared to her eyes as one dead in the bottom
of a tomb. Romeo's mind misgave him in like manner: but now he was
forced hastily to depart, for it was death for him to be found within
the walls of Verona after daybreak.
This was but the beginning of the tragedy of this pair of star-crossed
lovers. Romeo had not been gone many days, before the old lord
Capulet proposed a match for Juliet. The husband he had chosen for
her, not dreaming that she was married already, was count Paris, a
gallant, young, and noble gentleman, no unworthy suitor to the young
Juliet, if she had never seen Romeo.
The terrified Juliet was in a sad perplexity at her father's offer. She
pleaded her youth unsuitable to marriage, the recent death of Tybalt,
which had left her spirits too weak to meet a husband with any face of
joy, and how indecorous it would show for the family of the Capulets
to be celebrating a nuptial feast, when his funeral solemnities were
hardly over: she pleaded every reason against the match, but the true
one, namely, that she was married already. But lord Capulet was deaf
to all her excuses, and in a peremptory manner ordered her to get
ready, for by the following Thursday she should be married to Paris:
and having found her a husband, rich, young, and noble, such as the
proudest maid in Verona might joyfully accept, he could not bear that
out of an affected coyness, as he construed her denial, she should
oppose obstacles to her own good fortune.
In this extremity Juliet applied to the friendly friar, always her
counsellor in distress, and he asking her if she had resolution to
undertake a desperate remedy, and she answering that she would go
into the grave alive rather than marry Paris, her own dear husband
living; he directed her to go home, and appear merry, and give her
consent to marry Paris, according to her father's desire, and on the
next night, which was the night before the marriage, to drink off the
contents of a phial which he then gave her, the effect of which would
be that for two-and-forty hours after drinking it she should appear cold
and lifeless; and when the bridegroom came to fetch her in the
morning, he would find her to appearance dead; that then she would
be borne, as the manner in that country was, uncovered on a bier, to
be buried in the family vault; that if she could put off womanish fear,
and consent to this terrible trial, in forty-two hours after swallowing
the liquid (such was its certain operation) she would be sure to awake,
as from a dream; and before she should awake, he would let her
husband know their drift, and he should come in the night, and bear
her thence to Mantua. Love, and the dread of marrying Paris, gave
young Juliet strength to undertake this horrible adventure; and she
took the phial of the friar, promising to observe his directions.
Going from the monastery, she met the young count Paris, and
modestly dissembling, promised to become his bride. This was joyful
news to the lord Capulet and his wife. It seemed to put youth into the
old man; and Juliet, who had displeased him exceedingly, by her
refusal of the count, was his darling again, now she promised to be
obedient. All things in the house were in a bustle against the
approaching nuptials. No cost was spared to prepare such festival
rejoicings as Verona had never before witnessed.
On the Wednesday night Juliet drank off the potion. She had many
misgivings lest the friar, to avoid the blame which might be imputed
to him for marrying her to Romeo, had given her poison; but then he
was always known for a holy man: then lest she should awake before
the time that Romeo was to come for her; whether the terror of the
place, a vault of dead Capulets' bones, and where Tybalt, all bloody,
lay festering in his shroud, would not be enough to drive her
distracted: again she thought of all the stories she had heard of spirits
haunting the places where their bodies were bestowed. But then her
love for Romeo, and her aversion for Paris returned, and she
desperately swallowed the draught and became insensible.
When young Paris came early in the morning with music to awaken
his bride, instead of a living Juliet, her chamber presented the dreary
spectacle of a lifeless corset What death to his hopes! What confusion
then reigned through the whole house! Poor Paris lamenting his bride,
whom most detestable death had beguiled him of, had divorced from
him even before their hands were joined. But still more piteous it was
to hear the mournings of the old lord and lady Capulet, who having
but this one, one poor loving child to rejoice and solace in, cruel death
had snatched her from their sight, just as these careful parents were on
the point of seeing her advanced (as they thought) by a promising and
advantageous match. Now all things that were ordained for the
festival were turned from their properties to do the office of a black
funeral. The wedding cheer served for a sad burial feast, the bridal
hymns were changed for sullen dirges, the sprightly instruments to
melancholy bells, and the flowers that should have been strewed in
the bride's path, now served but to strew her corset Now, instead of a
priest to marry her, a priest was needed to bury her; and she was borne
to church indeed, not to augment the cheerful hopes of the living, but
to swell the dreary numbers of the dead.
Bad news, which always travels faster than good, now brought the
dismal story of his Juliet's death to Romeo, at Mantua, before the
messenger could arrive, who was sent from friar Lawrence to apprise
him that these were mock funerals only, and but the shadow and
representation of death, and that his dear lady lay in the tomb but for a
short while, expecting when Romeo would come to release her from
that dreary mansion. Just before, Romeo had been unusually joyful
and light-hearted. He had dreamed in the night that he was dead (a
strange dream, that gave a dead man leave to think), and that his lady
came and found him dead, and breathed such life with kisses in his
lips, that he revived, and was an emperor! And now that a messenger
came from Verona, he thought surely it was to confirm some good
news which his dreams had presaged. But when the contrary to this
flattering vision appeared, and that it was his lady who was dead in
truth, whom he could not revive by any kisses, he ordered horses to be
got ready, for he determined that night to visit Verona, and to see his
lady in her tomb. And as mischief is swift to enter into the thoughts of
desperate men, he called to mind a poor apothecary, whose shop in
Mantua he had lately passed, and from the beggarly appearance of the
man, who seemed famished, and the wretched show in his show of
empty boxes ranged on dirty shelves, and other tokens of extreme
wretchedness, he had said at the time (perhaps having some
misgivings that his own disastrous life might haply meet with a
conclusion so desperate), 'If a man were to need poison, which by the
law of Mantua it is death to sell, here lives a poor wretch who would
sell it him.' These words of his now came into his mind, and he sought
out the apothecary, who after some pretended scruples, Romeo
offering him gold, which his poverty could not resist, sold him a
poison, which, if he swallowed, he told him, if he had the strength of
twenty men, would quickly despatch him.
With this poison he set out for Verona, to have a sight of his dear lady
in her tomb, meaning, when he had satisfied his sight, to swallow the
poison, and be buried by her side. He reached Verona at midnight, and
found the churchyard, in the midst of which was situated the ancient
tomb of the Capulets. He had provided a light, and a spade, and
wrenching iron, and was proceeding to break open the monument,
when he was interrupted by a voice, which by the name of vile
Montague, bade him desist from his unlawful business. It was the
young count Paris, who had come to the tomb of Juliet at that
unseasonable time of night, to strew flowers and to weep over the
grave of her that -should have been his bride. He knew not what an
interest Romeo had in the dead, but knowing him to be a Montague,
and (as he supposed) a sworn foe to all the Capulets, he judged that he
was come by night to do some villanous shame to the dead bodies;
therefore in an angry tone he bade him desist; and as a criminal,
condemned by the laws of Verona to die if he were found within the
walls of the city, he would have apprehended him. Romeo urged Paris
to leave him, and warned him by the fate of Tybalt, who lay buried
there, not to provoke his anger, or draw down another sin upon his
head, by forcing him to kill him. But the count in scorn refused his
warning, and laid hands on him as a felon, which Romeo resisting,
they fought, and Paris fell. When Romeo, by the help of a light, came
to see who it was that he had slain, that it was Paris, who (he learned
in his way from Mantua) should have married Juliet, he took the dead
youth by the hand, as one whom misfortune had made a companion,
and said that he would bury him in a triumphal grave, meaning in
Juliet's grave, which he now opened: and there lay his lady, as one
whom death had no power upon to change a feature or complexion, in
her matchless beauty; or as if Death were amorous, and the lean
abhorred monster kept her there for his delight; for she lay yet fresh
and blooming, as she had fallen to sleep when she swallowed that
benumbing potion; and near her lay Tybalt in his bloody shroud,
whom Romeo seeing, begged pardon of his lifeless corse, and for
Juliet's sake called him cousin, and said that he was about to do him a
favour by putting his enemy to death. Here Romeo took his last leave
of his lady's lips, kissing them; and here he shook the burden of his
cross stars from his weary body, swallowing that poison which the
apothecary had sold him, whose operation was fatal and real, not like
that dissembling potion which Juliet had swallowed, the effect of
which was now nearly expiring, and she about to awake to complain
that Romeo had not kept his time, or that he had come too soon.
For now the hour was arrived at which the friar had promised that she
should awake; and he, having learned that his letters which he had
sent to Mantua, by some unlucky detention of the messenger, had
never reached Romeo, came himself, provided with the pickaxe and
lantern, to deliver the lady from her confinement; but he was surprised
to find a light already burning in the Capulets' monument, and to see
swords and blood near it, and Romeo and Paris lying breathless by the
Before he could entertain a conjecture, to imagine how these fatal
accidents had fallen out, Juliet awoke out of her trance, and seeing the
friar near her, she remembered the place where she was, and the
occasion of her being there, and asked for Romeo, but the friar,
hearing a noise, bade her come out of that place of death, and of
unnatural sleep, for a greater power than they could contradict had
thwarted their intents; and being frightened by the noise of people
coming, he fled: but when Juliet saw the cup closed in her true love's
hand, she guessed that poison had been the cause of his end, and she
would have swallowed the dregs if any had been left, and she kissed
his still warm lips to try if any poison yet did hang upon them, then
hearing a nearer noise of people coming, she quickly unsheathed a
dagger which she wore, and stabbing herself, died by her true Romeo's
The watch by this time had come up to the place. A page belonging to
count Paris, who had witnessed the fight between his master and
Romeo, had given the alarm, which had spread among the citizens,
who went up and down the streets of Verona confusedly exclaiming,
A Paris! a Romeo! a Juliet! as the rumour had imperfectly reached
them, till the uproar brought lord Montague and lord Capulet out of
their beds, with the prince, to inquire into the causes of the
disturbance. The friar had been apprehended by some of the watch,
coming from the churchyard, trembling, sighing, and weeping, in a
suspicious manner. A great multitude being assembled at the Capulets'
monument, the friar was demanded by the prince to deliver what he
knew of these strange and disastrous accidents.
And there, in the presence of the old lords Montague and Capulet, he
faithfully related the story of their children's fatal love, the part he
took in promoting their marriage, in the hope in that union to end the
long quarrels between their families: how Romeo, there dead, was
husband to Juliet; and Juliet, there dead, was Romeo's faithful wife;
how before he could kind a ht opportunity to divulge their marriage,
another match was projected for Juliet, who, to avoid the crime of a
second marriage, swallowed the sleeping draught (as he advised), and
all thought her dead; how meantime he wrote to Romeo, to come and
take her thence when the force of the potion should cease, and by
what unfortunate miscarriage of the messenger the letters never
reached Romeo: further than this the friar could not follow the story,
nor knew more than that coming himself, to deliver Juliet from that
place of death, he found the count Paris and Romeo slain. The
remainder of the transactions was supplied by the narration of the
page who had seen Paris and Romeo fight, and by the servant who
came with Romeo from Verona, to whom this faithful lover had given
letters to be delivered to his father in the event of his death, which
made good the friar's words, confessing his marriage with Juliet,
imploring the forgiveness of his parents, acknowledging the buying of
the poison of the poor apothecary, and his intent in coming to the
monument, to die, and lie with Juliet. All these circumstances agreed
together to clear the friar from any hand he could be supposed to have
in these complicated slaughters, further than as the unintended
consequences of his own well meant, yet too artificial and subtle
And the prince, turning to these old lords, Montague and Capulet,
rebuked them for their brutal and irrational enmities, and showed
them what a scourge Heaven had laid upon such offences, that it had
found means even through the love of their children to punish their
unnatural hate. And these old rivals, no longer enemies, agreed to
bury their long strife in their children's graves; and lord Capulet
requested lord Montague to give him his hand, calling him by the
name of brother, as if in acknowledgment of the union of their
families, by the marriage of the young Capulet and Montague; and
saying that lord Montague's hand (in token of reconcilement) was all
he demanded for his daughter's jointure: but lord Montague said he
would give him more, for he would raise her a statue of pure gold,
that while Verona kept its name, no figure should be so esteemed for
its richness and workmanship as that of the true and faithful Juliet.
And lord Capulet in return said that he would raise another statue to
Romeo. So did these poor old lords, when it was too late, strive to
outgo each other in mutual courtesies: while so deadly had been their
rage and enmity in past times, that nothing but the fearful overthrow
of their children (poor sacrifices to their quarrels and dissensions)
could remove the rooted hates and jealousies of the noble families.
Gertrude, queen of Denmark, becoming a widow by the sudden death
of King Hamlet, in less than two months after his death married his
brother Claudius, which was noted by all people at the time for a
strange act of indiscretion, or unfeelingness, or worse: for this
Claudius did no ways resemble her late husband in the qualities of his
person or his mind, but was as contemptible in outward appearance,
as he was base and unworthy in disposition; and suspicions did not
fail to arise in the minds of some, that he had privately made away
with his brother, the late king, with the view of marrying his widow,
and ascending the throne of Denmark, to the exclusion of young
Hamlet, the son of the buried king, and lawful successor to the throne.
But upon no one did this unadvised action of the queen make such
impression as upon this young prince, who loved and venerated the
memory of his dead father almost to idolatry, and being of a nice
sense of honour, and a most exquisite practicer of propriety himself,
did sorely take to heart this unworthy conduct of his mother Gertrude:
insomuch that, between grief for his father's death and shame for his
mother's marriage, this young prince was overclouded with a deep
melancholy, and lost all his mirth and all his good looks; all his
customary pleasure in books forsook him, his princely exercises and
sports, proper to his youth, were no longer acceptable; he grew weary
of the world, which seemed to him an unweeded garden, where all the
wholesome flowers were choked up, and nothing but weeds could
thrive. Not that the prospect of exclusion from the throne, his lawful
inheritance, weighed so much upon his spirits, though that to a young
and high-minded prince was a bitter wound and a sore indignity; but
what so galled him, and took away all his cheerful spirits, was, that
his mother had shown herself so forgetful to his father's memory; and
such a father! who had been to her so loving and so gentle a husband!
and then she always Appeared as loving and obedient a wife to him,
and would hang upon him as if her affection grew to him: and now
within two months, or as it seemed to young Hamlet, less than two
months, she had married again, married his uncle, her dear husband's
brother, in itself a highly improper and unlawful marriage, from the
nearness of relationship, but made much more so by the indecent
haste with which it was concluded, and the unkingly character of the
man whom she had chosen to be the partner of her throne and bed.
This it was, which more than the loss of ten kingdoms, dashed the
spirits and brought a cloud over the mind of this honourable young
In vain was all that his mother Gertrude or the king could do to
contrive to divert him; he still appeared in court in a suit of deep
black, as mourning for the king his father's death, which mode of
dress he had never laid aside, not even in compliment to his mother
upon the day she was married, nor could he be brought to join in any
of the festivities or rejoicings of that (as appeared to him) disgraceful
What mostly troubled him was an uncertainty about the manner of his
father's death. It was given out by Claudius that a serpent had stung
him; but young Hamlet had shrewd suspicions that Claudius himself
was the serpent; in plain English, that he had murdered him for his
crown, and that the serpent who stung his father did now sit on the
How far he was right in this conjecture, and what he ought to think of
his mother, how far she was privy to this murder, and whether by her
consent or knowledge, or without, it came to pass, were the doubts
which continually harassed and distracted him.
A rumour had reached the ear of young Hamlet, that an apparition,
exactly resembling the dead king his father, had been seen by the
soldiers upon watch, on the platform before the palace at midnight,
for two or three nights successively. The figure came constantly clad
in the same suit of armour, from head to foot, which the dead king
was known to have worn: and they who saw it (Hamlet's bosom friend
Horatio was one) agreed in their testimony as to the time and manner
of its appearance: that it came just as the clock struck twelve; that it
looked pale, with a face more of sorrow than of anger; that its beard
was grisly, and the colour a sable silvered, as they had seen it in his
lifetime: that it made no answer when they spoke to it; yet once they
thought it lifted up its head, and addressed itself to motion, as if it
were about to speak; but in that moment the morning cock crew, and
it shrunk in haste away, and vanished out of their sight.
The young prince, strangely amazed at their relation, which was too
consistent and agreeing with itself to disbelieve, concluded that it was
his father's ghost which they had seen, and determined to take his
watch with the soldiers that night, that he might have a chance of
seeing it; for he reasoned with himself, that such an appearance did
not come for nothing, but that the ghost had something to impart, and
though it had been silent hitherto, yet it would speak to him. And he
waited with impatience for the coming of night.
When night came he took his stand with Horatio, and Marcellus, one
of the guard, upon the platform, where this apparition was accustomed
to walk: and it being a cold night, and the air unusually raw and
nipping, Hamlet and Horatio and their companion fell into some talk
about the coldness of the night, which was suddenly broken off by
Horatio announcing that the ghost was coming.
At the sight of his father's spirit, Hamlet was struck with a sudden
surprise and fear. He at first called upon the angels and heavenly
ministers to defend them. for he knew not whether it were a good
spirit or bad; whether it came for good or evil: but he gradually
assumed more courage; and his father (as it seemed to him) looked
upon him so piteously, and as it were desiring to have conversation
with him, and did in all respects appear so like himself as he was
when he lived, that Hamlet could not help addressing him: he called
him by his name, Hamlet, King, Father! and conjured him that he
would tell the reason why he had left his grave, where they had seen
him quietly bestowed, to come again and visit the earth and the
moonlight: and besought him that he would let them know if there
was anything which they could do to give peace to his spirit. And the
ghost beckoned to Hamlet, that he should go with him to some more
removed place, where they might be alone; and Horatio and Marcellus
would have dissuaded the young prince from following it, for they
feared lest it should be some evil spirit, who would tempt him to the
neighbouring sea, or to the top of some dreadful cliff, and there put on
some horrible shape which might deprive the prince of his reason. But
their counsels and entreaties could not alter Hamlet's determination,
who cared too little about life to fear the losing of it; and as to his
soul, he said, what could the spirit do to that, being a thing immortal
as itself? And he felt as hardy as a lion, and bursting from them, who
did all they could to hold him, he followed whithersoever the spirit
led him.
And when they were alone together, the spirit broke silence, and told
him that he was the ghost of Hamlet, his father, who had been cruelly
murdered, and he told the manner of it; that it was done by his own
brother Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, as Hamlet had already but too much
suspected, for the hope of succeeding to his bed and crown. That as he
was sleeping in his garden, his custom always in the afternoon, his
treasonous brother stole upon him in his sleep, and poured the juice of
poisonous henbane into his ears, which has such an antipathy to the
life of man, that swift as quicksilver it courses through all the veins of
the body, baking up the blood, and spreading a crustlike leprosy all
over the skin: thus sleeping, by a brother's hand he was cut off at once
from his crown, his queen, and his life: and he adjured Hamlet, if he
did ever his dear father love that he would revenge his foul murder.
And the ghost lamented to his son, that his mother should so fall off
from virtue, as to prove false to the wedded love of her first husband,
and to marry his murderer, but he cautioned Hamlet, howsoever he
proceeded in his revenge against his wicked uncle, by no means to act
any violence against the person of his mother, but to leave her to
heaven, and to the stings and thorns of conscience. And Hamlet
promised to observe the ghost's direction in all things, and the ghost
And when Hamlet was left alone, he took up a solemn resolution, that
all he had in his memory, all that he had ever learned by books or
observation, should be instantly forgotten by him, and nothing live in
his brain but the memory of what the ghost had told him, and enjoined
him to do. And Hamlet related the particulars of the conversation
which had passed to none but his dear friend Horatio; and he enjoined
both to him and Marcellus the strictest secrecy as to what they had
seen that night.
The terror which the sight of the ghost had left upon the senses of
Hamlet, he being weak and dispirited before, almost unhinged his
mind, and drove him beside his reason. And he, fearing that it would
continue to have this effect, which might subject him to observation,
and set his uncle upon his guard, if he suspected that he was
meditating anything against him, or that Hamlet really knew more of
his father's death than he professed, took up a strange resolution, from
that time to counterfeit as if he were really and truly mad; thinking
that he would be less an object of suspicion when his uncle should
believe him incapable of any serious project, and that his real
perturbation of mind would be best covered and pass concealed under
a disguise of pretended lunacy.
From this time Hamlet affected a certain wildness and strangeness in
his apparel, his speech, and behaviour, and did so excellently
conterfeit the madman, that the king and queen were both deceived,
and not thinking his grief for his father's death a sufficient cause to
produce such a distemper, for they knew not of the appearance of the
ghost, they concluded that his malady was love, and they thought they
had found out the object.
Before Hamlet fell into the melancholy way which has been related,
he had dearly loved a fair maid called Ophelia, the daughter of
Polonius, the king's chief counsellor in affairs of state. He had sent her
letters and rings, and made many tenders of his affection to her, and
importuned her with love in honourable fashion: and she had given
belief to his vows and importunities. But the melancholy which he fell
into latterly had made him neglect her, and from the time he
conceived the project of counterfeiting madness, he affected to treat
her with unkindness, and a sort of rudeness: but she good lady, rather
than reproach him with being false to her, persuaded herself that it
was nothing but the disease in his mind, and no settled unkindness,
which had made him less observant of her than formerly; and she
compared the faculties of his once noble mind and excellent
understanding, impaired as they were with the deep melancholy that
oppressed him, to sweet bells which in themselves are capable of most
exquisite music, but when jangled out of tune, or rudely handled,
produce only a harsh and unpleasing sound.
Though the rough business which Hamlet had in hand, the revenging
of his father's death upon his murderer, did not suit with the playful
state of courtship, or admit of the society of so idle a passion as love
now seemed to him, yet it could not hinder but that soft thoughts of
his Ophelia would come between, and in one of these moments, when
he thought that his treatment of this gentle lady had been
unreasonably harsh, he wrote her a letter full of wild starts of passion,
and in extravagant terms, such as agreed with his supposed madness,
but mixed with some gentle touches of affection, which could not but
show to this honoured lady that a deep love for her yet lay at the
bottom of his heart. He bade her to doubt the stars were fire, and to
doubt that the sun did move, to doubt truth to be a liar, but never to
doubt that he loved; with more of such extravagant phrases. This letter
Ophelia dutifully showed to her father, and the old man thought
himself bound to communicate it to the king and queen, who from
that time supposed that the true cause of Hamlet's madness was love.
And the queen wished that the good beauties of Ophelia might be the
happy cause of his wildness, for so she hoped that her virtues might
happily restore him to his accustomed way again, to both their
But Hamlet's malady lay deeper than she supposed, or than could be
so cured. His father's ghost, which he had seen, still haunted his
imagination, and the sacred injunction to revenge his murder gave him
no rest till it was accomplished. Every hour of delay seemed to him a
sin, and a violation of his father's commands. Yet how to compass the
death of the king, surrounded as he constantly was with his guards,
was no easy matter. Or if it had been, the presence of the queen,
Hamlet's mother, who was generally with the king, was a restraint
upon his purpose, which he could not break through. Besides, the very
circumstance that the usurper was his mother's husband filled him
with some remorse, and still blunted the edge of his purpose. The
mere act of putting a fellow-creature to death was in itself odious and
terrible to a disposition naturally so gentle as Hamlet's was. His very
melancholy, and the dejection of spirits he had so long been in,
produced an irresoluteness and wavering of purpose which kept him
from proceeding to extremities. Moreover, he could not help having
some scruples upon his mind, whether the spirit which he had seen
was indeed his father, or whether it might not be the devil, who he had
heard has power to take any form he pleases, and who might have
assumed his father's shape only to take advantage of his weakness and
his melancholy, to drive him to the doing of so desperate an act as
murder. And he determined that he would have more certain grounds
to go upon than a vision, or apparition, which might be a deluston.
While he was in this irresolute mind there came to the court certain
players, in whom Hamlet formerly used to take delight, and
particularly to hear one of them speak a tragical speech, describing the
death of old Priam, King of Troy, with the grief of Hecuba his queen.
Hamlet welcomed his old friends, the players, and remembering how
that speech had formerly given him pleasure, requested the player to
repeat it; which he did in so lively a manner, setting forth the cruel
murder of the feeble old king, with the destruction of his people and
city by fire, and the mad grief of the old queen, running barefoot up
and down the palace, with a poor clout upon that head where a crown
had been, and with nothing but a blanket upon her loins, snatched up
in haste, where she had worn a royal robe; that not only it drew tears
from all that stood by, who thought they saw the real scene, so lively
was it represented, but even the player himself delivered it with a
broken voice and real tears. This put Hamlet upon thinking, if that
player could so work himself up to passion by a mere fictitious
speech, to weep for one that he had never seen, for Hecuba, that had
been dead so many hundred years, how dull was he, who having a
read motive and cue for passion, a real king and a dear father
murdered, was yet so little moved, that his revenge all this while had
seemed to have slept in dull and muddy forgetfulness! and while he
meditated on actors and acting, and the powerful effects which a good
play, represented to the life, has upon the spectator, he remembered
the instance of some murderer, who seeing a murder on the stage, was
by the mere force of the scene and resemblance of circumstances so
affected, that on the spot he confessed the crime which he had
committed. And he determined that these players should play
something like the murder of his father before his uncle, and he would
watch narrowly what effect it might have upon him, and from his
looks he would be able to gather with more certainty if he were the
murderer or not. To this effect he ordered a play to be prepared, to the
representation of which he invited the king and queen.
The story of the play was of a murder done in Vienna upon a duke.
The duke's name was Gonzago, his wife Baptista. The play showed
how one Lucianus, a near relation to the duke, poisoned him in his
garden for his estate, and how the murderer in a short time after got
the love of Gonzago's wife.
At the representation of this play, the king, who did not know the trap
which was laid for him, was present, with his queen and the whole
court: Hamlet sitting attentively near him to observe his looks. The
play began with a conversation between Gonzago and his wife, in
which the lady made many protestations of love, and of never
marrying a second husband, if she should outlive Gonzago; wishing
she might be accursed if she ever took a second husband, and adding
that no woman did so, but those wicked women who kill their first
husbands. Hamlet observed the king his uncle change colour at this
expression, and that it was as bad as wormwood both to him and to
the queen. But when Lucianus, according to the story, came to poison
Gonzago sleeping in the garden, the strong resemblance which it bore
to his own wicked act upon the late king, his brother, whom he had
poisoned in his garden, so struck upon the conscience of this usurper,
that he was unable to sit out the rest of the play, but on a sudden
calling for lights to his chamber, and affecting or partly feeling a
sudden sickness, he abruptly left the theatre. The king being departed,
the play was given over. Now Hamlet had seen enough to be satisfied
that the words of the ghost were true, and no illusion; and in a ht of
gaiety, like that which comes over a man who suddenly has some
great doubt or scruple resolved, he swore to Horatio, that he would
take the ghost's word for a thousand pounds. But before he could
make up his resolution as to what measures of revenge he should take,
now he was certainly informed that his uncle was his father's
murderer, he was sent for by the queen his mother, to a private
conference in her closet.
It was by desire of the king that the queen sent for Hamlet, that she
might signify to her son how much his late behaviour had displeased
them both, and the king, wishing to know all that passed at that
conference, and thinking that the too partial report of a mother might
let slip some part of Hamlet's words, which it might much import the
king to know, Polonius, the old counsellor of state, was ordered to
plant himself behind the hangings in the queen's closet, where he
might unseen hear all that passed. This artifice was particularly
adapted to the disposition of Polonius, who was a man grown old in
crooked maxims and policies of state, and delighted to get at the
knowledge of matters in an indirect and cunning way.
Hamlet being come to his mother, she began to tax him in the
roundest way with his actions and behaviour, and she told him that he
had given great offence to his father, meaning the king, his uncle,
whom, because he had married her, she called Hamlet's father.
Hamlet, sorely indignant that she should give so dear and honoured a
name as father seemed to him, to a wretch who was indeed no better
than the murderer of his true father, with some sharpness replied:
'Mother, you have much offended my father.' The queen said that was
but an idle answer. 'As good as the question deserved,' said Hamlet.
The queen asked him if he had forgotten who it was he was speaking
to? 'Alas!' replied Hamlet, 'I wish I could forget. You are the queen,
your husband's brother's wife; and you are my mother: I wish you were
not what you are.' 'Nay, then,' said the queen, 'if you show me so little
respect, I will set those to you that can speak,' and was going to send
the king or Polonius to him. But Hamlet would not let her go, now he
had her alone, till he had tried if his words could not bring her to some
sense of her wicked life; and, taking her by the wrist, he held her fast,
and made her sit down. She, affrighted at his earnest manner, and
fearful lest in his lunacy he should do her a mischief, cried out; and a
voice was heard from behind the hangings: 'Help, help, the queen!'
which Hamlet hearing, and verily thinking that it was the king himself
there concealed, he drew his sword and stabbed at the place where the
voice came from, as he would have stabbed a rat that ran there, till the
voice ceasing, he concluded the person to be dead. But when he
dragged for the body, it was not the king, but Polonius, the old
officious counsellor, that had planted himself as a spy behind the
hangings. 'Oh me!' exclaimed the queen, 'what a rash and bloody deed
have you done!' 'A bloody deed, mother,' replied Hamlet, 'but not so
bad as yours, who killed a king, and married his brother.' Hamlet had
gone too far to leave off here. He was now in the humour to speak
plainly to his mother, and he pursued it. And though the faults of
parents are to be tenderly treated by their children, yet in the case of
great crimes the son may have leave to speak even to his own mother
with some harshness, so as that harshness is meant for her good, and
to turn her from her wicked ways, and not done for the purpose of
upbraiding. And now this virtuous prince did in moving terms
represent to the queen the heinousness of her offence, in being so
forgetful of the dead king, his father, as in so short a space of time to
marry with his brother and reputed murderer: such an act as, after the
vows which she had sworn to her first husband was enough to make
all vows of women suspected, and ail virtue to be accounted
hypocrisy, wedding contracts to be less than gamesters' oaths, and
religion to be a mockery and a mere form of words. He said she had
done such a deed, that the heavens blushed at it, and the earth was
sick of her because of it. And he showed her two pictures, the one of
the late king, her first husband, and the other of the present king, her
second husband, and he bade her mark the difference; what a grace
was on the brow of his father, how like a god he looked! the curls of
Apollo, the forehead of Jupiter, the eye of Mars, and a posture like to
Mercury newly alighted on some heaven-kissing hill! this man, he
said, had been her husband. And then he showed her whom she had
got in his stead: how like a blight or a mildew he looked, for so he had
blasted his wholesome brother. And the queen was sore ashamed that
he should so turn her eyes inward upon her soul, which she now saw
so black and deformed. And he asked her how she could continue to
live with this man, and be a wife to him, who had murdered her first
husband, and got the crown by as false means as a thief--and just as he
spoke, the ghost of his father, such as he was in his lifetime, and such
as he had lately seen it, entered the room, and Hamlet, in great terror,
asked what it would have; and the ghost said that it came to remind
him of the revenge he had promised, which Hamlet seemed to have
forgot; and the ghost bade him speak to his mother, for the grief and
terror she was in would else kill her. It then vanished, and was seen by
none but Hamlet, neither could he by pointing to where it stood, or by
any description, make his mother perceive it; who was terribly
frightened all this while to hear him conversing, as it seemed to her,
with nothing; and she imputed it to the disorder of his mind. But
Hamlet begged her not to flatter her wicked soul in such a manner as
to think that it was his madness, and not her own offences, which had
brought his father's spirit again on the earth. And he bade her feel his
pulse, how temperately it beat, not like a madman's. And he begged of
her with tears, to confess herself to heaven for what was past, and for
the future to avoid the company of the king, and be no more as a wife
to him: and when she should show herself a mother to him, by
respecting his father's memory, he would ask a blessing of her as a
son. And she promising to observe his directions, the conference
And now Hamlet was at leisure to consider who it was that in his
unfortunate rashness he had killed: and when he came to see that it
was Polonius, the father of the lady Ophelia, whom he so dearly
loved, he drew apart the dead body, and, his spirits being now a little
quieter, he wept for what he had done.
The unfortunate death of Polonius gave the king a presence for
sending Hamlet out of the kingdom. He would willingly have put him
to death, fearing him as dangerous; but he dreaded the people, who
loved Hamlet, and the queen who, with all her faults, doted upon the
prince, her son. So this subtle king, under presence of providing for
Hamlet's safety, that he might not be called to account for Polonius'
death, caused him to be conveyed on board a ship bound for England,
under the care of two courtiers, by whom he despatched letters to the
English court, which in that time was in subjection and paid tribute to
Denmark, requiring for special reasons there pretended, that Hamlet
should be put to death as soon as he landed on English ground.
Hamlet, suspecting some treachery, in the night-time secretly got at
the letters, and skilfully erasing his own name, he in the stead of it put
in the names of those two courtiers, who had the charge of him, to be
put to death: then sealing up the letters, he put them into their place
again. Soon after the ship was attacked by pirates, and a sea-fight
commenced; in the course of which Hamlet, desirous to show his
velour, with sword in hand singly boarded the enemy's vessel; while
his own ship, in a cowardly manner, bore away, and leaving him to his
fate, the two courtiers made the best of their way to England, charged
with those letters the sense of which Hamlet had altered to their own
deserved destruction.
The pirates, who had the prince in their power, showed themselves
gentle enemies; and knowing whom they had got prisoner, in the hope
that the prince might do them a good turn at court in recompense for
any favour they might show him, they set Hamlet on shore at the
nearest port in Denmark. From that place Hamlet wrote to the king,
acquainting him with the strange chance which had brought him back
to his own country, and saying that on the next day he should present
himself before his majesty. When he got home, a sad spectacle offered
itself the first thing to his eyes.
This was the funeral of the young and beautiful Ophelia, his once dear
mistress. The wits of this young lady had begun to turn ever since her
poor father's death. That he should die a violent death, and by the
hands of the prince whom she loved, so affected this tender young
maid, that in a little time she grew perfectly distracted, and would go
about giving flowers away to the ladies of the court, and saying that
they were for her father's burial, singing songs about love and about
death, and sometimes such as had no meaning at all, as if she had no
memory of what happened to her. There was a willow which grew
slanting over a brook, and reflected its leaves on the stream. To this
brook she came one day when she was unwatched, with garlands she
had been making, mixed up of daisies and nettles, flowers and weeds
together, and clambering up to hang her garland upon the boughs of
the willow, a bough broke, and precipitated this fair young maid,
garland, and all that she had gathered, into the water, where her
clothes bore her up for a while, during which she chanted scraps of
old tunes, like one insensible to her own distress, or as if she were a
creature natural to that element: but long it was not before her
garments, heavy with the wet, pulled her in from her melodious
singing to a muddy and miserable death. It was the funeral of this fair
maid which her brother Laertes was celebrating, the king and queen
and whole court being present, when Hamlet arrived. He knew not
what all this show imported, but stood on one side, not inclining to
interrupt the ceremony. He saw the flowers strewed upon her grave, as
the custom was in maiden burials, which the queen herself threw in;
and as she threw them she said: 'Sweets to the sweet! I thought to have
decked thy bride-bed, sweet maid, not to have strewed thy grave.
Thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife.' And he heard her brother
wish that violets might spring from her grave: and he saw him leap
into the grave all frantic with grief, and bid the attendants pile
mountains of earth upon him, that he might be buried with her. And
Hamlet's love for this fair maid came back to him, and he could not
bear that a brother should show so much transport of grief, for he
thought that he loved Ophelia better than forty thousand brothers.
Then discovering himself, he leaped into the grave where Laertes was,
all as frantic or more frantic than he, and Laertes knowing him to be
Hamlet, who had been the cause of his father's and his sister's death,
grappled him by the throat as an enemy, till the attendants parted
them: and Hamlet, after the funeral, excused his hasty act in throwing
himself into the grave as if to brave Laertes; but he said he could not
bear that any one should seem to outgo him in grief for the death of
the fair Ophelia. And for the time these two noble youths seemed
But out of the grief and anger of Laertes for the death of his father and
Ophelia, the king, Hamlet's wicked uncle, contrived destruction for
Hamlet. He set on Laertes, under cover of peace and reconciliation, to
challenge Hamlet to a friendly trial of skill at fencing, which Hamlet
accepting, a day was appointed to try the match. At this match all the
court was present, and Laertes, by direction of the king, prepared a
poisoned weapon. Upon this match great wagers were laid by the
courtiers, as both Hamlet and Laertes were known to excel at this
sword play; and Hamlet taking up the foils chose one, not at all
suspecting the treachery of Laertes, or being careful to examine
Laertes' weapon, who, instead of a foil or blunted sword, which the
laws of fencing require, made use of one with a point, and poisoned.
At first Laertes did but play with Hamlet, and suffered him to gain
some advantages, which the dissembling king magnified and extolled
beyond measure, drinking to Hamlet's success, and wagering rich bets
upon the issue: but after a few passes, Laertes growing warm made a
deadly thrust at Hamlet with his poisoned weapon, and gave him a
mortal blow. Hamlet incensed, but not knowing the whole of the
treachery, in the scuffle exchanged his own innocent weapon for
Laertes' deadly one, and with a thrust of Laertes' own sword repaid
Laertes home, who was thus justly caught in his own treachery. In this
instant the queen shrieked out that she was poisoned. She had
inadvertently drunk out of a bowl which the king had prepared for
Hamlet, in case, that being warm in fencing, he should call for drink:
into this the treacherous king had infused a deadly poison, to make
sure of Hamlet, if Laertes had failed. He had forgotten to warn the
queen of the bowl. which she drank of, and immediately died,
exclaiming with her last breath that she was poisoned. Hamlet,
suspecting some treachery, ordered the doors to be shut, while he
sought it out. Laertes told him to seek no farther for he was the traitor,
and feeling his life go away with the wound which Hamlet had given
him, he made confession of the treachery he had used, and now he had
fallen a victim to it: and he told Hamlet of the envenomed point, and
said that Hamlet had not half an hour to live, for no medicine could
cure him; and begging forgiveness of Hamlet, he died, with his last
words accusing the king of being the contriver of the mischief. When
Hamlet saw his end draw near, there being yet some venom left upon
the sword, he suddenly turned upon his false uncle, and thrust the
point of it to his heart, fulfilling the promise which he had made to his
father's spirit, whose injunction was now accomplished, and his foul
murder revenged upon the murderer. Then Hamlet, feeling his breath
fail and life departing, turned to his dear friend Horatio, who had been
spectator of this fatal tragedy; and with his dying breath requested him
that he would live to tell his story to the world (for Horatio had made
a motion as if he would slay himself to accompany the prince in
death), and Horatio promised that he would make a true report, as one
that was privy to all the circumstances. And, thus satisfied, the noble
heart of Hamlet cracked; and Horatio and the bystanders with many
tears commended the spirit of this sweet prince to the guardianship of
angels. For Hamlet was a loving and a gentle prince, and greatly
beloved for his many noble and princelike qualities; and if he had
lived, would no doubt have proved a most royal and complete king to
Brabantio, the rich senator of Venice, had a fair daughter, the gentle
Desdemona. She was sought to by divers suitors, both on account of
her many virtuous qualities, and for her rich expectations. But among
the suitors of her own clime and complexion, she saw none whom she
could affect: for this noble lady, who regarded the mind more than the
features of men, with a singularity rather to be admired than imitated,
had chosen for the object of her affections, a Moor, a black, whom her
father loved, and often invited to his house.
Neither is Desdemona to be altogether condemned for the
unsuitableness of the person whom she selected for her lover. Bating
that Othello was black, the noble Moor wanted nothing which might
recommend him to the affections of the greatest lady. He was a
soldier, and a brave one; and by his conduct in bloody wars against
the Turks, had risen to the rank of general in the Venetian service, and
was esteemed and trusted by the state.
He had been a traveller, and Desdemona (as is the manner of ladies)
loved to hear him tell the story of his adventures, which he would run
through from his earliest recollection; the battles, sieges, and
encounters, which he had passed through; the perils he had been
exposed to by land and by water; his hair-breadth escapes, when he
had entered a breach, or marched up to the mouth of a cannon; and
how he had been taken prisoner by the insolent enemy, and sold to
slavery; how he demeaned himself in that state, and how he escaped:
all these accounts, added to the narration of the strange things he had
seen in foreign countries. the vast wilderness and romantic caverns,
the quarries, the rocks and mountains, whose heads are in the clouds;
of the savage nations, the cannibals who are man-eaters, and a race of
people in Africa whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders: these
travellers' stories would so enchain the attention of Desdemona, that if
she were called off at any time by household affairs, she would
despatch with all haste that business, and return, and with a greedy ear
devour Othello's discourse. And once he took advantage of a pliant
hour, and drew from her a prayer, that he would tell her the whole
story of his life at large, of which she had heard so much, but only by
parts: to which he consented, and beguiled her of many a tear, when
he spoke of some distressful stroke which his youth had suffered.
His story being done, she gave him for his pains a world of sighs: she
swore a pretty oath, that it was all passing strange, and pitiful,
wondrous pitiful: she wished (she said) she had not heard it, yet she
wished that heaven had made her such a man; and then she thanked
him, and told him, if he had a friend who loved her, he had only to
teach him how to tell his story, and that would woo her. Upon this
hint, delivered not with more frankness than modesty, accompanied
with certain bewitching prettiness, and blushes, which Othello could
not but understand, he spoke more openly of his love, and in this
golden opportunity gained the consent of the generous lady
Desdemona privately to marry him.
Neither Othello's colour nor his fortune were such that it could be
hoped Brabantio would accept him for a con-in-law. He had left his
daughter free; but he did expect that, as the manner of noble Venetian
ladies was, she would choose ere long a husband of senatorial rank or
expectations; but in this he was deceived; Desdemona loved the
Moor, though he was black, and devoted her heart and fortunes to his
valiant parts and qualities; so was her heart subdued to an implicit
devotion to the man she had selected for a husband, that his very
colour, which to all but this discerning lady would have proved an
insurmountable objection, was by her esteemed above all the white
skins and clear complexions of the young Venetian nobility, her
Their marriage, which, though privately carried, could not long be
kept a secret, came to the ears of the old man, Brabantio, who
appeared in a solemn council of the senate, as an accuser of the Moor
Othello, who by spells and witchcraft (he maintained) had seduced the
affections of the fair Desdemona to marry him, without the consent of
her father, and against the obligations of hospitality.
At this juncture of time it happened that the state of Venice had
immediate need of the services of Othello, news having arrived that
the Turks with mighty preparation had fitted out a fleet, which was
bending its course to the island of Cyprus, with intent to regain that
strong post from the Venetians, who then held it; in this emergency
the state turned its eyes upon Othello, who alone was deemed
adequate to conduct the defence of Cyprus against the Turks. So that
Othello, now summoned before the senate, stood in their presence at
once as a candidate for a great state employment, and as a culprit,
charged with offences which by the laws of Venice were made
The age and senatorial character of old Brabantio, commanded a most
patient hearing from that grave assembly; but the incensed father
conducted his accusation with so much intemperance, producing
likelihoods and allegations for proofs, that, when Othello was called
upon for his defence, he had only to relate a plain tale of the course of
his love; which he did with such an artless eloquence, recounting the
whole story of his wooing, as we have related it above, and delivered
his speech with so noble a plainness (the evidence of truth), that the
duke, who sat as chief judge, could not help confessing that a tale so
told would have won his daughter too: and the spells and conjurations
which Othello had used in his courtship, plainly appeared to have
been no more than the honest arts of men in love; and the only
witchcraft which he had used, the faculty of telling a soft tale to win a
lady's ear.
This statement of Othello was confirmed by the testimony of the lady
Desdemona herself, who appeared in court, and professing a duty to
her father for life and education, challenged leave of him to profess a
yet higher duty to her lord and husband, even so much as her mother
had shown in preferring him (Brabantio) above her father.
The old senator, unable to maintain his plea, called the Moor to him
with many expressions of sorrow, and, as an act of necessity,
bestowed upon him his daughter, whom, if he had been free to
withhold her (he told him), he would with all his heart have kept from
him; adding, that he was glad at soul that he had no other child, for
this behaviour of Desdemona would have taught him to be a tyrant,
and hang clogs on them for her desertion.
This difficulty being got over. Othello, to whom custom had rendered
the hardships of a military life as natural as food and rest are to other
men, readily undertook the management of the wars in Cyprus: and
Desdemona, preferring the honour of her lord (though with danger)
before the indulgence of those idle delights in which new-married
people usually waste their time, cheerfully consented to his going.
No sooner were Othello and his lady landed in Cyprus, than news
arrived, that a desperate tempest had dispersed the Turkish fleet, and
thus the island was secure from any immediate apprehension of an
attack. But the war, which Othello was to suffer, was now beginning;
and the enemies, which malice stirred up against his innocent lady,
proved in their nature more deadly than strangers or infidels.
Among all the general's friends no one possessed the confidence of
Othello more entirely than Cassio. Michael Cassio was a young
soldier, a Florentine, gay, amorous, and of pleasing address, favourite
qualities with women; he was handsome and eloquent, and exactly
such a person as might alarm the jealousy of a man advanced in years
(as Othello in some measure was), who had married a young and
beautiful wife; but Othello was as free from jealousy as he was noble,
and as incapable of suspecting as of doing a base action. He had
employed this Cassio in his love affair with Desdemona, and Cassio
had been a sort of go-between in his suit: for Othello, fearing that
himself had not those soft parts of conversation which please ladies,
and finding these qualities in his friend, would often depute Cassio to
go (as he phrased it) a courting for him: such innocent simplicity
being rather an honour than a blemish to the character of the valiant
Moor. So that no wonder, if next to Othello himself (but at far
distance, as beseems a virtuous wife) the gentle Desdemona loved and
trusted Cassio. Nor had the marriage of this couple made any
difference in their behaviour to Michael Cassio. He frequented their
house, and his free and rattling talk was no unpleasing variety to
Othello, who was himself of a more serious temper: for such tempers
are observed often to delight in their contraries, as a relief from the
oppressive excess of their own: and Desdemona and Cassio would
talk and laugh together, as in the days when he went a courting for his
Othello had lately promoted Cassio to be the lieutenant, a place of
trust, and nearest to the general's person. This promotion gave great
offence to Iago, an older officer who thought he had a better claim
than Cassio, and would often ridicule Cassio as a fellow ht only for
the company of ladies, and one that knew no more of the art of war or
how to set an army in array for battle, than a girl. Iago hated Cassio,
and he hated Othello. as well for favouring Cassio, as for an unjust
suspicion, which he had lightly taken up against Othello that the Moor
was too fond of Iago's wife Emilia. From these imaginary
provocations, the plotting mind of Iago conceived a horrid scheme of
revenge, which should involve both Cassio, the Moor, and
Desdemona, in one common ruin.
Iago was artful, and had studied human nature deeply, and he knew
that of all the torments which afflict the mind of man (and far beyond
bodily torture), the pains of jealousy were the most intolerable, and
had the sorest sting. If he could succeed in making Othello jealous of
Cassio, he thought it would be an exquisite plot of revenge, and might
end in the death of Cassio or Othello, or both; he cared not.
The arrival of the general and his lady, in Cyprus, meeting with the
news of the dispersion of the enemy's fleet, made a sort of holiday in
the island. Everybody gave themselves up to feasting and making
merry. Wine flowed in abundance, and cups went round to the health
of the black Othello, and his lady the fair Desdemona.
Cassio had the direction of the guard that night, with a charge from
Othello to keep the soldier from excess in drinking, that no brawl
might arise, to fright the inhabitants, or disgust them with the newlanded
forces. That night Iago began his deep-laid plans of mischief:
under colour of loyalty and love to the general, he enticed Cassio to
make rather too free with the bottle (a great fault in an officer upon
guard). Cassio for a time resisted, but he could not long hold out
against the honest freedom which Iago knew how to put on, but kept
swallowing glass after glass (as Iago still plied him with drink and
encouraging songs), and Cassio's tongue ran over in praise of the lady
Desdemona, whom he again and again toasted, affirming that she was
a most exquisite lady: until at last the enemy which he put into his
mouth stole away his brains; and upon some provocation given him by
a fellow whom Iago had set on, swords were drawn, and Montano, a
worthy officer, who interfered to appease the dispute, was wounded in
the scuffle. The riot now began to be general, and Iago, who had set
on foot the mischief, was foremost in spreading the alarm, causing the
castle-bell to be rung (as if some dangerous mutiny instead of a slight
drunken quarrel had arisen): the alarm-bell ringing awakened Othello,
who, dressing in a hurry, and coming to the scene of action,
questioned Cassio of the cause. Cassio was now come to himself, the
effect of the wine having a little gone off, but was too much ashamed
to reply; and Iago, pretending a great reluctance to accuse Cassio, but,
as it were, forced into it by Othello, who insisted to know the truth,
gave an account of the whole matter (leaving out his own share in it,
which Cassio was too far gone to remember) in such a manner, as
while he seemed to make Cassio's offence less, did indeed make it
appear greater than it was. The result was, that Othello, who was a
strict observer of discipline, was compelled to take away Cassio's
place of lieutenant from him.
Thus did Iago's first artifice succeed completely; he had now
undermined his hated rival, and thrust him out of his place: but a
further use was hereafter to be made of the adventure of this
disastrous night.
Cassio, whom this misfortune had entirely sobered, now lamented to
his seeming friend Iago that he should have been such a fool as to
transform himself into a beast. He was undone, for how could he ask
the general for his place again? he would tell him he was a drunkard.
He despised himself. Iago, affecting to make light of it, said, that he,
or any man living, might be drunk upon occasion; it remained now to
make the best of a bad bargain; the general's wife was now the
general, and could do anything with Othello; that he were best to
apply to the lady Desdemona to mediate for him with her lord; that
she was of a frank, obliging disposition, and would readily undertake
a good office of this sort, and set Cassio right again in the general's
favour; and then this crack in their love would be made stronger than
ever. A good advice of Iago, if it had not been given for wicked
purposes, which will after appear.
Cassio did as Iago advised him, and made application to the lady
Desdemona, who was easy to be won over in any honest suit; and she
promised Cassio that she should be his solicitor with her lord, and
rather die than give up his cause. This she immediately set about in so
earnest and pretty a manner, that Othello, who was mortally offended
with Cassio, could not put her off. When he pleaded delay, and that it
was too soon to pardon such an offender, she would not be beat back,
but insisted that it should be the next night, or the morning after, or
the next morning to that at farthest. Then she showed how penitent
and humbled poor Cassio was, and that his offence did not deserve so
sharp a check. And when Othello still hung back: 'What! my lord,' said
she, 'that I should have so much to do to plead for Cassio, Michael
Cassio, that came a courting for you, and oftentimes, when I have
spoken in dispraise of you, has taken your part! I count this but a little
thing to ask of you. When I mean to try your love indeed, I shall ask a
weighty matter.' Othello could deny nothing to such a pleader, and
only requesting that Desdemona would leave the time to him,
promised to receive Michael Cassio again in favour.
It happened that Othello and Iago had entered into the room where
Desdemona was, just as Cassio, who had been imploring her
intercession, was departing at the opposite door: and Iago, who was
full of art, said in a low voice, as if to himself: 'I like not that.' Othello
took no great notice of what he said; indeed, the conference which
immediately took place with his lady put it out of his head; but he
remembered it afterwards. For when Desdemona was gone, Iago, as if
for mere satisfaction of his thought, questioned Othello whether
Michael Cassio, when Othello was courting his lady, knew of his love.
To this the general answering in the affirmative, and adding, that he
had gone between them very often during the courtship, Iago knitted
his brow, as if he had got fresh light on some terrible matter, and
cried: 'Indeed!' This brought into Othello's mind the words which Iago
had let fall upon entering the room, and seeing Cassio with
Desdemona; and he began to think there was some meaning in all this:
for he deemed Iago to be a just man, and full of love and honesty, and
what in a false knave would be tricks, in him seemed to be the natural
workings of an honest mind, big with something too great for
utterance: and Othello prayed Iago to speak what he knew, and to give
his worst thoughts words. 'And what,' said Iago, 'if some thoughts very
vile should have intruded into my breast, as where is the palace into
which foul things do not enter?' Then Iago went on to say, what a pity
it were, if any trouble should arise to Othello out of his imperfect
observations; that it would not be for Othello's peace to know his
thoughts; that people's good names were not to be taken away for
slight suspicions; and when Othello's curiosity was raised almost to
distraction with these hints and scattered words, Iago, as if in earnest
care for Othello's peace of mind, besought him to beware of jealousy:
with such art did this villain raise suspicions in the unguarded Othello,
by the very caution which he pretended to give him against suspicion.
'I know,' said Othello, 'that my wife is fair, loves company and
feasting, is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well: but where
virtue is, these qualities are virtuous. I must have proof before I think
her dishonest.' Then Iago, as if glad that Othello was slow to believe
ill of his lady, frankly declared that he had no proof, but begged
Othello to observe her behaviour well, when Cassio was by; not to be
jealous nor too secure neither, for that he (Iago) knew the dispositions
of the Italian ladies, his countrywomen, better than Othello could do;
and that in Venice the wives let heaven see many pranks they dared
not show their husbands. Then he artfully insinuated that Desdemona
deceived her father in marrying with Othello, and carried it so closely,
that the poor old man thought that witchcraft had been used. Othello
was much moved with this argument, which brought the matter home
to him, for if she had deceived her father, why might she not deceive
her husband?
Iago begged pardon for having moved him; but Othello, assuming an
indifference, while he was really shaken with inward grief at Iago's
words, begged him to go on, which Iago did with many apologies, as
if unwilling to produce anything against Cassio, whom he called his
friend: he then came strongly to the point, and reminded Othello how
Desdemona had refused many suitable matches of her own clime and
complexion, and had married him, a Moor, which showed unnatural
in her, and proved her to have a headstrong will; and when her better
judgment returned, how probable it was she should fall upon
comparing Othello with the fine forms and clear white complexions
of the young Italians her countrymen. He concluded with advising
Othello to put off his reconcilement with Cassio a little longer, and in
the meanwhile to note with what earnestness Desdemona should
intercede in his behalf; for that much would be seen in that. So
mischievously did this artful villain lay his plots to turn the gentle
qualities of this innocent lady into her destruction, and make a net for
her out of her own goodness to entrap her: first setting Cassio on to
entreat her mediation, and then out of that very mediation contriving
stratagems for her ruin.
The conference ended with Iago's begging Othello to account his wife
innocent, until he had more decisive proof; and Othello promised to
be patient; but from that moment the deceived Othello never tasted
content of mind. Poppy, nor the juice of mandragora, nor all the
sleeping potions in the world, could ever again restore to him that
sweet rest, which he had enjoyed but yesterday. His occupation
sickened upon him. He no longer took delight in arms. His heart, that
used to be roused at the sight of troops, and banners, and battle-array,
and would stir and leap at the sound of a drum, or a trumpet, or a
neighing war-horse, seemed to have lost all that pride and ambition
which are a soldier's virtue; and his military ardour and all his old joys
forsook him. Sometimes he thought his wife honest, and at times he
thought her not so; sometimes he thought Iago just, and at times he
thought him not so; then he would wish that he had never known of it;
he was not the worse for her loving Cassio, so long as he knew it not:
torn to pieces with these distracting thoughts, he once laid hold on
Iago's throat, and demanded proof of Desdemona's guilt, or threatened
instant death for his having belied her. Iago, feigning indignation that
his honesty should be taken for a vice, asked Othello, if he had not
sometimes seen a handkerchief spotted with strawberries in his wife's
hand. Othello answered, that he had given her such a one, and that it
was his first gift. 'That same handkerchief,' said Iago, 'did I see
Michael Cassio this day wipe his face with.' 'If it be as you say,' said
Othello, 'I will not rest till a wide revenge swallow them up: and first,
for a token of your fidelity, I expect that Cassio shall be put to death
within three days; and for that fair devil (meaning his lady), I will
withdraw and devise some swift means of death for her.'
Trifles light as air are to the jealous proofs as strong as holy writ. A
handkerchief of his wife's seen in Cassio's hand, was motive enough
to the deluded Othello to pass sentence of death upon them both.
without once inquiring how Cassio came by it. Desdemona had never
given such a present to Cassio, nor would this constant lady have
wronged her lord with doing so naughty a thing as giving his presents
to another man; both Cassio and Desdemona were innocent of any
offence against Othello: but the wicked Iago, whose spirits never slept
in contrivance of villany, had made his wife (a good, but a weak
woman) steal this handkerchief from Desdemona, under presence of
getting the work copied, but in reality to drop it in Cassio's way,
where he might find it, and give a handle to Iago's suggestion that it
was Desdemona's present.
Othello, soon after meeting his wife, pretended that he had a headache
(as he might indeed with truth), and desired her to lend him her
handkerchief to hold to his temples. She did so. 'Not this,' said
Othello, 'but that handkerchief I gave you.' Desdemona had it not
about her (for indeed it was stolen, as we have related). 'How?' said
Othello, 'this is a fault indeed. That handkerchief an Egyptian woman
gave to my mother; the woman was a witch and could read people's
thoughts: she told my mother, while she kept it, it would make her
amiable, and my father would love her; but, if she lost it, or gave it
away, my father's fancy would turn, and he would loathe her as much
as he had loved her. She dying gave it to me, and bade me, if I ever
married, to give it to my wife. I did so; take heed of it. Make it a
darling as precious as your eye.' 'It is possible?' said the frighted lady.
"Tis true,' continued Othello 'it is a magical handkerchief; a sibyl that
had lived in the world two hundred years, in a fit of prophetic fury
worked it; the silkworms that furnished the silk were hallowed, and it
was dyed in a mummy of maidens' hearts conserved.' Desdemona,
hearing the wondrous virtues of the handkerchief, was ready to die
with fear, for she plainly perceived she had lost it, and with it, she
feared, the affections of her husband. Then Othello started, and
looked as if he were going to do some rash thing, and still he
demanded the handkerchief, which when she could not produce, she
tried to divert her husband from too serious thoughts, and cheerfully
told him she saw all his talk about the handkerchief was only to put
her off from her suit about Michael Cassio, whom she went on to
praise (as Iago had foretold), till Othello in perfect distraction burst
out of the room, and then Desdemona, though unwillingly, began to
suspect that her lord was jealous.
What cause she could have ministered to him she knew not, and then
she accused herself for accusing the noble Othello, and thought to be
sure that some untoward news from Venice, or some state troubles
had puddled his spirits, and made his temper not so sweet as formerly.
And she said: 'Men are not gods, and we must not look for that
observance from them when they are married, which they show us on
the bridal day.' And she beshrewed herself for so unkindly judging of
his unkindness.
Again Othello and Desdemona met, and he accused her more plainly
of being unfaithful, and of loving another man, but he did not name
whom: and Othello wept, and Desdemona said: 'Alas! the heavy day!
why do you weep?' And Othello told her, he could have borne all sorts
of evils with fortitude--poverty, and disease, and disgrace; but her
infidelity had broken his heart: and he called her a weed, that looked
so fair, and smelled so sweet, that the sense ached at it; and wished
she had never been born. And when he had left her, this innocent lady
was so stupefied with wonder at her lord's untrue suspicion of her, that
a weight-like sleep came over her, and she only desired her attendant
to make her bed, and to lay her wedding-sheets upon it, saying, that
when people teach their babes, they do it by gentle means and easy
tasks, and Othello might have chid her so; for in good faith she was
but a child when she was chidden. And this was all the complaint
which this gentle lady made.
Desdemona being retired to bed expecting her lord would follow her,
soon fell into a slumber, the effect of her troubled spirits, when
Othello entered the chamber, full of the black purpose which he had
meditated of putting his lady to death. But when he saw her asleep, he
thought he would not shed her blood, nor scar that white skin of hers,
more white than alabaster. But he was resolved she should die; else
(as he said) she would live to betray more men, as she had done him.
Then he kissed her for the last time (as he said), and that kiss was so
sweet, that he must needs kiss her again: and he wept, but he said they
were cruel tears.
Desdemona was awakened with his kisses, and she looked upon
Othello, and she saw him gnaw his under lip, and roll his eyes, and
she knew he was always fatal when he looked so: and he bade her
prepare for death, and to say her prayers, for he would not kill her
soul. And this innocent wife, as she lay at his mercy, begged for
compassion, and to know her fault, and then he named Cassio, and the
handkerchief which (he said) she had given him; and as the guiltless
lady was proceeding to clear herself he suddenly would hear no more,
but covering her up in the bed-clothes, stifled her till she died.
In this instant of time was brought into the house Cassio, wounded
and bleeding, whom Iago had set one of his creatures on to
assassinate; but the fellow not succeeding in his attempt to kill Cassio
(whom he wounded, but not mortally), and being himself killed by
Iago to prevent discovery, in his pockets were found certain letters,
which made the guilt of Iago, and the innocence of Cassio, clear
beyond all doubt; and Cassio now came to beg pardon of Othello, and
to ask wherein he had offended him, that he had employed Iago to
murder him.
This discovery was as thunderstroke to Othello, who now plainly saw
that he was no better than a murderer, and that his wife (poor innocent
lady) had been ever faithful to him; the extreme anguish of which
discovery making life insupportable, he fell upon his sword, and
throwing himself upon the body of his dear injured lady, expired.
These rash acts raised much passion of horror and amazement in the
bystanders, for Othello had borne a fair reputation, and till he was
wrought upon by the arts of a villain, which his own noble nature
never gave him leave to suspect, he was a loving and a doting
husband. He had loved not wisely, but too well; and his manly eyes
(when he learned his mistake), though not used to weep on every
small occasion, dropped tears as fast as the Arabian trees their gum.
And when he was dead all his former merits and his valiant acts were
remembered. Nothing now remained for his successor but to put the
utmost censure of the law in force against Iago, who was executed
with strict tortures; and to send word to the state of Venice of the
lamentable death of their renowned general.
Pericles, prince of Tyre, became a voluntary exile from his dominions,
to avert the dreadful calamities which Antiochus, the wicked emperor
of Greece, threatened to bring upon his subjects and city of Tyre, in
revenge for a discovery which the prince had made of a shocking deed
which the emperor had done in secret; as commonly it proves
dangerous to pry into the hidden crimes of great ones. Leaving the
government of his people in the hands of his able and honest minister,
Helicanus, Pericles set sail from Tyre, thinking to absent himself till
the wrath of Antiochus, who was mighty, should be appeased.
The first place which the prince directed his course to was Tarsus, and
hearing that the city of Tarsus was at that time suffering under a
severe famine, he took with him store of provisions for its relief. On
his arrival he found the city reduced to the utmost distress; and, he
coming like a messenger from heaven with his unhoped-for succour,
Cleon, the governor of Tarsus, welcomed him with boundless thanks.
Pericles had not been here many days, before letters came from his
faithful minister, warning him that it was not safe for him to stay at
Tarsus, for Antiochus knew of his abode, and by secret emissaries
despatched for that purpose sought his life. Upon receipt of these
letters Pericles put out to sea again, amidst the blessings and prayers
of a whole people who had been fed by his bounty.
He had not sailed far, when his ship was overtaken by a dreadful
storm, and every man on board perished except Pericles, who was cast
by the sea-waves naked on an unknown shore, where he had not
wandered long before he met with some poor fishermen, who invited
him to their homes, giving him clothes and provisions. The fishermen
told Pericles the name of their country was Pentapolis, and that their
king was Simonides, commonly called the good Simonides, because
of his peaceable reign and good government. From them he also
learned that king Simonides had a fair young daughter, and that the
following day was her birthday, when a grand tournament was to be
held at court, many princes and knights being come from all parts to
try their skill in arms for the love of Thaisa, this fair princess. While
the prince was listening to this account, and secretly lamenting the
loss of his good armour, which disabled him from making one among
these valiant knights, another fisherman brought in a complete suit of
armour that he had taken out of the sea with his fishing-net, which
proved to be the very armour he had lost. When Pericles beheld his
own armour, he said: 'Thanks, Fortune; after all my crosses you give
me somewhat to repair myself. This armour was bequeathed to me by
my dead father, for whose dear sake I have so loved it that
whithersoever I went, I still have kept it by me, and the rough sea that
parted it from me, having now become calm, hath given it back again,
for which I thank it for, since I have my father's gift again, I think my
shipwreck no misfortune.'
The next day Pericles clad in his brave father's armour, repaired to the
royal court of Simonides, where he performed wonders at the
tournament, vanquishing with ease all the brave knights and valiant
princes who contended with him in arms for the honour of Thaisa's
love. When brave warriors contended at court tournaments for the
love of king's daughters, if one proved sole victor over all the rest, it
was usual for the great lady for whose sake these deeds of velour were
undertaken, to bestow all her respect upon the conqueror, and Thaisa
did not depart from this custom, for she presently dismissed all the
princes and knights whom Pericles had vanquished, and distinguished
him by her especial favour and regard, crowning him with the wrath
of victory, as king of that day's happiness; and Pericles became a most
passionate lover of this beauteous princess from the first moment he
beheld her.
The good Simonides so well approved of the velour and noble
qualities of Pericles, who was indeed a most accomplished gentleman,
and well learned in all excellent arts, that though he knew not the rank
of this royal stranger (for Pericles for fear of Antiochus gave out that
he was a private gentleman of Tyre), yet did not Simonides disdain to
accept of the valiant unknown for a son-in-law, when he perceived his
daughter's affections were firmly fixed upon him.
Pericles had not been many months married to Thaisa, before he
received intelligence that his enemy Antiochus was dead, and that his
subjects of Tyre, impatient of his long absence, threatened to revolt,
and talked of placing Helicanus upon his vacant throne. This news
came from Helicanus himself, who, being a loyal subject to his royal
master, would not accept of the high dignity offered him, but sent to
let Pericles know their intentions, that he might return home and
resume his lawful right. It was matter of great surprise and joy to
Simonides, to kind that his son-in-law (the obscure knight) was the
renowned prince of Tyre; yet again he regretted that he was not the
private gentleman he supposed him to be, seeing that he must now
part both with his admired son-in-law and his beloved daughter,
whom he feared to trust to the perils of the sea, because Thaisa was
with child; and Pericles himself wished her to remain with her father
till after her confinement, but the poor lady so earnestly desired to go
with her husband, that at last they consented, hoping she would reach
Tyre before she was brought to bed.
The sea was no friendly element to unhappy Pericles, for long before
they reached Tyre another dreadful tempest arose, which so terrified
Thaisa that she was taken ill, and in a short space of time her nurse
Lychorida came to Pericles with a little child in her arms, to tell the
prince the sad tidings that his wife died the moment her little babe
was born. She held the babe towards its father, saying: 'Here is a thing
too young for such a place. This is the child of your dead queen.' No
tongue can tell the dreadful sufferings of Pericles when he heard his
wife was dead. As soon as he could speak, he said: 'O you gods, why
do you make us love your goodly gifts, and then snatch those gifts
away?' 'Patience, good sir,' said Lychorida, 'here is all that is left alive
of our dead queen, a little daughter, and for your child's sake be more
manly. Patience, good sir, even for the sake of this precious charge.'
Pericles took the new-born infant in his arms, and he said to the little
babe: 'Now may your life be mild, for a more blusterous birth had
never babe! May your condition be mild and gentle, for you have had
the rudest welcome that ever prince's child did meet with! May that
which follows be happy, for you have had as chiding a nativity as fire,
air, water, earth, and heaven could make to herald you from the
womb! Even at the first, your loss,' meaning in the death of her
mother, 'is more than all the joys, which you shall find upon this earth
to which you are come a new visitor, shall be able to recompense.'
The storm still continuing to rage furiously, and the sailors having a
superstition that while a dead body remained in the ship the storm
would never cease, they came to Pericles to demand that his queen
should be thrown overboard; and they said: 'What courage, sir? God
save you!' 'Courage enough,' said the sorrowing prince: 'I do not fear
the storm; it has done to me its worst; yet for the love of this poor
infant, this fresh new seafarer, I wish the storm was over.' 'Sir,' said
the sailors, 'your queen must overboard. The sea works high, the wind
is loud, and the storm will not abate till the ship be cleared of the
dead.' Though Pericles knew how weak and unfounded this
superstition was, yet he patiently submitted, saying: 'As you think
meet. Then she must overboard, most wretched queen!' And now this
unhappy prince went to take a last view of his dear wife, and as he
looked on his Thaisa, he said: 'A terrible childbed hast thou had, my
dear; no light, no fire; the unfriendly elements forget thee utterly, nor
have I time to bring thee hallowed to thy grave, but must cast thee
scarcely coffined into the sea, where for a monument upon thy bones
the humming waters must overwhelm thy corpse, lying with simple
shells. O Lychorida, bid Nestor bring me spices, ink, and paper, my
casket and my jewels, and bid Nicandor bring me the satin coffin. Lay
the babe upon the pillow, and go about this suddenly, Lychorida,
while I say a priestly farewell to my Thaisa.'
They brought Pericles a large chest, in which (wrapped in a satin
shroud) he placed his queen, and sweet-smelling spices he strewed
over her, and beside her he placed rich jewels, and a written paper,
telling who she was, and praying if haply any one should kind the
chest which contained the body of his wife, they would give her
burial: and then with his own hands he cast the chest into the sea.
When the storm was over, Pericles ordered the sailors to make for
Tarsus. 'For,' said Pericles, 'the babe cannot hold out till we come to
Tyre. At Tarsus I will leave it at careful nursing.'
After that tempestuous night when Thaisa was thrown into the sea,
and while it was yet early morning, as Cerimon, a worthy gentleman
of Ephesus, and a most skilful physician, was standing by the sea-side,
his servants brought to him a chest, which they said the sea-waves had
thrown on the land. 'I never saw,' said one of them, 'so huge a billow
as cast it on our shore.' Cerimon ordered the chest to be conveyed to
his own house and when it was opened he beheld with wonder the
body of a young and lovely lady; and the sweet-smelling spices and
rich casket of jewels made him conclude it was some great person
who was thus strangely entombed: searching farther, he discovered a
paper, from which he learned that the corpse which lay as dead before
him had been a queen, and wife to Pericles, prince of Tyre; and much
admiring at the strangeness of that accident, and more pitying the
husband who had lost this sweet lady, he said: 'If you are living,
Pericles, you have a heart that even cracks with woe.' Then observing
attentively Thaisa's face, he saw how fresh and unlike death her looks
were, and he said: 'They were too hasty that threw you into the sea':
for he did not believe her to be dead. He ordered a fire to be made,
and proper cordials to be brought, and soft music to be played, which
might help to calm her amazed spirits if she should revive; and he said
to those who crowded round her, wondering at what they saw: 'I pray
you, gentlemen, give her air; this queen will live; she has not been
entranced above five hours; and see, she begins to blow into life
again; she is alive; behold, her eyelids move; this fair creature will
live to make us weep to hear her fate.' Thaisa had never died, but after
the birth of her little baby had fallen into a deep swoon, which made
all that saw her conclude her to be dead; and now by the care of this
kind gentleman she once more revived to light and life; and opening
her eyes, she said: 'Where am I? Where is my lord? What world is
this?' By gentle degrees Cerimon let her understand what had befallen
her; and when he thought she was enough recovered to bear the sight,
he showed her the paper written by her husband, and the jewels; and
she looked on the paper, and said: 'It is my lord's writing. That I was
shipped at sea, I well remember, but whether there delivered of my
babe, by the holy gods I cannot rightly say; but since my wedded lord
I never shall see again, I will put on a vestal livery, and never more
have joy.' 'Madam,' said Cerimon, 'if you purpose as you speak, the
temple of Diana is not far distant from hence; there you may abide as
a vestal. Moreover, if you please, a niece of mine shall there attend
you.' This proposal was accepted with thanks by Thaisa; and when she
was perfectly recovered, Cerimon placed her in the temple of Diana,
where she became a vestal or priestess of that goddess, and passed her
days in sorrowing for her husband's supposed loss, and in the most
devout exercises of those times.
Pericles carried his young daughter (whom he named Marina, because
she was born at sea) to Tarsus, intending to leave her with Cleon, the
governor of that city, and his wife Dionysia, thinking, for the good he
had done to them at the time of their famine, they would be kind to
his little motherless daughter. When Cleon saw prince Pericles, and
heard of the great loss which had befallen him, he said: 'O your sweet
queen, that it had pleased Heaven you could have brought her hither
to have blessed my eyes with the sight of her!' Pericles replied: 'We
must obey the powers above us. Should I rage and roar as the sea does
in which my Thaisa lies, yet the end must be as it is. My gentle babe,
Marina here, I must charge your charity with her. I leave her the infant
of your care, beseeching you to give her princely training.' And then
turning to Cleon's wife, Dionysia, he said: 'Good madam, make me
blessed in your care in bringing up my child': and she answered: 'I
have a child myself who shall not be more dear to my respect than
yours, my lord'; and Cleon made the like promise, saying: 'Your noble
services, prince Pericles, in feeding my whole people with your corn
(for which in their prayers they daily remember you) must in your
child be thought on. If I should neglect your child, my whole people
that were by you relieved would force me to my duty; but if to that I
need a spur, the gods revenge it on me and mine to the end of
generation.' Pericles being thus assured that his child would be
carefully attended to, left her to the protection of Cleon and his wife
Dionysia, and with her he left the nurse Lychorida. When he went
away, the little Marina knew not her loss, but Lychorida wept sadly at
parting with her royal master. 'O, no tears, Lychorida,' said Pericles:
'no tears; look to your little mistress, on whose grace you may depend
Pericles arrived in safety at Tyre, and was once more settled in the
quiet possession of his throne, while his woeful queen, whom he
thought dead, remained at Ephesus. Her little babe Marina, whom this
hapless mother had never seen, was brought up by Cleon in a manner
suitable to her high birth. He gave her the most careful education, so
that by the time Marina attained the age of fourteen years, the most
deeply-learned men were not more studied in the learning of those
times than was Marina. She sang like one immortal, and danced as
goddesslike, and with her needle she was so skilful that she seemed to
compose nature's own shapes, in birds, fruits, or flowers, the natural
roses being scarcely more like to each other than they were to
Marina's silken flowers. But when she had gained from education all
these graces, which made her the general wonder, Dionysia, the wife
of Cleon, became her mortal enemy from jealousy, by reason that her
own daughter, from the slowness of her mind, was not able to attain to
that perfection wherein Marina excelled: and finding that all praise
was bestowed on Marina, whilst her daughter, who was of the same
age, and had been educated with the same care as Marina, though not
with the same success, was in comparison disregarded, she formed a
project to remove Marina out of the way, vainly imagining that her
untoward daughter would be more respected when Marina was no
more seen. To encompass this she employed a man to murder Marina,
and she well timed her wicked design, when Lychorida, the faithful
nurse, had just died. Dionysia was discoursing with the man she had
commanded to commit this murder, when the young Marina was
weeping over the dead Lychorida. Leonine, the man she employed to
do this bad deed, though he was a very wicked man, could hardly be
persuaded to undertake it, so had Marina won all hearts to love her.
He said: 'She is a goodly creature!' 'The tatter then the gods should
have her,' replied her merciless enemy: 'here she comes weeping for
the death of her nurse Lychorida: are you resolved to obey me?'
Leonine, fearing to disobey her, replied: 'I am resolved.' And so, in
that one short sentence, was the matchless Marina doomed to an
untimely death. She now approached, with a basket of flowers in her
hand, which she said she would daily strew over the grave of good
Lychorida. The purple violet and the marigold should as a carpet hang
upon her grave, while summer days did last. 'Alas, for me!' she said,
'poor unhappy maid, born in a tempest, when my mother died. This
world to me is like a lasting storm, hurrying me from my friends.'
'How now, Marina,' said the dissembling Dionysia, 'do you weep
alone? How does it chance my daughter is not with you? Do not
sorrow for Lychorida, you have a nurse in me. Your beauty is quite
changed with this unprofitable woe. Come, give me your flowers, the
sea-air will spoil them; and walk with Leonine: the air is fine, and will
enliven you. Come, Leonine, take her by the arm, and walk with her.'
'No, madam,' said Marina, 'I pray you let me not deprive you of your
servant': for Leonine was one of Dionysia's attendants. 'Come, come,'
said this artful woman, who wished for a presence to leave her alone
with Leonine, 'I love the prince, your father, and I love you. We every
day expect your father here; and when he comes, and finds you so
changed by grief from the paragon of beauty we reported you, he will
think we have taken no care of you. Go, I pray you, walk, and be
cheerful once again. Be careful of that excellent complexion, which
stole the hearts of old and young.' Marina, being thus importuned,
said: 'Well, I will go, but yet I have no desire to it.' As Dionysia
walked away, she said to Leonine: 'Remember what I have said!'--
shocking words, for their meaning was that he should remember to
kill Marina.
Marina looked towards the sea, her birthplace, and said: 'Is the wind
westerly that blows?' 'South-west,' replied Leonine. 'When I was born
the wind was north,' said she: and then the storm and tempest, and all
her father's sorrows, and her mother's death, came full into her mind;
and she said: 'My father, as Lychorida told me, did never fear, but
cried, Courage, good seamen, to the sailors, galling his princely hands
with the ropes, and, clasping to the masts, he endured a sea that
almost split the deck.' 'When was this?' said Leonine. 'When I was
born,' replied Marina: 'never were wind and waves more violent'; and
then she described the storm, the action of the sailors, the boatswain's
whistle, and the loud call of the master, 'which,' said she, 'trebled the
confusion of the ship.' Lychorida had so often recounted to Marina the
story of her hapless birth that these things seemed ever present to her
imagination. But here Leonine interrupted her with desiring her to say
her prayers. 'What mean you?' said Marina, who began to fear, she
knew not why. 'If you require a little space for prayer, I grant it,' said
Leonine; 'but be not tedious, the gods are quick of ear, and I am sworn
to do my work in haste.' 'Will you kill me?' said Marina: 'alas! why?'
'To satisfy my lady,' replied Leonine. 'Why would she have me killed?'
said Marina: 'now, as I can remember, I never hurt her in all my life. I
never spake bad word, nor did any ill turn to any living creature.
Believe me now, I never killed a mouse, nor hurt a fly. I trod upon a
worm once against my will, but I wept for it. How have I offended?'
The murderer replied: 'My commission is not to reason on the deed,
but to do it.' And he was just going to kill her, when certain pirates
happened to land at that very moment, who seeing Marina, bore her
off as a prize to their ship.
The pirate who had made Marina his prize carried her to Mitylene,
and sold her for a slave, where, though in that humble condition,
Marina soon became known throughout the whole city of Mitylene for
her beauty and her virtues; and the person to whom she was sold
became rich by the money she earned for him. She taught music,
dancing, and fine needleworks, and the money she got by her scholars
she gave to her master and mistress; and the fame of her learning and
her great industry came to the knowledge of Lysimachus, a young
nobleman who was governor of Mitylene, and Lysimachus went
himself to the house where Marina dwelt, to see this paragon of
excellence, whom all the city praised so highly. Her conversation
delighted Lysimachus beyond measure, for though he had heard much
of this admired maiden, he did not expect to find her so sensible a
lady, so virtuous, and so good, as he perceived Marina to be; and he
left her, saying, he hoped she would persevere in her industrious and
virtuous course, and that if ever she heard from him again it should be
for her good. Lysimachus thought Marina such a miracle for sense,
fine breeding, and excellent qualities, as well as for beauty and all
outward graces, that he wished to marry her, and notwithstanding her
humble situation, he hoped to find that her birth was noble; but ever
when they asked her parentage she would sit still and weep.
Meantime, at Tarsus, Leonine, fearing the anger of Dionysia, told her
he had killed Marina; and that wicked woman gave out that she was
dead, and made a pretended funeral for her, and erected a stately
monument; and shortly after Pericles, accompanied by his royal
minister Helicanus, made a voyage from Tyre to Tarsus, on purpose to
see his daughter, intending to take her home with him: and he never
having beheld her since he left her an infant in the care of Cleon and
his wife, how did this good prince rejoice at the thought of seeing this
dear child of his buried queen! but when they told him Marina was
dead, and showed the monument they had erected for her, great was
the misery this most wretched father endured, and not being able to
bear the sight of that country where his last hope and only memory of
his dear Thaisa was entombed, he took ship, and hastily departed from
Tarsus. From the day he entered the ship a dull and heavy melancholy
seized him. He never spoke, and seemed totally insensible to
everything around him.
Sailing from Tarsus to Tyre, the ship in its course passed by Mitylene,
where Marina dwelt; the governor of which place, Lysimachus,
observing this royal vessel from the shore, and desirous of knowing
who was on board, went in a barge to the side of the ship, to satisfy
his curiosity. Helicanus received him very courteously and told him
that the ship came from Tyre, and that they were conducting thither
Pericles, their prince; 'A man, sir,' said Helicanus, 'who has not spoken
to any one these three months, nor taken any sustenance, but just to
prolong his grief; it would be tedious to repeat the whole ground of
his distemper, but the main springs from the loss of a beloved
daughter and a wife.' Lysimachus begged to see this afflicted prince,
and when he beheld Pericles, he saw he had been once a goodly
person, and he said to him: 'Sir king, all hail, the gods preserve you,
hail, royal sir!' But in vain Lysimachus spoke to him; Pericles made no
answer, nor did he appear to perceive any stranger approached. And
then Lysimachus bethought him of the peerless maid Marina, that
haply with her sweet tongue she might win some answer from the
silent prince: and with the consent of Helicanus he sent for Marina,
and when she entered the ship in which her own father sat motionless
with grief, they welcomed her on board as if they had known she was
their princess; and they cried: 'She is a gallant lady.' Lysimachus was
well pleased to hear their commendations, and he said: 'She is such a
one, that were I well assured she came of noble birth, I would wish no
better choice, and think me rarely blessed in a wife.' And then he
addressed her in courtly terms, as if the lowly-seeming maid had been
the high-born lady he wished to kind her, calling her Fair and
beautiful Marina, telling her a great prince on board that ship had
fallen into a sad and mournful silence; and, as if Marina had the
power of conferring health and felicity, he begged she would
undertake to cure the royal stranger of his melancholy. 'Sir,' said
Marina, 'I will use my utmost skill in his recovery, provided none but I
and my maid be suffered to come near him.'
She, who at Mitylene had so carefully concealed her birth, ashamed to
tell that one of royal ancestry was now a slave, first began to speak to
Pericles of the wayward changes in her own fate, telling him from
what a high estate herself had fallen. As if she had known it was her
royal father she stood before, all the words she spoke were of her own
sorrows; but her reason for so doing was, that she knew nothing more
wins the attention of the unfortunate than the recital of some sad
calamity to match their own. The sound of her sweet voice aroused
the drooping prince; he lifted up his eyes, which had been so long
fixed and motionless; and Marina, who was the perfect image of her
mother, presented to his amazed sight the features of his dead queen.
The long-silent prince was once more heard to speak. 'My dearest
wife,' said the awakened Pericles, 'was like this maid, and such a one
might my daughter have been. My queen's square brows, her stature to
an inch, as wand-like straight, as silver-voiced, her eyes as jewel-like.
Where do you live, young maid? Report your parentage. I think you
said you had been tossed from wrong to injury, and that you thought
your griefs would equal mine, if both were opened.' 'Some such thing I
said,' replied Marina, 'and said no more than what my thoughts did
warrant me as likely.' 'Tell me your story,' answered Pericles; 'if I find
you have known the thousandth part of my endurance, you have borne
your sorrows like a man, and I have suffered like a girl; yet you do
look like Patience gazing on kings' graves, and smiling extremity out
of act. How lost you your name, my most kind virgin? Recount your
story I beseech you. Come, sit by me.' How was Pericles surprised
when she said her name was Marina, for he knew it was no usual
name, but had been invented by himself for his own child to signify
seaborn: 'O, I am mocked,' said he, 'and you are sent hither by some
incensed god to make the world laugh at me.' 'Patience, good sir,' said
Marina, 'or I must cease here.' 'Nay,' said Pericles, 'I will be patient;
you little know how you do startle me, to call yourself Marina.' 'The
name,' she replied, 'was given me by one that had some power, my
father, and a king.' 'How, a king's daughter! ' said Pericles, 'and called
Marina! But are you flesh and blood? Are you no fairy? Speak on;
where were you born? and wherefore called Marina?' She replied: 'I
was called Marina, because I was born at sea. My mother was the
daughter of a king; she died the minute I was born, as my good nurse
Lychorida has often told me weeping. The king, my father, left me at
Tarsus, till the cruel wife of Cleon sought to murder me. A crew of
pirates came and rescued me, and brought me here to Mitylene. But,
good sir, why do you weep? It may be, you think me an impostor. But,
indeed, sir, I am the daughter to king Pericles, if good king Pericles be
living.' Then Pericles, terrified as he seemed at his own sudden joy,
and doubtful if this could be real, loudly called for his attendants, who
rejoiced at the sound of their beloved king's voice; and he said to
Helicanus: 'O Helicanus, strike me, give me a gash, put me to present
pain, lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me, overbear the shores
of my mortality. O, come hither, thou that west born at sea, buried at
Tarsus, and found at sea again. O Helicanus, down on your knees,
thank the holy gods! This is Marina. Now blessings on thee, my child!
Give me fresh garments, mine own Helicanus! She is not dead at
Tarsus as she should have been by the savage Dionysia. She shall tell
you all, when you shall kneel to her and call her your very princess.
Who is this?' (observing Lysimachus for the first time). 'Sir,' said
Helicanus, 'it is the governor of Mitylene, who, hearing of your
melancholy, came to see you.' 'I embrace you, sir,' said Pericles. 'Give
me my robes! I am wild with beholding--O heaven bless my girl! But
hark, what music is that?'--for now, either sent by some kind god, or
by his own delighted fancy deceived, he seemed to hear soft music.
'My lord, I hear none,' replied Helicanus. 'None?' said Pericles; 'why it
is the music of the spheres.' As there was no music to be heard,
Lysimachus concluded that the sudden joy had unsettled the prince's
understanding; and he said: 'It is not good to cross him: let him have
his way': and then they told him they heard the music; and he now
complaining of a drowsy slumber coming over him, Lysimachus
persuaded him to rest on a couch, and placing a pillow under his head,
he, quite overpowered with excess of joy, sank into a sound sleep, and
Marina watched in silence by the couch of her sleeping parent.
While he slept, Pericles dreamed a dream which made him resolve to
go to Ephesus. His dream was, that Diana, the goddess of the
Ephesians, appeared to him, and commanded him to go to her temple
at Ephesus, and there before her altar to declare the story of his life
and misfortunes; and by her silver bow she swore, that if he
performed her injunction, he should meet with some rate felicity.
When he awoke, being miraculously refreshed, he told his dream, and
that his resolution was to obey the bidding of the goddess.
Then Lysimachus invited Pericles to come on shore, and refresh
himself with such entertainment as he should find at Mitylene, which
courteous offer Pericles accepting, agreed to tarry with him for the
space of a day or two. During which time we may well suppose what
feastings, what rejoicings, what costly shows and entertainments the
governor made in Mitylene, to greet the royal father of his dear
Marina, whom in her obscure fortunes he had so respected. Nor did
Pericles frown upon Lysimachus's suit, when he understood how he
had honoured his child in the days of her low estate, and that Marina
showed herself not averse to his proposals; only he made it a
condition, before he gave his consent, that they should visit with him
the shrine of the Ephesian Diana: to whose temple they shortly after
all three undertook a voyage; and, the goddess herself filling their
sails with prosperous winds, after a few weeks they arrived in safety at
There was standing near the altar of the goddess, when Pericles with
his train entered the temple, the good Cerimon (now grown very aged)
who had restored Thaisa, the wife of Pericles, to life; and Thaisa, now
a priestess of the temple, was standing before the altar; and though the
many years he had passed in sorrow for her loss had much altered
Pericles, Thaisa thought she knew her husband's features, and when he
approached the altar and began to speak, she remembered his voice,
and listened to his words with wonder and a joyful amazement. And
these were the words that Pericles spoke before the altar: 'Hail, Diana!
to perform thy just commands, I here confess myself the prince of
Tyre, who, frighted from my country, at Pentapolis wedded the fair
Thaisa: she died at sea in childbed, but brought forth a maid-child
called Marina. She at Tarsus was nursed with Dionysia, who at
fourteen years thought to kill her, but her better stars brought her to
Mitylene, by whose shores as I sailed, her good fortunes brought this
maid on board, where by her most clear remembrance she made
herself known to be my daughter.'
Thaisa, unable to bear the transports which his words had raised in
her, cried out: 'You are, you are, O royal Pericles'-- and fainted. 'What
means this woman?' said Pericles: 'she dies! gentlemen, help.' 'Sir,'
said Cerimon, 'if you have told Diana's altar true, this is your wife.'
'Reverend gentleman, no,' said Pericles: 'I threw her overboard with
these very arms.' Cerimon then recounted how, early one tempestuous
morning, this lady was thrown upon the Ephesian shore; how, opening
the coffin, he found therein rich jewels, and a paper; how, happily, he
recovered her, and placed her here in Diana's temple. And now,
Thaisa being restored from her swoon said: 'O my lord, are you not
Pericles? Like him you speak, like him you are. Did you not name a
tempest, a birth, and death?' He astonished said: 'The voice of dead
Thaisa!' 'That Thaisa am I,' she replied, 'supposed dead and drowned.'
'O true Diana!' exclaimed Pericles, in a passion of devout
astonishment. 'And now,' said Thaisa, 'I know you better. Such a ring
as I see on your finger did the king my father give you, when we with
tears parted from him at Pentapolis.' 'Enough, you gods!' cried
Pericles, 'your present kindness makes my past miseries sport. O
come, Thaisa, be buried a second time within these arms.
And Marina said: 'My heart leaps to be gone into my mother's bosom.'
Then did Pericles show his daughter to her mother, saying: 'Look who
kneels here, flesh of thy flesh, thy burthen at sea, and called Marina,
because she was yielded there.' 'Blessed and my own!' said Thaisa: and
while she hung in rapturous joy over her child, Pericles knelt before
the altar, saying: 'Pure Diana, bless thee for thy vision. For this, I will
offer oblations nightly to thee.' And then and there did Pericles, with
the consent of Thaisa, solemnly affiance their daughter, the virtuous
Marina, to the well-deserving Lysimachus in marriage.
Thus have we seen in Pericles, his queen, and daughter, a famous
example of virtue assailed by calamity (through the sufferance of
Heaven, to teach patience and constancy to men), under the same
guidance becoming finally successful, and triumphing over chance
and change. In Helicanus we have beheld a notable pattern of truth, of
faith, and loyalty, who, when he might have succeeded to a shone,
chose rather to recall the rightful owner to his possession, than to
become great by another's wrong. In the worthy Cerimon, who
restored Thaisa to life, we are instructed how goodness directed by
knowledge, in bestowing benefits upon mankind, approaches to the
nature of the gods. It only remains to be told, that Dionysia, the
wicked wife of Cleon, met with an end proportionable to her deserts;
the inhabitants of Tarsus, when her cruel attempt upon Marina was
known, rising in a body to revenge the daughter of their benefactor,
and setting fire to the palace of Cleon, burnt both him and her, and
their whole household: the gods seeming well pleased, that so foul a
murder, though but intentional, and never carried into act, should be
punished in a way befitting its enormity.

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