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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene IV.


Rome.A Room in PHILARIO’S House.

Enter PHILARIO, IACHIMO, a Frenchman, a Dutchman, and a Spaniard.

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

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

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

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

French.And then, his banishment.

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

Phi.His father and I were soldiers together; to whom I have been often bound for no less than my life. Here comes the Briton: let him be so entertained amongst you as suits, with gentlemen of your knowing, to a stranger of his quality.


I beseech you all, be better known to this gentleman, whom I commend to you, as a noble friend of mine; how worthy he is I will leave to appear hereafter, rather than story him in his own hearing.

French.Sir, we have known together in Orleans.

Post.Since when I have been debtor to you for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay and yet pay still.

French.Sir, you o’er-rate my poor kindness. I was glad I did atone my countryman and you; it had been pity you should have been put together with so mortal a purpose as then each bore, upon importance of so slight and trivial a nature.

Post.By your pardon, sir, I was then a young traveller; rather shunned to go even with what I heard than in my every action to be guided by others’ experiences; but, upon my mended judgment,—if I offend not to say it is mended,—my quarrel was not altogether slight.

French.Faith, yes, to be put to the arbitrement of swords, and by such two that would by all likelihood have confounded one the other, or have fallen both.

Iach.Can we, with manners, ask what was the difference?

French.Safely, I think. ’Twas a contention in public, which may, without contradiction, suffer the report. It was much like an argument that fell out last night, where each of us fell in praise of our country mistresses; this gentleman at that time vouching—and upon warrant of bloody affirmation—his to be more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, constant, qualified, and less attemptable, than any the rarest of our ladies in France.

Iach.That lady is not now living, or this gentleman’s opinion by this worn out.

Post.She holds her virtue still and I my mind.

Iach.You must not so far prefer her ’fore ours of Italy.

Post.Being so far provoked as I was in France, I would abate her nothing, though I profess myself her adorer, not her friend.

Iach.As fair and as good—a kind of hand-in-hand comparison—had been something too fair and too good for any lady in Britain. If she went before others I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlustres many I have beheld, I could not but believe she excelled many; but I have not seen the most precious diamond that is, nor you the lady.

Post.I praised her as I rated her; so do I my stone.

Iach.What do you esteem it at?

Post.More than the world enjoys.

Iach.Either your unparagoned mistress is dead, or she’s outprized by a trifle.

Post.You are mistaken; the one may be sold, or given; or if there were wealth enough for the purchase, or merit for the gift; the other is not a thing for sale, and only the gift of the gods.

Iach.Which the gods have given you?

Post.Which, by their graces, I will keep.

Iach.You may wear her in title yours, but, you know, strange fowl light upon neighbouring ponds. Your ring may be stolen, too; so your brace of unprizeable estimations, the one is but frail and the other casual; a cunning thief, or a that way accomplished courtier, would hazard the winning both of first and last.

Post.Your Italy contains none so accomplished a courtier to convince the honour of my mistress, if, in the holding or loss of that, you term her frail. I do nothing doubt you have store of thieves; notwithstanding I fear not my ring.

Phi.Let us leave here, gentlemen.

Post.Sir, with all my heart. This worthy signior, I thank him, makes no stranger of me; we are familiar at first.

Iach.With five times so much conversation I should get ground of your fair mistress, make her go back, even to the yielding, had I admittance and opportunity to friend.

Post.No, no.

Iach.I dare thereupon pawn the moiety of my estate to your ring, which, in my opinion, o’ervalues it something; but I make my wager rather against your confidence than her reputation; and, to bar your offence herein too, I durst attempt it against any lady in the world.

Post.You are a great deal abused in too bold a persuasion; and I doubt not you sustain what you’re worthy of by your attempt.

Iach.What’s that?

Post.A repulse; though your attempt, as you call it, deserves more,—a punishment too.

Phi.Gentlemen, enough of this; it came in too suddenly; let it die as it was born, and, I pray you, be better acquainted.

Iach.Would I had put my estate and my neighbour’s on the approbation of what I have spoke!

Post.What lady would you choose to assail?

Iach.Yours; whom in constancy you think stands so safe. I will lay you ten thousand ducats to your ring, that, commend me to the court where your lady is, with no more advantage than the opportunity of a second conference, and I will bring from thence that honour of hers which you imagine so reserved.

Post.I will wage against your gold, gold to it: my ring I hold dear as my finger; ’tis part of it.

Iach.You are afraid, and therein the wiser. If you buy ladies’ flesh at a million a dram, you cannot preserve it from tainting. But I see you have some religion in you, that you fear.

Post.This is but a custom in your tongue; you bear a graver purpose, I hope.

Iach.I am the master of my speeches, and would undergo what’s spoken, I swear.

Post.Will you? I shall but lend my diamond till your return. Let there be covenants drawn between ’s: my mistress exceeds in goodness the hugeness of your unworthy thinking; I dare you to this match. Here’s my ring.

Phi.I will have it no lay.

Iach.By the gods, it is one. If I bring you no sufficient testimony that I have enjoyed the dearest bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand ducats are yours; so is your diamond too: if I come off, and leave her in such honour as you have trust in, she your jewel, this your jewel, and my gold are yours; provided I have your commendation for my more free entertainment.

Post.I embrace these conditions; let us have articles betwixt us. Only, thus far you shall answer: if you make your voyage upon her and give me directly to understand that you have prevailed, I am no further your enemy; she is not worth our debate: if she remain unseduced,—you not making it appear otherwise,—for your ill opinion, and the assault you have made to her chastity, you shall answer me with your sword.

Iach.Your hand; a covenant. We will have these things set down by lawful counsel, and straight away for Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and starve. I will fetch my gold and have our two wagers recorded.

Post.Agreed.[Exeunt POSTHUMUS and IACHIMO.

French.Will this hold, think you?

Phi.Signior Iachimo will not from it. Pray, let us follow ’em.[Exeunt.